February 27, 2009

lions and t-shirts and toys oh my

Today's post contains not one, not two, but three count 'em, three favourite things rolled into one package and tied up with string. Put on your best safari suit, crack open a bottle of Tusker biridi and hit play.

First up is not so much a thing as a place. In my dream biography, there'd be a chapter that reads "I had an acreage in Africa at the foot of the Taita-Rukinga wildlife sanctuary." Has a nice ring to it n'est-ce pas? If you've been dreaming of Kenya but don't know where to get your trip started, here's an offer you can't refuse. The Earthwatch Institute sponsors scientific research projects around the world, including a number in Kenya, that afford the average Joe and Joanne the chance to become (paying) volunteer researchers in the field (tax deductible for US residents).

Back in 2002, we took part in the Lions of Tsavo adventure in Kenya (read my account for the Globe and Mail here.) Two weeks of roaming a private wildlife sanctuary in search of infamous man eating lions, taking in some of the world's most magnificent flora and fauna as you go. Despite their man-eating reputation, what makes these cats so interesting to the researchers is their lack of manes. Tickle your fancy? There's no time to waste because 2009 will be the last year for the project. It's not cheap, but you'll never regret it. Compared with a mini-bus tour .. well .. there is no comparison.

Can't go there? then get a T-shirt. Just next door to the Lions of Tsavo project stomping grounds is Wildlife Works. Situated on the Rukinga wildlife sanctuary, the area is a crucial wildlife corridor for elephants and other kings of the savannah who travel through the reserve which transects the east and west divisions of Tsavo National Park. Using a fantastic model they've dubbed "consumer powered conservation", the founders have established a garment factory on the sanctuary employing (primarily women) from the neighbouring villages. Through the clothing line sold online and in boutiques around the world, Wildlife Works is helping to improve the economic and social conditions of local people which in turn helps protect the area's wild inhabitants. Alternative sources of income = less poaching and charcoal burning which is good for everyone. So get online and order your tshirt today. I have literally a dozen of them that I bought on a visit to the factory a few years ago and from their flagship store in San Francisco.

For those of you with a mini Dr Doolittle at home, or who just like cool toys, the Fisher Price Adventure People safari set is a must have. Comes with a documentary film-making family to boot. Made in the 70's, there are still some sets to be found - I got mine on ebay. They just don't make many toys like this anymore.

There you have it - 3 of my favourite things from and inspired by the wilds of east africa.

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