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
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