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Zeke gave up a successful career in advertising to work in conservation
Zeke started life on a dairy farm in Swaziland. Not the start, you might imagine, for a man whose work has taken him from Antarctica to equatorial deserts. When Dad exchanged cows for furniture making, they moved to open savannah outside Johannesburg, and this became the playground of a future conservationist. The freedom to play in the wild gave Zeke a love and understanding for nature. But as he grew up he saw the grasslands of Bedfordview buried under concrete, as Jo’burg spread, and his natural playground was gone.
University gave Zeke the chance to pursue his enthusiasm for all things natural – Ichthyology, Zoology, Marine Ecology and Entomology. Holidays were a chance to get back to the bush. He once borrowed his father’s delivery truck ‘for a week’; he only re-appeared after a month spent in the wilds of Zimbabwe collecting insects.
Zeke’s Masters research helped stop the exploitation of a rare deep-water fish, the Orange Roughy, off South Africa. This showed him the potential of good science for conservation. But Zeke became distracted. He cycled from Turkey to the UK, and ended up planting window boxes in pubs. Unfulfilled by a life of daffodils he took a job in advertising in Cape Town; but successful years in the ‘fast lane’ still left him restless. A friend asked him to help out with a lion tracking research project in Hwange Park in Zimbabwe and Zeke jumped at the chance to get back to his old life for a few days.
Zeke never returned to advertising. His work monitoring lions took him ultralighting over the forests and putting radio collars on lions for satellite tracking. When his own money ran out he turned his assistantship on the WildCRU project into a D.Phil at Oxford University. He completed a doctorate on the effects of sport hunting of lions around the boundary of Hwange Park.
After graduation, Zeke was employed by Marwell Wildlife to work in Kenya to help address extinction threats to small populations of endangered species, such as the Grevy's Zebra. 70% of Kenya’s wildlife lives outside of national parks (which are unfenced) and as human settlement shifts and expands this leads to habitat loss and conflict: competition for water and grazing, and poaching. Zeke conducts research to measure wildlife population decline and pastoralist grazing management, and looks for ways for humans and wildlife to co-exist, to the benefit of both. In this work he has found his niche, the natural habitat for a man who loves life in the wild and is passionate about conservation.
Author: Atma Shetty
Published Date: 30 Sep 2010
Location: Southern Africa, East Africa | Zimbabwe, Kenya
Themes: natural world, travel | conservation, fauna