Kenya is truly a magical place to call home. It is hard not to be envious of stories from people born and raised in Kenya, of their encounters with wildlife, which many of us only dream of experiencing and often only observing through our television screens. Saba Douglas Hamilton is one of those lucky Kenyans, rich with these rare encounters and experiences.
Saba (meaning seven in Kiswahili) was born on the 7th June, at 7pm and was the 7th grandchild in her family. She was born in the Great Rift Valley and had her ﬁrst encounter with a wild animal at only six weeks old. The wild animal was an elephant, one of her father's study subjects. The elephant, named Virgo, along with approximately 400 other elephants, was not afraid of their human followers and would often approach the researchers. It was in the arms of her mother that Saba had her ﬁrst encounter, Virgo stretched out her trunk to investigate Saba and in return coaxed her calf forward to greet the two humans. This rare interaction would have an impact on most and it is probably one of the many experiences that led Saba down the path of working with wildlife.
Saba, with her younger sister spent her childhood exploring the African bush with the local rangers, learning all about the wonders of Kenya's nature, this was most likely why her ﬁrst language was Kiswahili. Saba went on to study Social Anthropology in the UK but soon returned to Africa, her ﬁrst job being in Namibia at Save the Rhino Trust. She continued working within conservation moving from Namibia to Tanzania and then spent time at the National Museums of Kenya as a consultant.
In 1997, Saba joined her father's charity, Save the Elephants in Samburu National Reserve, it was here where she began her career as a TV presenter and producer of wildlife documentaries, being talent spotted by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Saba has appeared on numerous of wildlife shows and has travelled to a variety of other countries such as India, Lapland and the Artic, where she ﬁlmed polar bears. She has presented on several documentaries, including This Wild Life, Big Cat Dairies, Prehistoric Park, Unknown Africa and presented a three-part documentary called The Secret life of Elephants with her father. Saba has also won multiple awards for her work and has spoken worldwide on a diverse range of topics, from animal biodiversity to HIV and peace negotiations in Kenya.
The Elephant Watch Camp, a family tented eco-lodge, which is now run by Saba, is a great example of conservation tourism. Founded by her family, the camp provides a beautiful and tranquil place for guests to enjoy the natural beauty of Kenya. Saba is still involved with Save the Elephants and is the Specials Project Director. Her work heavily involves ﬁghting the illegal killing of elephants and the trade of ivory. Save the Elephants is doing amazing work in protecting and conserving elephants. The organisation has been conducting research and monitoring of the elephant populations, consisting of 1,000 individuals, in Samburu for over 20 years. This information has helped push elephant protection on the international level. They work with communities and developers to reduce elephant and human conﬂict and continue to spread their message all over the world. Save The Elephants also has a fund to support other projects called the Elephant Crisis Fund. Since the establishment of the fund, which was just over 4 years ago, it has supported over 145 projects in 29 different countries.
Interestingly, in one interview, Saba recalls a time when she was told by her high school career advisor that she would be lucky to get into University after receiving bad mock exam results. She expresses how although this dented her conﬁdence, it made her determined to prove him wrong and later went on to receive a ﬁrst-class degree with honors. Many can probably relate to similar experiences, but Saba is proof to everyone that when we put our minds to something, we can achieve great things and go on to help many, both our human counterparts and wildlife!
Saba will be touring theatres around the UK in 2019, where she will share her experiences and will tell stories of her family life on her remote safari camp, the Elephant Watch Camp. Check out Save the Elephants website and the great work they are doing: www.savetheelephants.org and www.elephantwatchportfolio.com.