During our travels we meet some amazing people. Some, like Belinda may be wildlife conservation’s rising stars, bringing the passion needed to save the wild birds and animals of Africa.
She has this light in her eyes and a ready humble smile. With grace and confidence she calls the owl to her. Her favorite bird lands on her gloved arm grabbing the morsel of meat offered.
After watching Belinda Phetna exercise the ambassador birds with Shannon at African Bird of Prey we wanted to know more about her. Here was this young African woman obviously enjoying working with these raptors. This was unusual. Many black people fear birds of prey. Many long standing myths about bad luck and omens surround owls for example.
We return to African Bird of Prey the day the students from Imbali come for the flight show. The 30 enviro club members we sponsored. Jan and Belinda do the flight show (watch the video). They do a marvelous job enlightening and educating.
After it’s over we pull Belinda aside for a brief interview (watch the video).
Belinda, age 27, lives near the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary on a farm. The cottage she shares with her grandmother has no electricity. She started working at the sanctuary 8 years ago as a waitress.
Because Belinda was working so close to the birds of prey, in particular the owls, her family and friends started asking questions. Belinda turned to Shannon for the answers. As time went by Shannon saw Belinda’s genuine interest in the birds and got her more involved. At first as a translator for local students during the flight shows. Then three years ago, Belinda learned how to fly the birds she had grown to love.
The owls are her favorite. She tells her audience she is living proof that people don’t die when they see or are near an owl. She passionately tells them about vultures, and that they have no magical powers to win the lotto.
Her plans for the future? Well, she would like to finish high school and go on to study wildlife conservation. Though, honestly, I think she is getting the best education right where she is, learning from Shannon, training the birds and teaching the public, old and young alike.
We look forward to seeing Belinda again on our next visit to the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary.