focus on conservation
Dr Rosemary Groom (DH 1998) Rosemary lives and works in Zimbabwe, running a conservation charity called the African Wildlife Conservation Fund. What career did you envisage for yourself when you were in the Sixth Form at Downe House I grew up in Zimbabwe, and ever since I was about four, all I wanted to do was work in wildlife conservation in Africa, so I knew what my career path would be even before starting at Downe. So it’s been a clear career path for me, and I have been very fortunate indeed to be able to do pretty much what I have always wanted to do.
Did you always have an interest in conservation? Yes! I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else - except briefly to be an astronaut! It’s always been my dream to work in conservation.
What has been your career path since leaving Downe House? I took a gap year after School where I went backpacking round Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe for three months with a school friend (Nicola Pigott) and then spent six months in Central America (Belize and Guatemala) on a Trekforce Project. Then I went to Bristol to study zoology - I graduated from there with a first class degree in 2002 and then went to work in Botswana for two years. Here I worked in the Makgadikgadi National Park on a zebra and wildebeest migration project and then a lion conservation project. In 2004, I moved to Kenya, to live in the Maasai homelands of the Amboseli-Tsavo Ecosystem, where I did my PhD on the conservation implications of the Maasai land subdivision, also through Bristol. My boyfriend at the time was studying lions, so I spent a lot of time working on lions as well, and that set me up well for a future career in large carnivore conservation. I finished my PhD in early 2008 and on 1 April 2008 I moved back ‘home’ to Zimbabwe and started up the African Wildlife Conservation Fund (AWCF). I landed in Zimbabwe four days after the first elections of 2008, in the middle of a political and economic crisis and
mass hyperinflation (one loaf of bread cost billions of Zimbabwe dollars - if you could even find bread at all!). It was an interesting time and place to establish both a new life and a conservation project, but fortunately I’m very persistent! AWCF started with a base camp (equipped with one single mattress), one vehicle, two field scouts who hadn’t been paid for three years, and a mandate to study the endangered African wild dogs in the Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC). Today, it’s a huge multi-disciplinary project, covering all large carnivores in both SVC and neighbouring Gonarezhou National Park (over 8,000km of wildlife habitat) and incorporating managementoriented research, hands-on conservation, education, community engagement, human wildlife coexistence and policy dialogue. I’ve worked myself up from being the single ‘researcher’ to the Founder and CEO of the AWCF Trust which employs 14 full time staff (13 of whom are local Zimbabweans), has supported numerous students and published numerous scientific papers. In 2013, driven by the need to earn a salary of some kind, rather than just a cost-covering stipend which was all I paid myself through AWCF, I took another job with the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society (a joint initiative) as the Southern African Coordinator for the Range Wide Conservation Program (RWCP) for Cheetah and African Wild Dogs. For this, I have eight southern African countries in my portfolio and work with governments, NGOs and scientists to develop and support the implementation of National Conservation strategies for Cheetah and African Wild Dogs. This is often through big landscape level, transboundary conservation projects, as well as policy and legislation coordination and land use planning. The workload is extremely varied, but always exciting! Together with maintaining high level oversight of the AWCF field teams, this keeps me pretty busy.
Take a look at the Summer 2018 edition of the triannual Foundation e-magazine for the Downe House alumnae community.