Our Friend of the Month for October is another new member of the EPI Foundation team. Andrew Crichton, who is based in South Africa, has just taken over as Head of Operations.
Please tell us a little bit about your childhood, and how you became interested in conservation?
I grew up between Zimbabwe and South Africa. My family were farmers and we spent a lot of time in rural Zimbabwe - the country felt vast and untouched as a child and I remember telling my parents how I wanted to live in the bush when I grew up. I was mesmerised by the beauty of the landscape. This passion grew as I visited world-class protected areas in South Africa. Everything from the Kruger, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, the Waterberg and more. I was lucky to be immersed in these wild places, and their wildlife, throughout my formative years, and this left a lasting impression on me.
You spent some time in the British Army…Is that a help or a hindrance in moving across to a career in conservation?!
My time as a Commissioned Officer was fantastic. It afforded me the opportunity to learn a great deal more about myself, others, and the world around us. The skills honed during that time are a great fit for my work in the conservation sector. Project management skills, people skills, the active lifestyle are all directly transferable. Indeed, I would highly encourage former service personnel to consider a second career in the bush!
What do you see as the unique contribution the EPI can make to elephant conservation?
As a pan-African alliance of member states, the EPI is uniquely placed to protect, conserve, and manage elephants throughout their habitat. As we know, elephants (and other species) do not recognise and do not function according to manmade barriers. We need transfrontier approaches to saving these magnificent animals. The EPI has already been working in this way, with the roll-out of National Elephant Action Plans, our open source Stockpile Management System, Standard Operating Procedures for the management of Ivory and other wildlife products and our recently launched Human-Elephant Conflict Strategy.
We often ask people here about the most memorable places they’ve seen wildlife. Let’s turn it around this month, and ask you where are some of the special places to see elephants in Africa that you’ve always dreamt of visiting, but have not yet had the chance to see?
I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout Africa in the course of my personal life, military, and conservation careers. However, despite travelling to West and Central Africa, I am yet to see a Forest Elephant! I would love to see these animals, recently identified as a separate and critically endangered sub-species, in the wild. I’m excited that the EPI Foundation is organising a special event on Forest Elephants, scheduled for January 2022, featuring key politicians and conservationists from the region.
Johannesburg is your home. If you had a weekend to get out into the bush, what would you be your perfect break?
The bushveld heaven of the Greater Kruger landscape is only a short (in South African terms!) 5-hour drive away. I try to make it there a few times each year - it's the perfect spot to wind down and watch elephants walk by while you have your morning coffee or light up the evening braai.