CAROLINE CHEBET, a reporter for Kenya’s daily newspaper The Standard, was one of our first Giants Club African Conservation Journalism Fellows. Here she reflects on her first year taking part.
I joined the Giants Club Fellowship programme in December 2017, several months after I started working for the Standard Group. I remember being so excited to be one of the first six African reporters in the programme. I knew being part of this network of journalists would greatly impact my work.
When I joined the Fellowship, I had a passion for writing environmental stories and had published several pieces. Joining the Club, however, widened my coverage and my networking opportunities to learn from other journalists, not only in Kenya but in other African countries who are also pushing to see more stories on conservation in their local news.
The programme has also redefined my reporting from news stories to in-depth features. I have learnt the importance of including the voices of those people that live and work closely with wildlife and important natural resources like forests and rivers. These people allow all of us to understand better what really happens on the ground.
I was so excited when my first story was published onThe Independent site in the United Kingdom. To think that my audience had expanded to reach an international audience was a proud moment in my career and as a local reporter, I could feel my work growing in leaps and bounds.
This year I have written several stories mostly advocating for the conservation of forests, riparian areas, waste management, World Heritage Sites as well as wildlife conservation. In-depth coverage of these conservation stories has also been allocated more space in The Standard, with the same topical issues increasing public discussions and engagements.
One of the most defining moments was covering the life and care of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, who this year died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Nanyuki in Kenya. Because I had started covering the story weeks before, I had formed a special bond with Sudan and the team that the took care of him and so many of the other wildlife that call the conservancy home.
This story strongly communicated the plight of the last generation of a species, and the dim results of poaching activities. Weeks later, Sudan died and it was devastating. I too mourned. I got the opportunity to write a story that included the perspectives of the scientists and even the caregivers.
As we soldier on into 2019, I have great expectations from the Fellowship programme. I look forward to working with more African journalists. I know that if we persistently keep covering conservation topics in our respective countries, we will be helping audiences worldwide grasp what we need to be paying attention to in order to be successful in the conservation of our natural environment.