‘What drew me to the model initially is that the project that combines carnivore conservation with the culture of the people facing the conflict every day‘.
Its working with the people who experience the conflict, providing direct solutions and benefits and recognising that in the conflict equation it’s not just the wildlife that suffers.’
Penny comes from Brisbane in Australia and comes from a small family that has always had an interest in outdoor pursuits and conservation, like sailing and camping. A change of career, fuelled by a cheetah documentary, led Penny to become involved in the big cats. After 6 months volunteering at a cheetah project, she did her masters in conservation. Whilst completing her Masters, she worked as a water ecology scientist, and it was during her studies that she discovered the Lion Guardians project in Kenya.
‘I fell in love with the Lion Guardians approach, it’s simple and connects with the people and culture. So often in wildlife conservation we forget about the people and they are key to successful outcomes for wildlife. I was desperate to work in the programme…’
Determined to become involved in the project, she studied Swahili (in Australia) and brushed up on all the skills sets required for the job. The next time it came up she was hiking in Scotland and immediately applied – and got the job!
Penny admits that her job isn’t as glamorous as it may sound, but it’s the backbone of the Lion Defender team at RCP, in that it takes care of logistics, mentors defenders, addresses the strategic develop of the project, always with the aim of bettering the programme to reduce conflict.
The job is a combination of administration, reporting, booking… and flipping straight to the other side – guarding bomas with the team for nights on end with no sleep – protecting livestock from lion attack.