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Zoe Muller, wildlife biologist

Zoe Muller
Zoe Muller (BSc Psychology 2000–03) is a wildlife biologist specialising in African mammals. In 2009 she set up the Rothschild’s Giraffe Project in Kenya to carry out research on the Endangered Rothschild’s Giraffe, since there are now less than 670 individuals remaining in the wild. Zoe is now based permanently in Kenya and advises the Kenya Government on giraffe conservation issues.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a professional show jumper and gave it a good shot until I realised that to succeed I needed to be seriously rich! Otherwise, I wanted to work with animals which I have most definitely ended up doing.

What was the best careers advice you were given?
To always be true to yourself and do what you want to do, not what others think you should be doing (thanks Mum!).

Describe yourself in three words
Pro-active, ambitious and passionate.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?
There are several challenging aspects to my job but that’s half the fun! Recent hiccups have included: getting a flat tyre in the middle of the African savannah and being stuck three hours drive from the nearest town, frequently sinking the research vehicle in mud or sand, trying to get work done whilst being on ‘Africa time’.

What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
Getting to be outside under the African sun every day, spending all day watching giraffe and knowing that the work I’m doing will have a real impact on conservation of this magnificent animal and secure its future in the wild in Kenya. I am touched by how trusting these animals are as they allow me to follow and observe them all day, and seeing a baby giraffe being born is pretty rewarding too!

What have you done that you are most proud of?
My work and commitment to giraffe conservation has been recognised and I was recently invited to sit on the Kenyan National Giraffe Conservation Task Force – a group of people deemed to have the expertise to develop a new National Giraffe Conservation Strategy for Kenya, a ground-breaking move forward and the first of its kind for any country in Africa.

What drives you?
Trying to save the giraffe from further decline in the wild and possible extinction. No image of the African savannah would be complete without the giraffe, and yet their future in the wild is by no means certain. I am completely driven by trying to raise awareness about this magnificent mammal and trying to secure a future for them in the wild. I am also driven by results – when the hard work starts to pay off, it is all worth it!

What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?

In one word: funding. Conservation funding is increasingly hard to come by but essential to facilitate the research that will enable the development of long-term conservation strategies for species and the environment. More funding or donations would enable me to make long-term plans for the Project to ensure that conservation of the Rothschild’s giraffe continues into the future.

What three objects would you take with you to a desert island?
Sun cream, a good book and a pine colada!

Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?
I hope to have established a giraffe trust, charity or NGO in Kenya to continue research and facilitate long term conservation of this magnificent species.

How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who had huge passion for life and who never let anyone stop me achieving what I set out to achieve. Although I will probably be remembered as ‘the giraffe lady’ as I am known to the locals!

What are your favourite memories of your university years at Warwick?
There are so many! But the highlights would have to include the many amazing evenings I spent in the Union, the legendary ski trips (Horse!), working in the bar in Cholo and the lifelong friends I made. Oh and of course, Top Banana!

Do you have any advice for new graduates and undergraduates?
Be prepared to work hard for what you want to achieve and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Anything is possible if you have the commitment, passion and drive to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, but always remember who you are and don’t lose sight of what’s important to you on your way to the top.

Anything else you would like to add?

My time at Warwick made me realise that I could do anything I wanted with my life and gave me the confidence to get out there and do it.

Zoe Muller: the facts
Age
28
Job title Founder & Lead Researcher, The Rothschild’s Giraffe Project, Kenya
Lives
Nakuru, Great Rift Valley, Kenya
Education BSc (Hons) Psychology 2000–03, University of Warwick
MSc Animal Behaviour (Distinction) 2005–07, Manchester University
PhD Biological Sciences 2010–13, University of Bristol
Interests Animals, horse riding, skiing, scuba diving
Website www.girafferesearch.com

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