Wildlife conservation organizations driven to protect and promote awareness of the planet’s most vulnerable and endangered species are critical in the fight against extinction. Being a voice to those who have none is an art that requires limitless compassion, relentless creativity and unwavering determination.
Meet Ruth Ganesh – Principal Trustee of the charity Elephant Family, the UK’s biggest fundraising effort for the endangered Asian elephant.
THE PLIGHT OF THE ASIAN ELEPHANT
In honor of World Elephant Day this August 12th, Ganesh and the entire team at Elephant Family urge us to get behind the most enormous, curious-looking, awe-inspiring, majestic and arguably the most intelligent animal alive today.
Elephants are endangered across Asia, with only an estimated 40,000 remaining in the wild – a 60% decline over three generations. Asian elephants live across a vast range of 13 countries, from India to Indonesia, yet their global population of 30,000-50,000 is barely 10% of their African cousins. While all elephants face the threats of habitat loss, conflict with people and poaching for ivory, Asian elephants are also threatened by illicit live trade for the entertainment industry and, most recently, by poaching for the illegal trade of their skins.
WHO IS RUTH GANESH?
Ruth Ganesh is a trustee and co-founder of Elephant Family, a charity that exists to save the iconic Asian elephant from extinction. She assumed the job in 2010 after starting with the NGO in 2004, working alongside its late founder and legendary conservationist Mark Shand (he was the brother of Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker Bowles, who with her husband Prince Charles are the charity’s joint “royal presidents”).
Ganesh joined forces with Shand in 2004 and has been at the forefront of the charity’s conservation successes ever since. Since 2004 she has raised millions for the endangered Asian elephant, its habitat and the people who share it. She has further expanded Elephant Family’s global reach by pioneering brand new and innovative ways of fundraising, breaking world records whilst doing so. Ganesh currently divides her time between Elephant Family UK and USA, as well as the organization’s projects throughout Asia. Her specialty is conceptualizing major public art events, which have raised over $10 million for conservation thus far.
WHAT IS ELEPHANT FAMILY?
For Ganesh and everyone at Elephant Family, protection of the Asian elephants’ rapidly shrinking habitat due to economic development is the number one concern. The organization’s mission is to power solutions that prevent conflict between humans and elephants, demonstrating how the two species can co-exist. That means working to create safe homes for both elephants and people by reconnecting forest fragments, maintaining elephant migratory routes and helping farmers protect their crops and homes.
While elephant ivory remains the most valuable part of an elephant, the growing demand for elephant skin and other parts continues to drive up the demand. Elephant Family has been investigating the illegal trade in Asian elephants since 2014, through research, analysis and field investigations. Initially monitoring live trade, the organization was alarmed to discover a marked increase in poaching in Myanmar, where in 2017 a herd of 25 elephant carcasses, including calves, was found stripped of their skin.
Ganesh’s latest large campaign – Coexistence – involves a herd of 100 life-sized elephants touring the Globe including the UK in 2020 and the United States 2021. Working with The Real Elephant Collective, a South Indian conservation-led organization, Elephant Family has employed a team of over 70 tribal artisans to create the sculptures, each one based on an elephant that lives in the area. The sculptures are made from the toxic, invasive weed Lantana camara – clearing the forest of it to make the herd conserves vital elephant habitat.
As well as supporting Coexistence by visiting the herd as it is displayed, you can buy a sculpture ($6,000-$39,000) or sign up to The Matriarch Club – booking themselves a place to join us on a leg of the tour in the USA. The elephants are almost ready to take their first steps on a life changing journey across the globe as part of a female led campaign which will raise $10m for human wildlife co-existence projects globally and put the issue of human-wildlife-conflict on the map.
In honor of World Elephant Day on August 12, please consider making a donation to Elephant Family. Visit www.elephant-family.com.
For more information on joining the Coexistence Tour or adopting an elephant, please visit https://www.coexistencetour.org/
Additional Photos: Ganesh Raghunathan; Compass Films; Stuart Dunn
WOMEN ON THE RUN
June is when we find ourselves at the tail end of WOOD’s spring fever and tantalizingly close to the start of summer and FIRE’s heat and chutzpah. Adventure this time of year includes all kinds of outdoor activities, ranging from soft and sublime to bold and potentially punishing.
Nowadays, many sophisticated travelers seek heart-racing action on their trips – from whitewater rafting to mountain biking to scuba diving with sharks. Pushing one’s physical limits not only recharges the personal batteries, but also comes complete with drop-dead-gorgeous scenery, new friends and memories to last a lifetime. Luckily, when it comes to all of the above, Africa’s cup runneth over.
Which is why we are thrilled to hear that eco-elegant outfit Singita has just announced that entries for the 2019 Serengeti Girls Run are officially open! The exclusive, purpose-driven experience is aimed at raising funds for empowerment programs for girls and women in Tanzania that are focused on providing opportunities for women to become leaders in conservation.
Taking place October 25-30, 2019, the philanthropic adventure includes five all-inclusive days at Singita Sabora Tented Camp and a run that will see participants complete 13 miles daily over three days, traversing some of the most iconic wilderness areas in Africa. The multi-stage event invites runners of all levels to cross the vast plains in Singita’s private concession in the western corridor of the Serengeti, where they’ll encounter an abundance of wildlife and breathtaking scenery at every turn.
Known as a dedicated conservation brand, Singita has been preserving African wilderness for the past 25 years, with 14 luxury, award-winning lodges and camps across five regions. Its Singita Sabora Tented Camp is an intimate 1920s-inspired explorers camp that embodies the magic of a bygone era. Featuring opulent chandeliers, Persian rugs and bowls filled with fresh roses, it provides a space for the runners to rest and recuperate at the end of every day.
The all-women Serengeti Girls Run is part of Singita’s signature collection of conservation safaris called “Safaris with a Purpose,” and is held in partnership with the Grumeti Fund to support the empowerment of girls and women in rural Tanzania. Each runner’s participation includes a donation designed to assist in funding numerous nonprofit initiatives, including scholarships for local girls in secondary school, vocational studies and university; training girl mentors and providing life skills and internships; as well as enterprise development training for women and environmental education for girls from local secondary schools.
Runners are accompanied by expertly trained, experienced anti-poaching scouts from the Grumeti Fund, who’ll keep an eye out for curious animals, while a support team in a shadow vehicle will be on hand to take care of their safety and comfort. The Grumeti Fund is a nonprofit organization carrying out wildlife conservation and community development work in the western corridor of the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania.
More than just luxury by night and the run of a lifetime during the day, the Serengeti Girls Run offers participants various opportunities to engage with the women who benefit from these programs. The day after their arrival, guests can join girls from the local community on a short 2-mile fun run, followed by a career fair where they can share their own inspiring stories with hundreds of girls from neighboring villages.
five-night itinerary, the participants will also visit the Grumeti
Fund’s Environmental Education Center, which hosts week-long courses for
local students on conservation and minimizing our impact on the Earth, as well
as an opportunity to meet the Fund’s anti-poaching team to find out how they
preserve and protect the region’s critical ecosystem.
This year’s event will take place from October 25-30, 2019. To book your place, email Katherine Cunliffe, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: https://spark.adobe.com/page/Vjz62315LRb1I/.
EVERY RANGER COUNTS
As the life support of conservation efforts across the world, wildlife rangers keep some of the planet’s most vulnerable and endangered species alive through tireless dedication and hard work against often-terrifying odds.
The illegal wildlife trade has become the world’s fourth-most profitable criminal trafficking enterprise, generating revenues of up to $17bn a year. The demand for wildlife products for luxury or ornamental trinkets, or for bogus medical “cures,” is the primary threat to the survival of some of the world’s most iconic species, including tigers, rhinos, elephants, pangolins and many more.
The role of a wildlife ranger is vital if we are to win this war.
“Rangers are the eyes, ears and heart of the bush and are often the only hope that stands between species survival and the sixth mass extinction. Without rangers, there is no hope for critically endangered species or in the ongoing and brutal fight against wildlife crime,” shares Georgina.
Meet Mr. Mulimo, a key leader who works in a special anti-poaching unit in Africa, and Georgina Lamb, Head of Programs and Policy at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), a wildlife conservation charity who funds special anti-poaching units and is fighting wildlife crime on multiple fronts – and continents.
Acknowledging the scale, professionalism and growth of organized crime and the devastating impacts it wreaks on the environment, DSWF has long adopted a team approach, encouraging and funding greater collaborative efforts between multifaceted law enforcement agencies. Operating across Africa and Asia, the organization has invested in conservation projects from the mountains of Mongolia, to the forests of Russia and Thailand and across the wild plains of Africa.
“Rangers are brave men and women who put their lives at risk every day, operating at the front line of wildlife conflict, stopping the brutal and devastating impacts of environmental crime,” shares Georgina.
Rangers defend wildlife and the communities that live and surround protected areas and habitats by deploying a range of highly varied skills and activities, from anti-poaching patrols and undercover sting operations, to locating and removing snares, the silent killer of the bush. In addition to collecting vital research material and monitoring wildlife populations, they respond to human-wildlife conflicts to mitigate often-dangerous situations for both human and animal.
The fight is hard and often unfair. Operating in some the world’s most hostile landscapes, wildlife rangers are often under-supported by deprived wildlife departments and have little in the way of counter strategies. These become tough disadvantages as they come face-to-face with the extremely well-funded and organized criminal syndicates that fuel wildlife crime. Too often in the news we hear of one-sided sophisticated gun fights and helicopter raids in which poachers and trafficking gangs take on brave wildlife rangers with limited resources who sometimes have only ever fired six bullets in training.
“On the black market, rhino horn is often worth more than cocaine and gold. That means for every 200 elephants brutally slaughtered, one ranger will lose his or her life in the fight to protect them,” explains Georgina.
Despite the dangers, brave men and women continue to sign up to protect what they love and respect. Rangers don’t want to see wild animals captured and put into cages in zoos in wholly unsuitable climates as the only means of their future survival; instead they fight for the belief that one day we will be able to live in harmony with wildlife and not see it as a commodity to be sold and traded to the highest bidder.
DSWF needs help to ensure that the species we all love and the humans protecting them are better supported. Ground-based conservation projects require significant effort, funds and co-ordination to have a positive impact employing many people with diverse jobs and skillsets.
“Ever since my childhood, I have always worked with natural resources. The way I look at things, if the animals are not protected, they’ll be finished. The way it is now, one scout on the ground combating poaching covers about 120km2. The area is just too vast for one person. We need to employ more scouts, reduce the area coverage per scout and then we stand a chance. These animals are vital. They should be given a chance to live,” states Neddy Mulimo.
To donate or learn more about the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and its Wildlife Rangers appeal, please visit https://davidshepherd.org/every-ranger-counts
GIVE AND TAKE
There is hope emerging from conservation efforts in Namibia, and the story of the Zannier Reserve is one of the most inspiring. The reserve was initially intended for development into an urban area, but thanks to the joint intervention of international athlete-turned physician Rudie van Vuuren and his wife Marlice and the Zannier family, the land has been converted into a pristine conservation area. Set on a 7,500-hectare, family-owned swath of land, the Zannier Reserve is blessed with a great biodiversity of habitat and wildlife.
Meet “the Cheetah Whisperer,” Marlice van Vuuren, a native Namibian woman who was raised with an abundance of love for Namibian bush. She has dedicated her life to the conservation of the magnificent animals and people who make Namibia the unique country that it is. Marlice grew up surrounded by the orphaned and injured animals on her parents’ farm where, for more than 30 years, all creatures in need of desperate care have found a haven and the loving touch they so desperately need.
In 2000 Marlice married her perfect match, Dr. Rudie van Vuuren, a man sharing her love for Namibia, its oft-threatened animal species and unique people. Together they founded N/a’an ku sê Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary, Namibia’s only charity lodge, a place where the conservation of animals and culture are interlinked. And true to its name, N/a’an ku sê means “God will Protect us” in that beautiful San language.
Located inside the Zannier Reserve, the N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary provides a safe haven and second chance for countless injured, orphaned and conflict animals. More than just a “run-of-the mill” game reserve, it is a vibrant, dynamic sanctuary that plays an active conservation role in Namibia. An impressive 120 carnivores have been rescued and released in the wild by Naankuse in 10 years!
In accordance with Namibian law as stipulated by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), using captive large carnivores for breeding is strictly forbidden, as is the touching them. At N/a’an ku sê, human contact is limited with large carnivores earmarked for potential release, as habituation of any kind can lower their survival chances in the wild. The Sanctuary’s motto to keep the wild in the wild where possible, and to return the wild to the wild if circumstances allow. Whenever possible, animals are released into suitable habitats – from the smallest meerkat to the largest leopard. Only animals too ill, abused or habituated remain at the sanctuary.
With its outstanding reputation, it’s no wonder visitors from all corners of the globe come to N/a’an ku sê Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary in search of enrichment through its impressive volunteering opportunities, which can last anywhere from two weeks to three months at five different sites around the country. Wildlife Conservation Volunteers provide an important resource in caring for and feeding the animals on a daily basis, as well as, helping to maintain and develop the sanctuary. Volunteers feed the animals, take them on walks, prepare the animals food and help with any other projects that may arise at the sanctuary. Although the focus is hands-on animal welfare, there are also educational and recreational activities for volunteers, and all fees help sustain the Foundation’s ongoing work. After all, all work and no play is a big “no no” at N/a’an ku sê.
Looking for the perfect place to treat yourself after “doing good” at N/a’an ku sê? Just a short distance away, Namibia’s newest luxury adventure lodge, Omaanda by Zannier Hotels, offers discerning guests not only front-row access to Namibia’s most emblematic wildlife, but also serious rest and relaxation. The experience comes complete with 10 well-appointed round thatched huts along with a cozy bar, spa, boutique and heated infinity pool overlooking the majestic savannah. Guests can take advantage of twice-daily excursions and safaris to top-off their thirst for adventure, including VIP access to N/a’an ku sê and the Shiloh Wildlife Sanctuary.
Photos and Sources: The Omaanda Lodge by Zannier Hotels; N/a’an ku sê Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary; The African Wildlife Foundation
At the most basic level, a guide is a person who advises or shows the way to others. In practice, however, being a guide is more than a profession; it is an art that requires creativity, enthusiasm, love for all living things and a lot of patience. To the best of the best out there (you know who you are), the American Revel Traveler says thank you!
Meet GodBless Mamuya.
“Isn’t that enormous heard of elephants a little close?” I asked my guide. In his kind and reassuring way, GodBless whispered back, “We respect the animals and so they will respect you.”
As with any profession, safari guides bring their individual strengths, personality and style to the job. Of course, it begins with enhanced knowledge of wildlife, habitat and everything that falls under that, including conservation, behavior and so much more. And guiding includes the need for exceptional people skills in order to understand the dynamics of dealing with different guests and managing their individual needs and expectations. An exceptional guide doesn’t just find wildlife; he/she makes the moments leading up to the encounter effortless, interesting and enjoyable.
GodBless fits the bill as a world-class specialist who knows his trade, understands the landscape, enjoys people and is proficient at every aspect of his job. Having attended tourism college in Arusha, his native city, GodBless first began his extensive training in tourism and hospitality with Africa’s premier luxury outfit, the Elewana Collection, nearly five years ago.
The origin of the name Elewana is the Swahili word meaning “harmony”, a concept that perfectly embodies GodBless, and I will always remember his kindness and wisdom as he guided me and my fellow travelers through Tarangire National Park during a recent stay at the Elewana Collection’s Tarangire Treetops luxury property. During one of our many effortless conversations, he passionately described how Elewana’s Life & Land Foundation is the company’s commitment to responsible tourism, ensuring future generations can enjoy the wonders of Africa and safari adventure.
With the support from The Life & Land Foundation, Honey Guide Foundation manages the Program which focuses on reducing human-elephant conflict through methods of crop protection for local landowners in the Randilen Wildlife Management Area of Tanzania. Elephants frequently leave Randilen and Tarangire National Park to raid crops grown in the villages north of Randilen. This risks not only the livelihoods of local farmers, but also the lives of the elephants themselves, as people often target them with spears to protect their crops. This often creates a negative attitude towards wildlife and conservation among the villagers hence the necessity for a Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation Program.
As part of the Program, Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) Toolkits are provided for farmers to deter elephants from raiding. GodBless’ knowledge and care for his surroundings and the wildlife in Tarangire actually inspired me to make a donation, in the form of a badly needed Elephant Horn, one of five key interventions in the HEC Toolkit used to redirect elephants, thus protecting crops and reducing conflict. The horn humanely encourages the majestic animals to turn a different direction, removing them from harm’s way.
I learned so much from GodBless, but I know I only scratched the surface of this man who is so committed to his profession, his surroundings and the future of our planet.
The American Revel: Your name is very special. Where did it come from?
GodBless: My full name is GodBless Mamuya. It is a name that came from my grandfather. Before he died, he told me that he chose his name for me because it means, “the one who will come help people.”
TAR: Why did you become a Driving Guide?
GodBless: The bush is my office! I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my working day than at Treetops and in Tarangire National Park. I enjoy sharing my knowledge of nature and animals with visitors from all over the world. And I get to show them my beautiful country. I am very passionate about the wildlife and conserving the environment that we live and work in. Helping in any way to make sure humans and animals can coexist successfully is very important to me.
TAR: What do you love about Tarangire National Park?
GodBless: The management of the Tarangire National Park is amazing. I am inspired by the dedication of everyone involved in the protection of our wildlife and the enjoyment of our guests. The park is famous for its huge number of elephants, baobab trees and tree-climbing lions. Making a donation to the Land & Life Foundation for equipment and people to support the coexistence of the communities and the wildlife is always welcome.
TAR: When I visit your native Arusha, what should I do?
GodBless: When you visit Arusha, you might go to a small restaurant called Fifi. It has the best hot chocolate.
TAR: What would you like people to know who haven’t been to Tanzania before?
GodBless: Tanzania is a peaceful country with a diverse ecosystem, rich cultures, wildlife, beautiful scenery and warm, welcoming citizens. Warm during the day and cool at night, Tarangire Treetops is the most marvelous place to enjoy and get a good night’s rest on the planet – at least so our guests tell me!
TAR: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
GodBless: I have always wanted to visit New York. After that, I’d see Dubai so I could see the Skyscrapers in person.
Produced by Corry Cook
Sources and Photos: Many thanks to: the Elewana Collection; The Life & Land Foundation.