I am always encouraged when I discover how much rural communities are doing, with meager resources for the conservation of biodiversity. Today I would like to welcome The Water Hole an appropriately named blog run by the East African Wildlife Society, the Cousin Island and the Giraffe Sanctuary blogs. All three new blogs represent important conservation activities in the region. The EAWLS has been at the forefront of conservation in East Africa since 1961 – this advocacy group is something of a watchdog keeping our government policies in check by engaging the population. Their magazine SWARA is perhaps the most informative wildlife journal in the region. The coming issue focuses on one of our greatest concerns, mountain gorillas in the eastern Congo.
I’d also like to introduce a unique project in Garissa, north eastern Kenya. This semi arid area is populated by semi nomadic people who have voluntarily decided to protect the herds of giraffe that are highly threatened here. I am inspired by the warden and his scouts who patrol and do snare removal in the area, educate the population and stop the habitat destruction. These people living in an extremely dry harsh environment, are doing it as volunteers.
Finally, Cousin Island in the Seychelles is home to many endemic species of frogs, birds, fish and plants. This unique island is managed by a local NGO Nature Seychelles, another example of local conservation. All these organizations are successful because they have developed a community of people who care. I hope you will take time to find out more about them and support them with your comments and donations.
After spending many years struggling to achieve wildlife conservation in Kenya, I decided to start WildlifeDirect to solve a very real problem in Africa, the lack of adequate funds to protect the continents unique wildlife heritage. A cash endowment was the obvious solution, but nobody would give us the amounts of money that we required. Persuading individual donors to give support was not easy because most people are unaware of what is going on in conservation until there is a crisis. I needed to find another way to raise awareness and funds on a continuous basis.
WildlifeDirect was conceived as a way of facilitating exchanges between the front lines of conservation and the rest of the world, to create a community of people concerned about conservation and to allow for direct interaction with and support to the conservationists on the ground. Our website is a set of tools to make this happen – and I’m very proud of the success so far. Not only have we enabled a number of interesting and courageous conservationists to write blogs from the frontlines, but I am encouraged that the world is reading, listening, and taking action.
What’s unique about WildlifeDirect is that donors can select what they want to send a donation for, monitor how their donation worked, and learn about the day to day activities on the ground. All of this with the knowledge that the donations are transferred to the field, net only of bank fees. For some projects this has been a godsend, especially in times of critical need. Gorilla protection for example is our oldest blog started in January this year and it has already earned tens of thousands of dollars for emergency response following the attacks on the Rugendo family in July.
The early success of wildlifedirect.org has made us realize the potential of using the internet to create an online global conservation community. Our goal is to reach 250,000 people each month by the end of 2008 as this will enable us to generate the funds we need to support our partners on the ground. My team and I will be using this blog to tell you how you can help us, how we are doing and to give you my personal opinions about conservation in general.
I sincerely hope you will use this space to share and exchange your views too.