Photograph courtesy Brendan Buzzard
Photograph courtesy Brendan Buzzard
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I grew up amid the wildlife landscapes of southern and East Africa, and all I have ever wanted to do was be in the bush around wildlife. When I wasn't in school, I'd be out exploring. As I spent more time around wildlife and saw the threats that they face, I decided that I had to work on their behalf as a conservationist and storyteller.
How did you get started in your field of work?
I suppose I got started early, because I spent much of my childhood outside watching animals. When it came time to make decisions about my life direction, however, I decided to study conservation biology at university to learn the tools to help me become a conservationist. In this process the key was not losing touch with the wildlife and landscapes I cared about, so every chance I had I was in the bush reframing my thinking and reinspiring my heart.
My passion for writing developed a little later. It grew from wanting not only to tell the world about the beauty of wildlife and wild landscapes but also to raise awareness about the challenges they face. I just started writing—in notebooks, in journals, on scraps of paper—and I am still discovering where it will go.
What inspires you to dedicate your life to conservation?
I am convinced that humans and other species can find ways to co-inhabit place. This not only depends on applied conservation but also on the understanding of varied cultural notions of belonging, the way that people identify, interact, and find meaning in the landscapes and wildlife around them. To be a part of this process of discovery about the world and how to live equitably within it is not only inspiring but also entirely profound.
What's a normal day like for you?
When I am in the bush I will often be out walking for long stretches, observing animals and patterns and talking with local community members that use the same landscapes in an effort to find ways to integrate human and wildlife needs. On other days I'll be writing, digging into literature and into memory, attempting to make sense of what I see.
What's been your favorite experience in the field?
One of the most memorable experiences happened in the arid landscapes of northern Kenya when I was out exploring with my brother. We were camped at a small spring and that night the moon was out. Toward the middle of the night, after the fire had burned down, I woke up because I felt something nudge against my head. At first I thought I had imagined something, but then looking over, there was a lion cub.
The most challenging was a long solo walk I did through the same arid landscapes of northern Kenya. Not only was the desert environment physically challenging but I also spent weeks walking and sleeping amid wildlife. In addition to this, parts of this landscape are traditional culturally, which requires a certain level of respect and understanding.
What are your other passions?
I enjoy learning languages and hearing a good story. I'd also always be up for a day of fly-fishing on a nice river.
What do you do in your free time?
I really just love taking a long walk.
In Their Words
I am convinced that humans and other species can find ways to co-inhabit places.
Tensions grow as the water receeds, leading villagers to question the practices of agricultural settlements upstream.
Brendan Buzzard reflects on traditional patterns in times of drought.
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