Katherine Jones, Photo Journalist

Katherine Jones is a photo journalist for the Idaho Statesman, the state’s largest newspaper. She visited Gorongosa National Park in the summer of 2014, to write stories about the Idaho connection and about how the Zoo Boise dollars were being spent. These comments are from a February 2015 interview in Boise.

Gorongosa elephantsKatherine Jones

Gorongosa elephants

“The cool thing about Gorongosa was how familiar it did seem. So when we’d go on safari driving through the trees, the trees seemed familiar like a Sunday afternoon drive; but you could go around the corner and see a lion or an elephant; I mean, not at all anything like I’d see in Idaho, but it seemed familiar.”

Gorongosa HippoKatherine Jones

Gorongosa hippo

“One of the cool things about the work that Greg is doing is that it’s not just about the animals; it’s also about the people who live around the park that are going to support the animals in the park. We visited the clinic that the Restoration Project has built; and right next door was the water hole that they had put in because it was unsafe to get water out of the river because of the crocodiles. And then we visited the school and talked to the teachers about their needs. And then we visited Mr. Balthazar on his model farm, and that was probably the coolest thing. Mr. Balthazar is a respected elder in the community, and he has taken it upon himself to care for nearly 100 orphaned children; and so the Restoration Project was working with him on how to grow more food differently year around.”

Gorongosa lionnessKatherine Jones

Gorongosa lionness

“We were driving along one evening, and all of a sudden, Whoosh, like what was that? The driver screeched to a stop, and it was this gray blob with pink around the edges. It was a hippo come flying out of the woods into the river! I didn’t know hippos could move that fast. Who knew? And so we came to an appropriate place to stop and pulled over, and we kind of walked down to the river… I like to say, guess what I did one evening? I watched a hippo all evening long, just swimming and splashing.”

Katherine Jones in Gorongosa

Katherine Jones in Gorongosa

“I have always wanted to see a cat in the wild… and we were cruising along the road one evening, and the grasses parted and there she was. She was just sitting there staring, and I did kind of an un-politically correct thing and yelled, A Lion! So we stopped and we watched her; and she just sat there and we’d take pictures; and then she got up and she walked off, and we could just see the little tip of her tail flicking in the grasses tempting me. And I thought, I can die happy.”

Mr Balthazar at his homeKatherine Jones

Mr Balthazar at his home

“We had seen a couple elephants here and a couple elephants there… and then we saw a herd of 20 elephants and I thought, boy this is starting to be something real… And then as we were watching them, we kind of scanned the horizon and then there were more elephants and then there were more elephants all lining this field. And we counted them and there were about 70 elephants. I’m like, okay this is Africa!”

Women around water pump built by Gorongosa Restoration ProjectKatherine Jones

Women around water pump built by Gorongosa Restoration Project

“And then Steve Burns starts talking, and he goes, you know there are 35,000 elephants poached every year, and it’s like 96 every day; so we did some math and those elephants are like 16 hours and 45 minutes worth of poaching. And that, that really affected me a lot. I mean, these are my elephants; these are our elephants. And it really brought home the threat to the elephant population in the world.“

“Life is different after you see elephants and lionesses in the wild; and I’m not really sure how it’s different; maybe it’s bigger; maybe it’s smaller. And it’s easy to forget, so trying to figure out how to keep that alive and that connection is kind of cool to be able to tell these stories.”