The Luangwa Valley in Zambia is one of the last remaining strongholds for lions in Africa, and 2016 National Geographic Emerging Explorer Thandiwe Mweetwa plans to do everything she can to keep it that way. After losing both her parents as a young girl, Mweetwa left her small town in southern Zambia to live with her uncle in a rural area in the north that had no running water or electricity. While the transition was difficult, it was integral to the direction in which she would choose to take her career. For the first time in her life, Mweetwa was able to stand in the presence of baboons, vervet monkeys, and other wildlife that she had only ever seen on TV. She joined her school's conservation program and began to learn about the threats African wildlife face through human encroachment, poaching, and habitat destruction, sparking a passion to help protect these magnificent animals.
As a team member of the Zambian Carnivore Programme, Mweetwa works to protect her homeland's wildlife through scientific research, helping troubled animals in the wild, and community education. Mweetwa takes the stage to talk about the passion that drives her and the incredible work she and her team have accomplished to help protect Zambian wildlife.