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Tributes to Anna Merz, Lewa's Co-founder and Rhino Champion

May 21, 2013

Naomi Campbell, Anna's god-daughter

Anna was the quintessential 'Fairy Godmother'; from my very earliest childhood memories in Cornwall, England, Anna  would periodically arrive, as if by magic from Africa!Anna was my dear Mother's closest teenage friend and right up to my mother's untimely death ten years ago they would exchange letters every couple of months.

In my early teens Anna took me to Switzerland and Austria on holiday and in 1980 at the age of 18 I was invited by Anna out to Nairobi. I still have very clear memories of Anna and Karl discussing around their dinner table in Karen their dreams of starting a rhino sanctuary at Lewa Downs, supported by the Craig family. Ten years later I was lucky enough to re-visit Anna, this time at Lewa and again in 1992. Then in 1993 through my career in nursing, I happened to meet Jack and Pauline Bellamy who were wildlife film makers. Subsequently I made an introduction to Anna and Samia and to my delight in 1996 the BBC Wildlife on One series showed 'The Last of 'the Rhinos' on national UK television.

Two years ago Anna visited Cornwall and stayed at her beloved Meudon hotel owned by a very dear and life-long friend, Harry Pilgrim. During her stay I introduced her to my friend's 18 year son Greg who had always had a natural passion for wildlife. He is now at university studying zoology and is inspired to follow Anna's contribution to our natural world - this among many things is her remarkable legacy that she has left us.

Sarah Jenkins

Anna took us all by storm - her total commitment, her enthusiasm, her intolerance of any possible problems gave Peter quite a few head aches and certainly a lot of pleasure.   You may know that it was Peter who conceived the idea of the project to save the Black Rhino from extinction, and just when it seemed that the Government of this country would not take up the cudgels on behalf of this endangered species along came Anna; oblivious to Peter's advice to be cautious she took the bold step of taking up his plan, persuading the Craigs to let her do it on Lewa Downs, and refusing to be cautioned by someone who was too used to the ways of this Government, after 40 years with them and, therefore, over cautious.

It is entirely thanks to her that the Rhino Rescue Project in Kenya ever got off the ground;  the Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service was so amazed that one individual had made such a huge commitment that he gave Peter and Anna 48 hours to collect the first Rhino - and she sat in the back of the truck with it all the way from Nairobi to Lewa. An eight hour-plus trip on a cold night.

And that was just the beginning. I feel hugely privileged to have known her, to have become her friend and to have shared many special times in the bush. We will all miss her - her in-put has been invaluable and she leaves a big gap in many peoples' lives.  I shall miss knowing there is a chance of seeing her twice a year.   There are many people who let the world know what they have achieved but she was extra ordinary in that she never blew her trumpet, always managed to pass on the credit and kept her interest levels going - not always very easy in Africa.

She approved of one of the last things that Peter wrote in his diary - and she lived up to it: 
"There are two sorts of people. Those that do the work - and those that take the credit.Try to be in the first group. There is more satisfaction."

Lewa USA

The shocking news of Anna's death seemed to come as a maelstrom from Africa when at once the fearless protector of rhino, who to her last weeks continued to fight for their survival, was snapped away. Anna is the icon, the very raison d'etre of Lewa's rhino efforts. She brought the idea to the Craig's so many decades ago now and devoted her life to their care and restoration. Anna was that unique blend of kind and generous, but fierce! She towed the line - do what is right to protect rhino - a daily mantra that the Conservancy has adopted. Her efforts bore fruit, over and over again. 

The last months of increased poaching pressure devastated Anna - and yet she continued to push on, to try to come up with new ways to protect the our rhino herd on Lewa. She garnered wisdom from all the animals she so deeply loved, by patiently observing their ways and noting their behaviour. From this wisdom she became their greatest ally. Always creative, always pushing all of us to think in new ways - Anna continuously worked to help these wonderful beasts carry on their important part in maintaining the bio-diversity of Eastern Africa.

Anna leaves behind many dear friends. Our respect for her, our gratitude and our love cannot be expressed deeply enough. We celebrate Anna in our work each day and each of us carries our duty to serve Lewa and Lewa's rhino to the best of our abilities. As our inspiration, Anna will carry on her work through her many sentinels. 

Denise Wagner, American Association of Zoo Keepers, (AAZK) Board of Directors

When I heard that Anna had passed away it hit me much harder than I thought it would. Yes, Anna was my friend but you never really realize the impact that someone has had on your life until they are gone.

The impact that Anna had on my life was tremendous because quite literally she made me see that the power of one is a real and vital thing. It was her wish to save rhinos that started the ball rolling into what would become the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy that we know today. She didn’t do it alone, but she didn’t have to. That is the power of one. It sounds like an oxymoron but it isn’t. It takes the ideas, passion and drive of one person to reach out to others and involve them in those wishes. And it is the ideas, passion and drive of the one that show other individuals that they can have an impact on issues that seem too great to surmount alone. That’s the power of one that grows into the power of many. Lewa is a testament to that for it takes all of the ones to make it what it is today and what it will become in the future. Thank you Anna, for showing me the value and the power of one. I will endeavour to continue to help Lewa and your legacy thrive in the face of mounting pressure. For you I can do no less. Rest in peace and god speed Anna, I will miss you greatly. 

Patty Pearthree, National Bowling For Rhinos(BFR), Programme Manager

My husband Herbie & I first met Anna Merz in 1991 when I was the first “Bowling For Rhinos” trip winner. We were guests in Anna’s home in the 10,000 acre Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary within Lewa. Anna’s love of animals, nature and conservation was contagious. As I remember Anna, a smile comes to my heart. She brings so many fond memories of times we spent together, many of which were evenings filled with so much laughter that we were in tears!

I remember Anna having such a wonderful, child -like curiosity of the natural world around her. I stood beside her in Java, Indonesia as she learned of the curious, small creatures called mudpuppies. She was 65-years-old and could not believe there was a creature she had never heard of until then. In 1993, San Diego’s famous SeaWorld had been rented out for the evening just for the American Association of Zoo Keepers Conference attendees. I walked beside Anna as we entered the Orca Whale auditorium. She stopped frozen in her tracks with her mouth wide open in shock when she first saw this immense animal she had only seen in books. When the show was ready to start, I had to guide Anna to a seat as she was still frozen in awe of the beautiful animal in her midst.

My husband, Herbie, took Anna on a catamaran sailboat that year in San Diego. She hadn’t been on a sail boat in 50 years & was thrilled beyond words. She was forever grateful that I married such a wonderful man that would sneak her away from a boring conference that I had to attend!

In 1997, I had the pleasure of rooming with Anna at a rhino conference in Java, Indonesia. We never laughed so hard as when we both woke up to find our beds vibrating around the room at 4am due to the noise level of the mosque music blaring from the 16 x 16 foot speakers just outside our rooms! Or her stories of having to upgrade to a better room earlier in the conference in order to “get a decent lou that was not a hole in the ground”. There was no end to the joy she brought to a room with her wonderful stories!

I had the wonderful pleasure of many evening walks with Anna, Samia (Rhino) & her dogs. There were days filled with Anna & I in her jeep racing Samia back to the house…Samia always taking a short cut and winning. She stayed with me at my home in Indianapolis when my son, Ian was just two weeks old. Never having children of her own, I always felt as if I were her adopted child as she cared for me as any mother would do.  She knew just what I needed at the time…a good night sleep.  She brought me one glass of wine at dinner while breastfeeding which did the trick! 

My husband and I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit with Anna when Samia brought little Samuel to visit each morning. Samia slept near Anna’s compound and each morning we would awaken to the little squeaks and squeals of Samuel as he followed Samia to the fence to say good morning to Anna. Then Samia and Samuel would head out into the bush to be wild rhinos. Anna had taught them well. The wealth of knowledge that she gained from raising Samia was passed on to the zoo world and has helped all of us in more ways than Anna could ever know.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have known Anna for 23 years.  I have so many happy memories to carry with me that I feel she will always be with me. I know she is watching over the rhinos of the world and I only hope we can make her proud and win the war on poaching. We are sure to have the edge with her watching over us!

From Lewa Canada by Jason Stewart

On behalf of Lewa Canada, I am honoured to express our Board’s and supporters’ appreciation for Anna’s remarkable work. Her legacy in founding Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary, as a driving force in helping to create Lewa, and in inspiring and helping to establish Lewa Canada is truly extraordinary. 

It has been wonderful to see the tributes to Anna in the international media and from her fans in Kenya, elsewhere in Africa, Europe and North America. They have rightly celebrated Anna’s amazing role in helping to save rhino in Kenya and her inspirational impact at Lewa and far beyond its boundaries.Less well known are Anna’s crucial role in inspiring the founder of Lewa Canada, John Cook, to become a dedicated supporter of Lewa and her essential contribution in motivating the creation of Lewa Canada.

Anna’s work inspired John Cook to fund the purchase and translocation of one of the original three white rhinos from South Africa to Lewa. Her presence and remarks at the annual dinners hosted by John Cook in the years preceding Lewa Canada’s creation were features of these events. Anna’s commitment and encouragement were essential in motivating the initial band of major Canadian supporters of Lewa to take the crucial step to found Lewa Canada in 2003. Her visits and work together with those of Ian Craig helped create the donor base and critical early momentum prior to and in the initial years following Lewa Canada’s founding.

More recently, several of our Board members were fortunate to be present at LWC Board meetings with Anna where her presence was a highlight and her comments incisive as well as forceful. Dinners and drinks with Anna will remain cherished memories for us of our visits to Lewa.

Anna will be sorely missed by all of us at Lewa Canada. She was a true visionary and a great character.

From Lewa UK by David Walker

Anna Merz throughout her life stood out for her vision and her selfless determination. There are few people in this life who commit to a noble cause with her dedication, wisdom and perseverance. Lewa has achieved remarkable success in the conservation of rhinos, and she has been both the initiator and one of the main contributors to that success. All in Lewa UK stand in awe of her achievements, and salute her very admirable life. She will be sadly missed. 

Harry Pilgrim (Anna’s friend for over 60 years)

Just before the outbreak of World War 2” Anna Farwell was sent by her father to live in their Cornish holiday home overlooking the Helford River.  We lived nearby overlooking Falmouth Bay. Anna and I would meet at various parties. Anna’s first ‘boyfriend’ was a disaster and she finally took him to meet her Papa for his approval – which was denied. He was the life and soul of any party but far too old for her.

With the war over and petrol available again I was due to drive up in my Jeep see my fiancé in Birmingham, but it would not start. Anna said she would ask her Papa if I could borrow his big Austin – which I always referred to as ‘The Hurst’. Soon after Erni Kuhn came on the scene we were invited to the wedding at Lincolns Inn. Years later when we met again it was as if there had been no break. More years later still I got an urgent call asking if she could come and stay when she and Erni went their separate ways. All I could offer was a ‘shoulder’. This led on to our many travels in Europe and Africa.  It is difficult to imagine two more different people – Anna an intellectual and me dyslectic!

Soon after our final meeting in London this January I was severely ill and spent six weeks in hospital.  Once Anna knew this she telephoned her god-daughter, Naomi, asking her to visit me and get full details. When I was due to come out she asked Naomi to get details of stair lifts as she was sure I would need one. Anna was a very special and consistent friend and her death came as a very great shock – and still is. Now I feel free to remember her in my prayers.

 

Martin and Fritz Bucher, Zurich Zoo, Switzerland

Farewell, farewell, dear Anna!
On behalf of my father Fritz and myself I'd like to express or deepest sympathies. I would like to thank you, dear Anna, for accompanying us for many years.  For letting us share with you the joys of Africa and your knowledge of the rhinos, which you loved so much. We treasure fond memories and tales and we'll never forget you!  Best wishes for your current journey. 

Greta Hall and her son and daughter-in-law, Nigel and Suzy Hall

Background:  The late Bill Hall’s friendship with Anna Merz goes back more than 50 years when Bill was a stockbroker in the city and looked after Anna’s father’s financial affairs and then after Anna’s father passed away Bill looked after Anna’s affairs. Bill and his wife Greta became firm friends with Anna and whenever she was over in England she would always find time to come over to Jersey for a few days rest and respite.  She would take Bill’s dogs for long walks on the cliff paths. 

Anna relied on Bill for his sage financial advice.  They had a mutual admiration for each other.  Anna really was one of the family.  Sadly Bill Hall passed away just a few months ago at the ripe old age of 94.

Anna was more than a dear friend to the late Bill Hall; she could more accurately be described as an adopted member of our family for over 50 years.

We are enormously sad at her passing away so suddenly.  Anna was such an inspirational woman, not to mention always being an extremely entertaining companion.  Greta, Bill Hall’s widow, was extremely touched that in the middle of winter Anna was able to fly all the way from South Africa to attend Bill’s memorial service in London.  This meant an awful lot to us.

We are determined to fulfill Anna’s wishes that her outstanding efforts in the conservation of rhinos will continue and grow after her death.

She will be sorely missed by all of us here in Jersey and her memory will live on in future conservation initiatives. We are very sorry not to have been able to come to Lewa for this celebration of Anna’s life. We look forward to meeting as many of Anna’s friends as possible in the future.

With love from the Hall family.