Running for Rangers: Interview with Namibian Supermodel BEHATI PRINSLOO LEVINE On Supporting Rangers To Protect Iconic African Wildlife With The ‘Wildlife Ranger Challenge’ Race
BEHATI PRINSLOO LEVINE is known to the world as one of the world’s leading supermodels and for holding the coveted title of ‘Victoria’s Secret Angel’. Together with her husband – the world-renowned musician Adam Levine who is the frontman of pop rock band Maroon 5 – she shares two daughters and a shared interest in supporting various good causes through their philanthropic pursuits. Hailing from Namibia, she is particularly passionate about supporting African wildlife. On September 18th, she is supporting African rangers through the Wildlife Ranger Challenge – a 21km virtual running race with the goal of raising money to support the men and women across Africa’s protected areas who continue to see drastic cuts in resources and an increase in poaching due to the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgina Lara Booth interviewed Behati Prinsloo Levine on her support for the Wildlife Ranger Challenge, her background, family, philanthropy and love for African wildlife.
Hi Behati! How are you? How has this past year been like for you and your family throughout the COVID-19 pandemic? What is it like to be a model and influencer throughout the pandemic as regards to work and philanthropic projects?
“Hi, I’m well, thanks! Covid has been sad and bizarre, for everyone. My family and I were locked down in LA for most of the time, and fortunately we’ve been healthy. For my parents back in Namibia, it’s been tough. So many people in their small community have died from Covid, but it’s getting better there too.
Adam and I have worked together on a few projects this year. We helped raise money for Save the Children through a partnership with Ferrari. We also had a diversion from all the madness and worked at length launching CALIROSA Rosa Blanco tequila, which is aged in California red wine barrels that gives it a special flavor and a stunning color.”
You are from Namibia – a country with a lot of amazing wildlife. What is it like to be from a country with so much fantastic wildlife and do you still visit Namibia a lot? Have your daughters and your husband, Adam Levine, been to Namibia yet?
“Yes, I grew up in Grootfontein, a small town in Namibia, which isn’t too far from Etosha National Park. We used to go camping there a lot when I was a kid. It’s a stunning place full of elephants, lions, etc. Adam and the girls haven’t visited Namibia… but one day, soon, I hope!”
“The black rhino […] It’s a species that has roamed the earth for over 50 million years – and it’s up to us to make sure that they survive us”
What is your favourite animal? And do you have any of your own animals?
“I have always loved animals. We have two dogs, who are part of our family, but the wildlife in Namibia is something else. Picking a favourite is hard, but it would have to be the black rhino. They are special, powerful, solitary creatures and so much at home in their dramatic, dry environment. It’s a species that has roamed the earth for over 50 million years – and it’s up to us to make sure that they survive us – mankind, and our greed and stupidity – and continue to roam this earth.”
“The elephants would arrive looking like big grey boulders and leave covered in white mud and then disappear into the bush. It was magical.”
What are your fondest memories of wildlife in Namibia?
“As a kid, I remember being mesmorized by a crazy little warthog that fed on the fresh green grass in Okaukuejo, one of the camps in Etosha. My parents and I would also sit for hours at the waterholes in Etosha and watch springbok, gemsbok, giraffe and elephants come and go. The elephants would arrive looking like big grey boulders and leave covered in white mud and then disappear into the bush. It was magical.”
“They will walk 40km a day, under the hot sun, in rough conditions and sleep out under the stars. They are heroes.”
You are involved with the Wildlife Ranger Challenge to help Africa’s wildlife. Could you tell me a little bit about this and why you got involved with this project?
“I’m very proud to be the Global Ambassador for Save the Rhino Trust Namibia. SRT’s rangers are incredible people who work tirelessly to protect black rhino. They are out in the field, away from their families, for weeks at a time, tracking rhinos. They will walk 40km a day, under the hot sun, in rough conditions and sleep out under the stars. They are heroes, and so anything I can do to raise awareness for their hard work and funds to help support them, I’ll do!
The Wildlife Ranger Challenge allows me to do this. It’s a fantastic initiative from TUSK Trust, which has been a great, long-term supporter of SRT and other conservation efforts in Namibia, so it’s exciting to support not only SRT, but TUSK and raise awareness for rangers all over the African continent. We are family, and together we will fight to protect wildlife.”
What would you say to encourage people to register to run for the virtual race on September 18th?
“After a year or more of lock down, it feels great to run and to run for a good cause feels even better! Grab a friend, tie up your shoes and run! If you can’t run, you can still get involved by donating. 25% of all donations are being matched by the The Scheinberg Relief Fund, so your gift will count for so much more. Please give as generously as you can.”
“Adam has been very supportive of my efforts […] and has become a big fan of rhinos and the work done by rangers too!“
Is your husband also a wildlife supporter? Do you both pursue philanthropy together and support the same projects?
“Adam has been very supportive of my efforts to support SRT, and has become a big fan of rhinos and the work done by rangers too! My daughters are hooked – they have even started their own fundraising project for SRT! Just shows you are never too young to make a difference!”
You are a very busy lady – working as a supermodel, a mom, but also being active in supporting charitable and philanthropic projects. How do you find the time to do everything?
“I’m lucky. I have a lot of support both at home and with my career. I also know when to say no and to choose to do projects that are important to me, like SRT and the Wildlife Ranger Challenge.”
You support organizations to protect the black rhinoceros, which is a species native to Namibia where you are from – specifically Grootfontein. Did you ever see any black rhinos when you were living there?
“Namibia has the largest free-roaming population of black rhino left in the world. That’s incredibly special and we intend to keep it that way! I remember seeing black rhino as a child, and I want my girls to see them too in the wild where they belong.”
Would you ever consider living there again with your family? Do you miss living in Namibia with all those exotic animals?
“I love Namibia, the wildlife and the incredible, warm, welcoming people. I will always feel privileged to have grown up there and to have had amazing times in the bush. I want my girls to experience this too, and to spend time with their Grandparents on their home soil, so we’ll visit Namibia soon.”
“Without a market and without the middleman and suppliers, there would be no poaching. It is complicated but we can do this – we have to do this.”
If you could talk with a poacher about what they are doing to animals, what would you say?
“That’s a complicated question. The simple answer is I’d tell the poacher “Don’t do it. Don’t take that life.” But poachers are often poor, without many options for earning money and are being manipulated by middlemen. We also have to say to the buyer of illegal wildlife products “Don’t do it” and laws have to be enforced to stop the trade. Without a market and without the middleman and suppliers, there would be no poaching. It is complicated but we can do this – we have to do this.”
Is there anything in particular you would like to say to your fans and our readers?
“I think it’s important to know that we can all make a difference. We can learn more, share more and use our power – our voices and our economic power – to support causes like Save the Rhino Trust and the Wildlife Ranger Challenge that are protecting wildlife for us and for generations to come.”
Thank you so much for this lovely interview, Behati, and wishing you a lot of success with your charitable and philanthropic efforts!
“Thank you! Now, get ready to run!”
On September 18th, everyone can register to run or walk virtually alongside thousands of rangers from 20 African countries. By taking part in the virtual race, you’ll be joining a global community of Wildlife Rangers and their supporters who are running or walking #ForWildlifeRangers. Whether you cover 5km, 10km or 21km, your support will make a huge difference to those on the front line of conservation in Africa.
Photo Credit: Hugh Lippe/Save the Rhino Trust