On the afternoon of 19th September 2019 I was walking along the beach just outside the confines of the Manuel Antonio National Park near Quepos in Costa Rica. It was there I had my eureka moment and the Global Wildlife Rescue Project was born.
Hello. I’m Holly and I’m the founder and Chair of the Global Wildlife Rescue Project and this is my story of how this all came into being. Make yourself comfortable as I tell you everything that lead to being on that beach in Costa Rica …
I’ve always loved animals. I think it probably stems from only really having cuddly animal toys as a child (dolls were never my thing). It’s always been wild animals that I’ve been more into than traditional domestic pets. Other than some short lived goldfish won from a local fair (times were different then) we didn’t have a family pet. The family who lived opposite us had a Labrador called Mopsey (she and I pretty much grew up together) and my Grandma had a poodle – but that was about it. My Dad loved wildlife – he always used to watch all the natural history programmes on the television and I guess some of that must have rubbed off on me.
Seeing wildlife in its natural habitat is a huge thrill. Back in 2003 I took my first steps on African soil as I backpacked around South Africa for a few months whilst in between jobs. My first proper game drive was in the Addo National Park in the Eastern Cape – home to hundreds of elephants. It was such an incredible experience – not only getting to see these magnificent animals close up but in their natural environment. Later on the same trip I spent some time in the Kruger National Park where I saw my first wild leopard (to date I’ve only seen one more since). I’m not embarrassed to say I cried seeing it – it was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
Fast forward a few years (well 10 to be precise) and I found myself working for one of the most talented naturalists and wildlife filmmakers in the country – Simon King OBE. Simon remains one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. His passion for wildlife is infectious. It was during this time, and through Simon’s contacts, that I first met the team at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe. I’ll be honest – I didn’t know much about painted dogs before my first trip out to Zimbabwe but they pretty quickly became high up on my list of favourite animals. Returning to the UK from that first trip I got involved with raising both awareness and money for the project.
Circumstances in my life changed and I found myself working for a marketing agency in Devon and living on the edge of Dartmoor, surrounded by nature. I had an array of birds visiting my small garden and I’d drift off to sleep at night to the sound of tawny owls calling to one another in the nearby trees. Whilst I enjoyed the work I was doing – I missed working with nature as I had done with Simon so set about doing something about that.
In April 2016 I moved to West Sussex to work for one of the oldest animal welfare charities in the world. Whilst I did enjoy the work I was doing – I felt frustrated. I didn’t feel I was making a difference on the lives on animals, especially wildlife, through the what I was doing. I was a small cog in a huge slow moving machine, barely making ripples in the ocean that stood before me. I knew something needed to change – and that I needed to get out of the job I was in if I were to make the impact I wanted to.
I first went to Costa Rica in September 2018 to help mark a milestone birthday. I’d returned back home after that trip yearning to go back out there again. So September 2019 I packed my bags again. This time I went for a month to travel up the Pacific coast. I’d gone because I knew I needed to make a decision about my future and what I wanted to do – and Costa Rica is a great place to make life changing decisions.
So we’re now back to 19th September 2019. On this particular day (which coincidentally was my birthday) I’d spent the morning at a wildlife rescue project hidden way in the rainforest outside Quepos. That project was Kids Saving the Rainforest. It was almost a busman’s holiday for me – but unlike my day job at the time, it felt so inspiring. I could see the real difference that was being made to such a broad range of wild animals. Pretty much all of the animals that they were treating had come into the centre as they’d come to harm because of the impact of humans on the natural world. Uninsulated electrical cables which caused electrical burns, trees that had been cut down to make roads left animals being involved in collisions with vehicles, wild caught animals taken into the exotic pet trade … all of these causes are avoidable.
So fast forward to that afternoon and my walk along the beach near Manuel Antonio NP. It was there that inspiration struck me. What if I could set up a charity that could not only help support projects like the one I’d visited that morning but could also work with communities on ways they can live in harmony with wildlife. What if …
By the time I got back to the UK in the October I’d fleshed out a plan for the charity, talked it through with those whose opinions I value the most and set about recruiting a team of trustees who could help make this dream a reality.
The natural world is an amazing thing that we can all be inspired by and learn so much from it. During what I’m sure will be known as the Great Lockdown of 2020 we’ve seen dolphins return to the waters around Venice, mobs of monkeys taking to the streets of Thailand and wild deer roaming around East London. Pollution levels have dropped across major conurbations the world over and reports have suggested that the hole in the ozone layer is reducing in size. All that has happened in a few weeks of lockdown – proving it is possible to make changes for the better and I hope beyond hope that we come out of this as a collective force wanting to again respect and cherish the natural world. I want future generations to be able to see some of the incredible sights that I’ve been so lucky to witness – herds of elephants on patrol over African plains, the roar of a lion warding off competition, the breach of a humpback whale, the bright red flash from a pair of scarlet macaw parrots …
So there we have it. My story and that of how this charity came into being. As I sit and write this now, on the cusp of launching all this to the world I’m excited at the prospect of what we can achieve. And we can achieve great things – together.
Please support our work
The Global Wildlife Rescue Project is a registered charity in England & Wales. Registered charity number 1188557.