On a recent trip to Thailand to cover a story on wildlife tourism, National Geographic writer and editor Natasha Daly (BA’07) encountered animals in situations that she says brought her to her knees.
“I knew I would see upsetting things and people engaging in harmful animal behaviour, but I wasn’t prepared for what I did see,” says Daly, who had to stay mum on many details as the story won’t be published until spring 2019.
Animal welfare is not an easy subject to cover. “It’s difficult to witness the scale of suffering that happens, but that’s what motivates me to share these stories and help create awareness,” says Daly, who has been with National Geographic since 2015. The iconic magazine has 49 million print and digital readers in 37 languages and boasts the top media brand on Instagram with over 90 million followers, providing Daly with a far-reaching opportunity to educate readers and followers about animal welfare.
“There is always a responsibility to share stories fairly, accurately and completely. With such a massive audience, I feel it’s heightened. If I can play a part in bringing to life the many sad, misunderstood animal stories all over the world, I can go home every day proud of my work.”
Daly was named Reporter of the Year by the Humane Society of the United States in April 2018, recognized for her investigative reporting on animal tourism in the Amazon rainforest, specifically Brazil, Colombia and Peru. (The same topic drew her to Thailand in 2018.) Her work revealed animal suffering fueled by ‘selfie safaris.’
“I encountered sick animals who had been snatched from the jungle and held in captivity for tourists to take selfies with. When the story published I had a lot of feedback from people who hadn’t realized that these photo opps were harmful to animals,” she says. “These stories are important because they are issues that people can relate to, and in turn, hopefully it forces them to confront their own behaviour. To me, that’s what it’s all about.”
A native of Toronto, Daly revered National Geographic writers and photographers growing up, but she never considered the prospect of working there for a very practical reason: “When the magazines you grow up reading aren’t in your country, it doesn’t seem like a very attainable goal.” But it became a more realistic goal when Daly and her Virginia-born husband Kyle Daly (whom she met while both were teaching in Korea in 2007) moved to Washington.
With a lifelong passion for writing, Daly credits her studies at Dal with helping to hone her skills and develop as a writer. “History and English involved a ton of writing; focusing on subject matter I enjoyed made me fall more in love with the craft. Although I didn’t know upon graduation where my writing would take me, looking back, that experience set me up for what I hope to do for the rest of my life.
“If my stories have a legacy I hope that they’ve made people learn something they didn’t even know was an issue, and ultimately, help create positive change for animals.”