In honour of World Wildlife Day and World Book Day on 3 March, I’d like to take this opportunity to share the origins of my jewellery story. You may be wondering how exactly these are connected.

What many people don’t know is that while I’ve always marvelled at the wonderful array of ethnic and tribal adornment that I’ve encountered during my travels around the world, I never actually thought about making jewellery until I started working in the field of wildlife conservation.

This month’s blog joins all the dots as I share images about one of my biggest passions – African wildlife and how I started to make jewellery to raise funds to support the animal orphans that I helped to raise. I hope you will enjoy this pictorial insight into my story, and may it inspire you to follow your passions too!

Honey badger orphan
Bat-eared fox orphan
Genet cat orphan
Hedgehog orphan

While working on a community based conservation project bordering Tsavo West National Park, one of my favourite roles was to look after and raise the orphan animals that came through our doors. They were generally the victims of poaching, the bush meat trade, and human-wildlife conflict. They ranged from primates to small cats and various antelope species.

Feeding Lesser Galago Bushbaby
Feeding Bushbuck
Feeding Caracals
Feeding Squirrel

The role of mum involved all the normal tasks you would expect from feeding and cleaning them to ensuring they were kept warm by lining their beds with hot water bottles wrapped up in towels, and of course giving them plenty of TLC. And just as most mums do, I also had to wake up several times during the night to repeat this process!

As they grew up, they also made some unlikely and unexpected friends.

Caracal meeting Bushbuck
Genet Cat snuggling with Mongoose
Dog cuddling Honey Badger
Bat-eared fox hanging out with the Caracal

The aim was to raise the orphans and rehabilitate them back to the wild. When they were old enough, I’d take them out on walks to start to re-introduce them back to their natural habitat and familiarise them with the sources of food they should look for. Fortunately animals are a lot smarter than we sometimes give them credit for – they are born with that innate hunting instinct or tend to have a knack for knowing what vegetation is suitable for them to eat.

Walking with Kudu in the bush
Introducing Caracals to the hunting game
Caracal's first big kill
Familiarising the Vervet Monkey with natural vegetation in the wild

When they got to this stage they had officially graduated from high school and were independent enough to go off into the big wild world! It was extremely satisfying to see the ones that made it grow into strong healthy animals, ready to face the “real” world. Sometimes they would wander off for days and I thought I’d never see them again. But often they did pop in and say hello.

Raising them was extremely gratifying but also a costly endeavour. It is then that I decided to make jewellery to raise funds to help sustain the mini orphanage. That is when my journey into the craft began, and I have never looked back.

Taking a break from making the statement necklace on my lap
Jewellery making and self-education session interrupted
My earlier creations on sale to raise funds to support the orphans
The Mount Roraima trek was made possible through fundraising via jewellery sales

I continued to raise funds for environmental conservation causes even when I moved to the UK to complete my legal education and while working in the corporate world. I have made and sold jewellery to support charitable causes spanning from Africa to South America, including a non-profit initiative called “The Lost World Project” which involved an expedition to Mount Roraima, Venezuela, in 2010 to document the conservation needs of this ecologically significant region, and to support international efforts to secure UNESCO world heritage status for Mount Roraima.

I am still committed to supporting conservation initiatives through my business and I’m a proud advocate of the Mara Lion Project. 5% profits from sales of jewellery goes towards this great cause. You can find out more about this initiative here and at www.asiliagiving.org

Thank you for following and supporting me on my jewellery journey.