“To save our planet from climate change, we need to save all species,” Nahmi Jones, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, says.
Jones tracks, documents, and raises awareness of endangered species as a means of saving them. What’s leading to their peril — human development and climate change. Jones’s mission can find her tracking wild dogs in the African savanna or the California Condor in rugged forests. Major undertakings for someone who was once told she was too small to take on a big job.
A longtime equestrian, Jones has loved horses for as long as she can remember. Her dream job while in veterinary school was to specialize in their care. Her stature, however, took her out of the running.
“I’m a very short person,” she tells Parentology, “and being a horse vet requires a certain amount of physicality.”
On occasion, horse vets need to carry their patients—a physically demanding feat. The average adult horse weighs around 1,000 lbs. At 5 feet even, Jones knew she wouldn’t be able to lift a horse if the situation ever called for it. Still, that didn’t stop her from pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. Given her height, she figured “it made more sense to become a small-animal veterinarian.”
Into the Wild
On the clock, Jones treats dogs and cats at Blue Cross Pet Hospital in North Hollywood, California. Off the clock, she spends her time helping endangered species around the globe, including Santa Barbara Zoo’s California Condor Recovery Program, an organized effort to protect condor species from extinction. This sees her hiking through the Southern California mountains, peering through binoculars and tracking baby condors in their nests in a practice called “nest guarding.”
According to the program, the three main threats baby condors face today are lead poisoning from hunting ammunition, small bits of littered plastic and glass called micro trash, and loss of habitat through industrialization.
Jones says she’s honored to work with Santa Barbara Zoo’s California Condor Recovery Program. In 1982, there were only 23 surviving condors in the world. Through the reintroduction of captively bred condors into the wild, the recovery program’s efforts brought the total number of living condors up to 410 over the span of 10 years.
Jones’s efforts to preserve and protect wildlife have taken her around the world. In 2016, she traveled to Botswana and Zimbabwe with a BBC news team to document South African wild dogs. “Wild dogs are a very interesting species because they’re really close with their families and very altruistic to other pack members,” she says. “They take care of each other, which is not something you see a lot in the wild.”
Jones says South African wild dogs often get inadvertently caught in illegal hunting traps set up by locals.
Aside from tracking and documenting endangered species as a means of saving them, Jones shares her passionate climate activist voice through Sustaining All Life, a movement that seeks to impact human-caused climate change.
Then there’s a project Jones has been building that aims to raise awareness of specific species suffering from human development and climate change.
Coming Soon: A Virtual Zoo
For her next big endeavor, Jones plans to further strengthen the human-animal bond through VR.
“Not everybody gets to go to South Africa to see these animals and experience them up-close the way that I did,” she says. “If we could make a zoo where people could see, interact with, and bond with these animals in real-time, they would have a much stronger desire to help them survive.”
While Jones’s VR zoo is still in its early stages, she’s confident in its ability to move those who experience it.
“It’s one way that I think helps bring the plight of these animals to the forefront of people’s minds,” she says. And she firmly believes it will leave more people “wanting to get involved.”
Passion and Profession
Being a small-animal veterinarian still excites Jones. “I’ve been doing this job for 30 years and still,” she says, “something new and different always comes in.”
“I don’t think that all jobs are like that,” she says. “But I think that rewarding jobs are. And I think that if you find something that you like to do, it’ll feel like that.”
Jones hasn’t given up on her love of horses, competing in cross-country eventing. She’s even traveled by horseback from the African Savanna to the shores of Scotland, tracking wild animals. A perfect combination of myriad passions.
About Redefining Rosie
This profile on veterinarian and environmental conservationist, Nahmi Jones, is a part of our Redefining Rosie: Cool Women, Uncommon Jobs.
Parentology created this series to celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. It features articles highlighting remarkable women in the workforce around the world — and in outer space! Check out our other profiles in the Redefining Rosie hub.