About me….

Hi everyone,

Urban Primate – Asha Tanna

Thanks for logging onto whogivesamonkeys.com I hope you’ll find it informative as well as entertaining. I’d love to hear your thoughts about any of the posts, so please feel free to write comments, warts and all.

I’ve been a journalist for 15 years and covered everything from news and entertainment; to politics and sport. But the one area that’s always been of interest is natural history. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to have Sir David Attenborough’s job?!

In 2010, I took the leap of faith and decided to go back to university to re-train to become a Primatologist (the study of monkeys and apes). Why? There’s an undeniable connection you feel when you look into their eyes; it really is quite extraordinary. Many of these magnificent animals are threatened because of us. It saddens me to think that some species could become extinct in my life time. My trip to Uganda in July 2010, was life changing – the people I met and the areas I visited definitely influenced my decision to retrain when I returned. I qualified with a Masters in Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation in 2012.

Going back to study was tough, but also very rewarding and an incredible eye opener. It showed me how may issues are inextricably linked (in particular development and conservation). Help the local people and you’ll help to preserve the wildlife, they live side-by-side and can only flourish if they work in tandem. So many people in the UK have asked me: “Why should I care?” because everything you do has a direct impact on world – what we buy; what we grow; how we live, the list goes on. If we want to preserve the planet for future generations then we need to start acting responsibly, not selfishly.

I have just started to use my reporting/presenting skills in this area but my long-term goal is to reach a wider audience and try to be the bridge between the world of journalism and the academic one. I hope the next decade will give me an opportunity to make a difference in raising awareness about our wild kin’s plight and the countries they live in.

Chimp feeding in the mango tree at camp

Chimp feeding in the mango tree at camp

64 Responses “About me….” →
  1. Wow! Wow!! Wow!!!. Now you’ve got me zapped and you’ve got me nailed to your blog. Once in a while I click in and out of blogs and I slowly tend to get bored. Most of the blogs are mundane…..Then came your blog – full of gray matter….I love animals too…..And here I am, a fan of yours who’ll follow your site to support you and the animals you support.

    Reply
    • Hello and many thanks for subscribing, glad you liked the blog, sorry I had to sub your comment, but it was far too long. Keep them coming, but just a few sentences next time.
      Cheers
      Asha

      Reply
  2. Bye. Nice site.

    Reply

  3. swissknifev

    February 23, 2011

    That pic of those monkey in a line is too good. Now that’s team work, following the leader. Obviously the guy with that green fruit in his mouth calls the shots. Why don’t you cover other interesting monkeys around the world. Interesting fellows these monkey. They spread joy and kids love them the most, after circus clowns. Right?

    Reply
    • Hi,
      The blog is a work in progress and I hope to cover many species of primate in time, there just has to be an approriate angle. Hopefully you’ll sign up and learn more about the varied and wonderful species that there are out there.
      best
      Asha

      Reply

  4. swissknifev

    February 25, 2011

    Do you want to know the truth? Chimps and monkeys are BORING. They kind of look silly. Humans gave them more credit than they deserve. They are not interesting like other animals. They are not like dogs which give you unconditional love. They are not like cats that look so individual and cute that you love their care-a -F attitude. Monkeys- are pests. thay can swarm a place and cause havoc. I know that there was no other alternative but to trap them en masse and kill them. It happened and people were relieved. They were a menace. They look ugly and not beautiful like other animals. I was kind of wondering and trying to figure out why yu liked this menace animals. Richard Attenborough. Don’t know but Monkeys? Entertainment in a zoo of circus only. In the wild or as groups they are a sickening menace.

    Reply
    • You are entitled to your opinion. But unless you have carried out in-depth study into non-human primate species, I suggest you choose a better word than ‘boring’. You may be surprised to learn that chimpanzees are actually more intelligent than dogs, and that all apes have large brains like humans. I appreciate primates can be pests in some parts of the world, where wildlife conflicts with local people’s way of life. But we have encroached into their habitat. People and wildlife have co-existed side-by-side for millennia, it’s only recently with the expanse of agriculture and logging that these problems have become exacerbated. Richard Attenborough is a film director, he’s the brother of Sir David Attenborough who is a naturalist and broadcaster. It’s a shame to hear you express views like this, but also very odd to get a response that is the complete opposite to the first comment you posted (!!?)

      Reply

  5. swissknifev

    February 27, 2011

    Ok I take your point. Actually my comment is related to a village where I believe that a swarm of monkey were a terrible menace. They would carry away little puppies, rob food from homes, snarl and bite people who would confront them, carry things away, destroy plants, terrorize kids.
    That’s why chimps apart monkeys can be more dangerous than other animals. Finally what did the guys in village do? They laid traps and killed the monkeys. I agree that they could have been more humane and let them off far away. But you can imagine how frightened the people were, sometimes to even step out of their houses or get inside compounds.

    Even dogs, individually they are beautiful animals, in a pack the canine herd mentality of wolves surfaces and dogs in a pack can be really mean.

    By the way I am an animal lover. I don’t even harm insects if I can help. I was playing the advocate on the other side.

    Reply

  6. swissknifev

    February 27, 2011

    Forgive me, actually when I was a kid I was a victim of a vicious monkey chase- you know those red monkey usually led by a larger one who commands the troops? Zoom, i ran into the house and locked the dorr. Then came out with a big stick and that kind of scared the monkey and it ran up the tree. I’ll never forget that.

    Reply
  7. Asha,
    I couldn’t believe it when you wrote that you had been made redundant and freelance work had dried up for you too. You were one of the best news presenters for both style and clarity. You have a really good vibe about you. I think the sort of energy someone exudes is an important thing in life. Your smile brightened up my day even after a sobering news bulletin. What a smile. Okay, I won’t get too carried away here but suffice to say Channel 5 and Sky News etc. simply must not have cared about viewing figures if they didn’t want such a beautiful woman presenting for them. Still, it has allowed you to pursue your passion for Primatology and we are often most productive and contented when we can work at something we care deeply about. Academic study is such a worthwhile undertaking. It has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done despite it being a real struggle at times. Good luck- I’m sure you will succeed in blending your journalistic and academic abilities to further the awareness and protection of monkeys and apes.

    Reply
    • Hi Chris,
      Many thanks for the support, life has a funny way of pushing us down different avenues. It’s been an incredible year and I don’t regret for a moment returning to study. Who knows where this will take me?!
      Your support is very much appreciated and I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog – feel free to post comments – I like to hear what my readers think about the pieces.
      Asha

      Reply
  8. I thought you had moved to the Beeb as a career move then wondered why we didn’t see you a lot. I’m sorry to hear that didn’t work out for you but I am sure you will return stronger, just look at what Brian Cox is doing! You can do it, best of luck.

    Reply
    • Hi Lez,
      Prof Brian Cox is a source of inspiration, and I’d love to be able to work in this field and make it more accessible to the public.
      Thanks for the support!
      A

      Reply

  9. William

    April 11, 2011

    Hi Asha, I like your blog, I didn’t know there were courses specific to primates and apes! Chimps were my favourite animal after I had seen the film Project X when I was a kid, but after getting older and learning more from documentaries I realised they can be quite vicious in the wild, hunting other monkeys etc… I think gorillas are my favourite, they seem to be gentle giants, not sure how we have let these amazing beasts become endangered. I also like squirrel monkeys, I hear the ones in London Zoo are being especially cheeky of late, definitely going to go and see them :)

    Reply
    • Hi William,
      Thanks for comment. Yes chimps can be very aggressive and their strength is quite astounding. The ones in the wild are more wary of us (man) than those in captivity. I haven’t seen the gorillas in the wild yet, they are magnificent animals! It’s something I definitely hope to do before they die out altogether. I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog and I look forward to seeing more comments.
      best
      Asha

      Reply

  10. Stephen

    April 21, 2011

    Would just like to support the comments about your prior career. It is absurd that you were squeezed out when it would have been clear on any poll that your style and smile were ratings boosters. There is often little to choose between news programmes otherwise. You provided a reason to choose. Perhaps you will try again for your public’s sake?

    But good luck with the course and new venture. I have had two abrupt career changes myself, as the plaything of fate, and each has led to a substantial improvement in happiness and fulfilment. Perhaps it is a kind of speeded-up lifelong ‘evolution’ rather than a trajectory.

    Reply
    • Hi Stephen,
      many thanks for the support, it’s always nice to have encourgement. Who knows, maybe once I’m qualified I’ll be able to combine both skills and make more worthwhile programmes. Hope you’re enjoying the blog and do feel free to sign up.
      best
      Asha

      Reply

  11. Christian Daly

    April 23, 2011

    Hi Asha !

    I’d like to add my voice to the sentiments that have been expressed above. I never watch Sky News or 5 News now, either. Your attractive appearance and pleasant personality made watching the news a joy !

    Best
    Christian

    Reply
    • Thanks Christian,
      That’s very sweet! Sky News is still worth watching though, the team out there – Stuart Ramsay in particular – has done some pretty impressive coverage of Egypt and Lybia recently.
      Ash

      Reply
  12. Hi Asha,
    As others have already posted, I used to enjoy seeing you on screen although would find it a little confusing to find you on Sky Sports News one day and FiveLive the next. If they decided not to sign you up then it’s their loss – and ours!
    I admire you for the direction you’ve taken and hope you are rewarded in due course – hope to see you back on screen soon reporting on a subject you clearly love.
    All the best, John

    Reply

  13. janis j

    May 26, 2011

    Hi Asha,
    I also wanted to express to you what a wonderful thing you are doing with your blog to
    help educate people and spread the word about protecting this great species. In my heart
    I believe humans are here to protect these beautiful creatures. It is heartbreaking to see
    what has been done and is being done by humans. I wonder where our humanity has gone until
    I see people like you trying to “fix” the wrongs and educate the world.
    Thank you for your work.

    Reply
    • Hi Janis,
      It makes it all the worth while knowing there are people out there like yourself who appreciate how important it is to safeguard the planet and its species, no matter how big or small. Thank you for the encouragement. I sincerely hope I can make a worthwhile contribution to conservation once I’m qualified. When I have days like today, when I’m left frustrated; disappointed and chasing my tail to meet a deadline in my “day job” only to have my piece dropped…..it reaffirms for me, there’s definitely better ways to spend 12 hours working.
      Best
      A

      Reply
  14. Hi Asha, i met you a couple of years back at a pub in West London, at the time you were presenting the new on Sky Sports. Just came across your site, as friends of mine recently returned from Rwanda. Very best of luck. P

    Reply
    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for the message. Sky Sports News days feels like a lifetime ago now, it’s been more than two years since I worked there. Did your friends enjoy their time in Rwanda? It’s a country I would very much like to visit. Hope you all’s good with you.
      Best
      Asha

      Reply
      • Hi Asha,

        my friends were surprised by Rwanda especially given its political history – they have managed to overcome the tribal issues, infrastructure is brilliant. The treks to see the mountain gorillas was fantastic apparently – sounds great.

  15. Asha, I was glad to have met you and I hope that the decision was partially influenced by what we took you through. Thanks for all that you are doing. Am appreciative that I met you. We can for sure stay in touch and do more conservation and primatology work together.

    Phillip K(Chimpanzee Sanctuary)

    Reply
    • Hi Philip,
      Long time no speak! Can you believe it’s been almost a year since I was in Uganda? My time on Ngamba Island and in the Budongo Forest Reserve definitely reinforced my decision to delve deeper into the study of primates. It was great to meet you and the team at the sanctuary, you’re all doing great work and I hope things are well with you and the rest of the team. I’m hoping to get over to Africa next year for my research, so maybe if there’s time I might come back to see you all.
      Asha
      x

      Reply

  16. Bharat

    July 9, 2011

    HI Asha,

    Well done! on your new career.
    With climate change, constant war and human hubris our primate cousins are having a hard time at the moment. We`last talked about a doc on Female Combat Reporters. While companies thought it was a good project everyone asked about conservation docs esp the change on our primate cousins.
    Good luck with all and hopefully we can work together at some time.
    Look forward to posts and adventures.
    best
    Bharat

    Reply
  17. There’s only ONE Asha Tanna!!! there’s only ONE Asha Tanna!!! <3

    Reply

  18. Lauren Gilhooly

    July 28, 2011

    Hi Asha!
    I just stumbled upon your blog today and I look forward to reading more. Where did you study primate behaviour? I start the MSc Primate Conservation course at Oxford Brookes in September. Very much looking forward to it.

    Reply
    • Hi Lauren,

      Congratulations on your placement. I hope it all goes well at Oxford Brookes. I did my modules (Sept 2010-July 2011) on primate behaviour at Roehampton University. As I don’t have science at A-level I had to do specific modules from the final year of the Biological Sciences degree to prove I could cope with that level of understanding. It’s been tough going back to study, especially to a discipline that’s quite alien to me. But the topic is fascinating and topical, especially for a journalist and I can’t wait to start my Mres in September. I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog and post more comments.
      Best of luck with your course.
      Asha

      Reply
  19. Hi Asha,

    I’m an avid reader. Great stuff, keep it up.

    Best,

    Tarun

    Reply

  20. Mark Regan

    August 4, 2011

    Hi Asha
    Just seen your blog, which i would like to congratulate you on. I am Landscape & Garden Designer and am trying to inform and design in areas for habitats within the garden and urban areas, to clients. A Very hard task. Good luck with your efforts.

    Reply
  21. Hi Asha,
    Just read an article on how the Milwaukee Zoo is giving their primates ipads. It is my understanding
    that tantalum is used in the ipads. The zoo made some sort of statement that the ipad can help
    humanize the primates to people. I have read that tantalum is mined in the forest, I am sure causing
    destruction. The hunters then hunt the gorillas for their meat to sustain their hunger. Does this not
    seem like ipad is trying to get a pat on the back…rather than a kick in the as….for what they are really
    doing to the forest and the gorilla?
    Would love to hear what you think.

    Reply
    • HI Janis,
      Thanks for your comment. Will have to find out more this first before I can comment. I’m on a mini break….so will get back to you soon!
      Best
      A

      Reply
    • Hi Janis,

      As I understand Tantalum is a material essential when it comes to manufacturing electrical components known as pinhead capacitors. It’s sourced from colombo-tantalite ore, or coltan which is mined. Yes you’re absolutely right about it being mined in areas that are leading to the destruction of habitats, so it will impact on the primates and other species in those areas. It’s also so lucrative there are concerns about security of local people mining who can be visited by bandits especially in DRC where there are large reserves. Another cause for concern is that villagers who have stopped farming in order to mine this material will no longer have a livelihood once these reserves run out.

      Giving an iPad to an ape is probably not the best way to interact with an animal like that. Their cognition, at best, will be like that of a 3-year-old human. Although they are highly intelligent animals, people will never humanise apes unless they scientifically alter their genetic make-up, and that would be a dangerous thing, not to mention ethically questionable too. So yes iPad is (a) wasting it’s time – perhaps it’s more about publicity – and (b) being terribly hypocritical if indeed tantalum is used to make its gadgets because it’s indirectly funding the destruction of these animals’ habitat!
      A

      Reply

  22. iGiveAMonkey

    September 11, 2011

    Woman, you’re hot!

    Reply
  23. RE: Coltan mining – it is currently a subject of some debate.

    A recent BBC News article painted an innocent picture of the industry but in my opinion from research into the subject it is not only causing further exploitation of the Congo’s resources and people, but degrading the habitat of gorillas, with the potential to affect chimpanzee and bonobo populations if the industry continues to expand.

    Here are two conflicting opinions and links to other sources.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/1468772.stm

    http://www.cellular-news.com/coltan/

    http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/resource-center/coltan.html

    (excellent video) http://bloodinthemobile.org/

    Hope you find it useful!

    Tallulah

    Reply
    • Thank you for sending this through. Any area which is disturbed by man is bound to have a knock-on-effect on the wildlife both in that area and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately every trade that has the potential to earn vast quantities of money is always considered more important than the consequences to the natural world.
      A

      Reply

  24. Sham Mitra

    September 25, 2011

    Coming from a robust engineering background, I’ve found reading your blog posts refreshing and certainly a positive distraction. I look forward to future reads!

    Reply

  25. Rudie Humphrey

    November 14, 2011

    Asha, just got to see the piece you filmed with me on Woodfuel in South Yorkshire, was really pleased with how it turned out. Hope it wasn’t to painful working with a novice! I had no idea that I was working with such a media star, apologies. Good luck with the studies and thanks for treating me kindly.

    Reply
  26. Asha,

    I watched an inspiring documentary on the BBC HD channel this evening, “Natural World”. If you’ve access to the BBC iPlayer, then I’d thoroughly recommend this for viewing… http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ykxq9.

    All the best,
    Sham

    Reply

  27. Evan Williams

    March 20, 2012

    Hi Asha
    My name is Evan Williams, I am a reporter working for various TV programmes here in the UK. I would like to have a quick chat with you about West Africa if that’s ok. My email is below.
    Keep up the good work.
    Evan

    Reply

  28. Laurie

    May 2, 2012

    Hi Asha,
    I’m from Chicago, IL. I recently graduated from my undergrad that has nothing to do with primatology. Your story has made me want to transition into following my passion studying primates. You serve as a great role model for people who want to make a switch similar to yours. Taking any interns? haha. I’ll always be following your journey from the states. Thank you for being awesome.

    -Laurie

    Reply
    • Hi Laurie,

      I wish you every success with your plans. I am a firm believer in following what your heart tells you. Thank you for the lovely comment, it’s very flattering to know I’ve been a source of inspiration.
      Let me know how it all works out.
      A

      Reply

  29. HettyDaff

    May 9, 2012

    Hi Asha T, I too have stumbled across your blog and I second all the words of encouragement and admiration that have been left for you and wish you all the best on your new path. Sorry I didnt try and catch up with you around the newsroom on nightshifts when I was trying to look invisible :). Drop me a line on my beeb email, it would be great to hear from you. HDaf.x

    Reply

  30. Ajaz Hussain

    May 10, 2012

    Salaam Asha

    I remember you from the news..kinda a jealous that your doing something that you always wanted to do. Good for you. Will follow the blog keenly.

    Ajaz

    Reply

  31. Mischief

    June 9, 2012

    Hey you, so have I got a lot to catch up on! Having read a few of the blogs over the last 3months I can’t wait to read them all. Put down the Lynda DP novel and see where your adventures took you Tintin. Glad your back safe and sound and look forward to catching up with you. Hope your adjusting back to the good ole blighty weather.x

    Reply
  32. I love this blog! i use to watch you all the time was wondering where you went :-) keep it up and btw u look stunning as ever!

    cheers

    Reply

  33. Rajiv Popat

    August 3, 2012

    Hi Asha, I’ve just come across your website after trying to find some information about Gorillas in Uganda while watching C4 news and you suddenly popped up doing a PTC…how mad is that ?
    I’ll look forward to reading about your trip because I’m off to Uganda, hopefully in October.
    Like you, I’m a reporter, I work for ITV Central and I’ve just had the go-ahead from my news editor to cover the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of Ugandan Asians ( I was born there and have wanted to go back and see the place my parents used to ‘rave about’ for years).
    And it sounds like you’re also fascinated by gorillas. My dad thinks I’m mad and tells me the border areas where the gorillas can be found are sooo far and dangerous ! Hopefully, you’ll tell me otherwise.
    Anyway, good luck with the primatology, sounds very interesting and keep up with the blogs.
    Rajiv :)

    Reply
    • Dear Rajiv,

      Thanks for the email. You can read a wide variety of material giving you more in depth detail about the range of the mountain gorillas from trustworthy conservation sites like Diane Fossey Foundation and WWF. Their habitat straddles three countries (DRC, Rwanda and Uganda). If you are a reporter then you’ll be able to judge just how safe it is for you to travel to any of those areas.
      Best
      A

      Reply

  34. Darrel Bevan

    August 7, 2012

    Hi Asha. I am a portrait artist and was looking online for a chimp to draw when I came upon your ‘winking’ photo of Zig. Just wonderful. Do you mind if I draw this image?

    Thankyou,

    Darrel

    Reply
    • Dear Darrel,

      Many thanks for contacting me about Zig’s portrait photograph. That’s absolutely fine. I’d be interested to see how you get on, so if you you upload it onto a website do send me a link.
      Cheers
      A

      Reply

  35. thewildlifephotographer

    September 15, 2012

    Hi Asha,

    Chuffed to see you picked up on my tombstoning monkey pictures in your blog a while back. It was fascinating behaviour to watch, not least because I live in Brighton and often watch their human counterparts taking the same risky plunges. I’m interested in urban primate issues and have a photo project, including the tombstoning monkeys, that you might like to see here: http://www.thewildlifephotographer.com/galleries/special-projects/urban-monkeys/

    Hope you find time to drop by and comment,

    Best

    Andrew Forsyth

    Reply
    • Dear Andrew,
      Thanks so much for the comment. I am so sorry it’s taken an age to get back to you. Lovely pictures. If you have any projects in particular that you are doing at the moment. Happy to blog about it and host your images.
      Best
      A

      Reply
  36. Good luck with moderating that session on wildlife crime trends and impacts at the Interpol meeting next week. Looking forward to hearing how it went from my boss and your blog ;)

    Reply

  37. Mike Young

    November 5, 2013

    Hi Asha, great blog and we’ll done for actually doing something to help highlight the issues surrounding the plight of the great apes. I have just watched the Channel 4 news article about animal trafficking in the Amazon. It depresses me so much it hurts, the exploitation of nature that goes on in the world sickens me to the core, I have this real sense though that it’s too big a problem to solve. Part of me wants to bury my head in the sand and pretend these issue don’t exist, as long as you don’t watch tv, read the papers or look online the problem goes away, but that’s not the answer…what do individuals like me do? Cheers Mike.

    Reply
    • Thanks Mike, love your honesty. Raise awareness with people who don’t know about these issues. Give (financial support), if you can, to conservation groups and try to buy products that are “ethical” and “sustainable”. Having a conscious is half the battle.
      A

      Reply
  38. Hi Asha,

    Very much enjoying reading your blogs and of your interest in natural history.

    I’m a producer director working for Discovery, currently making a series about an Orangutan rehab centre in Borneo and developing another show about a wildlife rescue unit in the country. Would it be possible to tell you more about this.
    There is more info about my work at http://www.philstebbing.com and can be contacted at philipstebbing@gmail.com if you feel this would be of interest.

    Best wishes

    Phil

    Reply
  39. I’m brand new to both primatology and journalism but it’s pretty cool to meet another person with that combo. So many people tell me that they would never see both journalism and primatology fitting together, but hey, I think they work just fine! Nice website, I loved your Uganda post.

    Reply

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