Suki Waterhouse is a woman of many talents. A British actress, model and entrepreneur, Suki can now add ambassador for Global Wildlife Conservation to her CV (and we have no doubt she will!). We are thrilled to team up with Suki to tell the stories of some of our world’s more overlooked and threatened wildlife. The animals that Suki met during our shoot – Ninja the Binturong, Dino the Rhinoceros Iguana and Taj the Brown Lemur – are rescue animals, and educational ambassadors for their species.
We caught up with Suki after the shoot to find out what it was like to meet the animals, the most surprising things she learned, and her aspirations for what these messages can accomplish.
Q. When you first heard that you’d be getting up close and personal with a Binturong, what was your first reaction?
A. I truly did not know what a Binturong was before meeting Ninja. Looking up photos, they look cute and cuddly, but it’s hard to really gauge how big they actually are! Ninja was such a mystery to me—when she walked in, I thought she was a little bear, and then maybe a cat, and then maybe a…sloth? A beaver? A little bit of so many animals I love all at once. And the SMELL!!! Legitimate movie theater popcorn; I couldn’t believe she naturally smelled like that!
Q. What did that experience end up being like?
A. Ninja was such a sweetie. After snacking on a few grapes, she sauntered right up and rolled on her back to be pet like a puppy. Also like a puppy, she did not seem to know her own strength! With her big claws and strong paws, I needed to hold myself back from letting playtime get too rowdy. Cute, strong and best kept in their wildness home. I loved how curious she was about everything—no person went un-nuzzled and no wire or shoelace went un-nibbled.
Q. Did you have a favorite animal from the shoot?
A. Do not make me choose!! I love them all for different reasons. If I’m having a chill night in, I’d hang out with Dino the Iguana. If I’m looking for a social butterfly for a girl’s night out, Ninja would be the obvious choice. If I’m going to people watch at brunch, I’d call up my lemur friend Taj…. have you seen those eyes?
Q. When people see the photos and videos of you with these animals, what do you hope they take away from them?
A. The animals I met were all so friendly and harmless. I hope that people see them and can recognize how lovely and deserving of our full respect they are. With this series, I would love people to take away a more fleshed out idea of these animals. They need our help, but they are so much more than helpless victims. All three animals I met had such special personalities and quirks that allowed me to see more than just the usual sad eyes in a picture for charity. If people can see more of who they are, it can help us get a better picture of how important it is to keep them safe.
Q. Did anything you learned about the animals you met surprise you or stick with you?
A. Honestly, I was tickled to hear how critical to the ecosystem all of their excrement is. Each animal makes a huge contribution to the germination of the forests they live in simply by going the bathroom.
The thing that stuck with me most, though, is that one of the major risks they all face is humans wanting to own them as pets. These animals are meant to be in their natural habitats, but are so often torn away by people who want to wrongfully domesticate them. As cute as they may look in pictures, it’s a danger to their species and their environments to remove them and selfishly keep them as pets.
Q. Why do you think it’s important for influencers and celebrities like you to help get the message out about the wildlife we share our world with?
A. Having a large platform to spread awareness can allow these animals who don’t have a voice of their own to be heard. There was so much I learned from the team at Global Wildlife Conservation that helped me understand the weight of the situation of at-risk animals. Once you find out what’s going on, it would feel wrong to not share the message with whoever you can, whether is 200 or 2 million. If you have the option to use whatever influence you have for good, I feel like it’s important to follow through.
Q. If you could pick any species to meet next, what would it be?
A. After this experience, I would be thrilled to meet any animal that needs a bit of extra love. I’ve always been a fan of elephants and gorillas, so to spend time with a Lowland Gorilla or Asian Elephant would be incredible. And a Slow Loris! I used to watch videos of them because they are so cute, but when I found out they were endangered later, it broke my heart.
(All photos by Robin Moore, Global Wildlife Conservation)