Tobias Odhacha

Roles at NAAEE:

30 Under 30

Wildlife Warriors Field Lab Camp Manager
WildlifeDirect

Kenya

Tobias (he/him) inspires young people in Kenya and beyond to develop an appreciation for biodiversity and environmental protection through citizen science.

How are you using education to build more sustainable and equitable communities?

Wildlife identification and behavior learning with children at the Wildlife Warriors Kids Field Lab. Photo credit: Elena Siegrist/WildlifeDirect I believe it’s crucial to educate the next environmental stewards of our planet. As WildlifeDirect’s Wildlife Warriors Kids Field Lab Camp Manager, I have involved children and university students in citizen science activities and nature journaling where they can explore, discover, and contribute to science, while also working alongside scientists. I’ve also organized field excursions and camping expeditions for students who get to learn and gain inspiration from researchers working to protect species. The children I have interacted with continue to promote nature-positive actions in their communities by identifying environmental challenges and spearheading change.  

In previous roles at WildlifeDirect, I have organized and facilitated regional Wildlife Warriors Teacher Trainings on environmental education, which improves their understanding of how they can pass on environmental knowledge and action steps to the students. Most of the schools I interact with are located near protected areas and informal settlements, where students rarely have opportunities to interact with nature or wildlife. It’s incredible when they spearhead environmental projects such as tree growing in their schools and communities, build gabions, and even adopting and releasing wild animals back to the wild.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

Tobias engages children using Wildlife films as resource materials. Photo credit: Ken Gitau/WildlifeDirect I grew up along the shores of Lake Victoria and adjacent to Ruma National Park. As a child, I saw our neighbors going on local hunts in the areas around the park or killing a hippopotamus that had cleared their farms. It was heartbreaking to see wildlife being killed because people still had large herds of cattle and fertile land that produced enough yield.

My mother, then a primary school teacher and a wildlife club patron, greatly influenced my passion for nature. She planted trees at school and at home. She loves birds, and whenever she planted a tree, she told us she is growing a forest so that she can enjoy their songs and calls in her old age. Her passion inspired me to hold leadership positions in environmental clubs in secondary school and in my undergraduate studies.

In the beginning of my career, I was involved in sustainable community projects that paved the way to my interest in environmental education. I volunteer in park, beach, and river clean-ups and tree growing activities educating young people I meet on environmental issues. Being involved in nurturing a generation of wildlife warriors at WildlifeDirect provides a space to share my interest with more young people.

A LITTLE MORE ABOUT ME

What (or who) keeps you hopeful for the future?

There are numerous young people today who are aware of their environment, are inspired to take action to protect it, and are not afraid to share what they know about our planet. This fills me with hope knowing the future generation is interested in protecting the planet—not just for themselves but for all generations.

What are you happiest doing?

I’m happiest when I’m in nature: exploring, hiking, camping, documenting the plants and animals I come across, showing young children what we find, appreciating the diversity of nature, and contributing to citizen science. Fortunately, I can do all these in one day, which fills me with so much joy every time knowing I have made a difference in a child who has learned something new about nature.

If you could go back in time what would you change?

I would stop trophy hunting in Africa.

Do you prefer sunrise, sunset, midday, or midnight?

A sunset is a sign that tomorrow could be better.