In Conversation with Washington Wachira
Born and raised in Kenya, National Geographic Explorer Washington Wachira is a wildlife biologist and conservationist who will lead an expedition in search of magnificent wildlife.
Born and raised in Kenya, National Geographic Explorer Washington Wachira is a wildlife biologist and conservationist who specialises in urban birds of prey. Washington has received funding from National Geographic for his research on the species ecology of the African crowned eagle—work aimed at improving forest management in and around Nairobi. He will be leading the July, September, and October 2019 departures of our new expedition Kenya: Up Close with Elephants, Rhinos, and Big Cats.
What inspired you to devote your career to Kenya’s wildlife?
My first year of high school, I joined a student club that hosted Gabriel Ngale, who works for the Wildlife Club of Kenya. He gave an interesting talk and handed out wildlife magazines. By the time I finished reading my copy, I knew that conservation would be the foundation for my career. I did my bachelor’s degree in environmental science and got my master’s in animal ecology, with a focus on birds of prey in and around Nairobi.
Could you describe the National Geographic–funded research you’re doing on African crowned eagles?
Here in Kenya, African crowned eagles are threatened, and I want to do something to secure the future of this bird. Some people working in paleontology are looking at whether crowned eagles may have helped drive the evolution of humans. I’m looking at what they’re eating in the cities, how they chew, and what gets left behind after they feed. I’m hoping to compare this evidence to paleontological findings and help support some theories that stem from what we see in the fossil record.
You’re also an award-winning photographer. How do you use photography to support your work in conservation?
I’ve started using photography to tell the stories of my field research. There are so many interesting processes in nature that scientists don’t know about because they don’t have access to visual data. I document as much as I can so that I can share information with my colleagues. I also use photos to help change attitudes. Photography is one of the most effective mediums for inspiring people to care. If people can see a species, they are more likely to worry about it—and to take care of it.
What do you think people will gain from travelling on our new Kenya expedition?
To truly understand Kenya, you have to see how it looks from the ground. Kenya has been the subject of so many documentaries—you’ve no doubt been there via the films you’ve watched. The habitats are so interesting, the wildlife so diverse. To me, everyone should see it for themselves first-hand. Come and you will leave here a changed person, having learned so much about the intricacies of the environment here.