Meet WE Magazine’s Woman on a Mission – Kennedy Zakeer Founder & President, Council of Contributors

Here is her story:
I’m a Minneapolis gal who’s been in advertising for 20+ years and have worked in for agencies in Mpls, New York, London, Romania and South Africa. I lived in Durban South Africa for 12 years and have residency status there.
I have worked for Peterson Milla Hooks Advertising in Mpls on and off for two decades, and now as a freelance Account Director so I can split my time between here and Africa.
My story however, is that three years ago I worked with orphan rhino calves in SA who had lost their mothers to poachers. A few weeks before 2 of the rhino’s under my care were supposed to be released back into the wild, poachers broke into the orphanage and shot them in their night pen, removing their small horns. Their senseless, violent deaths triggered me to start the Council of Contributors, a 501c3 that raises funds to support “boots on the ground” and “eyes in the sky” rhino organizations who are fighting to save and protect the rhino (on the critically endangered species list since 2012).
Since August 2018, we’ve have completed 15 projects for 12 organizations in South Africa & Kenya.
What was the inspiration.
Working 17-hour days with rhino. I helped care for 7 rhinos (and 1 baby hippo) forming bonds and getting to understand them — and learning more about the dreadful aspects of poaching and dangers they face. Three rhinos a day are killed for their horns, yet horn has no medicinal / healing qualities and serves no purpose. It’s made from Keratin the same substance as fingernails and hair. When two of my babies were brutally killed — my purpose in life was defined.
What do you enjoy most.
When we’ve met a funding goal and I send the money to whatever organization we’re helping. It’s so gratifying when they implement the funds and we see the rewards of our work on the ground. It’m also in my happy place bouncing around Africa meeting rhino experts, scientists, wildlife veterinarians, anti-poaching teams and conservationists. Seeing rhino in the field is my heaven.
Why I chose it.
I didn’t. It was the rhino who chose me. And they haven’t let me go.
"Nap time with rhino calf, Storm in 2016"
Examples of 3 recent projects.
1) Funding for orphan black rhino calf Kitui at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. 3 months of his primary keeper’s time / salary and vehicle fuel to drive around the conservancy cutting ‘browse’ (certain types of tree branches & leaves) that he eats in his night pen.
2) Installing heaters in 5 night pens for rhino calves at an orphanage called Care for Wild near Kruger National Park in South Africa. Winter nights get very cold there and rhino’s can easily get sick. Apparently, they didn’t want to get up in the morning once the heaters were in 🙂
3) 25 hours of anti-poaching aircraft patrol surveillance during full moon periods (when poachers can hunt more aggressively with the light) over six rhino owner farms in South Africa who are getting hammered by poachers. One farmer lost 25 rhinos in 6 months. Owning rhinos is very expensive and very very emotional.
To keep myself sharp.
Travel. And proactively approach top people in the rhino world to identify ways we can help.
One thing I’d like to learn this year.
How to be a better fundraiser.
In 5 years.
Still splitting my time between the USA and Africa. But I’d like for the Council of Contributors to be BUYING anti-poaching aircraft vs just funding hours of flying. In 5 years the rhino will still be in trouble, the poaching crises is a very big problem, but my hope is that we start to win the war and populations are recovering.
Fun / relaxation.
My ideal evening is a simple one. A roaring fire, a good movie or Netflix and a bottle of rose’. I move around a lot but I’m a nester.
Note: For five consecutive years the number of rhinos poached in South Africa alone has exceeded 1,000. Relentless and indiscriminate poaching means we will soon reach the tipping point – when overall rhino deaths outpace the birthrate. This iconic species is slipping through our fingers, possibly forever. We are here to take action while we still can. There is no time to waste.

Join the Council and be a Contributor; donate to their projects so they can do more and meet their goals faster for the organizations they are helping. You can contribute by visiting their website

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