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INSPIRING INDIVIDUALS: Greta F. Iori

Greta is an ambassador for Mother Earth and her inspired decade-long career countering illegal wildlife trade and driving sustainable solutions for human-wildlife conflict speaks volumes of her passion for nature.

This Ethiopian-Italian could be considered something of an animal whisperer and feels her greatest connection to Earth when she’s beneath the ocean’s surface.

While her tireless effort is spent fighting for the disempowered residents of our planet, Greta finds moments to celebrate the enigmatic beauty of nature on a daily basis. Whether she’s chasing sand dunes, carving out snow angels, or diving deep into the big blue sea, this wildlife warrior will have a smile on her face, knowing she is HOME.

We love following Greta’s honest and inspiring journey to fulfilling her purpose here, on Mother Earth.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m an Ethiopian-Italian wildlife conservationist with a passion to end the illegal wildlife trade, dismantle organized criminal networks and protect local communities alongside the last great wildernesses in my home country of Ethiopia, and the greater Horn of Africa.

Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background?

Over the last 10 years of my career in natural resource management, wildlife conservation and sustainable development, I have delivered projects and support to international organizations, NGOs and African governments on protected area conflict resolution, wildlife management, halting the illegal wildlife trade and inspiring community inclusion and women empowerment in sustainable rural development from Ethiopia to South Africa and across the Horn of Africa.

Over the last 5 years my efforts have been focused on ending the illegal wildlife and exotic pet trades, leading on projects to reduce the illegal trade in ivory, rhino horn, lion and cheetah cubs, while developing local solutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict, increase local community benefits,  through the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) across the region.

What or who in your life influenced you to pursue this route?

My father’s activism against deforestation in Ethiopia, as well as his burning passion for the simple things in life influenced my love for nature, minimalism and justice from a very young age.

Having had the privilege to explore some of Ethiopia’s most pristine and untouched environments with my family at such a young age, it exposed me to the importance of a quiet life, equilibrium and nature’s perfect balance.

This cultivated a huge passion in me to inspire more people to reconnect with nature, to learn about the environments, and local indigenous community’s way of a life for generations to come.

Currently, what is the inspiration that keeps you motivated and passionate about your work?

This year has shown the world, more than ever how fragile our relationship with nature is. How much we depend on the health of our environment and how vital it is that we re-evaluate the structures and systems of society that not only marginalise the innocent but also exploit the powerless.

When I feel down or helpless, the inspiration I hold onto the most is the acknowledgement that every single one of us has the capacity to make small changes and impacts, in our households, in our communities, amongst our circles, and it is the cumulative power of these small ripples that ultimately create the tidal wave of change that we all desperately seek.  

What is the most impactful aspect of your work?

For me it’s always been the local community’s engagement and empowerment.

When trying to save the wild, I know that protecting the indigenous customs, communities and ways of life is the most important and the only way we will be able to achieve our long-term goal of co-existence between nature and people.

So when I am able to bring back power, value and importance of wildlife into the hands of the best custodians and guardians of our lands, the local communities, then I know I am on the right back to truly help the biodiversity we are losing at terrifying speed.

Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled and why?

As much as I spend a majority of my life working with animals on land, my favourite place is underwater.

I’m a passionate scuba diver and for me, diving is probably the only time where my brain completely shuts off to the issues of the planet (despite many of them directly impacting our oceans), and I get to be tap into the astonishing underwater world.

Diving always reminds me of my insignificance in the grander scheme of things, it humbles me and intensifies my respect for the environment, reminding me just how important it is for us to learn about our interconnectedness with all aspects of our living planet.

Why do you feel that wildlife conservation is important?

Wildlife conservation is very important because just like humans, wild species play a vital role in the greater ecosystem. Nothing exists in isolation, especially in the wilderness.

We are all engineers of our environments and we know that humans, especially the Global North’s capitalist structures and systems of consumerism have pushed our planet and it’s fragile ecosystems into dangerous imbalances.

Therefore, now more than ever, it is our responsibility to reverse these damages, to create the changes needed to restore wildlife ecosystems and our own livelihoods to secure a safer future for all.

What is your favorite Wild in Africa bracelet style and why?

My favourite bracelet has got to be the African Turquoise bracelet because it reminds me of the depth of the African wilderness.

The colours for me represent the rivers cutting through the Savannah, the many volcanic lakes and green of the acacia trees, the little specks remind me of the biodiversity – it’s simply stunning and the perfect balance of the colours of mama Africa.

Are there any animals you feel especially passionate about?

I genuinely believe every animal is spectacular in its own right, but I must say that I have a special bond and connection with elephants, and big cats - specifically lions and tigers! Time and again, when I have come face to face with these species in the wild, it’s like we can understand each other.

I have had some pretty out of this world experiences where I genuinely felt like the animals were communicating with me!

It could have definitely just been my adrenaline and nerves playing up (haha!), but all in all, they’re pretty special moments that I always carry with me to remind me to keep fighting for these majestic creatures!

Can you share your future plans and hopes for yourself?

I hope to inspire and uplift more young women to follow in my footsteps, and to continue the fight for wildlife and the environment across Africa and the world.

I am a big believer in education and access to the tools to become leaders for good. Women are often excluded from decision making positions in society, yet often we are the caretakers of our environments and communities.

In the future I would like to provide direct avenues for success for those who want to work in environmental and wildlife conservation.

I want to be able to empower all the youth to have access to protect their environments and reconnect with nature, and for the world to truly value the simplicity and vital importance of equality of life and nature, because all our futures depend on it.

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