Who is Saba Douglas-Hamilton?

Saba Iassa Douglas-Hamilton with an elephant in Samburu National Reserve
Saba Iassa Douglas-Hamilton with an elephant in Samburu National Reserve (Photo: Njoks)

Saba Douglas-Hamilton was born in 1970 at Nairobi Hospital.

Her parents are British zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton and Oria Douglas-Hamilton née Rocco. Iain came to Africa as a young man to study and conserve elephant populations and her mother is from an Italian family who settled in Kenya in the 1920s.

Saba Douglas-Hamilton and family
Saba Douglas-Hamilton and family

She is a great-granddaughter of Alfred Douglas-Hamilton, the 13th Duke of Hamilton and she has a sister called Mara Moon Douglas-Hamilton, who is affectionately known as “Dudu” (which means ‘insect’).

She was named Saba, which means “seven”, by Maasai women because she was the 7th grandchild, born on 7 June and at 7 o’clock in the evening.

Her early childhood was spent playing with the local Kenyan children, only going to school when she was seven. For three years, she attended an all-girls boarding school in Britain which she later described as being ‘like a prison’.

After studying for the International Baccalaureate at the United World College of the Atlantic in South Wales, she gained a place at St Andrews University in Scotland. There, she was awarded a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology with a thesis on ‘Concepts of Love and Sexuality amongst the Bajuni People of Kiwaiyu Island, Kenya’.

On her return to Africa from her studies in the UK, Saba worked for the Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia where she was mentored by conservationist Blythe Loutit. She has served as a trustee of the charity her father founded, Save the Elephants, a charity, based in Samburu National Reserve in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya.

Save the Elephants carries out detailed long-term monitoring of the local elephant population, and deploys sophisticated elephant tracking techniques there and across the continent. Through the charity she has worked to support, protect and increase awareness of issues which threaten to erode African elephant populations and their habitats.

Douglas-Hamilton has appeared in various wildlife documentaries, many set in Africa featuring elephants.

Saba Douglas-Hamilton on Big Cat Diary
Saba Douglas-Hamilton on Big Cat Diary

Since 2002, she has co-presented the Big Cat Diary series with Jonathan Scott and Simon King and also Big Bear Week.

Saba has presented short pieces on holiday destinations for the BBC Holiday series since 2004 and in 2006, she appeared alongside Nigel Marven in an episode of Prehistoric Park in which she travelled back 10,000 years to study sabre-toothed cats.

She also produced and narrated a documentary, Heart of a Lioness, about a wild lioness called Kamunyak, “the blessed one,” which acted as a maternal guardian for the lion’s natural prey: an antelope.

Saba chairs the International Selection Committee of the Future For Nature Foundation which supports young, talented and ambitious conservationists committed to protecting species of wild animals and plants.

On 4 February 2006, Saba married conservationist and journalist Frank Pope in a traditional Kenyan ceremony.

In March 2008 she presented a three part BBC documentary, Unknown Africa, on the state of wildlife in Comoros, Central African Republic and Angola as well as producing and presenting Rhino Nights for Animal Planet, using night-time cinematography to capture black rhino behaviour.

During the same year, Saba supported UK medical aid agency Merlin (Medical Emergency Relief International), to raise money for emergency health services following post-election violence when some 500 people were killed and more than 300,000 Kenyans were left without homes or clean water.

The following year, Saba presented a three part BBC documentary series, The Secret Life of Elephants, with her father Iain which explored the lives of elephants in Kenya’s Samburu reserve and the work of the ‘Save the Elephants’ research team.

In March 2009, their first daughter Selkie was born outdoors in a birthing pool in a friend’s garden in Cape Town, South Africa.The couple then had twin daughters, Luna Giselle and Mayian Soleil on 2 June 2011 at a hospital in Cape Town.

Saba Douglas-Hamilton and her family at Elephant Watch camp in Samburu
Saba Douglas-Hamilton and her family at Elephant Watch camp in Samburu

During 2014, the BBC Natural History Unit filmed a 10-part series, This Wild Life, (with 2 extra episodes for international markets) on the family’s life and work at Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu which was first broadcast in the UK during September 2015.

You can find out more about Saba on her personal blog.


  1. I watched This Wild Life on the BBC and it was wonderful. The family’s life looks rustic but wonderful. They have obviously had a positive impact on their neighbours and the relationship they have with both the people and animals in Samburu is an inspiration!
    It was nice to learn a little more about her.

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