The youth nature spotlight series is intended to give readers an insight into the lives, aspirations and motivations of the intrepid and inspirational young people doing great things for nature in the UK. Each post will focus on a different member of the youth nature movement with featured individuals being asked to nominate others they feel worthy of recognition. This series is run in tandem with New Nature Magazine, and you can check out additional interviews in our upcoming editions. A previous post, featuring naturalist James Miller, can be found here.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Kate, a passionate conservationist, animal-lover, campaigner and blogger. I work on educational school resources in my role at National Geographic Kids and I run a blog; Kate on Conservation.
How did you first get involved in your conservation campaigning?
For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in animals. This interest was developed into a more active conservation role when I became a supporter of the Born Free Foundation. At six years old I received a gift of an adoption pack for Born Free’s for Roque the tiger and I’ve wanted to save animals ever since then. 21 years later I am now a trustee of the Born Free Foundation charity and the subsequent passion I fostered for wildlife photography and conservation writing (which can be traced back to a 200-page big cat project I hand wrote when I was 10 and 11 years old), has evolved into my career at National Geographic Kids magazine and my Kate On Conservation blog.
What first inspired you to get involved in nature conservation?
I could trace it back to many different sources but those would certainly include watching films like ‘Born Free’ and ‘Gorillas in the Mist’, television series such as ‘Big Cat Diary’ where I followed the lives of Jonathan Scott, Simon King and Saba Douglas Hamilton and of course reading publications such as National Geographic. I think growing up with access to amazing BBC natural history films and, like most people, the guiding voice of Sir David Attenborough has inspired me to want to see the world and appreciate its splendours. I knew my life would be entwined with wildlife when I spent three months volunteering with Born Free Foundation at Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa – it changed my entire life perspective.
Do you take inspiration from any particular prominent figure?
Virginia McKenna inspires me in the way that she allowed her heart to lead. She was so moved by her experience with animals that she was open to letting this take over her whole life; letting go of an incredibly successful, BAFTA-winning career in acting to take on the role of activist. Likewise, Dr Jane Goodall inspires me with her philosophical approach to caring for the planet. Her work with ‘Roots and Shoots’ encompasses not just wildlife but also the environment and people.
Can you tell us something you do each day for nature?
Making informed decisions to try and reduce my negative impact on the planet. This includes not eating meat, not consuming dairy products or eggs, using cruelty-free vegan products, using cloth nappies on my 5-month-old daughter, choosing reusable plastic or steel bottles and eliminating as much single-use plastic as I can. Plus, I use my social media to talk about animals and nature most days! And I try to get out and watch the bird as often as I can.
What would you like to do in the future? Career aspirations?
Continue to educate and inspire young people to care about their impact on the planet and its wildlife. Perhaps evolve my current role with Nat Geo Kids to include class workshops, assemblies and summer camps; where I can get out and talk to the children and help them put into practice some of the conservation principles and ideas I write about in lesson plans.
Do you commit to any voluntary work at present and if so, what?
Blogging to raise awareness about global wildlife issues! And my role as a trustee with Born Free Foundation. As well as serving on the board, I’m also on the Marketing and Partnerships committee – both roles include a lot of reading and research outside the meetings.
Do you have a favourite natural history book?
‘Wild animals I have known’ by Ernest Seton Thompson. Sir David Attenborough credited it as the book which made him fall in love with animals. After hearing that, I made it my mission to find a copy. After two years of searching countless charity shops and second-hand bookshops, I finally found a copy in Hammersmith just yards from my front door! It’s actually a first edition and is incredibly beautiful to look at. I’m currently reading ‘Wild Lives’ by Lori Robinson and Jane Chodosh, which is a great insight into the work of some of the world’s leading conservationists.
What would you say is your greatest achievement to date?
Last year I was given the opportunity to go on a press trip to Sarasota, Florida with National Geographic Kids. I got to witness some incredibly exciting conservation projects, including monitoring and tagging spotted-eagle rays to learn more about their migration and breeding habits and patrolling the beaches to find and protect sea turtle nests. I’ve just written a piece about the experience of monitoring the turtle nests with Mote Marine Lab and it’s my first ever Nat Geo Kids cover story! And it’s out now!
There was also the very cool time I got to sneak in an interview with Sir David Attenborough!
Could you nominate another young wildlife hero you feel should be profiled in this series?
Tania Esteban, a brilliant wildlife filmmaker, who’s worked on some very impressive BBC Natural History Unit titles. She’s one of my personal heroes!
Just for fun
If you won the lottery today, what would you spend the money on?
I would buy a big plot of land in the UK and work on rewilding it. Bringing back native flora and fauna and hopefully watching it flourish – and I’d buy an allotment for growing seasonal fruit and veg. I would then start up an education programme, offering opportunities to people from all walks of life to work on these projects and learn about the UK’s natural environment and sustainable food consumption. Hopefully, it would start a movement.
Do you have a favourite species? If so, why?
It changes week to week, but at the moment it’s elephants. They’re so majestic and intelligent and it’s amazing to see the emotional connections they share with their family members. Watching them grieve moves me so deeply.
Can you recall a particularly memorable wildlife encounter?
I was once nearly speared by a rhino’s horn! That was pretty memorable. But one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had was seeing wild lions at night. The night is truly their domain, and I felt completely different from when I saw the same pride during the daylight – it was frightening to see them in the dark.
My favourite moment here in the UK was seeing an urban fox crossing the road in Hammersmith, followed by two tiny cubs! It was thrilling.
To stay up to date with Kate, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; or check out her fantastic blog, Kate on Conservation. You can also check out her work for the Born Free Foundation and Nat Geo Kids.