When I was offered EIA’s events and fundraising internship, I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to start working with some of the world’s most dedicated environmental campaigners.
I was brought in to work on Tiger Tracks – the largest ever event to save wild tigers. I’d recently spent three months volunteering at a wild animal refuge with jaguars, pumas and ocelots; I hoped I could continue the passion I found in Bolivia but had serious doubts as to whether a tangible link could be found between the wild jungles of South America and the concrete jungle of London. When I saw the internship posting it seemed perfect – I had just completed an events internship and this position brought together my skill and my passion.
The first thing that struck me about EIA was how small its offices were for such a hard-hitting organisation, but on speaking with individuals it was obvious that numbers were not important when you had people dedicating their whole lives to the causes in which they specialised.
I got straight to work, going to meetings with Ben and Amy and then contacting a million and one people to gain support by way of donations spreading word this amazing event. This was probably the most trying part, waiting for responses which often never came. But, hey, that’s the nature of fundraising and it meant that each ‘yes’ was a real achievement and we could feel Tiger Tracks coming together.
There were so many things already under way when I arrived, and part of my job was to keep all the details together on our event schedule. There were emails flying around left, right and centre about display measurements, artist details, some displays falling through and others joining. We all agreed entertainment would be a great addition, so more calls and emails later we had some brilliant groups on board, as excited as we were to be a part of Tiger Tracks.
Lynne is another volunteer who joined at the same time as me. She sourced and organised all the Tiger Tracks volunteers – a mammoth task that she took on readily and astounded everyone at EIA with her sheer hard work. I think I speak for both Lynne and myself when I say it was not until we had our first walk around St Pancras station that everything clicked into place.
Before I knew it, the volunteer packs we had put together were being handed out and we met the other organisations involved – The Clinton Partnership which initiated Tiger Tracks, and Born Free which worked alongside EIA as co-beneficiaries. Volunteers had so many questions and luckily we still had EIA Tiger Campaign head and tiger expert extraordinaire Debbie Banks to answer them before she headed off to the all-important CITES meeting in Bangkok that coincided with Tiger Tracks.
We officially launched on Friday, March 1 with Brian May and Kerry Ellis giving an unforgettable performance of Born Free and other songs to entertain the crowds gathered in the chilly station. Moving speeches were made by Debbie, Simon Clinton and Virginia McKenna … and from that day until Tiger Tracks ended, staff and volunteers didn’t stop working to make the event as spectacular as could be; this was even more impressive for EIA’s full-time staff as they somehow managed to fit in all their other work around practically living at the station.
We had brilliant art displays to engage the public – a huge canvas painted by Otto Schade, Benjamin Murphy actually creating his art piece in the station and the brightly coloured Veolia tiger made from 300 recycled milk bottles. Tiger Nation’s ‘Tiger Tracker’ drew in fascinated crowds as they gazed upon another world where tigers roam free, and the Met Police’s Wildlife Crime Unit display really hit home for many who imagine tiger poaching and trafficking is a problem confined to more exotic countries.
A real highlight was the Tiny Tigers children’s weekend. Everywhere you turned, you saw our dedicated volunteers in orange, children dancing or getting crafty, and our tiger giving out high-fives and cuddles to the delight of the hundreds of families who came to show their support. Our fantastic Reading Jungle attracted hordes of little tigers eager to listen to the likes of Bill Oddie reading tiger tales.
In the following weeks we welcomed performances from singers, tap dancers and street dancers. We were located near the Euro-star, which was fantastic as we got to spread our message overseas – and practise our French!
Finally, the last day arrived and it was all hands on deck to ensure we ended on a high. Staff were in the station early packing goodie bags, last-minute auction prizes were picked up and the Renaissance hotel was preparing for what promised to be a monumental evening. The excitement built and with the drummers ready to go, we began to welcome guests to the champagne reception. It was a freezing night but no one complained as they arrived and had their photo taken in front of the huge tiger back-drop.
Lion dancers entertained guests and then led them through to the dining area where they were greeted by a beautiful set by Amore and welcomed by Simon Clinton. Born Free CEO Will Travers and Debbie Banks then took to the stage to remind everybody why they were there and why it is so important that we save the wild tiger.
Virginia McKenna read one of my favourite poems – Tyger Tyger by William Blake – with such sincerity and passion the whole room fell silent. Joanna Lumley lightened the mood with “and now we come to my favourite part of the night, it’s called spending money!” by way of opening the auction led by master auctioneer Eric Knowles, who oversaw the bidding on holidays, artworks and Lauren Baker’s crystal tiger head. Navin Kundra took to the stage as the last performer of the night, accompanied by Bollywood dancers.
The numbers are still being crunched but early estimates indicate Tiger Tracks has been a roaring – do excuse the pun – success.
I feel privileged to have worked with not only the wonderful EIA but also The Clinton Partnership, Born Free and the countless volunteers who gave up their time day after day to raise funds and tell the public about this urgent cause.
When I think of what will happen with the donations, I really feel as though my part was the easy bit – now EIA’s investigators will go forth to tackle and expose the illegal tiger trade, case by case and with you, the loyal supporters, following them every step of the way.