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PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF RACHEL MCROBB
April 17, 2014

The Interview - Rachel McRobb

We are thrilled to introduce Rachel McRobb as the April "interviewee" for The Periscope. This series of interviews aims to highlight individuals who are intricately involved in African conservation. We aim to interview scientists, philanthropists, filmmakers and safari operators amongst others. Africa’s wilderness and wildlife is under unprecedented pressure – these are the people who make a difference and are committed to finding solutions to its conservation.

About Rachel
Rachel McRobb was born in Zambia in 1975 and has made South Luangwa her home for the past fifteen years. Although initially involved in tourism in Luangwa her deep passion for wildlife conservation led her to become one of the co founders of the South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) set up in 2003. She has been the CEO of SLCS since its inception and still runs the Society on a day to day basis with a team of local Zambians. With no initial training or funding, Rachel has developed SLCS from a fledgling organization operating on a monthly $100 budget and 5 staff, to an organization ten years later with a full time salaried staff of 70 local Zambians, an annual budget of $350,000, a veterinary unit and an asset list including an anti-poaching / research plane. SLCS currently plays the biggest role of any non-profit in South Luangwa.

Now to the interview.....

What do you see as the biggest threat to African wildlife?

Without a doubt, human encroachment, habitat loss and political will to protect wildlife. So much of Africa’s wilderness areas are becoming islands surrounded by communities who are unemployed and poor and therefore have no option but to pillage the land. However, there are also communities thriving because of wildlife and still the wildlife is being decimated at alarming rates. For many African countries, conserving wildlife is not at the top of the agenda, most are also dealing with rest of the wide spectrum of issues effecting African countries. There is very little action from many governments when it really comes down to dealing with wildlife crimes and more often than not legislation generally favours the wildlife perpetrator.

What would be your top three guiding principles to conservation?

Understand who you are working with and work with them, be it local wildlife authorities, communities, traditional authorities and other stakeholders. Involve local communities otherwise you are just buying time.

Stay true to your vision.

Share what you learn and what you know, it’s not a competition.

If you only had one place in Africa to go, where would it be?

Luangwa of course. It really is one of the true remaining wilderness areas left in Africa, unfenced, vast and relatively untouched by modern tourism. It is also recognized as being a priority area for significant populations of lion, leopard, African wild dog, elephant and hippo.

What's next for you?

I am not sure what is next for me personally, I do not see myself leaving Luangwa anytime in the near future, my heart lies here and my home is here and I have dedicated the last fifteen years helping to protect it so no point stopping now. There are a lot of exciting new developments for SLCS next year though.

How do you envision Africa in ten years time?

Sadly, I see more people and more encroachment and national parks possibly becoming islands rather than whole systems, for Zambia this would be tragic. However we are trying to address this in partnership with the Zambian Carnivore Program who have recently published a number of papers on the same issue, presenting them to the relevant government bodies. Unless we have political will and support for conservation, we will be fighting an uphill battle. Funding is a major conservation issue as well, in Luangwa SLCS is lucky to receive a tourism donation from clients from the Luangwa Conservation Community Fund set up by photographic tour operators. This covers 30% of our annual budget and is vital for conservation here. A long as the tourism industry is thriving, it also means SLCS has a sustainable flow of income.

Who are your heroines/heroes in real life?

The people doing the endless tough field work, the scouts on the ground fighting the poaching battle, the conservationists educating the children, the scientists working to gather the data to change policy, these are the people who are recognized the least and yet contribute the most.

What is your motto?

Never give up and be patient, nothing changes over night, it is a slow and painful process and if you accept that from the beginning you can succeed.




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