Africa Eco Tours - As Published in Piedmont Post September 18th Issue

Colleen Kinzley
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September 18, 2019

From the Desk of Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research

Do you dream of Africa? I do and I think about Africa every time I see one of ourAfrican species at the Zoo. I was fortunate to go on my first trip to Africa visiting Kenya and Tanzania in 1993 on an Oakland Zoo safari. I came to Oakland Zoo as the Senior Elephant Keeper so to see elephant families in the wild was inspirational and gave meaning to our efforts to connect people to wildlife. But it also brought to life the complex lives of elephants that I had read about.

Very early in my career I read “Elephant Memories” by Cynthia Moss an elephant researcher who in describing the life of the “T” family shed light on the extraordinary elephant matriarchal social structure. Families are comprised of adult female relatives and their offspring and led by the oldest and most experienced mother, sister, and aunt. For over 30 years Oakland Zoo has supported as a conservation partner Amboseli Trust for Elephants founded byCynthia Moss. So not only did we get the opportunity to see the very elephants that she had written about but visited her camp and heard from her directly about their research and conservation work. Today Amboseli Trust for Elephants is the longest running research project of any species and much of what we know about elephants originated from the work done in Amboseli. Over the years we have added other important conservation partners including Ewaso Lion Project, the Reticulated Giraffe Project, and Save the Elephants in Samburu GameReserve, Kenya. We also support Big Life an anti-poaching operation that is protecting over 1.6 million acres of wilderness in East Africa.

Part of how we support these and our other Conservation Partners around the world is through ecotourism. Conservation can’t be successful without engaging and supporting the local communities. Oakland Zoo’s Ecotourism Program helps to support the local economy and works closely with our local conservation partners to understand the needs of the local people. That might mean bringing books and school supplies, providing fun animal education events, or even helping in preventative medicine for community goats.

When I watch our three African lion brothers I remember the time in Maasai Mara National Reserve when a coalition of three males, likely related, sauntered shoulder to shoulder towards our safari vehicle. Then as though carefully choreographed they peeled off one by one in aline to disappear in the tall grass of the Mara. I promised myself on my first trip to Africa that I would go back and I have been fortunate to be able to do that many times over the years and every trip is amazing, unique, and inspirational. What I didn’t realize then was that sharing the wildlife ofAfrica through ecotours would also be one of the ways that we help to protect wild places and animals.

Zoological Manager Adam Fink and I will be leading our next trip to Kenya January 15-27, 2020. If you dream of Africa and would like more information, click here