Best of Saving the Wild (part 1)

Two weeks ago I completed a 14 week mission, ‘solving poverty saves wildlife’. My last day was spent counting the breaths of a 16 year old elephant named Jetta. She had been speared in the back and had likely crossed over from Tanzania into Kenya’s Amboseli National Park – where she knew there were people in the park that could help her.
Looking back at that experience, where sometimes just surviving is the glory, I was reminded that we should never let the goodness get lost in the darkness.

I set out on a mission to seek solutions to this wildlife genocide, to gather up successful community conservation stories, and present scalable blueprints and ideas to actions. And I was not disappointed. These story extracts will lead you to the most unusual happy endings; to villains that are now heroes, to pioneering conservationists that refuse to shove poverty into the unsolvable box, and to animals and people working together to save the wild.

rhino_camp_to_changa_lodge__ (2)Photo credit: Jamie Joseph / Saving the Wild
Here in Zimbabwe, a country which is in economic turmoil and shows no signs of improved governance, ordinary people continue to do the extraordinary on a shoestring budget. If it wasn’t for these humble eco-warriors, elephants would surely be tinkering on extinction in these parts. This World Elephant Day let’s remember the unsung heroes right across Africa that do not wait around for things to get better. Instead they stride boldly into the unknown, refusing to believe in a world without elephants, transforming their frustration into a force for good.
Read: Zimbabwe’s unsung eco-warriors

Thompson TemboPhoto credit: Jamie Joseph / Saving the Wild
Thompson Tembo, one of the original recruits transformed, is regarded as one of the most notorious Zambian ivory poachers, ever. Thompson tells me very little money was ever exchanged for ivory, and of all the ex poachers I have interviewed, only the ones transformed very recently managed to walk away with as much as US$500 for a pair of large tusks, which would then be split between the poaching gang.
“We mostly bartered clothing, and basic food stuffs such as salt and sugar,” says Thompson.” To other people in the community this was a sign of wealth because we were able to meet our basic needs.”
Read: Confessions of a notorious elephant poacher

Richard_Branson_01_photo_credit_is_WildAid_VietnamPhoto credit: WildAid Vietnam
Explains WildAid ambassador Sir Richard Branson, “We need to make conservation and protection of rhinos more valuable than the sale of their horns. Legalising the rhino horn trade would only cause the demand to skyrocket, sending out an immoral message that the product actually works. This legal market would then become a front for the illegal market, and the incessant poaching will drive the tourism industry into disarray, costing Africa millions of jobs in the next decade, and fuelling more poverty and conflict.”
Read: Sir Richard Branson leads the charge in race to save rhinos

savingthewild_biglife_blog01_ (3)
The Big Life anti poaching team proudly boasts one of the lowest rates in ivory poaching throughout Africa, and their success is due to the fact that the community is on side. There is no silver bullet, however poverty and poaching can be outsmarted by providing livelihoods for rural people living amongst wildlife. Big Life is doing just that; whether it be transforming poachers into rangers and tapping into their exceptional bush skills and networks, introducing the Maasai Olympics to save lions from a culture of initiation killings, employment opportunities in all areas of conservation, or revenue streams from tourism.
Read: Big Life: Saving Africa’s wildlife, and other social creatures

justus and jamiePhoto credit: Saving the Wild
The vast majority of terrain around these parts is no cake walk, with some parts near impenetrable; steep ascents, lava rock and dense thickets full of thorns is rhino tough territory. The seven surviving elusive black rhinos that have made these 40 000 hectares home are the last unmanaged rhinos in East Africa. What that means essentially is that they’re wild and free, they move like shadows, belonging to no one, but they are protected by forty dedicated Big Life rangers, some of whom have never even seen all seven.
Read: Tracking rhinos with the rhino poacher that became a protector

saving_the_wild__big_life_elephant_rescue__ (2)Photo credit: Saving the Wild
An elephant has been speared in her back, she’s limping, and she’s entered the park. We race over to assess the situation and are joined by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Cynthia Moss, world-renowned elephant researcher, arrives in the Amboseli Trust vehicle and pulls up beside us.
“That’s Jetta,” she reveals before heading off. “She’s 16 years old, I know her family. She looks like she’s in a lot of pain, but she’s not paralysed. She might make it, but just make sure you have ropes to get her back up if things go wrong.”
Read: Saving Jetta, Kenya’s teenage elephant speared in the back