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.

Download the summary of WILD9 Accomplishments >

View Video’s of WILD9 Presentations >

See Photos of WILD9 >

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News! - Noticas! - Nouvelles!

Chicago WILD Cities Workshop

April 17, 2014

The WILD Cities Project is striving to create a new concept of urbanism where nature is a valued aspect of our world’s cities. To accomplish this mission, The WILD Foundation is facilitating the establishment of a global network of urban areas that are committed to advancing polices and urban planning strategies for preserving wild nature in cities. Through its ongoing commitment and visionary approaches to protecting nature in the city and engaging its citizens with unique opportunities to experience these natural areas, Chicago, Illinois has established itself as one of the greatest examples of a WILD City.

Chicago forest

Chicago’s commitment to the WILD Cities mission is epitomized by its remarkable Forest Preserve system. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois manages more than 68,000 acres of public land, which is about 11% of the total area of Cook County. These lands surrounding the Chicago metropolitan area are a mosaic of nature preserves, oak woodlands & savannas, native wetlands, managed lakes & ponds, and over 300 miles of trails for citizen recreation. This devotion to promoting the existence of wild nature as an integral part of the city environment has made Chicago a model representative for effective urban conservation policy.

Since the launch of WILD Cities at the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WILD10), Chicago has been a valued leader and WILD City Champion, helping to advocate and advance the WILD Cities mission. And to continue to build upon the WILD Cities momentum coming out of WILD10, The WILD Foundation recently partnered with some of the leading urban conservation organizations in Chicago to convene a diverse network of professionals to explore ideas and strategies for further developing and advancing the WILD Cities vision.

On April 4, 2014 The WILD Foundation hosted a WILD Cities Workshop in collaboration with Chicago Wilderness and The Forest Preserve District of Cook County at Chicago’s Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. This Workshop convened a diverse group of urban conservation and citizen engagement leaders from organizations in Chicago and the surrounding metropolitan area, and also included participants from New York City, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Berlin, Germany. The Workshop participants engaged in a spirited discussion about various strategies and policy mechanisms for effective urban conservation and defining the criteria for what constitutes a WILD City by exploring topics such as: urban green infrastructure & climate change resilience, wildlife & habitats within cities, urban planning initiatives for biodiversity, and connecting urban citizens with nature and wilderness.

Arnold Randall, General Superintendent for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County

Arnold Randall, General Superintendent for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County

The Chicago WILD Cities Workshop also included an opportunity to experience some of Chicago’s wild nature with a guided field trip to one of its Forest Preserve areas. On Saturday April 5th, a group of Workshop participants was led on an excursion to the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont, Illinois. Just 40 minutes outside of downtown Chicago, Sagawau is an oasis of nature and wildlife. Our walk through the Sagawau Canyon Nature Preserve featured beautiful forested areas, unique rock formations, and a variety of wildlife species including great blue herons, sandhill cranes, and turkey vultures. It was truly remarkable to experience this wild nature in such close proximity to one of America’s largest metropolises.

Sagawau Canyon Nature Preserve

Sagawau Canyon Nature Preserve 

The Chicago WILD Cities Workshop generated excellent feedback and innovative new strategies for further enhancing the WILD Cities vision, and also allowed for WILD to engage with an extraordinary new group of professionals dedicated to promoting the conservation of wild nature in urban areas.  WILD is very enthusiastic about its ongoing relationship with Chicago as a WILD City Champion and key WILD Cities partner, and we look forward to continuing to share Chicago’s outstanding urban conservation model with the international conservation community.

> Learn more about the WILD Cities Project

> Read More

Keeping up with the ever-changing world of social media

March 28, 2014

If you are an avid follower of WILD’s communications, then you’re familiar with the ways that we share our updates. We post directly to our Talking WILD Blog, eLeaf newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube…and who knows what else is in our future! The world of social media and digital communications is always evolving. We have some exciting work going on and we don’t want you to miss out on anything.

Here’s some unfortunate news. We at WILD have been concerned about our Facebook fan reach and activity levels dropping. Were we not posting engaging content? Were there some new changes in Facebook’s algorithm happening that we didn’t know about? Were we doing something wrong? Now we have an answer: Facebook has begun to slowly decline the overall organic reach of their brand pages. You can read about it here.

What this means: unless we pay to promote each of our posts, only a fraction of our fans will see what we share. “We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it,” says a Facebook spokesperson. Makes sense, right? But when you are a nonprofit organization, this is no easy feat. And what about those of you who chose to like our page so they could get updates about our conservation work?

As you may know, WILD is a very lean 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. 95% of our funds go directly to our programs, and the remaining 5% goes to administrative & fundraising costs. We, regrettably, do not have the extra money in our budget to spend on constantly promoting our daily posts on Facebook. We hope that the folks behind Facebook will understand this and somehow find some ways to support the active nonprofits on this platform.

But for now, here’s what you can do to continue seeing our updates on Facebook:

On The WILD Foundation page, hover over where it says “Liked” (or “Like” if you haven’t yet!), and check these options:

  1. “Get Notifications” to get a notification when we share a post (we keep these minimal!)
  2. “Add to Interest Lists” so you can see more of our posts separate from your main Newsfeed. You may need to create one first:

There’s many ways to stay involved with WILD, and we need your help making sure we can get our messaging out there. We urge you to not only follow us on the listed sites, but be active! Comment, like, share, retweet, favorite, forward and talk about our conservation work. The more activity, the more our updates will be seen. And talk to us- we love feedback! We want to make sure we’re doing the best we can to communicate our programs and important updates. For any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to contact me:

Follow The WILD Foundation: Talking WILD BlogeLeaf newsletter


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Why do the local people protect the elephants?

February 13, 2014

Mali Elephant Project update

Sometimes in conservation we have been reticent to ask local people what they think and feel about wildlife in case they are less than enthusiastic! In reality what they usually don’t want is to have their livelihoods diminished and their options reduced, particularly when the wildlife is perceived to benefit the affluent.

Why do the local people protect the elephants? This was the first question registered after my recent TEDx talk telling the story of how a few people can make a big difference, and it is a vital question. Nature and wildlife have multiple values, some of which can have a monetary figure attached to them (if they are readily marketable goods such as food and construction materials), and some of which can’t. In trying to determine the value of nature we often concentrate on just one or a few of these, and in the process miss the combined value. Although I am used to describing why the people conserve the elephants in particular contexts, I had never before drawn all the reasons together in one place.

In return for protecting the elephant migration route and its habitats, the project helps the community to overcome their problems and challenges. These might vary in detail from place to place according to local circumstances and have included access to clean water, procuring grain, youth employment, and conflict management; but all involve preventing and reversing ecosystem degradation. Bringing diverse clans and ethnicities together to protect water, pasture, forests, wildlife and wild foods and using these resources sustainably means that more are available over a greater area, as for example in protecting pasture against fire. Most importantly, it also gives them control over the land and its resources, empowering them to prevent others (particularly commercial interests from towns hundreds of kilometres away) from over-exploitation and causing environmental degradation. They can also prevent incomers from clearing forest for cultivation, and thereby protect a source of wild foods, fuel, game, and services such as water retention and soil stabilisation as well as key elephant habitat. They can receive revenue from charging by the head for livestock belonging to the large ‘prestige’ herds coming from distant towns to access water. These belong to wealthy urban dwellers who send them into remoter areas to find pasture as none remains close to densely populated centres. We discovered that over 96% of the cattle using Lake Banzena in 2009 belonged to such herds.

These activities provide an occupation for the young men that has status within the community, an idea that might be replicated wherever there is environmental degradation.

Do they need elephants to do this? Maybe not, but the local people know that elephants attract the attention of the wider community – national and international – and are proud of that. As they say, “if the elephants disappear, our area will no longer be special”. They view elephants as an indicator of a healthy ecosystem and they know that their livelihoods depend on a healthy ecosystem. They also know from direct experience that elephants are important as seed dispersers and in forest regeneration. Elephants knock down otherwise inaccessible fruits and seeds from high branches that are gathered by the women for food and sometimes sale. Fruits and leaves are also eaten by livestock. Dung is valued to help conjunctivitis, a widespread problem in these environments.

They are in awe of witnessing elephants’ social interactions and expression of a range of emotions, their joy when groups reunite, their apparent care for each other and particularly for their young. They have reported seeing elephants covering their dead with soil and branches and standing vigil for several days. They tell of elephants constructing a causeway of wood and branches to help rescue another elephant stuck in mud.

They also feel that every species has a right to exist and that it contributes something to the ecosystem that is unique to it, a notion that was described to me as being encapsulated in the word baraka or blessing. Each species has its own baraka, and if a species is lost, the ecosystem is irretrievably diminished, and poorer in its ability to sustain life.

Once peace is restored there is the additional possibility of revenue from tourism, as pre-conflict they have witnessed tourists paying to be guided to see the elephants.

Some of these reasons may seem fragile when considered on their own, but together these ‘elephant plus points’ combine to produce an overall benefit that is greater than the sum of the parts. While we can attempt to place a monetary value on some aspects of this benefit, it is impossible to do so with all aspects and particularly with the “emergent “ value, something that needs to be acknowledged in attempts to analyse the economics of the ivory trade as well as conservation and development interventions in elephant areas.

> Learn more about the Mali Elephant Project

> Read More

WILD Women at TEDx

January 21, 2014

WILD’s family is full of wonderful and talented people, including many fun, fabulous and highly-skilled women.  Just a  few of our “WILD Women” were invited to speak at TEDxVailWomen on the theme “Invented Here.” Not just technology inventions, but also new solutions to poverty; new approaches to leadership; new expressions of art and music; and, at times, the invention of our own lives. This inspirational day-long event was hosted by WILD Foundation board member, Kat Haber, and included Dr. Susan Canney, Morgan Heim, Asher Jay and Cristina Mittermeier. Take some time to watch each of their talks – whether it be working with a local community to save a unique herd of elephants, going on a foolish adventure to research the elusive fishing cat, using art to bring awareness to conservation issues, or shining a light on indigenous people & conservation with photography- each of these women are creatively working to make a difference in the conservation field.

Dr. Susan Canney

Project Leader of the Mali Elephant Project

The elephants in Mali are unique. They live in one of the harshest environments in the world, the arid Sahel and have one of the longest migrations routes of any elephants. They are the most northerly elephant herd in Africa – the last comparable herd went extinct in the 1980s. WILD has embarked on a large-scale action and outreach program to work with local communities, government officials, tourism companies and others to help the Mali elephants, and in turn, help the people of Mali.

Susan Canney tells the story of the Mali Elephant Project to demonstrate how shifting your perspective opens up new possibilities for transforming an impossible situation. By being willing to Not Know and let go of assumptions, at the same time as doing everything to understand and respect all aspects of the situation, a better way opens up.

Morgan Heim

Multimedia Journalist & WILD Foundation Trustee

Conservation photographer Morgan Heim is on a mission to connect our lives with the stories of the natural world. We save the things we care about. But how do you connect with an endangered animal that lives half a world away? In an adventure to find the elusive fishing cat, two American girls undergo a transformation that can change how we connect with the causes around us.

“Being foolish gave us the courage to keep going, even when all the logic dictated that we should stop…The foolish choice might just be the best choice you can make.”

Asher Jay

Conservation Artist & Activist, WILD Foundation Associate

By Design, Asher is a creative conservationist. She believes that our inability to perceive what has been lost to us prevents us from valuing and conserving what remains. Through both visuals and a personal narrative Asher casts a light on what she’s learned from love and loss.

A staunch supporter of animal rights, wildlife conservation and sustainable development, Asher found herself using her fashion, art and writing to raise awareness. Over the years she has produced several graphic campaigns, written many narratives, and pieced together numerous collections and canvases to eloquently elucidate the serious issues currently assailing our fragile planet.

Cristina Mittermeier

Conservation Photographer, Founder of the iLCP & WILD Foundation Board Member

A conservationist with a camera and a passionate opinion, Cristina Mittermeier has dedicated her career to convince others of the imperative to protect our planet. In 2008, she founded the International League of Conservation Photographers at the 8th World Wilderness Congress in Anchorage, Alaska.

Enoughness, how much is enough? Cristina Mittermeier shows her stunning images of indigenous peoples to shine lights on conservation issues and places where healthy ecosystems remain. In her talk, Cristina tells us that contentment is long lasting and comes from inside- she defines it as an internal yard stick. Humor is a great way of building enoughness. Her images remind us “that when all the rivers have been dammed, and all the forests have been turned into chopsticks, and when the last wild creature has been hunted for their trophy, we will all be a lot poorer.”

> Read More

Protecting elephants through promoting peace

November 21, 2013

The survival of the Mali elephants is intimately linked to the state of relations between the peoples of the Gourma region. The Mali Elephant Project empowers local communities to work together to protect elephants and their habitat from human encroachment, and the wider environment from degradation. Degradation of soils, water, vegetation and wildlife means that there is less to go round and increases the likelihood of conflict between elephants and humans.  When communities work together to protect and restore the ecosystem they are protecting the resources on which their livelihoods depend, and the habitats the elephants require for their survival, as the project has repeatedly demonstrated.

At the same time, working with local groups to protect their environment promotes community cohesion, provides employment for the youth, targets post-conflict aid and reconstruction activities, and is, therefore, an important vehicle for reconciliation.

Post-conflict there is the new challenge of healing the social wounds that have been opened up by the recent crisis. The question is, “How best to do this?”

Two reports have recently been published giving a fascinating insight the current situation. The first was published by Oxfam and describes how the conflict has undermined social relations within and between the ethnicities of northern Mali through feelings of fear and mistrust (Gao and Timbuktu).

The second is our own study which is complementary in that it examines a smaller geographic area – the Gourma region – but in more detail, and rather than focusing on ethnicities, teases out the different strategies employed by individuals to survive the crisis. > Report of the National Reconciliation Workshop

Like the first study, it concludes that reconciliation at the community level is a pre-requisite for all post-conflict aid and reconstruction activities, or there is the risk of exacerbating the situation; however if the motivations of different groups are not understood and taken into account, emergency aid and reconstruction activities risk doing more harm than good. During the conflict, many stayed. Of those who left there were those who fled for fear of being targeted by the armed groups because of the colour of their skin or their association with government or westerners, while others fled because they hoped to gain financially from their refugee status. Others, already wealthy, hoped to increase their wealth and power during the post-conflict reconstruction. Some joined the jihadis because they were paid large amounts of money and given a weapon. The latter allowed some to pillage, hijack vehicles, steal, and engage in illegal trafficking, while others were employed by the armed groups as cooks and drivers and participated in or became associated with abusive acts. Finally there were those imams (Muslim priests) who allied themselves with the jihadis and, together with pupils at some koranic schools, were responsible for imposing Sharia law on their own populations.

The good news is that the rift between communities is not irreparable. The wounds can be healed and there is a willingness displayed by the vast majority of people interviewed to begin a process of dialogue and reconciliation (Oxfam, 2013).

To begin this process we worked with the Ministry for Decentralisation and Land Management and the Ministry of the Environment and Sanitation to design and implement a three-day workshop for the top levels of national and regional Malian government, together with representatives of local communities, and from the national Reconciliation Commission to address the central question:

How can essential and urgent humanitarian assistance be quickly deployed to alleviate the present suffering, without further aggravating the social and environmental imbalances that are already posing a threat to a sustainable and peaceful future?

The aim was to enable the participants to share the information available and obtain an insight to the situation on the ground that would enable them to identify how piecemeal interventions could support and mutually reinforce each other. The result was a road-map of concrete actions required in the short, medium and long term.

In summary, the workshop recommended that:

  1. Reconciliation, within and between communities, is a prerequisite for ensuring the social, economic and environmental sustainability of aid and reconstruction initiatives.
  2. Reconstructing local communities will help to improve local, national and international security by minimising the risk of repercussions beyond Mali’s borders. Young men who are unable to return to their communities and who have nowhere else to go risk becoming radicalised and/or engaging in criminal activity.
  3. Local authorities must play an integral role in post-conflict reconciliation, aid and reconstruction, to ensure that these efforts are well targeted and to obtain the desired results. Their knowledge can aid the process of:
    • Disarmament – they know who has weapons and can help in recovering them,
    • Compensation – they are familiar with the pre-conflict situation, and can help to ensure that compensation is fair,
    • Redress, reintegration and bringing to justice –  they know who has committed what crimes, and can help to determine the needs of displaced persons who wish to return to their communities.
    • Such a huge task requires a coordinated effort and therefore an additional aim of this workshop was to sketch out a plan to help coordinate the efforts made by many parties with different agendas, thereby helping official programmes and individual actions to support each other.

> Report of the National Reconciliation Workshop

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