Cape-based freelance motoring journalist, RICHARD WILEY, recently visited Kenya and the Meru National Park, to find out first-hand, exactly what drives the conservation partnership between the Born Free Foundation and Land Rover. Here’s his story about a venture which he described as “truly inspirational.”
There’s an awful lot more to being a good car manufacturer than simply designing and assembling cars and meeting emissions and safety standards. In reality, the car is the end product of a multitude of endeavours, not least of which is that essential component commonly described as “corporate social responsibility.”
Putting something back into the community in which a company thrives is the cornerstone of this philosophy and in my experience, none does it better than UK-based Land Rover.
This company of course operates way beyond the confines of local communities because its footprint is found in every corner of the globe and that is why Land Rover has been an active supporter of far-reaching ventures such as the Red Cross and the Born Free Foundation with which it formed a Conservation Partnership as far back as 2002.
Along with a select few journalists from the UK, USA, South Africa and Kenya, I recently received an invitation from Land Rover to experience first-hand how the company dovetails with the Born Free Foundation in the protection of wildlife in Kenya and more specifically, in the Meru National Park some 300 km north east of Nairobi.
The Born Free Foundation was created in 1984 by actors and wildlife campaigners Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna who starred in the film Born Free which was based on the life of Elsa the lioness who was cared for as an orphan by George and Joy Adamson and subsequently released into the wild.
Virginia continues her close involvement with the Foundation in the role of Trustee while her son Will has taken over the reins as an active and deeply involved President leading the charitable Foundation’s drive to protect wildlife species through the preservation of the increasingly pressurised environment in which they exist.
In simple terms, the pressure is sourced in expanding human populations and their need for land and by ruthless poaching, a situation which has received close attention from the Born Free Foundation in its quest to enlighten societies as to how humans and wild animals can successfully co-exist.
Indeed, this very aspect has been addressed in the southern game parks of Kenya where the Foundation, in collaboration with Land Rover, has been instrumental in establishing secure bomas to protect the livestock belonging to the local population from the attentions of errant lions.
The Land Rover involvement is not something recent though as the connection goes right back to the 1950s when George Adamson roamed the wilds of Kenya in various Land Rovers used to assist his work in preserving and protecting the wild lion population.
As a follow-up to the aforementioned 2002 partnership, Land Rover signed a new contract with Born Free in November 2013, extending its partnership into the provision of vehicles to assist field workers in reaching far-flung areas not just in Kenya but in Southern Asia and in South Africa. Logistical support has also been stepped-up as we were to find out in our extraordinary journey through the Meru Conservation Area and surrounding lands.
After a 50-minute journey by air from Wilson Airfield on the outskirts of ever-expanding Nairobi, we landed at a hot and dusty airstrip in Meru to be greeted by members of the Land Rover Experience team based in Johannesburg and by senior personnel from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Also on hand were no fewer than seven Land Rovers, all bedecked in the colours of the Born Free Foundation. Two of these were black Defender 110 models donated by Land Rover and five were 2014 Discovery 3.0SD V6 models, painted in sparkling white and, amazingly, fitted with Gauteng number plates.
Land Rover sub-Sahara Africa had certainly gone beyond the call of duty in providing us with such plush and effective transport to roam the African wilds but this act alone attests to the importance Land Rover places on its joint conservation efforts with Born Free.
Our accommodation for two nights was at the simply stunning Elsas’s Kopje. This is an award-winning lodge discretely integrated into Mughwango Hill, playground of Elsa the lioness in the 50s and situated within metres of the Adamson’s original camp and just a kilometre or so from the spot where parts from George Adamson’s Series 2 Land Rover provide an emotional reminder of the enlightened conservation work undertaken so long ago.
Here we met the softly spoken yet deeply committed Virginia McKenna who along with her eldest son, Will, has done so much to perpetuate George Adamson’s legacy. The pair were to be our constant companions on our two day adventure which brought home to all of us how the Born Free Foundation and the Kenya Wildlife Service has reversed the negative effects of bandit and poaching activity which nearly brought the Meru wilderness to its knees.
A progressive re-stocking policy combined with the efforts of the KWS and the Born Free Foundation has ensured that visitors to the Park are rewarded with regular sightings of game, big and small, albeit that the poaching threat is still far too prevalent as we were to witness in person.
Indeed, after a visit to Elsa’s grave which is situated right alongside the river and former campsite where she romped with her human carers and subsequently roamed as a rehabilitated wild lion more than 50 years ago, we visited the Meru base camp of the KWS.
Here, we learned a lot more about the threat to wildlife and to flora and fauna in the region and how Project Lion Rover has been implemented to assist in defeating the powers of evil.
When it became apparent that the KWS team was in need of equipment to help the staff carry out their duties, Land Rover responded by supplying tents, laptops, binoculars, cameras, cold weather clothing and hand-held GPS devices.
De-snaring is a critical element of the protection process and to demonstrate just how effective the Born Free field team has become, we were taken to an area within visual range of our lodge where “active” snares had been found.
In the company of armed KWS personnel who told us that angry buffalo rather than snarling lions were their biggest problem in the bush, we trekked through savannah grassland and widely dispersed trees to find the de-snaring team had located no fewer than five wire snares in a confined area. Worse still, one of these snares had ended the life of a small giraffe which had been caught by its neck and left to meet a grizzly end.
This intensive activity is on-going and is important not just for saving the lives of wild animals but for retaining what I would term the balance of nature. As antelope would appear to be the primary but not sole target of the snares, a further reduction in their population could cause lions to revert to attacking the livestock of the thousands of people who live in areas bordering the National Park.
Accordingly, the Born Free Foundation has implemented schemes to try and resolve potential human/animal conflict areas while taking steps to educate the thousands of school children resident in the bordering areas on matters relating to conservation and wildlife preservation.
No fewer than 13 running rivers fed from nearby mountains, are the lifeblood of the Meru Conservation area and these are under threat from habitat losses and from deliberate diversion of existing water courses. Of particular importance is the incredible 4139ha Ngaya Forest area which falls under the auspices of the Kenya Forest Service with whom the Born Free Foundation closely co-operates.
The safeguarding of the towering trees and dense vegetation which borders on habitated land that in turn borders on the Park, is absolutely crucial to the survival of that Park, and Born Free with the help of Land Rover, is in the vanguard of spreading the word and providing practical assistance in realising sustainability.
Reaching remote parts has always taxed man’s ingenuity and this applies in particular to traversing far-flung game parks. In our case, we were encouraged to sample the Born Free Land Rover Defenders as well as the more modern and altogether more luxurious Discovery models.
Boarding the Defender was something of a time warp as I spent many of my younger days at the wheel of a Series 2A Landie. The basics are unchanged which means ruggedness predominates. The steering is low-geared and rather vague, the turning circle is other-worldly and the clutch and gearshift are endowed with a firm, deliberate action.
But the point is that the Defender is totally at home in the outdoors, particularly as it is equipped with permanent 4WD with low ratio on tap and with a 2.2 diesel motor that provides 90% of its meaty 360Nm maximum torque output from just 2 200 rpm.
That means it’s entirely possible to meander along appalling surfaces with a high gear engaged just as it’s possible to tackle 45 degree ascents and crest deep ditches secure in the knowledge that 250mm of ground clearance will allow safe passage.
It was entirely appropriate to be traversing the self-same terrain that George and Joy Adamson did 50 years ago in a near-identical icon of the off-road motoring world, but I feel certain George and Elsa too, would delight in the comforts of the latest Discovery, albeit that the soft leather seat facings and a lion’s claws would not exactly be compatible!
With all the luxuries of a modern executive car and all the practicalities of 4WD and Terrain Response, the 7-seat Discovery is the ultimate all-rounder. Serene is the one word that encapsulates the ultra-smooth 8-speed auto box and the 3.0 TD V6 that transfers up to 520Nm to the wheels.
It’s hard to believe that something so smart can be so capable but when the mere push of a button provides massively increased ground clearance courtesy of air suspension and processors distribute torque according to specific conditions, even the uninitiated can make comfortable progress.
And on that subject, the latest sat nav system proved infallible, providing 100% accurate mapping and voice guidance even in the most remote parts of the Meru!
Amazing, but for me not quite as amazing as the simply outstanding conservation work being done by the Born Free Foundation with the comprehensive backing of Land Rover. Without commitments such as this, the truth is we would have no parks at all to drive through.
Atasaone Molemogi, who goes by the stage name of A.T.I, is yet again making headlines and trending on social media platforms.
The eccentric and somewhat lose cannon artist is under fire for the stunts he pulled early this year. A.T.I had gone over and above to enlighten and fight for Batswana’s rights against according to him, foreigners who have monopolised the country.
So much so Atasaone recorded a video ranting and hurling insults while in front of Satar Dada’s Motor Centre at Fairground Mall. That was one of his many episodes. However, the one that gave him the ‘struggle icon’ persona was when he was arrested for making a video in front of the State House, this landed the dear lad in the cells of Urban Police Station and later transferred to Central Police Station.
Batswana gathered at the Central Police to demonstrate and demand the maverick be released. A.T.I became the Mandela of Botswana, the voice of the voiceless, the Messiah Batswana needed. A.T.I could not become any bigger till another outspoken personality stepped on the stage, Duma Gideon Boko, lawyer and President of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The aberrant lawyer did not disappoint, especially when he flamboyantly swung his gown on like Superman in front of the press. This was the moment, Botswana’s two outspoken and nonconformists were wearing their capes to save the ordinary citizen from years of being subjected to mediocracy.
Molemogi had Batswana believe that indeed they were being treated unfairly in their own country and incited many to take up arms and fight for a better Botswana for Batswana. The people stood rock solid behind the maverick artist.
That is until A.T.I pulled the rug under their feet and went ahead and met Tumiso Rakgare, Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture. The very same Minister he vehemently declined to meet, hell-bent on only having an audience with the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi.
What transpired between Rakgare and A.T.I is not known, but any Tom, Dick and Harry can guess that A.T.I, one way or another, was enticed by something said or done by the Minister because the recluse was as silent as a lamb after the meet.
Now, this publication by no means implies that Rakgare offered Atasaone anything valuable but observing the cries of the masses it may be deducted to something along those lines.All this however happened mid this year and anyone would think that it would be old news and a closed chapter, not to be.
The public cannot for the life of them get over how A.T.I used them to push his agenda and then leave them hanging. A sin unforgiveable in the eyes of Batswana. And so the masses have to have their displeasure made known.
A.T.I has been awarded a new name, Judas Iscariot. The infamous follower of Jesus Christ who sold the latter to the Jews for 30 pieces of silver. Batswana made the reference having deducted that they and their dreams have been sold in the same way Christ was sold off. A.T.I has sabotaged and sold the struggle, for what or how much is still not known.
While people find it hard to understand why ATI threw in the towel, the controversial singer seems unbothered and does not regret anything. He however cited that he is not fond of the name ‘Judas Iscariot’. He further stated that people should understand that it is easy for him to get lost in the midst of everything.
A.T.I shared with this publication that he needed to start somewhere in order to meet the President. He further mentioned to this publication that they discussed how best they can assist the youth and he was telling the Minister about his clothing line, and asking for support from the minister. None of the things mentioned have materialized however.
In his defence he said, “We need to be able to save ourselves before we can be able to save others. People should stop laughing at people who supported me and they should stop calling me Judas Iscariot. The reason why I was going to war when the year began, was because I needed security and I needed our leaders to give me answers.
I was scared I wanted more communication. With time I noticed that I am losing myself. No one told me what to do but I did what I did and I did exactly how l felt it was best,” he said.“A lot of people felt I am their answer, no! I am not anybody’s answer that is why when I was still at it I noticed the saviour mentality. I felt I was back at it again.
I cannot try to save the world all the time. You cannot change the world that don’t see the need to change their mental state.
At the same time the people I am trying to do it for, are still stuck in 89. I did it for the people I needed to do it for and for the truest results to be visible.”
It was not long time ago when she got crowned as Queen, after a series of hard work to take over the crown.
For her it was a journey of learning and a wakeup call at the same time, to put hark work in her reign and to bring the best out of it.
Today, she gave a reflection on becoming Queen and reminisced on what it took for her to complete her reign. The Queen is expected to hang over the crown soon, and to who, we are yet to find out.
When reflecting back on her journey, Oweditse Phirinyane shared with WeekendLife that from the time she got crowned as Queen, there was a form of sisterhood that existed within the contestants.
To an extent whereby they were able to solve their issues amicably without holding grudges.“You know when there is a group of women in one place, people often expect drama. But ours was minimal.
It was more of a sisterhood and our fights were more of sisters. We just solved them and got over them,” she said.Forming part of the contestants meant she had to gird her loins and place herself in a better position to be able to take the crown and ascend the throne as Miss Botswana 2019/20.
“From Phikwe, when SPEDU was taking us on those trips every day. We got lessons, the mere fact that SPEDU was the main sponsor, and they would take us on these long drives, it then occurred to me that this is all for nothing. I had to pay attention to everything that was being said.
My gut said there would be a question on SPEDU. So when we came back, I was ready because I was paying attention and I took time to read the pamphlets that were given to us.”
“So when I took over as Queen, I had a short period to record beauty with a purpose. I had to meet all the Miss World deadlines, I had back to back meetings, interviews and at the same time I had to prepare my wardrobe so it was just crazy. There were no enough sponsors to rely on.
There was no time for delegation of issues. There was no money. I also managed because I had good relationships with designers, as a model and as an individual.”Even though the budget was not enough to cover up her expenses, she had to take care of herself because Miss Botswana did not have money.
Although they assisted where they could, they could not cover half of her wardrobe, not even a quarter. Due to different timelines, and different seasons, she struggled to buy winter clothes for London as it was summer this side, yet it was winter where she was going to compete.
“The shops did not have winter clothes, so it was stressful getting ready for Miss World. That was the most painful part of my reign. You end up settling for things you would not settle for. I then suggested for the next Queen to be crowned earlier.
I wanted to be there for them to form that part of sisterhood. Most of the Queens after their reign they leave because of conflicts. So I wanted to change that,” she said.“If they all meet then I will too because I know the tricks.
The tricks starts here, what is happening in our country and what you have been doing back home. Even if it is not a major thing. Companies, when we come to them and we say ‘support Miss Botswana’, it would not always be about money but making the Queen part of their projects and social responsibility projects.
She has to be there to build her portfolio and those who are watching can see that she is active. There are a lot of events in the country that a Queen can attend.”
Being at Miss World Part of her reign meant her being at Miss World to compete with Queens from all over the globe. Although she anticipating to give her all at Miss World, she was met with disappointment. However, she had a form of sisterhood with other countries to cushion the disappointments that befell her.
“When I left for Miss World I was so exhausted. My mum had to come the previous day to help me pack. I was so exhausted. My body was on shutdown mode. She came because I was just about to break down. I was overwhelmed because I was doing a lot of things. Her presence made me feel better,’’ said Phirinyane.
“I left for London alone and I had a lot of luggage with me at the time. London was my first long trip. So I was sleeping on the way because I did not want to stress about anything. I arrived in London and I saw people from the Embassy waiting for me. And I had to check in at the Tower Hotel.
I did not have a roommate for a week. My roommate was Miss Ethiopia. I grew close to Miss Barbados and Miss Antigua. When my roommate came, she was a headsets girl,”
“Her English was not good even when I needed to converse with her. Our conversation would be short. But what I loved about her was that she would tell me how amazing I was, without fail.”
Although she had initially perceived that she will be competing globally to bring the crown home, she was instead surprised to learn that the finalized where already chosen and they were there to do formalities.
“They already had their finalists based on social media, not the likes and not the followings but the reception and how you are treated back home. The other thing they look at was how valuable pageantry is in your country. That is if they crown you, what they will benefit from your country. It is business at the end of the day,’’ she said.
“Some people would be barely having two weeks and already they are in Top 40. Somehow it would crush me or destroy someone. I would raise my complaints to our team leader that it was not fair. I was in a group with huge countries.
Countries where pageantry is taken seriously. When I didn’t make it to the Top 40 I was shocked. But at the same time I was content and proud that I have done my best.” She stated that she had a lot of projects that she had to do back home, but she could not due to Covid-19 but there were initiatives she engaged in for the betterment of the society.
When she took over she admitted that she was hyped up and pumped up to implement her projects, which she said she will continue doing even after her reign.“I wish I could have done more but I am still proud of what I have done.
I am proud that I never gave up. I hope one day it gets to a point where people understand the beauty of pageantry and the entertainment industry,” said Phirinyane.
The contentious and contagious COVID-19 pandemic has caused many prominent beauty pageants around the world to be cancelled and postponed.
Among the most to be affected were the Miss Botswana 2020 and of course Little Miss Princess of the World, both the local and global events which were cancelled entirely.
A few of these beauty pageants have modified to remove a live audience or to be purely held over teleconference. One protuberant beauty pageant going on this year is the Miss South Africa that will be going down on the 24th October 2020.
Well, that is a story for another day. It is definitely a golden year and we can’t complain much because Botswana’s five Little Miss Princesses of the World have been recognized internationally and honoured among the Teen Top 100 Young Talented of the World 2020 by Fabuk Magazine.
Fabuk Magazine is a fashion and lifestyle publication which is distributed to many of the leading fashionably trendy destinations all over the world. The major countries for overseas distributions are UK, France, Turkey and USA amongst others.
The magazine is on-hand at most major events such as fashion and red carpet shows, international festivals for fashion and tourism shows.Undeniably the most artistic and dazzling, Katlo Ratau made the list of Botswana’s keen princesses to ever join the Miss Little Princess of the World pageant which was held in Bulgaria at the time of her reign.
A Form 4 student at Delta Waters International School in Maun, she participated in the pageant in 2016 and went home slightly thwarted after being crowned 1st runner up at an outstanding occasion held at the GICC.
Well coincidentally for her, she had a chance to travel to Europe with other Princesses and came to blows with similarly incredible girls from the entire world. She effortlessly sailed through to the finals and was crowned an ultimate winner through her ease composure and radiance.
Joining other Princesses of the World from Botswana was Anke Nkwe. At the age of 12 years, she is already setting bars to be recognized globally as a shining star. Perhaps Botswana will be doing the most at the Miss World in the near feature.
This little dynamite joined the pageant in 2017 and only made it to Top 8 and never hesitated to come back again the following year to claim what belonged to her. She was crowned Miss Congeniality and scooped the second place.
In beauty pageants, Miss Congeniality is usually determined by the votes of other contestants, as being that girl that whom they regard as the most pleasant or kind among other competitors. Nkwe is also a model for the Diamond Pageantry Academy.
With a sterling and authentic record of beauty pageantry, Koketso Gulubane has been selected among the Teen Top 100 Young Talented of the World 2020. She was once crowned Little Miss Independence and participated in the Little Miss Princess of the World twice, in 2015 and 2016 only to finish in Top 5.
At one point she joined Junior Miss Botswana and Miss Teen Botswana where she won numerous awards that include Miss Photogenic, Miss Congeniality.Little Miss Princesses of the World 2019 were not there to add numbers.
The reigning Queen Janet McIntosh and her second runner up Crystal Mokgaotsa were selected among the Top 100 Most Talented teens. At the age of 10 and earning her stripes already, Mokgaotsa was the winner of Best Talent at the pageant.
If these young girls could be nurtured and groomed from these ages, we can have a story to tell at the Miss World or Miss Universe pageants. We have been failing grimly because the girls go out to participate when they are never ready, something that is killing the reputation of the Miss Botswana organization softly.
The reining Little Miss Princess of the World Botswana, McIntosh, joined the pageant in 2016 where she failed to make it to Top 10. She made a huge comeback in 2019 and easily earned her crown. In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, founder of Miss Little Princess of the World Botswana, Tebogo Lebanna said when participating at the world stage, their main focus is the Botswana culture and tourism, which has proven to do wonders for them.
“This has been our secret ingredient. European and American countries are stunned by our culture and tourism and that is something we strive to promote on other platforms post this COVID-19 pandemic. Our culture is rich and as much as it is dynamic, the world loves to see that”
She added that they also outshine other countries in talent exhibition, saying that they have joined forces with Mophato Dance Theatre, a group that helps in teaching the girls traditional dance skills and dance presence.