Kirkwood residents who shop at the year-old fair trade boutique Rosemary Grove may already know owner Sarah Wood as a human-rights supporter and businesswoman.
But Kirkwood Patch has two descriptors to add to the list: animal lover and world traveler.
“My passion is animals and has been with me since I was a child,” Wood said from her Kirkwood boutique. “A lot of people were questioning me, like, ‘Why would you go to Africa?’ and I was like, ‘Why would you not!’”
Wood went on a photo safari in South Africa in February, expanding on her Kirkwood store’s founding principles of equality and conservation by touring the country sustainably, visiting an animal rehabilitation center and meeting with local artisans.
Wood said she saw all of the “Big Five,” the five largest and most dangerous land animals South Africans once hunted for survival: lions, elephants, rhinoceros, leopards and water buffalo. She also saw giraffes, zebras, warthogs, wildebeests, birds and “lots” of impala.
Wood said it was “amazing” and “humbling” to see the animals and “be part of their world.” The trip reaffirmed Wood’s dedication to conserving and protecting animals and their habitats.
“As beautiful and magnificent as (animals) are, they don’t have the power to change,” Wood said. “They rely on the environment and very slow adaptations they can make to survive. The people in South Africa understand a little more how important it is.”
Wood said the South Africans she met spent their free time and vacations in the “bush,” or the wild, the way Americans spend time in Disneyworld, her voice ringing with a slight twinge of jealousy at the opportunity to experience animals in their native habitats.
“They are just more aware of the environment,” Wood said about the South Africans she met.
Wood said she sees a concrete connection between the way humans treat animals and the way they treat fellow humans, especially those struggling with poverty, war and other hardships.
“It’s the whole idea of making this world work for everybody who lives in it,” she said.
Wood tries to make the world “better and more fair” for humans and animals alike by selling fair trade, eco-friendly items at Rosemary Grove. In South Africa, Wood said she met artisans making jewelry she’d like to sell in her store.
Wood may have a few more international trips in her future. The store is hoping to visit artisans and find new merchandise around the world, and Wood said she is anticipating a trip to Central America, maybe Guatemala, in the next year.
2/29 Update: For more information about the wildlife rehabilitation center Wood visited, log on to their website.