Today at WILD9 / Hoy en WILD9

WILD9 is a success! Over the 8 days of WILD9, we gathered together to THINK, FEEL and ACT.

WILD9 was opened by President Felipe Calderon, and attended by 1800 delegates from 50 countries, with 10,000 on-line participants from 100 countries. WILD9 conveyed an extraordinary atmosphere of hope and enthusiasm, hosted a diverse range of working session and featured a plenary program with world leaders such as Dr. Jane Goodall; Dr. Sylvia Earle; Dr Pavan Sukhdev; Chief Tashka Yawanawa; Grand Chief Samuel Gargan; numerous Ministers; the heads of land management agencies from North America and other regions; Heinz Center Director Dr. Thomas Lovejoy; Nobel laureate Mario Molina; Dr. Amory Lovins; Dr Exequiel Ezcurra; and many others.

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News! - Noticas! - Nouvelles!

Mali elephants again under siege

June 12, 2015

*WARNING: Graphic image at bottom of post**

Save the Mali elephants! >

In the past three years, the desert elephants of Mali have endured punishing drought, jihadist invasion, and sporadic poaching by bandits. But because of involvement of the local communities and the 500+ members of the “Brigades” that we have trained and deployed to patrol the area, the elephants have managed to survive.  However, after a period of stability for these unique, desert-adapted elephants — following the previous spike in poaching, to which many of you responded with much needed support –  they are again under the most intense siege ever experienced.

Mali Elephants #1 009_800

In the last two months some 24 elephants have been poached  by bandits operating from the lawless north of the country, north of the elephant range and the river Niger [see here for a description of life in this area] and are from the same groups responsible for the general insecurity referred to in previous blog posts. These bandits have conducted rapid sorties south into the elephant range to target the elephants while the late dry season confines the elephants to the environs of Lake Banzena, the only permanent water accessible to elephants in the elephant range.This spike in poaching seems to have been associated with an increase in attacks from armed groups related to the peace process and the signature of the Peace Accord between the Tuareg rebels and Mali government. This was supposed to be signed in May, but the Tuaregs pulled out at the last minute. [See here for further commentary]

Our colleagues from the African Elephant Count finally have just conducted the Mali census (with 12 armed guards 24/7). With the help of our Brigade members who found and reported the carcasses, the census aircraft was able to verify and photograph the carnage.

WILD and our partner, the International Conservation Fund of Canada, are rallying to respond and marshal funds, capacity building, and political will. All help is needed. Please join in this special appeal! 

We can turn this around. 50 additional Malian foresters have been recruited by the government to man the 10 new forester posts and are currently being trained (we need to provide additional trainers, and at least one vehicle and supplies to deploy them), and a radio-communications system (now funded!) is about to be deployed. In addition:

  1. Our Field Manager, Nomba Ganame, has alerted the authorities, including the Parliamentary Committee on Wildlife, who in turn addressed the entire Parliament and Prime Minister yesterday–see the message below. The Council of Ministers will be briefed in more detail next week.
  2. A new, younger and more proactive regional Army Commander has been appointed to the Gourma region, which includes the elephant range.
  3. Three high level officers of MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) arrived today at our office in Mali. MINUSMA is going to help Mali tackle poaching and conduct investigations to stop the poachers and their accomplices.
  4. Our Project Director, Dr. Susan Canney, is returning to Mali now to meet with AFRICOM (The US Military Command for Africa), the new US Ambasador (Paul Folmsbee), and others… and also determine how MINUSMA, the Mali Army, and DNEF (Mali Department of Water and Forests) can be concretely coordinated to ensure protection.

Please join our response to this tragic incident. The desert elephants of Mali face unusually challenging conditions, but we can save this remaining and most northerly herd of African elephants. Thank you!

Support the Mali Elephant Project

Message just delivered to the full session of the Mali Parliament and the Prime Minister:

“Mr. Prime Minister, in the area of ​​the environment, our wildlife has experienced an unprecedented level of degradation following the combined effects of recurrent and successive droughts, and human pressures (poaching, habitat destruction, grazing pressure, etc.). I refer to the particularly precarious situation of the population of elephants in the Malian Gourma and that the actions and measures necessary for their protection. From 24 December 2014 to the present day, there were more than 40 dead elephants in the Gourma Malian — at the only pool of water in Banzena and its surroundings including more than 24 killed by gunfire. The preservation of this population of elephants is now a national issue. This is the place to salute the efforts of The WILD Foundation and International Conservation Fund of Canada, an international partnership dedicated to the protection of the elephants and partner of the Ministry in charge of the environment.


Mr. Prime Minister for the survival of these elephants what urgent measures does your government intend to take in order to preserve this national and international heritage represented by the elephant population and capitalize on the efforts already undertaken by this partnership between the Government and our international colleagues?”

Census_poached elephants 2015_c

Elephant carcasses found by Brigade members and photographed by
African Elephant Census pilot and conservationist, Jaime Dias

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Elephant Poaching: The Local Context

April 24, 2015

The commitment of the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) has enabled other partners to join in helping the project meet the enormous challenges of international ivory trafficking in the face of post-conflict insecurity.

One recent example has been the support from UNEP’s Convention on Migratory Species to protect elephants in the border region between Mali and Burkina Faso in the south of the elephant range.

Elephant hiding in bush

This border is very porous, allowing members of armed groups to move easily between the north of Mali and Burkina Faso, while the many thicket-forests in this area provide hide-outs for bandits and poachers. These are also important habitats for elephants who like them for the same reason: they provide refuge from humans by enabling the elephants to hide. This has allowed the elephants to live alongside the human populations occupying the open, agricultural areas. However over recent years increasing anarchic settlement and resource use has led to the felling and occupation of these areas, reducing the habitat for elephants. Their increased occupation by potential poachers ratchets up the threat.

The danger is clear and to prepare for the months of July – October when the elephants occupy this area, the project held a four-day workshop to discuss the problems confronting the local communities and to initiate solutions.

Participants of the transboundary elephant meeting

Transboundary workshop participants

The workshop began with discussion of environmental changes noticed by the participants over the past 10 years: soil erosion, a reduction in soil productivity, a reduction in tree cover, the disappearance of wildlife and plant species. This has been accompanied by habitat clearance, reduced harvests, anarchic settlement and land use. All these have reduced the environment’s ability to cope with variable rainfall, eroded inter-community relations, and exacerbated human-elephant conflict.

Workshop leaders

Conveners of the transboundary workshop

All participants recognised the need for immediate and collective action and organized community structures in each village that would work with the government to watch over and protect elephants; act against poachers; and determine local collective rules of sustainable resource use that elaborate good resource management practice and protect elephant habitat. A short news item on the workshop can be found here.

Workshop participants

Workshop participants 

The illegal wildlife trade is decimating populations of elephants, rhinos and other threatened species. The role that local communities have to play in combating this holocaust was explored in a 3-day symposium in February entitled “Beyond enforcement”. Initiatives from all over the world were presented, including the Mali Elephant Project, putting the problem in the context of human development, but offering inspirational hope at what can be done when people are empowered to act collectively to reduce conflict, improve governance and ameliorate poverty.

> Learn more about the Mali Elephant Project

> Read More

Protecting Mali’s Desert Elephants: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

February 11, 2015

We’ve made a lot progress since the jihadists overran central Mali, and they were eventually pushed out.

The good news is that since September last year the security situation improved in the centre and south of the Gourma. The bad news is that since 27th December the elephants have been targeted by an external, well-organised, criminal poaching and trafficking network – and we have lost 19 elephants. We face an escalating situation and we are mobilizing all our assets and networks.

Mali Elephants 2, Balu

We supported community leaders to convene meetings focused on community solidarity to combat  the insecurity and reintegrate former fighters into their communities (one of which was described in the last blog). Encouraged by this local involvement, the army strategically deployed additional forces and, since September 2014, the security situation improved in the centre and south of the Gourma with fewer attacks and thefts. People are travelling more freely and the markets have reopened.

Local communities in Mali gather together

Local communities of Mali gather together to restore peace 

However it is the dry season and the elephants are currently in the remote north of their range, frequenting the small lakes that still contain water.  Since the end of December several people in this area have been contacted by mobile phone to act as accomplices in killing elephants. The method has been for 3 people to arrive by motorbike, shooting in the air to disperse local people and livestock before shooting the elephant(s).

Some elephants are changing their behaviour as a result. Some herds are clumping together (which makes them more vulnerable) and fleeing the area. One large herd with many babies has been trying to find water in areas they used to frequent decades ago before they were displaced by increasing human settlement. Unfortunately these areas now contain little surface water and the project has sent brigade members to warn these communities and inform them how to avoid conflict with elephants.

Mali Elephants, Balu

However at the base of this situation is the ongoing insecurity in the Gourma. Life cannot return to normal until people can live without fear of attack and robbery. As the community meetings show, there is enormous willingness among the local population to do what they can. We have mobilised a response to this most recent development that has already stemmed the killings but working in the insecure north of the elephant range needs substantial resources, and the project is looking for partners to help in its mission to restore security for both people and elephants.

Read more:

Support the Mali Elephant Project

> Read More

Solar lights up the Amazon

December 4, 2014

At our 8th World Wilderness Congress in 2005 (Anchorage, Alaska), WILD launched the Native Lands and Wilderness Council to ensure the inclusion of native leaders in mainstream wildlands conservation. Kayapo spokepersons participated in and have since become a valued part of this Council which is now driven entirely by Indigenous stewards, and The WILD Foundation continues as a collaborative partner. Following the 8th WWC, WILD’s president was then invited to a meeting of representatives from all of the Kayapo villages. We formed a close working relationship with the International Conservation Fund of Canada (long-term supporter of the Kayapo) to help strengthen their capacity for territorial protection and sustainable resource management, plus formed a substantive partnership on our Mali Elephant Project- which works with local, traditional communities in west Africa to save habitat and wildlife.

Kayapo at Kendjam

No conservation effort in the tropics has been more successful than that of the Kayapo Indians of Brazil. They’ve achieved more for the preservation of tropical forest than any other group or organizations on earth. WILD continues to support these true guardians of the rainforest by strengthening their capacity for territorial protection and sustainable resource management. We recently became aware of PURE Energies, a California-based solar energy company that traveled to the Amazon rainforest to learn from and contribute to the incredible conservation efforts of the Kayapo community. Following their journey, the team created a series of short videos, photo collections and blogs about their experience with the Kayapo people, and we’re happy to share their story with you. WILD admires companies involved with such environmentally-conscious work that also strive to improve causes like that of the Kayapo people.

Kayapo children

PURE Energies designs and installs residential solar systems in Ontario, Canada and in 35 states across the U.S. They don’t actually build any particular technology. Rather, they have developed the most comprehensive online marketplace in residential solar. Through its proprietary platform, PURE Energies delivers a time-saving, complete analysis of the benefits of solar energy for homeowners- free of charge. Doing so, PURE Energies has become the trusted advisor in the North American solar energy market.

Solar lights

The company’s CEO, Zbigniew Barwicz, is all about sustainable living, so much so that one day he decided to take a team of people to the Amazon to see how the Kayapo, an indigenous people who have existed in the rainforest for eons – and with no technology as we know it – live sustainably. What could the techie Californians learn from the Kayapo – and vice versa?

As it turns out, the answer is: lots. The techie team, led by the International Conservation Fund of Canada, spent two weeks living alongside the indigenous Kayapo. You can see all about their journey here. They participated in their traditions, explored the Amazon basin, and learned how the Kayapo live in harmony with the world around them.

PURE Energies CEO, Zbigniew Barwicz

Why the Amazon?

  • For one, the Amazon Rainforest helps stabilize the world’s climate by storing carbon and reducing the impacts of climate change.
  • Even more amazing, more than 20% of all oxygen in out atmosphere is produced in the Amazon Rainforest.
  • A single hectare in the Amazon Rainforest contains up to 450 species of trees. Compare that to the entire country of Canada, which has only a total of 180 species of trees.
  • Twenty-five percent of Western medicines come from tropical forest ingredients, yet only 1% of tropical trees and plants in the rainforest have been tested by scientists.
  • There are more species of fish in the Amazon River – one river – than are found in the entire Atlantic Ocean.

Aerial view of protected Amazonian rainforest in the Kayapo territory near the village of Kendjam. Kayapo Territory, Brazil.

It’s Also Threatened…

  • The destruction of the Amazon rainforest has increased by almost one-third in the past year, the Guardian reported last year, reversing a decade-long trend of better protection for the world’s greatest rainforest.
  • In fact, a high-resolution satellite analysis of global deforestation revealed that since 2000 an area equal to 50 football fields has been destroyed every minute.
  • The total loss is 10 times the area of the United Kingdom. Only a third of that is being replaced by natural and planted reforestation.

PURE Energies’ CEO Barwicz wanted to see what was going on for himself, and help if he could.

The adventure was pretty eye opening – check out their day by day adventures on their website. The Kayapo people effectively protect an area of rainforest that is bigger than more than half of the countries in the world and equal to the size of Virginia. Every day, their land is threatened by loggers, ranchers and miners. They respond by living in the sustainable way they have lived for hundreds of years. But they’ve also become savvy about tapping into media channels to help raise awareness about the threats they face, and that the globe faces, if their forests are destroyed. They’ve formed non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to obtain national and international conservation and development support for protecting their lands. And they’re developing non-timber forest products to generate modest income they use to purchase some modern-day supplies.

Kayapo girl with monkey

To help, PURE Energies distributed Goal Zero solar powered lanterns to the Kayapo Tribe in Kendjam, Brazil. The lanterns will be used to build their social enterprises, to help deliver babies at night, and for nighttime social gatherings.

The PURE Energies expedition team, meanwhile, were amazed at what they learned about living simply and without fire in the Amazonian basin. They were so inspired, they will be releasing a 5-part video series that touches on the topics of independence, courage, and leadership – all traits they observed among the Kayapo.

“For PURE, independence means giving homeowners the decision to take control of their energy bill and to make their own choices. Gone are the days where energy is without options,” said CEO Barwicz. “We are entering a new era, where homeowners have the potential to generate and directly use their own power. Through this trip, we will learn the truest form of independence and convey those learnings to the homeowners of America.”

See more of this great adventure. The series will airing this week and continue until January via Watch the first video below!

> Read More

The Rap Guide to Wilderness: Connecting people to nature with MUSIC!

November 25, 2014

Rap Guide to Wilderness Album CoverRecently we’ve been working with Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman to create the Rap Guide to Wilderness- a hip-hop album that captures the spirit of our commitment to wilderness conservation in a way that is both infectiously informative and heartfelt. We’re very excited to announce that the album is now available for purchase through our online store! This collection of seven songs will serve as a very important outreach tool to connect people to wild nature. And not to mention, they’re great songs to get your groove on to!

The Rap Guide to Wilderness is a thought-provoking hip-hop celebration of nature and all the ways it contributes to human wellbeing. Brinkman seamlessly blends the relentless energy of rap with a deep environmental consciousness that educates as well as entertains. The album addresses current environmental issues such as biodiversity loss, habitat loss, de-extinction and the delisting of wolves. More importantly, the mission of the album is to promote public awareness of wilderness and its key services to human health and prosperity, stressing the importance of humans having a relationship with wild nature, not just taking from it.

This concept of integrating human existence with nature is the center of The WILD Foundation’s initiative, Nature Needs Half. “The core issue is the lack of true relationship between people and nature. People largely see nature as a resource to be used for human good, short term. The Rap Guide to Wilderness speaks to something else, that wildness is part of us; it provides for us and has “grown” us for 2 million years. We need to honor that relationship, allow space for nature on its own, so that the relationship can flourish, not wither.” says Vance Martin, President of WILD.

Baba Brinkman performing at the WPC

Brinkman was commissioned for this project because “Baba is a talented artist with a mission – to help people understand themselves and the world they live in and depend upon. We envision this release as becoming a part of the “wilderness toolkit” we continue to develop – involving policy, communications, science, and culture – for use to communicate with and inform professionals, the public, youth, and policymakers”, continues Mr. Martin. Prior to his musical endeavors, Brinkman spent 12 years in the Canadian wilderness planting trees.

Brinkman has shared the stage with a number of high profile science thinkers, from Stephen Hawking to physicist Brian Cox to The God Delusion author, Richard Dawkins. More recently, Brinkman debuted songs from The Rap Guide to Wilderness in a series of 4 events at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia this November; a once-every-ten-years meeting of the world’s conservation organizations, both government and non-profit. The events included the WPC opening day plenary, a special Nature Needs Half event held by WILD & CPAWS, a public concert, and Baba wrapped up the WPC with a public party at the Riverside Theatre in Paramatta.

The album is now available for purchase and half of the net profits from album sales will go to WILD’s conservation programs. Stream the album here and let us know what you think of it! We also worked with Baba to create a music video for one of the tracks called “Tranquility Bank,” which is a celebration of city living as the greenest option available, and how people can get the most from the wild if we limit our exposure to it and store its influence internally.

Track List:

  1. Go Wild
  2. Tranquility Bank (feat. Aaron Nazrul)
  3. Party of Life (feat. Tia Brazda)
  4. Walden Pond
  5. Bottleneck (feat. Sean Ross)
  6. Never Cry Wolf (feat. Wyckham Porteous)
  7. Seed Pod

About Baba Brinkman

Baba Brinkman is a Canadian rap artist, writer, and former tree-planter who has personally planted more than one million trees. He is also a scholar, with a Masters in Medieval and Renaissance English Literature. To date Baba has written or co-written five hip-hop plays, all of which have toured the world and enjoyed successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and off-Broadway in New York. His newest play, The Rap Guide to Religion, is currently running at the SoHo Playhouse and the album of the same name is slated to come out in spring 2015. He has also released ten original rap albums on his independent label Lit Fuse Records, including the upcoming, The Rap Guide to Wilderness, which explores the contributions of wild nature to human happiness.

Baba Brinkman

Baba’s show, The Rap Guide to Evolution, won the prestigious Scotsman Fringe First Award in Edinburgh, where Brinkman performed for six full seasons. The show was also nominated for a “Drama Desk Award” in New York, in addition to a sold-out week at the Sydney Opera House. Brinkman has made appearances at multiple TED conferences, opened for Stephen Hawking at the Seattle Science Festival, performed for a sold-out crowd of 3,500 at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, and was a guest performer on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.

Brinkman is also a pioneer in the genre of “lit-hop” or literary hip-hop, known for his adaptations of The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, and Gilgamesh. He is a recent recipient of the National Center for Science Education’s “Friend of Darwin Award” in 2013 for his efforts to improve the public understanding of evolutionary biology.

When he is not on tour, Brinkman resides in New York City.

> Download the press release

> Purchase the album

> Read More