AFRICAN Wildlife President (AWF) Kaddu Sebunya was in Beijing and in conversation with China’s Luo Hong, photographer, museum creator, environmentalist and president of bakery giant Holiland. His favourite photos out of Africa are remarkable.
KADDU SEBUNYA: You are a billionaire, and you earned your wealth primarily from baking. Your company Holiland is one of the largest bakeries in China. However, you are more known globally as a nature photographer and environmentalist. What would you say nature photography has in common with baking?
LUO HONG: Baking brings sweetness and happiness to other’s live, and the photography enables one to share the beauty of nature with people. Baking is my career while photography is my mission, what’s common between these two is the requirement of deep love from heart [to do it well].
KS: Which are the three most memorable photographs you have taken either of wildlife or wild lands in Africa, and why do they stand out? Can you share them?
LH: The first photo (BELOW) is of the wildebeest migration taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, which was so magnificent that I’ll never forget.
The second photo is a pair of lions in love in the Maasai Mara. Every time I look at it, I am always so touched.
The third photo (BELOW) shows Lake Natron at the junction of Kenya and Tanzania. The magical, ancient colours are unforgettable, just like God’s paintings. Lake Najim is also the breeding site for the East African flamingo, where the next generation of flamingos is born each year.
KS: You created one of the largest private museums in China, the Luo Hong Art museum. What was the inspiration behind it, and kind of African collection does it hold?
LH: I have been photographing natural scenery and wildlife for more than two decades. They all show the beauty of the earth from various angles. I wanted to build a museum of art where people could be deeply touched and warmed by the beauty of the earth, and also to raise awareness of the general public in China regarding environmental protection and wildlife conservation.
KS: Wildlife and the environment are coming under pressure all over the world, but I presume you have a view of how the challenges in Africa are different from those in Asia and Latin America. Can you speak to that?
LH: As the population increases, Africa faces greater economic [demands], which makes the pressure on environmental protection in Africa greater than that of other continents. Therefore, it requires African governments to make scientific planning and coordination with a long-term development vision. I believe, through the joint efforts of African governments and people, harmonious development between man and nature will be eventually resolved and Africa, as the paradise of wildlife, will last forever.
KS: Elephant numbers in the world have dropped by 62% over the last decade, and the pessimistic forecast is that they could be all but be extinct by the end of the next decade. About 100 African elephants are killed each day? Is this a lost battle and, and what mistakes do you think conservationists have made in the campaigns to protect elephants and other iconic species?
LH: Besides raising public awareness of conservation by using good and reliable data, conservation organisations should also convince government to gain greater support from them.
KS: China has been the largest market for ivory. Last year it banned trade in ivory, a ban that took effect at the start of this year. What impact do you see that having, and how important do you think that action was for conservation?
LH: This is the greatest hope; that wildlife will be effectively conserved only when each government adopts legislation [that makes it possible]. No sale, no harm.
KS: One of the headaches conservation has in Africa is that it’s still very difficult to generate funding to protect nature from the resources from the continent. How, based on what you have seen and learnt from other places, can this be changed?
LH: I think this situation might be improved after the economy of Africa is further developed, [and the continent is richer].
KS: Another struggle in Africa has been how to raise the next generation of conservationists. How do we get an African Lou Hong. “Expatriate Africans” are engaged with wildlife conservation, but we don’t have near enough people from local communities. What is the trick to building enthusiasm?
LH: Above all, the [broader] African economy [needs to continue growing], but additionally, government should provide more support on both legislation and finance, [the good results will follow].
KS: Which, would you say, are the most successful conservation projects you have been involved with in Africa that keep you saying, “this is worthwhile doing”.
LH: I set up a personal environmental-protection fund in the UN Environmental Program named “Luohong Environment Foundation”, and with the support from UN Environment, we implemented the “Chinese Children’s Environment Education Project”. From 2008 to 2013, I invested more than US$7 million, and there were more than 23 million Chinese children participated it, from which young conservation leaders were selected and trained, so that China’s environmental protection cause can be extended to the next generation. To me, these things are very meaningful and valuable.