From sporting the ’stache around Lombard Street to globetrotting across seas, it's clear that Beth has a passion for travel in Baltimore and beyond. This week, she shares how driving for Lyft gives her a chance to walk on the wild side.
What's your passion when you're not on the road with Lyft?
I absolutely love to travel, particularly to countries off the beaten path. I guess it’s been in my blood as long as I can remember.
When did your interest in travel start?
I took my first overseas trip at the age of 16 to South Africa, where I was an exchange student, and I've been on the go ever since. I’ve been to over 35 countries so far, including some very far off the beaten path — Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Cambodia, to name a few. I also love to do a lot of cultural and nature photography when I travel.
Beth and two women who also work with the Global While Lion Protection Trust in South Africa.
Do you have a full-time job?
My primary income comes through working with two nonprofits, both of which deal with conservation of endangered big cats. One is based in South Africa, and works with the critically endangered white lions. I travel there a few times a year, for up to six weeks at a time, to spend time with the white lions and work with the organization that's working hard to keep the white lions alive (check it out: Global White Lion Protection Trust).
I quit my job in corporate America a year and a half ago, so that I could dedicate my life to work that was more fulfilling and meaningful. Lyft has really been supportive — it enables me to have greater flexibility, to make some income, and to meet great people along the way.
Beth took this photo of Zihra, the matriarch of the pride.
Why have you dedicated your life’s work to saving this animal?
I was an exchange student to South Africa in high school, and I fell in love with the country — and the animals of the continent — during that first visit. When I first heard about the white lions, I knew I had to travel back to South Africa to see them for myself. They are so rare, I didn’t even know they existed until a few years ago.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw one. We were in an open Land Rover at night. There was a full moon, so visibility in the bush was good. We stopped the vehicle, and from behind a tree emerged the first of the White Lions, a male named Letaba, followed by his brother Regius. The moon reflecting off their beautiful manes cast a gorgeous blue sheen. Letaba walked directly up to the vehicle, looked each of us directly in the eyes, and then went back to patrolling the area. It literally took my breath away — and it still does, every time I see them.
This photo of Beth was taken along the Blyde River Canyon in South Africa — about an hour drive from Timbavati, the only place on the planet to naturally find white lions.
What does saving a critically endangered species entail?
It’s incredibly challenging.There are approximately 7 to 10 in the wild today, with approximately 300 to 500 total in existence, mainly living in canned hunting facilities, zoos, or circuses. Lions are an apex predator in Africa, meaning they have no predators, other than man. The Global White Lion Protection Trust’s primary mission is to reintroduce white lions to the wild, to their ancestral homelands. They are also working hard to eradicate canned hunting.
There are only 7 to 10 white lions in the wild today. Beth and The Global White Lion Protection Trust are hoping to increase that number.
What are some of the main reasons the white lion is critically endangered?
One of the frequently poached and are hunted in facilities called canned hunting or trophy hunting farms. There are several thousand of these facilities in Africa, and believe it or not, there are over 500 facilities in the U.S. as well.
The lions are bred for the farms, taken from their mothers at birth, and are often held in “sanctuaries” that offer the opportunity for tourists to pet or bottle feed the cubs. When they reach a certain age, they are then either used for breeding, or are brought to the hunting area. Tourists pay anywhere from $25,000 to $125,000 to shoot the lion and take its head home as a trophy — and as a truly exotic breed, white lions fetch a particularly high price, meaning poachers actively seek them out.
How can we do our part in helping endangered species like the white lion?
The best ways to support are to become educated (to advocate), and any fundraising initiatives are always greatly appreciated!
Another way is to visit! I was so moved by the White Lions, that I established my own website White Lions Journeys in 2012, where I help people who want to make a difference travel to South Africa to spend time with the white lions in a volunteer capacity.
Enjoy learning about your fellow drivers? Tune in next time to learn about the driver who ran seven marathons on seven continents in just about a year — and still has plans to run some more!