Tag Archives: Alison Nicholls

SAVE THE DATE – Alison Nicholls, Wildlife Conservation Artist, speaking at The Explorers Club on 9/29/14

“African Conservation through the Eyes of an Artist”

My good friend, Alison Nicholls, will be speaking on a topic that is near and dear to her heart (and mine) – African Wildlife Conservation.  Alison creates incredibly beautiful sketches and watercolors based on her experiences in the African bush and her affiliations with two conservation groups, the African People & Wildlife Fund run by Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld in Tanzania and Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe.  Based on her first-hand experiences at these conservation sites, Alison returns to her studio and creates richly colorful renderings.

Alison’s love for all things Africa and all things wild comes alive in her art.  She is an incredible spokesperson for wildlife conservation in Africa because she sees not only the reality of the situation but also the possibility, and through her art and her way of being, inspires others to join her in making a difference.

I am already registered to attend – it is Monday, September 29th in NYC at The Explorers Club.  The reception begins at 6pm and her lecture at 7pm.  Please see the attached link for details:






My Favorite Four-Letter Word – Nkwe

November 24, 2012 – Chobe National Park



In a Tree – Photography by Evan Schiller

You know the old saying, “When given lemons, make lemonade”. My corollary in Botswana: On a rainy day in Chobe, when the leopards don’t want to play, make the best of things and learn how to say “Leopard” in Setswanese.

We continued our routine of leaving camp at 5:30am and not returning until 7pm. We definitely kept Gwist busy. No rest for our weary guide. I can only imagine if Gwist has a blog out there and what he could be writing about us… If you want to read some funny stories from a guide’s perspective, pick up “Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide” by Peter Allison. It is full of guest/guide anecdotes and from what other guides have told me, it is all too true.



Standing Her Ground – Photography by Lisa Holzwarth

We chose to start our day where we left the Leopard family the night before. Fresh tracks in the road alerted us to another Leopard/Hyena encounter. Who needs video cameras when the tracks can easily tell the story – the cubs were with their Mother when confronted by the Hyena. The Mother Leopard’s nails were firmly imprinted in the ground – she was definitely taking a stand for herself and the two cubs. We also noticed that yesterday’s kill (a young adult male impala), which had previously been deep in the bush, was now high up in a nearby tree.

We didn’t see any of the cats so decided to do one of our loops and look for more tracks along the way. Their kill was safely in the tree so we were confident the trio was relatively close. We returned about 30 minutes later to find the leopards out and another vehicle watching the action. We stayed here for the balance of the day, only taking a break for lunch at President’s Camp.



Battling the Kill – Photography by Evan Schiller


Dinner in a Tree – Photography by Evan Schiller

Given that we technically could not go off-road for closer viewing and photography, we were fortunate that the leopards had decided to pull this impala up a tall tree located at a crossroads of sorts, so we had two different angles from which we could potentially shoot. Most visitors take time midday for a siesta of sorts (which is also a quiet time for the big cats given the heat of the day), but we stayed put and took the opportunity to “abandon the law” and move a little closer to our subjects (even the Park Rangers take a siesta). Unfortunately, the leopards weren’t particularly cooperative, choosing to stay deep in the shade of the bush or up in the tree.



“Chameleon” – Photography by Lisa Holzwarth


Siesta Perspective – Photography by Lisa Holzwarth

We passed the time in the rain learning the Setswana names for the all the animals we had been fortunate to see and photograph. Anyone who looks at my journal will get a laugh out of the phonetic spelling that I also included for each name so that I would remember how to correctly pronounce the names of so many of these magnificent creatures. My friend Alison Nicholls, the wildlife artist who lived in Botswana for a number of years, may correct me on some of these, but this is what my ear heard at the time…

Lion – Tau (sounds like “tao ooh”)

Leopard – Nkwe (sounds like “uun kway” – with a long A)

Hyena – Phiri (sounds like “peer re” – with a long E on the second syllable)

Elephant – Tlou (sounds like either “toe” or proper name “cloow” with long o)

Giraffe – Thutwa (sounds like “two twa” with soft a)

Warthog – Kolobe (sounds like “koo lou bay” with a long a)

Baboon – Tshwene (sounds like “sTwen nee” with a long e on second syllable)

Hippo- Kubu (sounds like “koo boo”)

Porcupine – Noko (sounds like “no koo” with a long o on first syllable)

Zebra – Pitse ya naga (sounds like “peek e ahnaha” with soft e on second syllable)

Wildebeest – Kgokong (sounds like “co co nay”)

Wild Dog – Matlharelwa (sounds like “ma tah less wah”)

The afternoon brought a different sort of Phiri, of the “four-wheeled” variety, into our life. It felt like all the vehicles in Chobe were stopping to see “our” leopards. We got a very heavy downpour that afternoon which ultimately cleared out all the Phiri. I was happy for the Tlou and the other grazers.


Sunsetting Flock – Photography by Lisa Holzwarth



Success!! Big Cats II wins big for Panthera – Finally, the Story

Dr. Luke Hunter, Lisa Holzwarth, Alison Nicholls, Evan Schiller

Dr. Luke Hunter, Lisa Holzwarth, Alison Nicholls, Evan Schiller

All the planning, organizing, phones calls, emails, arm-twisting and finger-crossing worked – we had a great turnout for our Big Cats II event in Manhattan on October 2nd benefiting Panthera.   The weather cooperated this year, and while Metro-North did not, our dedicated friends and colleagues pulled out all the stops and made the evening a huge success – raising over $31,000 for the Big Cats.   Dr. Luke Hunter, President of Panthera and Andrea Heydlauff, Panthera’s Vice President , joined us in welcoming our friends from Connecticut, Manhattan, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, Washington DC and California (!) to a wonderful evening at Panthera’s headquarters.  Some of our special guests included Alison Nichols, my absolute favorite wildlife and conservation artist http://www.nichollswildlifeart.com, and Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld and Charles Trout, co-founders of the African People & Wildlife Fund whose work focuses on Eastern Africa, particularly in Tanzania in the Maasai Steppe and in/around Tarangire National Park http://afrpw.org.

When I look back at the evening and the days and weeks leading up to Big Cats II, I am forever appreciative of all the people who made the event such a success.  Every dollar made a difference.  To be honest, some of the dollars that meant the most to me were not necessarily the largest, they were the ones where I know the person was sacrificing to make the contribution – and ironically, these were the dollars that came unsolicited.

Our Auction items were extraordinary and unique.  We included two of Evan’s large photographic archival pigment prints on canvas including the  “Chobe Lion” and “Tamboti Leopard”, Panthera Media Director, Steve Winter’s chromogenic color print that is the cover shot on his new book coming out in November called “Tigers Forever”, handcrafted jewelry, Alison Nicholl’s original acrylic “Lines of a Lioness”, as well as great rounds of golf at US Open courses and a catered Day Sail on a Morris Yacht.   Panthera had also offered two amazing trips – one to the Pantanal to track jaguars and another to the Tetons to track cougars, each to be accompanied by Panthera experts.  Unfortunately we did not have any takers on these very big ticket items, though Evan and I were caught drooling over both of these amazing opportunities.  If you know of anyone with a keen interest, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the Panthera development team.

At the end of the day I think our friends and family really appreciate our passion for the Big Cats and are willing to take a stand with us on behalf of these amazing creatures.  The evening was light, fun, and informative, and I believe the Big Cats message rang true.   Luke Hunter spent a few minutes giving the group some background on how Panthera got started and their philosophy.   One of the things that really resonates with me is Panthera’s inclusiveness and thoughtfulness.  A Panthera board member recently described Panthera as the “venture capitalist” for the Big Cats movement.  Panthera is always asking itself what are the best possible investments to be made on behalf of the Big Cats.  They have no intention of re-creating the wheel or adding unnecessary bricks and mortar.   They stretch their dollars as far as they can out in the field and since their founding in 2006 have conducted over 155 wild cat conservation projects in 59 countries.   The organization is fortunate that its budget is funded by Panthera’s co-founder, Tom Kaplan, and the Board, so that all dollars raised can go directly to field projects.  Tom is currently featured in Forbes.  It is a great article on who Tom is, his passion for wildlife and what he and his wife are doing to make a HUGE difference, especially for the Big Cats (and snakes).

Evan and I offer our most sincere thanks and appreciation for all who participated and donated to our Big Cats II event.  We couldn’t have done it without you!


Chobe Lion - Photography by Evan Schiller

Chobe Lion – Photography by Evan Schiller

Alison Nicholls sketches and paints for the Greater Good

Alison Nicholls sketching in the field

I graduated from Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts college located in Brunswick, Maine.  Despite its small size, the College counts amongst its graduates great leaders from all walks of life – government (yes, there was a time when we actually had leaders in government), the law, medicine, world exploration, literature and the arts.  The College was founded in 1794 and at its opening in 1802, President Joseph McKeen declared that:

“… literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good, and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education. It is not that they may be enabled to pass through life in an easy or reputable manner, but that their mental powers may be cultivated and improved for the benefit of society. If it be true, that no man should live to himself, we may safely assert, that every man who has been aided by a public institution to acquire an education, and to qualify himself for usefulness, is under peculiar obligations to exert his talents for the public good.”

My reason for bringing up Bowdoin is that it cultivated in me the importance of the Greater Good and I strive to live within that intention.  When you put yourself in that space you are bound to find other like-minded people.   This summer Evan and I were fortunate to meet Alison Nicholls, a professional Conservation and Wildlife Artist.  Kudos go out to Anthony Francella at Rye Art Gallery & Framing for making the connection.  Alison is English and lived in Zimbabwe and Botswana with her husband Nigel for nine years.  During that time she and Nigel explored the African bush as much as they could and Alison honed her skills as a watercolor and sketching artist.  While they now live in Port Chester, New York, Alison returns to Africa annually to sketch in the bush. She is a Signature Member of Artists For Conservation and the Society of Animal Artists, and a member of the Explorers Club and the Salmagundi Club.   I had the pleasure and fortune to attend Alison’s most recent lecture, “Living and Sketching in Africa” at the Free Reading Room at the Rye Public Library in Rye, NY on October 20th.  Alison’s incredible passion for her work and African Wildlife, especially with regards to conservation, is evident from the minute you meet her.  Over the course of the hour she shared with us what it was like not only to live in Africa as a human, but also the effects on wildlife as a result of a burgeoning human population (especially with regard to the Painted Dogs and the Big Cats).  Alison also described how she goes about her field sketching and then how she brings her bush experiences back to the studio to create her magnificent watercolors.   It’s a special treat to be allowed inside an artist’s creative thought process.

“Wild Dog Hunt” field sketch by Alison Nicholls

“Dogs at Dusk”, Studio Painting by Alison Nicholls

Alison’s Conservation Expeditions program allows her to work closely with a number of African conservation projects, using exhibits and lectures to raise awareness and funds.  To date, Alison has completed two Conservation Expeditions.  In 2007 Alison spent six weeks with the Painted Dogs Conservation Project on the edge of Hwange National Park in northwestern Zimbabwe. The aim of the project is to conserve and increase the range and numbers of the Painted Dog both in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa.  The Painted Dog as it is known in Zimbabwe (and as the Wild Dog in other parts of Africa) is very near extinction – with probably only 3,000 animals alive today, compared to a population of 300,000 to 500,000 only 100 years ago!

“Maasai Mamas”, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Alison’s second Conservation Expedition involved field trips to the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW), near Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.  APW works with rural communities to help them manage natural resources for the mutual benefit of people & wildlife.  The African People & Wildlife Fund was co-founded by Laly Lichtenfeld who I have mentioned in previous posts – it was our connection with Alison that originally led us to introduce ourselves to Laly.  One of APW’s greatest successes revolves around their idea of building “Living Walls” to protect the Maasai livestock from predators.  Livestock have traditionally been protected by corralling them into bomas built of acacia wood.  One interesting fact I learned during Alison’s lecture was that many times the Big Cats, especially the lions, get blamed for livestock deaths, which were in fact committed by others, especially the hyenas.  Hyenas sometimes find their way into the traditional acacia bomas creating confusion and panic amongst the livestock causing the livestock to break through and out of their protective wall – where they then find themselves at the mercy of many more nightly predators.   While many large predators will move their kill, this is not the case with the lions, so if a villager goes in search of his lost cow and finds only the lion sitting out in the open with it, the lion usually pays the same price as the dead cow.

“Maasai and Cattle”, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

APW came up with a new twist on the boma idea – rather than having to cut down the thorny acacia trees to build these protecting walls, they would build a “Living Wall” out of chain link fencing and Commiphora branches.  The Commiphora thorn branches can be cut from a larger living Commiphora tree and then planted directly in the ground, intertwined with the chain link fencing.  By the next rainy season the Commiphora is growing prolifically creating a dense physical and visual barrier, keeping the livestock in and the predators out.  The Living Walls built to date are now protecting an estimated 50,000 livestock and are proving to have a 100% success rate.  This program has proven to be a win-win-win for all involved: the Maasai, their livestock AND the Big Cats.

Alison Nicholls is one of those special people who lives her life in the context of the Greater Good.  Her passion is real and contagious.  Her sketches and watercolors are beautiful and breathtaking and she donates a portion of her artistic proceeds to these important African wildlife conservation causes.  Alison’s work has been featured in wildlife art magazines in the USA and UK.  Her work has been exhibited at the Botswana Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan and used by the US Department of State to promote the “Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking” initiative.

“At Night”, Studio Painting by Alison Nicholls

Please visit her website at www.nichollswildlifeart.com and her blog, www.nichollswildlifeart.blogspot.com.  And if you are an aspiring artist, you should know that Alison also leads Art Safaris each year with Africa Geographic magazine, so if you want to learn how to sketch in the field, you should tag along with Alison on one of these amazing trips to get the benefit of her incredible eye and talent.

“Sun Spots”, Studio Painting by Alison Nicholls


Alison’s next scheduled exhibition for the African People & Wildlife Fund will be April 12-26, 2013 at the Darien Nature Center, 120 Brookside Road, Darien, CT  06820.  There will be an Artists Reception and Lecture on April 21st between 3pm and 5pm.  She will also be exhibiting at the Somerset Park Commission Environmental Education Center (New Jersey) in May 2013.  And lastly, not only did Alison generously contribute one of her limited edition giclees to our September 18th Silent Auction, she also was kind enough to create the lion, leopard and cheetah thumbprint sketches that we used for our invitations.  Thank you, Alison for sharing your gift and your passion.  Through the generosity of your spirit, the world is a better place.