Vegan, naturalist, TV presenter, film producer and conservationist, Anneka Svenska is a wildlife hero and animal activist who boasts a varied and extensive career advocating for the environment and all its precious inhabitants.
Anneka Svenska: Wildlife Hero
Anneka Svenska has worked on and off TV with animals for over 20 years. Her long list of accolades is only rivalled by her passion for animals and charities; since 2010, Anneka has worked with numerous wildlife and animal welfare organisations, producing and filming ‘Talking Badgers’, ‘LionAid Live’, Mayhew’s ‘Bark in the Park’, and creating short films for a variety of organisations, including, Wildlife Trusts’ ‘Wildlife Watch’. Anneka is one of Whalefest Live’s main presenters and in 2016 she filmed a powerful conservation documentary on the all-female South African anti-rhino poaching unit, ‘The Black Mambas’ for Helping Rhinos (partnered with My Green World).
Anneka has been a regular face on UK Television since the late 90’s, best known for presenting the Channel 5 movie show outTHERE which ran with record ratings for 3 years. A devout vegan and renowned wolf and dog expert, Anneka has rescued and rehomed hundreds of dogs from all over the world and appeared in many newspaper articles and blogs about her rescue and charity work. Anneka moved on to found ‘Green World Television’ and ‘Angels for the Innocent Foundation’ in late 2014 in order to intertwine her journalistic abilities with her animal conservation work. Anneka now produces strong films & campaigns, some created to give animal and environmental charities a much needed voice in the world of television.
Anneka is not afraid to speak of her love of apex predators and is quite at home swimming with great whites, tracking wolves in the wild and anything which involves dangerous, or rather, misunderstood animals. Anneka’s love and expertise for animals has always intertwined her professional life, having originally started to train as a Vet before embarking on drama school and a degree in Environmental Studies and Film. Anneka writes for many animal & ethical magazines including Dog’s Today, K9 Magazine, Barefoot Vegan, VegFest Express & Veganuary; she has worked on TV shows featuring Steve Irwin, has been celebrity patron for World Animal Day, and appeared on Daybreak TV as an animal expert as well as co-founding the dog rescue charity ‘K-9 Angels’ in 2011.
We had the privilege of interviewing Anneka, who has shared some of her wisdom with us.
Anneka, you have enjoyed a very extensive and varied career in the field of animal rights and wildlife conservation, was there a particular moment that you felt drove you to pursue a career in wildlife conservation and animal welfare?
When I was 8 I came across a stand in my high street which highlighted animal slaughter and wildlife crime, this was a pinnacle in my life as this is when I became vegetarian. I started working as a junior member of the RSPCA in the UK and started fundraising as a child. I would help local rescues in my area and also rescue animals myself from a young age. Another pinnacle in my life was as I got older and became immersed in the world of the ‘fake’ film and TV industry, I questioned why I was wasting my life on vacuous TV when I could actually be doing something I love and helping the planet at the same time. Since I made the move to film conservation, I have never been more happy or fulfilled.
There are so many atrocities occurring against our world’s wildlife, what motivates you to continue championing for animals in the face of so many barriers?
If I was to focus in too much on everything, I would give up, as the world really is full of so much pain and suffering. It seems like a constant fight. The way I see it, permanent change takes time, one baby step at a time. With my work, I hope I am helping to contribute to one of the baby steps which makes up a massive step by everyone grouping together. Sometimes it takes just one person to create a huge change and the wave follows. I feel that the future could lie in conservation films as education is at the heart of change and compassion, however with so much poverty in the world, it will be a constant fight as communities are always struggling to care for their own humans before animals. I think that it’s up to us in the first world, who do not have to focus in on such poverty on a daily basis to be the guardians of the animals, as we are in a better position to do this for everyone. If our planet’s wildlife is destroyed then in affects everyone, rich or poor. Wouldn’t it be sad to look back in the future and talk about animals which once existed?
What has been the most difficult part of your career, what barriers have you faced in your work, and how have you overcome them?
The hardest part is convincing people to put conservation shows on mainsteam TV. The channels just don’t want to do it, they see anything controversial involving animals or slightly political as being a potential loss of viewing figures. You often need channels to provide money to make the huge shows, so it’s very hard to be independent and get sponsorship to make something really important. All of the conservation films which are being made now are relying on their own marketing to get their films out, such as screenings across the world, selling DVDs and simply using the internet as a viewing platform. I guess you could say that I haven’t overcome these channel restrictions yet, as we are still all trying to convince channels to show the conservation films. Discovery UK did take a giant leap and screened Racing Extinction which was amazing and I would like to say ‘thankyou’ so much for being brave enough to show something which will help to change the future of the planet. Animal Planet is also very good at showing programmes such as Whale Wars, but what we NEED is the BBC allowing harder hitting conservation shows to be commissioned. Even David Attenborough struggles to have a voice about wildlife crime and planetary destruction and if he can’t speak really loudly, then it’s going to be really hard for lesser known conservationists.
Why do you think animals are so important? For our skeptical readers, what would you say to them to encourage them to appreciate the importance of animals?
Everything in this world is part of the whole, the animals, the sea, the sky, the insects and the people. The trouble is, we are seriously out of balance….without our animals, everything will gradually die. We are losing our top predators through persecution and this is throwing the smaller prey animals out of balance. Man is now shooting them as he feels there are too many of them. Our whales and dolphins are full of mercury that they are now beaching due to brain disorders, once they start to die, all of the fish below them will be thrown out of sync. We have to care for our bees as pesticides are hurting them, if they go, all our flowers will go and many crops will be destroyed. Everything balances the other and we take our world for granted. Who would want to live in a future where there is no colour, no animals, no flowers, polluted skies, poisoned seas and everyone living in the cities eating genetically grown produce which doesn’t need insects to pollinate it. We are fools to allow this to happen. Sometimes I think that perhaps man will be like the dinosaurs, he will have his time and once that is finished, the world will rebalance itself again.
What has been the highlight of your career (if you could choose just one)?
The first time I was able to touch a wolf. These amazing animals, these amazing persecuted animals, are the most gentle, the most powerful, noble, aloof yet aware animals I have ever met. I have never been scared of top predators and meeting these creatures just made me want to help predators more. I have since gone on to help wolves all over the world and more recently other predators such as snakes and sharks. I will be swimming with Great White sharks this year, filming with snakes and taking part in more filming involving persecuted predators and even large, persecuted herbivores, which can, sometimes be more deadly than the predators.
If you had any advice to give to our readers that would inspire them to become champions for our world’s wildlife, what would it be?
Just do it! Don’t think too much, get out there, get a zoology degree or something similar and get out to where you want to be in the world and save the wildlife. When I was in Africa this January I met girls from the UK who had gone straight out to help Rhino orphans and become rangers to stop the poaching. These ladies could still be in the UK doing an office job, thinking that it’s too dangerous or perhaps to do something with safer smaller animals…just do it! If your dream is to save the coral reefs, become a conservationist and dive out on the reefs with others like you; if you want to help wolves, go to a centre and help there. If you want to do film, this is a little harder, you need to work your way up from the bottom, so become a researcher with the BBC or a production company, work your socks off, show enthusiasm and one day you will get there.