Thea Khama is a conservationist par excellence! The vivacious looking Thea says even before she met her husband, Minister of Environment, Conservation, Natural Resources and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama who also happens to be the brother to Botswana’s President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, she has always been an avid advocate for all things wildlife and conservation hence little surprise that she’s the one steering the Gaborone 2017 Global March for Elephants, Rhinos, Lions and Pangolin.
This past Saturday, Khama ushered us into her swanky office, InnerCore Energetics Corporation, situated in the plush suburb of Phakalane in Gaborone where we spent a better part of the afternoon talking about her upcoming and annual event aptly tagged ‘The Global March for Elephants, Rhinos, Lions and Pangolin’ slated for October 7th at the National Stadium in Gaborone.
She sits down, smiles and attends to small talk. Based on the little information we had on her, we imagined that she might be similarly deflective, but she wasn’t.
“You’ve caught me in a malleable chatty state,” she said, tucking her stocky long legs under her. Khama is tall and elegant, with the features of a ballerina: an expressive mouth and eyes in a finely moulded sunny face. Frankness on intimate subjects seems to be a credo of both her life and her work.
“From as far back when I was a little girl I fell in love with nature and conservation. The passion subsists anything that I do. I love being the voice for all the voiceless animals and doing everything I can in making sure they are all protected hence the upcoming event slated for October 7th.”
Botswana is an active participant in this global activation with about 1, 000 walkers recorded in Gaborone and another 1, 000 in Kasane in 2016 where over P300, 000 was raised towards the country’s conservation projects, and this year Batswana in Gaborone, Kasane and Maun will be marching once again.
She noted that undoubtedly, Western and Asian markets and legal passage through countries of elephant ivory, rhino horn, lion bone, and pangolin scales escalate the demise of these important and iconic species as well as human encroachment on wild territories and unregulated hunting practices like the canned hunting that happens to large carnivores within the African continent.
“As an avid conservationist and the Ambassador and organiser for Gaborone’s Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions, I’m pleased to invite you no matter your age, creed, ethnicity, physical ability, job title, or station to join us in making a difference by sharing your time, your voice and your message. I invite all Batswana and residents across the country to join us in marching against extinction and taking action to end the trade of ivory, rhino horn, lion bone and pangolin bush meat and scales,” Khama states emphatically from her office.
Nevertheless, she added, “At the heart of the overarching failure of conservation in Africa is the disengagement of indigenous communities from the conversation about conservation.”
Being one of the most significant and accomplished wildlife conservationists in the field today, Khama is calling on other organisations, animal lovers and citizens to join her in a ‘walk of solidarity’ at the National Stadium on the weekend of October 7th, to raise awareness and respect for wild animals and conservation.
“Our conversations about conservation must depart from being moralistic to experiential. To speak up with one voice for justice for all we will need to reach as many different communities as possible in record time. The animals are fast disappearing at a rate of 27, 000 species of plant and animal a year. Many eco-systems are collapsing and we need to take stock. The animals we love demand it; the humans who are our brothers and sisters call for it.”
Khama noted that the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos, Lions and Pangolin is a powerful and symbolic activation that takes places across the globe annually, with people gathering together to celebrate and lobby for national and global efforts to conserve the natural heritage of our various lands, and over 100 cities in the world come out in their marching best to observe this day.
“One of my very first memories comes from my childhood, around the age of 2, when I was travelling through the Tanzanian bush with my grandparents and a game guide and we were charged by a bull elephant in must. The power and might impressed me so, that I have felt connected with elephants ever since. Growing up the adopted and only child of American anthropologist-palaeontologist parents, I have spent much of my life in the African savannah. We lived in East Africa when I was small and later after my parents divorced and remarried, I travelled with my mother and stepfather to Niger where I spent much of my adolescence. My mother is an activist passionate about conservation and our environment, and her commitment spilled over into the kinds of initiatives I find myself involved in today,” explained Khama about her profound journey in becoming a fervent environmentalist today.
“When I moved to Botswana in the early 80s and I came to visit her and fell in love with Botswana and the man I would later marry (Botswana’s current Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama), I stayed and made my life here. My work is healing of all kinds: mind, body and soul. I am a qualified Massage Therapist, Professional Consciousness Coach ® registered with the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) and International Coach Federation and I have a gift with my hands on healing. I mentor young people and have developed a mentorship program that incorporates 5-day immersion camps in the bush as well as a peer-mentorship program that I am currently piloting in schools,” Khama added.
In addition Khama said, “We are walking for animal welfare in general. We encourage all people from all walks of life, organisations, groups and anybody to join our group and walk to show their respect of wild animals and conservation.”
Quizzed about her undying passion regarding the protection of flora and fauna, Khama sunk into a deep meditative vein before illuminating that “We are protecting species and creating successful conservation methods that ensure future generations will live in a flourishing and sustainable world. These are all efforts that need a combined force, worthy and deserving an applause for all our accomplishments and we encourage individuals, organizations, companies, and governments to join us in advancing animal conservation,” Khama said.
Quite enthralling she said, “Funds generated from the Gaborone – leg of the march have been entrusted to the Tlhokomela Botswana Endangered Wildlife Trust. The funds have been most significant in rolling out the trust’s scope of work by Rhino Conservation Botswana and Elephants Without Borders who ensure the collaring, welfare and general studying of wildlife populations in Botswana”
Furthermore, Khama added, “It has also assisted with the training, equipping and welfare of personnel that serve the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Anti-Poaching Unit. Botswana is recognised in the global community as an outstanding and exemplary success story in wildlife conservation and tourism diversification. This accolade comes with the handsome responsibility of ensuring the sustainability of the wildlife and ecosystem that continues to draw thousands of domestic, regional and international tourists to our beautiful country.”
For her part, the co-founder and president of the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions in South Africa, Rosemary Alles said, “The heart of the overarching failure of conservation in Africa is the disengagement of indigenous communities from the conversation about conservation.”