Tracy Curtis-Taylor
Mary Heath

The Spirit Of Africa

Tracy Curtis-Taylor

As weeks go, last week was a good one. Artemis are sponsoring Tracy Curtis-Taylor, supporting her flight from Cape Town to Goodwood which takes her right up through the middle of Africa. This follows the path of an aviatrix called Mary Heath, who flew the route 85 years ago. Tracy is flying the ‘Spirit of Artemis’, her vintage Boeing Stearman, built in the 1940’s and rebuilt last year to increase its horsepower and fuel capacity.

So of course it was only reasonable to go down to meet her at the half-way mark, in Kenya. She landed at Wilson airport in Nairobi, then took the plane up to the beautiful wildlife conservancy at Lewa. Unlike Mary, Tracy has a support crew and a film crew following her in a large Cessna – Nylon Films are making a documentary about the whole trip. Nevertheless it’s an epic adventure with real challenges and dangers.

Mary Heath

Mary, Lady Heath

Lewa is stunning. We stayed with the delightful Watson family. Mike is CEO of Lewa, and Sarah is the African director of the Tusk charity. So we interspersed aeronautical flights of fancy with some very down-to-earth conversations about rhino poaching. To us the word ‘poaching’ evokes bucolic images of hungry locals outwitting a plodding Mellors to take a rabbit for the pot. Not in Africa. Here it’s a highly organised crime. The stakes are high. Horn sells for $10,000 a kilo in Africa, and 6 times that in China – and these brutal thieves run the risk of being shot dead on sight.

There was a full moon on our last night, a ‘poacher’s moon’, and just after midnight the sound of rapid fire from an AK-47 rang out across the bush. A female rhino was shot and her horn was hacked off. She was pregnant with a dependent infant. Three lives gone for one horn on which she was dependent but which is practically or pharmaceutically utterly useless to anyone else.

So a wonderful trip with a very sobering end. Go to tusk.org to find out more about the plight of the rhino, the african elephant, and the work that Tusk does. And thanks again to Sarah and Mike.