Having trained as a lawyer, I often get asked when and why I started making jewellery.

What many people don’t know is that while I’ve always been mesmerised by different forms of adornment that I’ve encountered during my travels around the world, I never actually thought about making jewellery until I started working in the field of wildlife conservation.

This post joins all the dots as I share images about one of my biggest passions – African wildlife and how I started making jewellery to raise funds to support the animal orphans that I helped to raise. I hope you will enjoy this pictorial insight into my story, and may it inspire you to follow your passions too!

Honey-badger-orphan
Bat eared fox orphan SHIKHAZURI
Genet cat orphan SHIKHAZURI
Hedgehog orphan SHIKHAZURI

While working on a community based conservation project bordering Tsavo West National Park, one of my favourite roles was to look after and raise the orphan animals that came through our doors. They were victims of poaching, the bush meat trade, and human-wildlife conflict, and ranged from primates to small cats and various antelope species.

Feeding Bushbaby SHIKHAZURI
Feeding Bushbuck SHIKHAZURI
Feeding Caracals SHIKHAZURI
Feeding Squirrel SHIKHAZURI

The role of mum involved all the normal tasks you would expect from feeding and cleaning them to ensuring they were kept warm by lining their beds with hot water bottles wrapped up in towels, and of course giving them plenty of TLC. And just as most mums do, I also had to wake up several times during the night to repeat this process!

As they grew up, they also made some unlikely and unexpected friends.

Bushbuck and caracal SHIKHAZURI
Genet and mongoose SHIKHAZURI
Dog and honey badger SHIKHAZURI
Caracal and bat eared fox SHIKHAZURI

The aim was to raise the orphans and rehabilitate them back to the wild. When they were old enough, I’d take them out on walks to start to familiarise them with their natural habitat and sources of food they should look for. Fortunately animals are a lot smarter than we sometimes give them credit for – they are born with an innate hunting instinct or have a knack for knowing what vegetation is suitable to eat.

Walking kudu SHIKHAZURI
Caracals hunting guinea fowl SHIKHAZURI
Caracal with guinea fowl kill SHIKHAZURI
Shikha with vervet monkey SHIKHAZURI

When they got to this stage they had officially graduated from high school and were independent enough to go off into the big wild world! It was extremely satisfying to see the ones that made it grow into strong healthy animals, ready to face the “real” world. Sometimes they would wander off for days and I thought I’d never see them again. But often they did pop in and say hello.

Raising them was extremely gratifying but also a costly endeavour. It is then that I decided to make jewellery to raise funds to help sustain the mini orphanage. That is when my journey into the craft began, and I have never looked back.

Jewellery making with caracals SHIKHAZURI
Learning jewellery making with caracal SHIKHAZURI
Beads for conservation SHIKHAZURI
Trek up Mt Roraima SHIKHAZURI

I continued to raise funds for environmental conservation causes even when I moved back to the corporate world. I have made and sold jewellery to support charitable causes spanning from Africa to South America, including a non-profit initiative called “The Lost World Project” which involved an expedition to Mount Roraima, Venezuela, in 2010 to document the conservation needs of this ecologically significant region, and to support international efforts to secure UNESCO world heritage status for Mount Roraima.

I am still committed to supporting conservation initiatives through my business and I’m a proud advocate of the Mara Lion Project. 5% profits from sales of jewellery goes towards this great cause. You can find out more about this project here and at www.asiliagiving.org

Thank you so much for following and supporting me on my jewellery journey.