Featured Rewildologist: Silvana Olivo
I am a conservationist through creative means developed throughout the various phases of my life: journalism, ecotourism marketing, writing, wildlife art. I make sure everything I like doing can support in a small way hands-on conservation projects.
Whoa, those are several creative ways to help conservation! How did you get to what you’re doing today?
The journey started in my early twenties but the ways in which I approach conservation keep evolving according to circumstances… I guess it all started while I was studying in Italy (my country of origin) to become a veterinarian, my dream since childhood, when during a trip to Zimbabwe to rekindle my maternal family roots I got deeply involved in the ongoing rhino campaign there and started following the antipoaching war. Thus in the late ’80s and early ’90s I travelled to the field regularly and started supporting from Italy the teams of Rangers based in the various Rhino Intensive Protection Zones of Zimbabwe; via an association I founded in Milan I raised funds and sent equipment to each team based on a shopping list I received from Parks every 6 months; I became the official representative of the Zimbabwe Save the Rhino campaign for Italy and spokesperson for the Department of National Parks there. I abandoned my studies as in the process I became a freelance journalist, publishing regularly in the Italian press about wildlife conservation in Southern Africa and beyond. At the same time I developed tailor made ecotourism experiences to support the antipoaching campaign, selling in Italy exclusive experiences following the rangers in Zimbabwe and South Africa via my association; I developed contacts and skills that would serve my ecotourism marketing career later on. Later I published a number of guidebooks on Africa (Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania). During the research for my first book ‘Kalahari’ (2001) about the history and contemporary society of the San Bushmen people, I was voted their Italian spokesperson by WIMSA, the Working Group for Indigenous People in Southern Africa and started funding bursary funds for the first bushmen college students in Namibia by sourcing sponsors. I promoted the San’s contemporary art, bringing their voice through photography and art shows around Italy. I then focussed for fifteen years on tourism marketing as well as pr journalism, representing in Europe game reserves and safari lodges engaged in community outreach programs: including Shamwari Game Reserve (South Africa) and Imvelo (Zimbabwe), famous for their visionary conservation programs. After losing my husband in 2018, I had to focus on our son’s education in France, that is when I completed my memoir book on the rhino war I had witnessed decades earlier, ‘Zambezi Valley – The Lost Stronghold’, published in South Africa and on Amazon. During the Covid pandemic, when travelling was impossible, I started learning to paint in order to channel a new passion into conservation via a small e-commerce I launched recently, The Wild Charm Factory, which aims at supporting endangered species through the marketing of creative products. Through my book it is my intention to give voice to the experience of the rangers of the past who fought a gallant battle for the rhinos against all odds, in order to support today’s efforts to protect African wildlife: not only all proceeds go to antipoaching teams in Zimbabwe but by illustrating this rhino saga of the past, I try to showcase how crucial it is to consider all the intricate realities on the ground when fighting to preserve the rhino (and endangered species in general) today.
Follow your passion for Nature but make sure it is always sustainable so that you don’t have to compromise your objectives and that you can fight for a goal with clarity of purpose. Life is what happens while you are making plans, so be flexible and adaptable: what you are meant to do, when it is a true calling, will always resurface and show you the way
Thank you so much for your time, Silvana!
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