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News > Science, Technology & Medicine > Space for Giants

Space for Giants

Adam Kerr (PH 79-84) discusses his three lifetime passions; rugby, elephants and the African bush. Since becoming involved with the charity, Space for Giants, Adam has completed a sponsored climb of..
6 Apr 2018
Written by Adam Kerr
South Africa
Science, Technology & Medicine
I cannot remember a time that I was not obsessed with elephants. Whether it was my cousins living in South Africa sending endless photos of elephants or the influence of watching Daktari or Life on Earth in my early years that created this yearning to spend time in Africa, I’m not sure.
But my first taste of Africa wouldn’t be until university – a group of ten of us spent a month in Kenya, including a week on the infamous Turkana bus. An unforgettable journey to what seemed like the hottest place on earth, a magical lake in the middle of a moonscape of a desert, where the local people live in upturned wicker baskets. On our way back, we passed through Samburu where I saw my first glimpse of elephants in the wild, which is when the obsession really took hold.
Having completed my Land Economy degree, I got a job with Cushman & Wakefield in the West End of London, where I continued to play as much rugby as I could whilst holding down a job. My 3 years at Magdalene College had sparked a deep love of the game which largely ruled my weekly existence. I was almost qualified as a chartered surveyor when I landed a job with Knight Frank to set up an office for them in Francistown, Botswana. Interestingly, at the time I had become disillusioned with surveying and was considering a career change. I found my job unfulfilling and felt strangely trapped in a world with a narrow path to a limited horizon.
Moving to Botswana changed everything. It was an unbelievable opportunity to run my own business at the age of twenty-four within the safety net of a large organisation. A baptism of fire in an environment completely unused to paying fees for property advice. Francistown was a dusty frontier town that had attracted an interesting mix of characters. It was also the gateway to the north, to the Okavango, Moremi, Savuti, and my favourite place, Chobe which was always teeming with elephants. It was also 80 kilometres from the Zimbabwe border and we frequently travelled to a number of their game parks, private lodges and Victoria Falls.

Rugby in Botswana was basic but strangely epic. Our pitch was a flattened dusty piece of bush with lime wash roughly painted in the dirt for lines, and played in 40°C heat. Whilst I was there, we managed to fence the pitch, sink a borehole for irrigation and eventually we had a grassed surface! There were nine sides in the country, some two days drive away on the other side of the Kalahari Desert, where we played on a sand pitch with maize meal for lines. By halftime we had most of the local village’s sheep arranged up and down each line eating the maize – mayhem! A Botswana national side was created and I was lucky enough to be picked for their first ever International played against Kenya in Nairobi. We won 27-25, slightly fortunately as they dropped the ball over the line twice in the last 5 minutes!
Over the last 23 years we have travelled to Africa almost every year, mainly to Kenya, where we have family (on my wife’s side) and many friends. Every time we have gone to Kenya we spend time in the bush, always aiming to spend as much time as possible watching elephants. It was this well publicised obsession that led to an invitation to the launch of a new elephant charity, Space for Giants, at the House of Lords about 6 years ago. It was here that I met the charity’s founder, Max Graham, who has since become a close friend.
Space for Giants protects Africa’s elephants from immediate threats like poaching, while working to secure their habitats forever in landscapes facing greatly increasing pressures. Their activities initially centred on the Laikipia region in Kenya, but have more recently expanded to run projects in Gabon, Uganda and Botswana. As around 100 elephants are killed every day across Africa, it is critical that charities like Space for Giants are empowered to safeguard this magical species. As human population is now growing exponentially, African wildlife and its natural habitat is under greater threat than at any stage in its history and many species face the prospect of extinction in our lifetime. By protecting the rangelands that support elephants, you protect the natural habitat for the full range of African wildlife.

Over the last few years I have done a number of slightly bizarre things to raise money for the charity. It was one of Saracens’ chosen charities a few years ago so I raised teams to dress as elephants and rattle buckets at various matches. I also climbed Mount Kenya in an elephant suit with a few University mates where we collectively raised over £80,000. This feat was repeated a couple of years later for the charity by a team from Saracens who took the Premiership trophy to the top of Mount Kenya.
For the last two years, I have taken part in the Devizes to Westminster canoeing race to raise money and awareness for Space for Giants and raised a further £12k in the process. The race covers 125 miles on the water with about 25 miles of running around 73 portages over three days, camping by the river overnight.
I have also recently taken a two-month sabbatical from my job at Legal & General to work with the charity in Kenya, where I was involved in trying to develop ways in which the charity could take more of a hand in managing or owning land across Laikipia. This involved spending time in some of the most beautiful places in Kenya which happened to be teeming with elephants at the time. A nice change from my desk in the City!
I have been very fortunate that my three great passions of rugby, elephants (and the African bush), and the world of property have given me some incredible opportunities and experiences. However, above all, my time with the charity has made me realise that individuals, like Max, can make a difference to our world however daunting the odds.

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