Olympic Gold Medalist Kirsty Coventry Takes Up Cause of ‘Underdog’ African Species

Olympic Gold medalist Kirsty Coventry has joined the Tikki Hywood Trust in Zimbabwe as an ambassador for "underdog" species. Photo © Tikki Hywood Trust
Olympic Gold medalist Kirsty Coventry has joined the Tikki Hywood Trust in Zimbabwe as an ambassador for “underdog” species. Photo © Tikki Hywood Trust

Zimbabwe’s top Olympian Kirsty Coventry has partnered with the Tikki Hywood Trust as an ambassador for Africa’s relatively unknown species, such as the pangolin, bat-eared fox, and serval.

Known affectionately as “Zimbabwe’s Golden Girl“, Coventry says that as a swimmer from a small landlocked African country who seemingly came out of nowhere to win gold, silver and bronze Olympic medals, she can relate to being the “underdog”.

“I know the amount of work it takes to get your voice heard and because of that I want to help the little guy, I want to help the ones that are often overlooked.”

Lisa Hywood, founder of the Tikki Hywood Trust, told Annamiticus that when Coventry came out to the Trust to see the work that is being done, she became very interested in helping raise awareness about the unique African species which are often overlooked.

“Kirsty is one of Zimbabwe’s iconic athletes who identifies with the underdog, having come from a similar position herself in her sporting career. When she learned about the Tikki Hywood Trust and the animals we were working with such as the pangolin, bat-eared fox and other such unknown animals, she was very interested to be able to bring some light to their plight.”

Hywood added that when the Olympic medalist met “Naia” (which means “water sprite”), a young Cape clawless otter rescued by the Tikki Hywood Trust, she fell “totally in love”. Coventry’s first project with THT is to help rehabilitate Naia, who was found so badly injured that her hind legs were paralyzed. Fortunately, Naia is expected to make a full recovery.

Video of Kirsty swimming with Naia, a Cape clawless otter who survived a dog attack:

Coventry’s ongoing ambassadorial role will be to help the Tikki Hywood Trust get the African pangolin species uplisted to Endangered.

“Very little is known about these creatures but we are currently employing researchers and working with international organisations around the world to help us better understand them. Of great importance right now is to get these creatures onto the endangered list so no one is allowed to export and/or eat them.”

Learn more about how you can support the Tikki Hywood Trust and Kirsty Coventry as they team up on behalf of Africa’s underdog species:



Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.