Conservationist Nisha is next up in our ZSL Sunday Girl chit chat. Nisha works for EDGE, ZSL’s global initiative that seeks to conserve and protect some of the most unusual and endangered species in the world.
We chatted with Nisha about working life from rainforests to savannahs, some of the weird and wonderful species she’s encountered and moonlit encounters with wildlife greats around an East African watering hole… exciting!
What’s an average day like for you?
I run the EDGE of Existence programme here at ZSL, with oversight of our conservation projects all over the world. An average day might involve meeting with other conservation NGOs to discuss the importance of training the next generation of conservation leaders, setting out work plans with the team to ensure our flagship EDGE Fellowship projects are all on track, planning our next round of visits to field sites, or filming a video for our online learning courses in conservation.
When did you realise that this was your dream job?
I’ve always been interested in wildlife, ever since I was a little girl growing up in Trinidad and reading Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. So, after completing my undergraduate in Zoology, I’ve been working on conservation and research projects all around the world – starting off as a volunteer, and progressing to where I am today.
And what brought you to ZSL?
I had just completed my PhD in human-wildlife conflict, focusing on animals like tigers and elephants, and when I saw the job of Conservation Biologist advertised with ZSL, I knew it was the one for me. I’ve been here four years now, and now run the whole EDGE of Existence Programme.
We might be wrong, but we can’t imagine you reaching for a suit and tie in the morning. Tell us a bit more about your typical work outfit…
I actually spend much more time planning my wardrobe when I’m in the field than I do when I’m back in the UK. Taking the right kit is vital to make sure you’re prepared for anything, safe and comfortable working – whether it’s wading through mangroves, trekking through humid rainforests, or driving across dry savannahs. Which means I enjoy not having to worry too much about an outfit when I’m home!
And how would a weekend outfit compare? How do you style yourself in your down time?
I love the outdoors and spending time in nature, so I actually spend most of the weekend in the countryside, in jodhpurs riding my Andalusian horse, or in jeans walking my Samoyed rescue dog.
We’ve been so inspired by the amazing work ZSL do. How important is conservation and the protection of wildlife to you?
Conservation is my passion; it’s incredibly hard work but so rewarding. We’re all having an impact on our natural world, so it’s really vital that we think about the contribution each of us can make to the future. In my case, that’s working with both people and wildlife to raise awareness of Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species – weird and wonderful animals that most people haven’t heard of.
The EDGE programme and the wider work that the charity does has brought some really unique and unusual wildlife to our attention. What’s your favourite wildlife fact?
Amazingly, I learn something new about EDGE species almost every day! I love the Chinese Giant Salamander, a newt that grows as big as a man, which is so prehistoric it used to swim around the feet of dinosaurs. Or, there’s the majestic Philippine eagle, one of the most powerful eagles in the world, which needs an area of 40 square kilometres just to raise a single chick.
Do you have a favourite piece from the collection? Anything you’re desperate to get into your wardrobe?
I really like the knee-length summer dresses, like the one I’m wearing here. These are great for the summer in the UK, but I can also pack them for my tropical trips overseas, so I have a smart outfit for key meetings with other organisations.
What’s been your most memorable moment working at ZSL?
I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world visiting field sites and teaching on training courses. On one trip I visited a few field sites and projects in East Africa. In a remote wildlife sanctuary, I sat in a hide next to a waterhole during full moon, and watched a whole variety of wildlife come to drink, just a few metres away from me: rhino, elephant, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, all lit up by the light of the moon. It was amazing and something I’ll never forget.
Pick up a pretty parrot number just like Nisha by shopping our FULL ZSL collection here. Wild!