To become one with the world and co-exist with its other inhabitants, we must learn to understand it, protect it and not take it for granted. My interests in becoming an environmental photojournalist, biologist and explorer wasn’t an ambition born overnight. I grew up in the village of Cihangir, Northern Cyprus and during every school summer holiday when I went to visit my family with my parents, I was that one child that was always covered in dust. I was always catching something and making it a priority to show my parents and my family, whether it was a Mediterranean house gecko, a praying mantis or anything else that I could get my little hands on. The point is I was always going to be wild and immerse myself towards the elements of our natural world and I think my family knew this from the very beginning. Travel has always been a driving force in my family, as we have family members scattered all across Europe and the Americas.

After rotating from village farm life in Cyprus and the busy cities of London in the United Kingdom, I finally worked towards making this life of wildlife endeavours and adventure a reality. It was always a dream of mine to go to South Africa and participate in some ground-breaking work towards wildlife conservation efforts with small to large wildlife NGO’s. Fortunately, during July 2018 I was able to work with African wild dogs (also known as Painted Wolves) in KwaZulu-Natal, Zululand if you remember from last years ‘Wildlife Blogger of the Year 2018’ competition: I had such a great time working with South Africa’s most endangered Canid that I flew back out to South Africa in 2019 between July and September after first going to Borneo’s Danum Valley.

Danum Valley Field Centre

It was undeniably a jam-packed summer of travel, but it truly reminded me how much I love Africa and how it will always be a special place for me and how it enhanced my career progression as an individual. During my time in South Africa over the summer of 2019, I focused on my BSc thesis project where I looked at the prey preferences between wild dogs and lions. This extensive work meant monitoring and tracking these endangered and vulnerable animals over the KwaZulu-Natal landscapes for at least two months, seven days a week to not only understand, protect and conserve the species but to also obtain that necessary data needed for my thesis. South Africa has allowed me to grow into the conservationist and advocate for wildlife conservation and environmental protection that I am today. Moreover, it has also made me realise that as much as I love the African continent, I should try to focus my time and energy towards conservation and environmental work in my neighbouring countries in Europe in the future.

Tracking African wild dogs and Lions

My biggest focus after completing my BSc degree at university is diverting people’s attention towards the neglected places in the world which contain some of the most ecological hotspots and diverse places of wilderness areas, breath-taking landscapes and human culture on Earth. I am talking about places which include: Western Iberia, Portugal; Central Apennines, Italy; Southern Carpathians, Romania; Velebit Mountains, Croatia; Danube Delta: Ukraine, Romania & Moldova; Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria; Oder Delta: Germany & Poland; and the Swedish Lapland, Sweden. We are aware of current rates of species extinction are unparalleled, we are aware of the climate crisis – the truth is we’re aware of it all! Most of these issues are promoted by all kinds of contributing factors, whether it’s entirely caused by human activities or by natural related causes.

African wild dog (Lycaon pictus)

It is very important to state why I have been diverting my attention towards conservation efforts in the African continent due to favouritism, I have missed out on all that is occurring in Europe. Such as rewilding opportunities in the locations I stated above, restoration projects and even invaluable areas of Europe which could be accessed ethically and not contribute highly towards a significant carbon footprint. I was undoubtedly contributing towards rewarding conservation work protecting endangered species of wildlife which included: African wild dogs, Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, Vultures, Cheetahs and Leopards, but at the back of mind I was always thinking about what it cost to do this work. The combined fifteen flights between my trips to Africa and Asia in the summer of 2019 has made me realise that it is great having a favourite place on Earth and that I have contributed significantly towards that place, but it also makes me wonder with alternative ways to make a difference. Could I work closer to home? Could I reduce my carbon footprint? Are there better choices I can make?

Biodiversity and Climate Change are both inextricably linked. Make your choices wisely and calculate the impacts.

  • Tolga Aktas
  • : Hey! My name is Tolga Aktas, and I’m a UK-based storyteller whose main interests range from wildlife conservation biology, exploration, environmental photojournalism, writing and filmmaking. I was born in London, United Kingdom and have lived there for the majority of my upbringing. I’ve been passionate about wildlife from a very young age, which led me to eventually pursue a career in wildlife biology, ecology and conservation. My primary focus is to create unique content with powerful narratives which provide awareness on the current conservation and environmental related issues our planet faces.
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  • : Because I remind people that anyone and everyone can truly make a difference. No matter what walks of life they may have if you truly believe and focus then all things are achievable. If you have a particular interest in wildlife conservation, adventure writing, research and photography - then this site is certainly for you.
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  • : This is the first time this story has been published.