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Seeing Nature Up Close Inspires Work in the Halls of Government

Baja whale tale

Working in international wildlife policy at WWF, I don’t get out to the field as much as my colleagues. I’m removed from it, much like most of the world is removed from it. But last March an incredibly inspiring moment in Baja, Mexico—where I traveled to see some of WWF’s projects involving sea turtles and whales—reminded me why I’m here.

We were visiting San Ignacio Lagoon, a place where whales come to have their calves. From our little boats, we were not permitted to approach the whales. Amazingly, the whales came to us.

Leigh Henry and dog

Leigh Henry

A mother gray whale and her calf came right up to our boat.

As I leaned over the boat to get a closer look, the baby whale came out of the water and tapped me on the lips. It was like he kissed me! He was gentle but the force of it made me stumble back, and then I just sat down and cried. We soon moved off, and the baby whale followed our boat, like he didn’t want us to leave.

From words to action

My job at WWF involves a lot of writing policy and background documents to inform governments. I do a lot of lobbying in advance of and after international meetings. I work closely with government officials to make sure they do the right thing. It can be slow and frustrating work.

But seeing wildlife policy in action made me realize how meaningful my work really is. In San Ignacio Lagoon there are very strict rules for whalewatching, which is why we weren’t allowed to approach the whales. These are just the type of whalewatching guidelines that we work with the International Whaling Commission to establish and promote.

A future worth fighting for

Thinking about this baby whale—how he was going to start his migration north in another month, if he would make it and what troubles he’d face along the way—brought everything home for me.

I have two young daughters and if I can’t spend my days with them, I want to come to work for a reason. I also want them to grow up in a world where whales and rhinos and elephants all still exist. 

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