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Ellen Walford

Ever since I can remember, my only ambition was to live in the middle of a National Park - preferably with African elephants in it. I was a stubborn child and adolescent, and whilst my friends gave up their dreams of being astronauts and train drivers, I stuck firmly to mine. It hugely was helped by the fact that although British lass by birth, my parents’ weakness for Africa led me to spend a lot of my childhood climbing trees to chase monkeys and swimming in the lakes of the East African Rift Valley.

On completing secondary school, I went to the University of Aberdeen to study a BSc in Tropical Environmental Science. As soon as I graduated, I shot straight out to Africa and spent the next 6 years first in Malawi and then in Zambia. Amongst other things, I started up the Malawi branch of Children in the Wilderness - an NGO focussing on environmental education for Malawian children, in partnership with a large safari operator, Wilderness Safaris. When I moved to Zambia to work in South Luangwa National Park, I gained my safari guides license and had pretty much gotten as close as I could to my childhood dream.

But one has to wake up sooner or later, and 6 years on I was ready for a new challenge and was a bit weary of guests asking if giraffes hunted in packs….I was lucky and was accepted onto a Masters Degree course in Applied Ecology and Conservation at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England this past September, and until a month ago, I was convinced I would be doing some research for my dissertation on elephant habitat corridors…

But Africa is Africa and one thing you can depend on is that nothing is dependable. My intended project fell through, and on exactly the same day, a small proposal landed in my university supervisors’ inbox, requesting an MSc student to go out and look at parrots in the Seychelles. It must have been fate.

The more I read, the more I realize what I have been missing out on. Don’t get me wrong, elephants will always have a place in my heart, but these Psittasids (sp?) are really something. What fantastic birds! With support from the WPT and the Seychelles Island Foundation for this fantastic project, I’m really very excited to be privileged to work with the Seychelles Black Parrot.