THE BLOG

Talking To Kristin Davis About Travel As A Catalyst for Action

10/21/2011 08:17 am 08:17:14 | Updated Oct 21, 2011

"Oh, I love your shoes!" Kristin Davis said when we met. You can take the girl out of Sex and the City, but you can't take it out of the girl. Davis was on a whirlwind trip to Singapore to spread the gospel of wildlife protection and sustainable travel at the Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Congress. She had landed at 4 a.m. By 3 p.m., she was all fired up about saving orphaned baby elephants and rhinos in Africa as she gave her keynote address.

Davis' passion was sparked a decade ago when she went on her first trip to Africa. She had loved elephants since she was a kid, and had always wanted to go to Africa, so when she got a two-week window in her schedule, she booked a trip with Abercrombie & Kent, got her shots (despite fainting at the doctor's office) and flew to Kenya. When she was in Masai Mara, her guide heard about an orphaned baby elephant in a nearby village. Because baby elephants do not survive long without their mothers, Davis became obsessed with finding and sending the baby elephant to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, for which she's now a Patron and spokesperson.

Since that first trip, Davis has traveled throughout Africa (she is also an Oxfam Global Ambassador). "[Rwanda] is the most amazing success story. You've got to go. I saw some happy, amazing people in Rwanda. We had these guides who took us to see the gorillas and they were from the different tribes. And at one point they broke out into acapella song to thank us all for coming. It's a beautiful place because of what they've been through. Their history is so present with them. It's like they've been through the fire and they're still there and they're so happy to still be there."

"The first time I went [to Kenya], I had the guilt. I was just handing money out. I really was having that weird, stunned feeling. The thing is, when I feel that guilt, I come to Singapore to talk about it. I try to funnel it towards action. That's why I like to talk about Sheldrick. Because it can get overwhelming and hard and sad, but you can also have these incredible, beautiful experiences with little, baby elephants that are the sweetest thing in the world and you can help save them. It's amazing! And then you get that incredible joy and feeling of connection from that."

Ideally, she'd retire and go work at Sheldrick helping to raise the orphaned elephants and rhinos, but she realizes that, for the time being at least, she makes more of an impact traveling the world and speaking to audiences such as World Savers Congress.

Asked how she made good, responsible decisions as a consumer, Davis said: "We live in a consumerist society. It's an ongoing challenge to not succumb to those pressures, and I'm certainly not perfect at all. Awareness and education are key. I'm much more aware when I've just gone on a trip. People live in really, really different circumstances. All we can do is the best we can in the situation we're in."

Someone in the audience asked whether Sex and the City 3 would be filmed in Africa, and she laughed. "I don't know if we're going to get to do Sex and the City 3, but I appreciate the question." For the time being, she'll be going back to work on a Lifetime movie about schizophrenia.

People are fleeing drought and conflict in Somalia and ending up in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, which is currently the world's largest refugee complex and is hugely overcrowded. Oxfam's response to the drought includes programs in Somaliland, Ethiopia and Kenya with a mixture of emergency aid, long-term development and prevention, and advocacy to address the root causes of chronic drought. Donations can be made through Oxfam's East Africa appeal.