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I was born in Florida to an animal loving mother and a biologist father who was an avid birder. Our extended family included Shane the dog, our two cats, Precious and Snowball, and a variety of rescued exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles.
A pet goat slept in my brother’s bunk bed, a squirrel monkey slept on my mother’s pillow, and our raccoon, Rocky, used the baby toilet to do his business.
Our swimming pool was home to a sea turtle, alligator and duck, (not at the same time), and the bathtub housed my brothers snake collection, although the black indigos were more often found slithering under the couch. One Thanksgiving our retired race-course greyhound rescue stole the turkey off the table.
Birds perched on my sister’s and my shoulders while we watched TV, and we walked around the house with snakes wrapped around our necks. Animals were intriguing, cuddly, funny, interesting, and a natural part of our family. Sometimes they even rescued me.
My brother and I had hitchhiked a ride with a stranger who said he loved parrots and also had a Yellow Footed Amazon parrot, like Thunderbird who was sitting quietly on my brother’s shoulder. “Did we want to go to his house to meet his parrot?” the man asked us. My brother Danny lifted Thunderbird towards the front of the car to say Hi to the driver, and within seconds Thunderbird started screaming and flapping his wings. Danny gave me an alarmed look and mouthed the words, jump out of the car. As the man turned the corner towards his house we both leapt out and moved quickly away from the car. “Thunderbird just saved our lives,” Danny said.
It was in this home menagerie that my love affair with animals and the natural environment blossomed. In high school, I read Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation and got my first glimpse of what animals suffered in the hands of humans. I vowed to dedicate my life to making a difference, to changing people’s perceptions of animals and to end the cruelty they suffered for our entertainment, food, and sport.
Jane Goodall Wannabe
My original career goal was to intern for Jane Goodall in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. Jane’s mother Vanne was great friends with my grandfather Denis, giving me contact (although minimal at the time) with the famous chimp researcher, and fueling my desire to follow in Dr. Jane’s footsteps. But during my senior year in high school a couple of interns working for Dr. Jane were kidnapped, negating the possibility of me working there.
With a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, I went to work for the Animal Welfare Institute in DC, writing about whaling issues, factory farming and vivisection, a task that transformed my hope and dedication to make a difference into a pile of quivering tears at the end of each work day.
My father’s solution was to find me a psychotherapist. I also changed careers. At the time, I believed I was too sensitive to endure the work that needed to be done, but in time I saw that I was just young, impatient, and naïve about what it takes, and how long it takes, to create change.
Lori Robinson, TV Presenter
I had dabbled in modeling since I was twelve, believing fame (if I could get there) would be my platform to help animals. It was to that world that I returned. In a short time my modeling assignments led to a commercial in South Africa. Overjoyed to be going to Africa, albeit not as an intern for Jane Goodall, I would end up living there for 3 1/2 years and landing a job as a television presenter for an entertainment show called Prime Time Live (South Africa’s equivalent of Entertainment Tonight).
I covered stories in wildlife parks, spent time with the Kalahari Bushmen, and visited other Southern African countries including Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. My television fame parlayed me into authoring a book, Model Answers.
But it was the late 1980’s; aparteid and sanctioning were in full force, ultimately making the politics too depressing for me to stay in South Africa.
Shortly after my thirtieth birthday I returned to America.
But my love affair with Africa and my passion for animals had only deepened.
Back to My Conservation Roots
Back in America I worked as the Africa Adventures Specialist for the Jane Goodall Institute, designing and leading members of her institute, and later other clients to East and Southern Africa. I started and supported grass roots projects to protect wildlife in Africa and in 2010 began writing about world-wide conservation issues for magazines, and my own blog, SavingWild.com.
This time around working in the conservation field I learned to cling to signs of progress, and success stories, however small. I would find hope hiding in the story about the elephant trucked from twenty years of isolation in a Canadian zoo to a California sanctuary, the first wolf pack to be discovered in 100 years in Northern California, and the new law giving captive chimpanzees the same endangered status as wild chimps. I would recognize hope in my friend’s daughter who listened to me tell her why I was picking up the glass around my neighborhood and then, concerned too about the wild rabbit and deer cutting their feet, spent hours eagerly helping me one day.
Mentors Provide Hope
I find encouragement from my mentors, like Dr. Jane Goodall, Meg Lowman, and Beverly Joubert. I find inspiration in them and others who have committed their lives to helping save wild places and wild animals. They are my work’s lifeline.
At Dr. Goodall’s 80th birthday, while agonizing over whether people have lost hope, I questioned her, a woman of pure action and no excuses, even at this stage of her life. She said to me, very simply, “We can’t quit.” And that is the motto I live by.
As children we often know what our lifes passions are. In my case, my love for animals and the natural world started at a very early age and has been a constant thread throughout my life.
I am honored to share this passion with you, the tribe at SavingWild.com