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'Africa a Roma'


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#1 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 04:13 AM

As our flight banked over the Mediterranean towards the Italian coast, I had a sense that my future life would be inextricably entwined with a slight, beautiful, bespectacled antelope living under the benevolent protection of a forward thinking group of Kenyans, the Abdulla clan. How that pans out remains to be seen, but plans are underway .......

Looking back a few months, when I first became involved with Safaridude and Paolo on the Hirola rescue mission, I never thought I would spend a weekend in Rome talking conservation and indeed, when my husband and I reached Doha some 19 hours after leaving home and I saw the departure board showing the Nairobi flight about to leave I was almost undone. However, it was 'Africa a Roma' I was heading towards and where there is the word Africa there has to be some excitement!

There was some novelty value in Rome's Fiumicino airport with so many LCCs operating and names and colours of airlines that we never see in Australia. This kept me amused for the rather long taxi into our gate but it wasn't long before we were outside and champing at the bit to get to our destination. I mean, we only had that afternoon and 2 subsequent days before flying out again so no time to sit around contemplating anything at all. Fortunately, traffic was light (by Nairobi standards anyway :D ) and we soon found ourselves being driven down narrow cobblestoned streets. Road works outside our hotel meant walking a short way with our suitcases, but nothing too arduous. At this point, I should mention that 3 weeks earlier I had broken the little toe on my right foot and the week before I had twisted my left ankle badly when working with the horses I was not in the best state to do a lot of walking but somehow you manage.

After a quick check in we hung all our dinner clothes up to hopefully reduce creases, then we were out in the beautiful streets of Rome and heading towards the Spanish Steps, literally 5 minutes away.

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the church at the top of the Steps (no, I didn't write down the names of anything hopeless)


At this point I should mention that one thing I found most interesting about our Rome trip (apart from Hirola issues) was the juxtaposition of old and new in Rome. Even down to this majestic old church which had a clear sky until I lined up to take a photo when suddenly a jet stream appeared, no doubt towed along by a jet! :o The other thing I noticed was the very rich light which soaked into the old buildings in the evening which very much reminded me of African light.

City living is very voyeuristic I find. Looking through windows is a richly rewarding activity for a tourist and I have many photos which show life beyond the tourist activity but nothing salacious!! I only have included a few photos with this report as it is not wildlife based so the interest may be slim.

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through a window on the side of the Spanish Steps, I liked the shoe and didn't notice the person's face until I came home


… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#2 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 04:23 AM

Still at the Steps, we were entertained by a young couple having a discussion on this balcony. We watched whilst the man waved his hands and spoke intently into the woman's face until she exploded and with twice as much animation gave her own point of view. I'll only post one photo, but the series is entertaining.

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The rich colours and beautiful textures of the old buildings made it impossible not to stop every few minutes to take another photo.

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But eventually all good things must end, and as the sun set over the city we decided to wander back to our hotel, wherever it was, so that we could have an early night, ready for the big day to follow.

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even as a silhouette, the old and new come together


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#3 pault

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 04:30 AM

Just my opinion, but post away with the Rome photos. It's a very photogenic city and, interesting as Hirolas undoubtedly are, I think illustrating your report with pictures of the city rather than of earnest and dedicated people (although we want to see them too!) might be a good thing. As I said, just my editorial opinion! :rolleyes:

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#4 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 04:38 AM

The following morning we had a small window of opportunity to wander the streets again before meeting Paolo and Safaridude for lunch. This time we headed out towards the Fontana di Trevi and although the fountain was incredibly beautiful, it was the streets and shop windows which were almost as entertaining.

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the windows were dressed so beautifully but this one was covered in black paper awaiting a redecoration. I found the reflection of the shop across the street, combined with the black covering, quite intriguing


Little gelateria shops and Italian flags were everywhere.

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Not forgetting the fountain itself

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the waters flowing slowly, a little like the economy :(


Naturally, I do have all the normally taken wide angle views of the tourist attractions, but in general it is the quirky and off beat images which attracted my eye.

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#5 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 04:40 AM

Paul, you snuck in there! Thanks for the vote for Rome but I'll have to go with what I've uploaded to the gallery until Matt's embargo has been lifted. Then I might post some more. I promise though, that I have restricted the earnest faces to just one or two! :D

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#6 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 04:55 AM

Leaving the fountain, knowing it carried the weight of our two coins which would surely guarantee our return to this beautiful city, we headed off down some street or lane, hopeful of finding our way back to the hotel.

Along the way we came upon a large square which had been cordoned off by the police. It was surrounded by flag carrying protesters who appeared to be moving along to another destination. Anyway, not wanting to get caught up in any shenanigans of a European nature, we kept going although there was just enough time to photograph this rather nice red fountain.

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I'm not really much of a street photographer, but I was having a lot of fun. I hadn't intended to even take a camera but my son foisted his P&S onto me and my husband took the Canon 5Dmk2 so we were equipped. It really was only into the second hour before I seemed to have the 5D slung over my shoulder more often than my poor husband managed to use it ah well, I did take him to Rome, what more could anyone ask!! :lol:

One thing I really wanted to do was to have coffee at one of the outdoor cafes and so we found ourselves sitting at a lovely place drinking hot chocolate looking out on a bomb site of a plaza, obviously under complete renovation. Now I still don't know why we didn't stop at any one of the hundred or so cafes we had passed with much nicer outlooks, or why I was drinking hot chocolate instead of coffee, but I think it was serendipitous as I was able to photograph this very pretty blue building which undoubtedly has a name and a history who would know! :rolleyes:

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pretty blue building


Of course, I took my GPS so that I could record our amblings and so that I would be able to name the streets and significant sightings. Unfortunately, I forgot to take it out of the suitcase and definitely didn't remember to turn it on. So this old building with the flag waving in front of it could belong to any street and I really must get Paolo to give names to them all for me.

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And another one.

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… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#7 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 05:07 AM

Paolo had arranged a Safaritalk GTG for lunch so that he, Safaridude and I could meet prior to the forum. My husband and I caught a taxi and headed off to the Caffe Delle Arti (oh yeah, I have a name written down) and enjoyed a pre lunch drink whilst we waited for the rest of Team Hirola who arrived about half way through my glass of wine. I always think it very special to put faces to names and thankfully we all seemed to get on really well. We managed a quick exploration of several contentious conservation issues but despite some differences of opinion, suffice to say that we were all on the same page as far as the worthwhile nature of the work being done for the Hirola.

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Twaffle and Paolo


We headed off mid afternoon in different directions to get ready for the evening's event after a really memorable and enjoyable lunch.

Time for some additional wanderings for us.

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Not all windows are at eye level and looking through this street level one gave a quite different view of Italian shopping


More reflections of the old and new, Rome style. This one is a little out of order but I have to squeeze it in somewhere. :blink:

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… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#8 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 05:52 AM

And so to the reason for the trip.

Africa a Roma Oratorio del Gonfalone

The building was founded in 1264 by a religious group which dedicated itself to a variety of activities including the freeing of Italians enslaved in Muslim and Slavic lands between 1581 - 1765. The fraternity was dissolved in 1890 and the building confiscated by the state. Despite its modest facade (I had to look twice before realising that it was THE place), internally it is stupendously beautiful. A team of Mannerist painters were recruited between 1569 and 1576 to complete elaborate wall frescos of scenes of the passion. According to Wikipedia, the artists included Giacomo Zanguidi (il Bertoia) (Entry of Christ to Jerusalem); Livio Agresti (Last Supper); Marco Pino (Crown of Thorns), Marcantonio dal Forno; Federico Zuccari (Flagellation of Christ); Raffaellino Motta da Reggio (Christ before Pontius Pilate and Prophet and Sibyls); and Cesare Nebbia (Crown of Thorns and Ecce Homo). The main altarpiece is painted by Roviale Spagnolo. The site has been called the Sistine chapel of Mannerism.

Walking into the auditorium was like walking through the doors of history.

We were perhaps a little early, hard to time things when using taxis and not being sure of distances, but a smattering of people were already milling around. We were greeted by Marge Limbert from The Nature Conservancy, and it was nice to put a face to yet another name after having had many email conversations. Armed with our name tags and a drink we started to mingle. I was grateful in the extreme for the name tags, without which I would have been lost.

On the stage Andrea Salvi on flute and Claudia Dominici on harp entertained us with a selection of delightful music.

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Jonathon Kingdon wasn't able to attend, but his wife came and I had a very interesting chat with her. Her speciality being flora, whereas Jonathon's is, of course, fauna. I will struggle to remember names but there were many fascinating people including some of TNCs American donors who had come in support of the event. Entertaining and fun to meet. Another, newer member of Safaritalk attended, Ilenia, and it was lovely to meet her also.

Delectable trays of Italian delicacies were offered around and Paolo and I decided to attend to matters of stomach before dealing with matters of the Hirola, whilst Ian Craig continued an earnest conversation in the background.

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Before long we all took our seats for the welcome by Marta Bermiolli of Scirocco Tours and Frederica Volla from the Kenya Tourism Board. What a live wire Marta was, and she confided later that she had suggested the Caffe Delle Arti, so obviously a woman of great taste.

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A short presentation film showing TNC's history followed, after which we had an introduction by Sascha Muller-Kraenner, the Executive Director, TNC Europe. David Banks, TNC's Africa Program Director talked to us about some of the work being done in Africa and more specifically about the Ishaqbini project. He had to fly out the next morning, back to Tanzania where TNC has worked hard to ensure the protection and conservation of the Hadzabe people. Impressive work by any measure, and the more I learned of the behind the scenes efforts of TNC by some of the staff who were there, the more impressed I became. More about the substance of what they achieve, less about taking credit and waving recognition flags.

Ian Craig finally took the stage. He admitted the following day to some nerves at this point, but we didn't get any sense of this from his confident delivery. The passion for wildlife and conservation that he showed, the dedication to the cause and the fact that he wants to envelope all of Africa in successful community programmes is a testament to his vision and hard work. Team building comes to mind.

He spoke most eloquently about the Abdullah clan of peace loving Somali Kenyans who have taken the Hirola to their heart. Giving up grazing land to provide them with adequate year round food, protecting them and allowing The Northern Rangeland Trust to help them with long term plans to conserve Ishaqbini. I hope Safaridude and Paolo chime in with reflections of their own, and of course, Safaridude has already provided a lot of great information on the conservancy on other threads here.

Ian spoke of the need for the predator proof fence and how it is anticipated that it will work. He also spoke of the longer term strategies being put in place to conserve this most endangered antelope.

Interestingly, at no time did anyone ask for donations. I never once felt the need to put my hand in my pocket and for that I was both grateful and impressed. It showed that although this is an initiative which requires donor funding, it is one driven by the people on the ground who intend it to be successful with our without my money, Needless to say, I along with many others, were immediately thinking of personal ways to assist the efforts.

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Ian Craig, David Banks and Sascha Muller-Kraenner take the stage together to answer questions


Many questions were asked and answered before we headed off to dinner. The tables were set up in an underground room which I can't describe but hope the photos tell the story.

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… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#9 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 06:03 AM

It all sounds wonderful, but many of the efforts we read about sound wonderful. What makes this different are the people. There are fewer than 500 Hirola left, surely making it the most endangered of antelope. The community of the Abdulla clan, who live at Ishaqbini are the catalyst for the efforts to conserve the Hirola. This isn't another foreigner imposed conservation effort. How refreshing.

They have generously set aside over 6000 acres of prime Hirola habitat to serve as the site for the sanctuary to protect them from predators.

As Ian has said
"We are extremely thankful to the Ishaqbini community for gifting another big area of land that will be livestock-free. I am not aware of many places in Africa where such a thing would even be thinkable."

So the immediate priority is the fence which is currently under construction. Following on from that will be the anti-poaching security, protecting the habitat within the community run sanctuary and creating eco-tourism opportunities.

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#10 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 06:11 AM

The following day TNC had organised a small lunch in the Palace opposite the hotel I was staying at. I was able to chat to Ian Craig about some of the ideas I had which are all in the future, also to his wife Jane who was wonderfully friendly and both made sure I promised to let them know next time I was visited Lewa you bet!!!! :D

I sat next to Sascha (the Europe Director) at lunch which gave me a great opportunity to talk to him about some of the other TNC initiatives. A huge amount to take in and remember and I know I've missed lots of important things but they may come to me later.

Ian stood to give another few words of thanks to the efforts by everyone there, and made special mention of the support of the Safaritalk members. Well done everyone, especially Paolo and Safaridude and Matt to his endless, tireless efforts which he must think are unrewarded at times.

And just to remember why we are in the business of conservation, this photo of an ivory door handle.

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Where does ivory belong? On an elephant of course.


… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#11 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 06:17 AM

A photo of the courtyard where we had lunch.

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In the afternoon following lunch, Marge had arranged a tour of ancient Rome. Although we took lots of photos, there were none that you haven't seen a million times so just a couple from the Colosseum which was quite awesome, naturally. In fact, I think I saw some of the ancient graffiti which included animals looking remarkably like Hirola, but maybe that was just brainwashing and jet lag.

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We then walked over to the Forum area where I photographed this ceiling detail.

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… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#12 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 06:24 AM

All too soon it was Sunday morning and we bade a sad goodbye to Rome. The daunting task of the long 25 hour trip to Melbourne before an overnight and the 1 hour flight home.

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On board and the screen tells us that we're getting closer, but I've never heard of Auvergne in the Northern Territory


Sunset over the Australian interior.

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The flight wasn't all arduous

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Home again, and now comes the hard part, to keep the momentum alive and to follow through with decisions made in Rome.

A rewarding trip, thank you The Nature Conservancy, The Northern Rangelands Trust, Ishaqbini Conservancy and Paolo and Safaridude.

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#13 Game Warden

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 08:48 AM

Excellent, thanks Twaffle for getting this report up. What a great place in which to meet other Safaritalkers and I would venture a guess that you won't find a better location for a GTG than in Rome...

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#14 Paolo

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 11:48 AM

Twaffle,

Thanks for a thorough report and some excellent, unusual pictures of the "Eternal City".

I would add that, amongst the many interesting attendees to the event, a particular memory is that of Fulco Pratesi, Honorary President of WWF Italy.

He used to go big game hunting in Africa in the old days, and apparently has been on safari with Ernest Hemingway. He admitted to have hunted a hirola in Somalia back in the 1950s, when they were obviously rather abundant, and said he was kind of feeling shameful for this. So, when he saw a picture of hirola on the front of the invitation he had received, that really struck a chord.

He went on founding WWF Italy a decade later, and has been the main force of nature conservation in Italy ever since.

#15 twaffle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 12:24 PM

Thanks Paolo for the additional info on Fulco Pratesi, I remember Ian mentioning the Hirola hunter but didn't know any further details. Extraordinary really. Matt, you are quite right, Rome was an inspirational location for a get together.

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#16 madaboutcheetah

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 02:32 PM

Awesome, Twaffle ...... looks a great trip!!! Love the architecture!!! I bet the food was awesome....

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#17 Anita

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 04:56 AM

Great reporting of a very worthy cause. loved your pictures of Rome- brought back 10 year old memories :)

#18 pault

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 07:54 AM

Excellent. I really hope we'll see more of this kind of trip report. The earnest faces aren't so earnest, and I'm sure the amazing venue helped with that. You're so right about these projects that people are just getting on with, and glad that Matt and you and Paulo and Safaridude and others are drawing attention to them.

Matt must be pleased Safaritalk got a mention - glad for that.

Maybe add a link to Safaridude's report if not already there - I didn't see it.

Waiting again... for the next time again


#19 Kavey

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 11:30 AM

Just my opinion, but post away with the Rome photos. It's a very photogenic city and, interesting as Hirolas undoubtedly are, I think illustrating your report with pictures of the city rather than of earnest and dedicated people (although we want to see them too!) might be a good thing. As I said, just my editorial opinion! :rolleyes:

Agreed!

Fascinated by ALL of it. Thank you for sharing!

Edited by Kavey, 06 November 2011 - 11:35 AM.

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#20 twaffle

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 11:49 AM

Thanks everyone, appreciate you all taking time to comment. Haven't had time to post much these last few days, bit tied up but hope to be back soon.

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …






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