WILD Foundation https://www.wild.org Protecting through connecting: wilderness, wildlife & people Fri, 23 Mar 2018 20:32:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 Yachak Organic fights poaching in west Africa, announces official beverage sponsorship of the Mali Elephant Project https://www.wild.org/blog/yachak-organic-fights-poaching/ https://www.wild.org/blog/yachak-organic-fights-poaching/#respond Mon, 26 Feb 2018 22:27:41 +0000 https://www.wild.org/?p=22104 As Africa’s poaching crisis continues, the Mali Elephant Project is proud to announce a new partnership with Yachak Organic Yerba Mate that will strengthen critically needed anti-poaching efforts for one of just two remaining desert elephant herds.

As a new company, Yachak Organic’s goal is to protect endangered species and the environment. Yachak Organic recently added the Mali Elephant Project to the portfolio of programs it financially supports, to become the official beverage sponsor of this award-winning conservation project.

Since 2003, the Mali Elephant Project, in partnership with the WILD Foundation and the International Conservation Fund of Canada, has built national and local capacity to protect Mali’s iconic elephant herd. The sudden emergence of a jihadist insurgency in 2013 has complicated conservation efforts in this region, and has all but driven Mali’s law enforcement officials from the elephant range, further jeopardizing the survival of the herd.



Throughout the turmoil the Mali Elephant Project has kept a presence in the region, providing surveillance for the three hundred elephants that roam Mali’s desert, strengthening community commitments to their defense.

“We’re ecstatic about our relationship with the Mali Elephant Project; the extensive work they are doing to protect this desert elephant herd is remarkable,” said Tom Fraccalvieri, Marketing Brand Manager for Yachak Organic. “We are in full support of their efforts to empower the culture and connect a multitude of villages, in hopes of eradicating the poaching of these incredible animals.”



Yachak Organic’s philanthropy is creating a world that is safe for Mali’s desert elephants and other endangered species. As the Mali Elephant Project’s official beverage sponsor, Yachak Organic is injecting West African elephant conservation with new resources and natural energy, helping to put an end to the African poaching epidemic.




Yachak is the name the indigenous Kichwa people of the Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon give to their Shamans; named in honor of “the one who knows.” Yachak offers four flavors, all containing 160 mg of naturally occurring caffeine per can from Organic Yerba Mate. Yachak is certified Fair Trade by “Fair for Life”, certified Non-GMO by the “Non GMO Project”, certified Kosher through the Orthodox Union, and certified Gluten-Free.


As a Fair Trade company Yachak ensures ingredient suppliers in its manufacturing supply chain pay workers living wages, participate in sustainable practices, and do not employ unfair treatment of children. Yachak Organic contributes to the support of over 3,000 Fair Trade jobs in Brazil.


Yachak is currently available throughout 14 states in convenience stores, grocery stores, natural food outlets, and college / university campuses. Yachak expands distribution to the remainder of the USA in February 2018.


Visit www.yachak.com for more information.



In 2003, the Mali Elephant Project, in partnership with the WILD Foundation and the International Conservation Fund of Canada, launched a comprehensive conservation strategy for the defense of one of just two remaining desert elephant herds. Bringing together eight ethnic groups to collectively manage, for the first time, elephant habitat and natural resources, the Mali Elephant Project works at the nexus of biodiversity conservation and community development. In 2017, the Mali Elephant Project was recognized by the United Nations Equator initiatives for one of the leading conservation programs of its kind.


For more information, visit www.wild.org/mali-elephants


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This Stunning Victory for Elephants Will Make You Believe in the Power of Collaboration https://www.wild.org/blog/anti-poaching-success-in-mali/ https://www.wild.org/blog/anti-poaching-success-in-mali/#comments Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:42:59 +0000 https://www.wild.org/?p=22027 This month marked the first anniversary success of the Mali Elephant Project’s anti-poaching unit.

With no recorded poaching incidents reported by its extensive surveillance networks, this achievement is a remarkable milestone for the Mali Elephant Project (MEP). Since 2009, the MEP has built and implemented a collaborative strategy that links grassroots leaders with national government officials and is effectively saving one of just two remaining desert elephant herds from local extinction while helping local communities.


How did they do it?

The Mali Elephant Project harnesses the power of working together to achieve conservation outcomes that would be impossible for one group working in isolation to produce on their own.

It started in 2003 when local leaders and international observers noticed the deterioration of elephant habitat in Mali’s rugged and remote deserts. This habitat spans a region the size of Switzerland (8 million acres) and is inhabited by elephants as well as numerous cultures and ethnic groups who have traditionally managed their lands separately.

Program director, Susan Canney, and field manager, Nomba Ganame, realized that protecting a herd that migrates across such a vast territory could only be accomplished with local support. That is why the Mali Elephant Project brought together eight ethnic groups for the first-time, and worked with them to organize an elder council that jointly manages the land for the benefit of people and elephants.


Village meeting, February 2016

But the collaboration didn’t stop there.

When, in 2013, a violent insurgency swept through the elephant habitat and destabilized the entire region (making the elephants susceptible to bandits and poachers for the first time), the Mali Elephant Project was the only NGO project to remain operating in the region.

In an escalating climate of fear and uncertainty, it became necessary to unite local leadership with national-level officials for greater coordination. The result of that process was an official decree issued by Mali’s President in early 2016 calling on all of Mali’s agency to prioritize working together to save this internationally important herd.

The MEP also built the foundation for Mali’s first anti-poaching unit (APU), a bold and unique collaboration between Mali’s Ministry of Environment, the United Nations MINUSMA forces, Chengeta Wildlife, and local communities. The APU was first deployed in January 2016 . . .



And it is their hard work and effectiveness that we celebrate a year later.

This is a hard-won and momentous victory for Mali’s elephants. And it does not come without the courage and sacrifice of local communities and APU soldiers. Their commitment to the future of elephants in Mali is breathtaking.

In addition to these brave men, we also celebrate the donors and supporters of the Mali Elephant Project, who invested their time, resources, and compassion into Mali’s elephants and desert communities, and who believe in the power of collaboration to make the world a better place.

Thank you!



While this is a stunning win for Mali, the work doesn’t stop here. Wildlife trafficking syndicates and habitat loss continue to threaten this herd. For the Mali Elephant Project to continue saving elephants, so too must our investment in its efforts.

If you believe the Mali Elephant Project is working for the benefit of elephants and the people of Mali, please consider giving a gift now to help ensure the continuation of these efforts.

Also, consider sharing how working together is the most effective conservation strategy!

The Mali Elephant Project is a joint project of WILD and the International Conservation Fund of Canada, with many other partners, including:




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China to host the 11th World Wilderness Congress in 2019 https://www.wild.org/blog/china-to-host-wild11/ https://www.wild.org/blog/china-to-host-wild11/#respond Thu, 08 Feb 2018 20:38:36 +0000 https://www.wild.org/?p=21998 At a media event in Beijing organized by the Global Times and People’s Daily, China announced it will host the 11th World Wilderness Congress (WILD11) in late 2019!

As China comes to terms with the high ecological cost of rapid industrialization, people around the world are also waking up to the fact that we are in the midst of an ecological crisis, the sixth great extinction. At this singular moment in Chinese and world history, China’s commitment to strengthen international leadership for the protection of wild nature through the WILD11 process promises groundbreaking opportunities for East-West and global coordination on conservation challenges.



Joining the WILD Foundation as “Co-hosts” for WILD11 are the Global Times (of the People’s Daily, the largest media group in China) and the China Institute of Strategy and Management.  “Co-conveners” of the program are Wilderness Foundation Global (Cape Town), the Paulson Institute (China and USA), and Ecoforum Global (China).

“WILD and Wilderness Foundation Global are very enthused and honored that the Chinese government sees the opportunity provided by the World Wilderness Congress process,” said Vance Martin, President of the WILD Foundation. “They cited our on-going emphasis on practical results through global collaboration — across boundaries, barriers, and cultures — as an important aspect of their decision to work through WILD11 to demonstrate their commitment to a new era they call Ecocivilization.”

Joining Chinese organizations in the WILD11 process are dozens of international experts who have committed to the programme and to achieving practical conservation outcomes through this process. These include: the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA); the UN Convention on Biodiversity; Worldwide Fund for Nature (China and the Netherlands); Wild Wonders of China (WILD11 Conservation Photography Partner), Indigenous leaders from numerous cultures across the globe; Rewilding Europe; Tsinghuas University (Beijing); Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Center; Sanctuary Asia (India); and many others.

Vance Martin, President of the WILD Foundation, and leaders from the Global Times, People’s Daily, and the China Institute of Strategy and Management participate in the January 20, 2018 announcement that China will host the 11th World Wilderness Congress in Beijing 2019.


Established in 1977, the World Wilderness Congress has a reputation for inclusivity and practical results as it advances international coordination on the protection of wilderness that also meets the needs of human communities. As the world’s longest-running, public, global environmental project and forum, it has convened on 10 previous occasions, most recently in Spain (WILD10, 2013, Patron Queen Sofia) and in Mexico (WILD9, 2009, Honorary Host President Felipe Calderon).

Harnessing the power of cross-sector collaboration, the World Wilderness Congress involves leaders and citizens from government, business and finance, science, Indigenous and contemporary communities, culture and communications, the humanities, and the arts.  With China as the 11th Congresses host, WILD11 promises to broaden interest and engagement in the conservation of wilderness and spark new opportunities for solutions that sustain nature and strengthen human well-being well into the future.

As the Chinese and international Secretariats are created, details will be formulated on both the lead-up events and the exact dates, goals and programme of WILD11 itself.  Preliminary information and the channel to become involved is available at www.wild11.org.

Visit the WILD11 website

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Citizen science is reigniting our connection to wild nature, and to one another https://www.wild.org/blog/citizen-science-reigniting-our-connection-to-nature/ https://www.wild.org/blog/citizen-science-reigniting-our-connection-to-nature/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:46:39 +0000 http://www.wild.org/?p=21780 Earlier this year, in April, I was working in my office here at the WILD Foundation, when I heard a shriek come from my colleague’s office. Something had flown into Amy’s closed window and startled her. I ran over to observe, and saw some type of raptor on the ground below her office with a struggling robin beneath him. Numerous thoughts and emotions flooded into my mind, ranging from excitement, to sadness for the robin, and curiosity as to what species this raptor was. I snapped a few quick photos to see if I could figure it out.

We had just launched the Wild Boulder citizen science initiative a week before this observation took place, so I did some quick research to share with our online community of naturalists. My best amateur guess was a Peregrine Falcon, based off some images and information I found online. Next, I uploaded the images, species name, location, date, a few quick notes, and posted the observation to the Boulder County Wildlife Project on iNaturalist.

Minutes later, one person confirmed my educated guess. Yes! I was right, it was a peregrine falcon! And then…a wave of corrections came in: it was actually a Cooper’s Hawk.

After the embarrassment of being a total newbie waned, I realized how much I learned in this short period of time. It didn’t matter that I was wrong. What mattered was that I wasn’t alone; I was surrounded by this online network of insightful naturalists who were ready and willing to help me learn.


You don’t have to be a professional naturalist or biologist to become a citizen scientist. By simply contributing wildlife observations to this project and others like it, you’re helping our open space experts better understand local wildlife and landscapes.

Dave Sutherland, an interpretive naturalist for the City of Boulder’s Open Space & Mountain Parks, helps a citizen scientist with a bird identification on a Wild Boulder guided hike.


Many of Wild Boulder’s citizen scientists are doing what they do simply because they have a passion for these wild creatures, and they want to learn from their peers. Earlier this summer on a guided hike WILD co-led with the City of Boulder, one woman told me she had recently acquired a new camera and was taking all these great pictures of local birds and other wildlife… only to find them collecting digital dust in her computer. Now that she had learned about the Wild Boulder project, she was thrilled to know that her observations could be so meaningful, that she now had a purpose, and was able to contribute to something much larger than herself.

One by one, these zealous individuals are using their diverse backgrounds and experiences to help us better understand what our wild neighbors need to thrive in this unique ecosystem we all call home.


Learn about some of our most active citizen scientists:


Pam Piombino (aka “moabgardener) became a bird watcher when she joined a Boulder County Audubon field trip in 1985. For Pam, one of the most wonderful things about being a birder is regardless of where you find yourself in the world, there are new birds to see! Now she admits to being a “birder gone bad” – thanks to her new passion for insects, moths, and butterflies.



Willem van Vliet (aka “willem9”) is a retired mental laborer whose childhood was devoid of even a blade of grass. Now, he’s grateful for opportunities to be an amateur naturalist and has identified the 2nd highest number of wildlife species in the Boulder County project. Willem tells us “Documenting wildlife observations on iNaturalist helps me learn from others kind enough to share their vastly greater experience and expertise.”


Steve Mlodinow (aka “mlodinow”) posts to the Boulder County Wildlife Project so his observations have meaning and he can contribute to our understanding of what species we have in the County, and what changes may be occurring in the area. Birds, geckos, snakes, jumping-mice, insects- you name it, Steve will find them. He currently holds the record for most species identified in our iNaturalist project!



Soren Scott (aka “roomthily”) first picked up a camera after spending time in the Sandias of New Mexico, where he found wildflowers, crossbills, and all these bits of life that he didn’t know about, but wanted to know. Soren is fairly new to Colorado, and is able to overcome the overwhelming variety of butterflies up here by submitting his observations to the Boulder County Wildlife Project on iNaturalist.



Jared Shorma (aka “blazeclaw”) is one of our youngest participants- he’s a junior in high school and currently holds the record for the highest number of observations posted to our project (700+). Jared first found iNaturalist while researching insects he found interesting. Since then he’s accumulated over 3,000 observations to numerous projects, including Boulder County. His photo of a Pseudoscorpion is one of his favorites; it was the first time he ever saw this arachnid and managed to find not one, but two under the same rock!



Working together generates more meaningful and impactful outcomes. As an African Proverb goes, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Not only is this program helping to build an engaged community of citizen scientists, but our land management experts are also learning from the data these individuals are sharing. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons this initiative was established. In addition to deepening community respect for wild nature, Boulder County, the City of Boulder, and the WILD Foundation came together to collaboratively manage this program to help our land managers better understand local wildlife and improve our open space.

The Wild Boulder team at the April 2017 launch event. Face paintings and all!


Each of our three organizations share a common vision: we want our open spaces, wildlife, and human communities to thrive. Boulder County initially launched this iNaturalist project to track the diversity of wildlife and provide learning opportunities. The City of Boulder identified citizen science as one approach in Boulder’s Resilience Strategy, to unite residents to our climate and environment. And the WILD Foundation hopes this program will ignite a new movement of environmental stewards, both here in Boulder, and beyond.


A small handful of Boulder County wildlife observations. From the top left: Great horned owl by the_mothman, Milkweed longhorn beetle by moabgardener, Coyote by cnation, Bull Snake by mlodinow, Red fox by willem9, Northern Flicker by doug_grinbergs, Bold Jumper by andybetter, Bobcat by jimdrew, Blue grosbeak by leahmartinez, Moose by jcharmon, Woodhouses toad by blazeclaw, & Yellow-bellied marmots by roomthily.


Thanks to this thoughtful collaboration, the activities and impacts of the Wild Boulder program are much stronger, and our diverse perspectives allow us to tap into one another’s individual bases of knowledge and experiences. It’s no secret that Boulder County has some of the most diverse wildlife in all of Colorado. What we don’t know just yet is how things like climate change, urban sprawl, fragmentation and degradation, or habitat loss are affecting wildlife behaviors and migration patterns.

That’s where our collaborative is working to make an impact. The Wild Boulder initiative seeks to understand how wildlife is responding to these pressures, and is encouraging residents to take an active role in protecting our wild neighbors and the habitats they depend on. If we don’t have any information about these wild animals, how else can we protect them?


See how WILD is creating big solutions for wild nature



Melanie Hill

Director of Communications & Outreach

Melanie Hill uses her passion for wildlife and collaborative action to empower local communities to peacefully coexist with wild nature. With a background in photography and visual media, she helps to cut through the noise in this era of information overload to educate and connect individuals to meaningful causes.



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What’s more important than a leader? https://www.wild.org/blog/whats-more-important-than-a-leader/ https://www.wild.org/blog/whats-more-important-than-a-leader/#comments Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:15:16 +0000 http://www.wild.org/?p=21774 There’s a video floating around YouTube that was shown to me years ago during a workshop on leadership. It’s of a crowd of people at an outdoor concert, most of which are lounging on blankets watching the show. The camera is focused on one man in particular, not far from where the video-taker is sitting. The man is dancing alone in the middle of the concert-goers who are just sitting, many of whom are staring at the dancing man with a mixture of skepticism, entertainment, and judgement. The video goes on for a bit, watching the man dance by himself, until suddenly a young man joins him and dances with the same abandonment. Not long after him, another person joins, and then two more people, and quickly the solo dancing man is surrounded by 20, 30, 50 others. There comes a point in the video that it seems as though everyone jumps up at once and rushes over to be a part of the dancing – the proverbial snowball effect in action.

The video is narrated to explain leadership and tipping points. What the narrator focuses on, however, is not so much the dancing man but rather the first young person who joined him. He gave life to his ‘movement’ and was who turned other’s looks of judgement into looks of curiosity. His role as the first adopter was as important to the group’s change in behavior, if not more so, as the dancing man himself and each adopter after him added to the momentum until the dancing group took on a life of its own.

I think of this video often, especially when considering how to shift our current modus operandi for youth in the environmental movement.

Mariama Mamane was one of the 2017 UNEP Young Champions of the Earth from Niger. © Crista Valentino

I believe in a world where isolation, lack of guidance, insecurity, and the absence of opportunity are no longer roadblocks for promising young leaders to make an impact on the planet. In this vision, young people worldwide have a voice for change and the tools available to make it happen. This vision is only possible, however, if we have partners committed to supporting the efforts of young people, integrating a youth voice into decision making, and trusting in the skills and abilities youth leaders bring to the table.

This vision isn’t a new one, and we definitely aren’t alone. In 2017, CoalitionWILD has launched a mentorship program in partnership with the United States Department of Interior and delivered the Young Champions of the Earth program with the United Nations Environmental Programme – two opportunities that exemplify how partnerships and collaboration are imperative to growing our reach as a network and our impact as an organization.

The movement is growing. The value of designing programs for youth BY youth is being recognized. The importance of viewing the future of our planet through the eyes of those who will be living on it, taking care of it, and fighting for it is no longer understated. And perhaps most impressively, the confidence that young people have to stand up for what they believe in, demand a seat at the table, and to take charge of the future they envision has expanded exponentially.

CoalitionWILD Director Crista Valentino presents to a class on CoalitionWILD

We will continue to connect these young leaders and equip them to be able to make the greatest impact, wherever they are and in whatever they do. We will share their stories to inspire more action globally, but to also exemplify the power of the next generation not in the future, but here and now. And we will celebrate every time a new young leader joins the CoalitionWILD network, or an innovative yet fledgling idea gets off the ground, or each time we rack up another win for the planet, and we’ll continue to share them as far and wide as we can. Because more than anything, we are hopeful and believe you should be too.

When the WILD Foundation took a stand in October 2013 to make youth not only a focus but an integrated piece of the 10th World Wilderness Congress, they became the dancing man. As CoalitionWILD has grown, developed, and succeeded over the last four years, WILD and CoalitionWILD have attracted more and more early adopters, and no longer dance alone.


See how WILD is creating big solutions for wild nature



Crista Valentino

Program Director, CoalitionWILD

With a professional focus on developing ways to accelerate projects that support a better future for the planet, Crista Valentino works to integrate a new generation of voices into the environmental movement. She is the Founder and Director of CoalitionWILD, a core project of WILD that’s a global initiative to connect and equip the world’s young change makers to create a wilder world.



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133 Conservation Groups Tell Congress: Keep Bikes Out of Wilderness https://www.wild.org/blog/tell-congress-keep-bikes-out-of-wilderness/ https://www.wild.org/blog/tell-congress-keep-bikes-out-of-wilderness/#comments Wed, 06 Dec 2017 15:45:38 +0000 http://www.wild.org/?p=21731 U.S. House hearing on GOP bill opening all Wilderness areas to bikes and other wheeled contraptions is Thursday, December 7th

For more information, please contact: 

Vance Martin, WILD Foundation, vance (at) wild.org

Kevin Proescholdt, Wilderness Watch, 612-201-9266, kevinp (at) wildernesswatch.org

A broad coalition of 133 conservation and Wilderness organizations from across America have asked Congress “to reject an unprecedented call to amend the Wilderness Act to allow for the use of mountain bikes in designated Wilderness.”

The sign-on letter from the 133 organizations was prepared ahead of a December 7th hearing in the U.S. House’s Subcommittee on Federal Lands on a Republican-sponsored bill (H.R. 1349) which would open up all of America’s 110-million acres of Wilderness to mountain bikes and other wheeled contraptions.

Pine Creek Lakes in Montana’s Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness © Melanie Hill

“For over a half century, the Wilderness Act has protected wilderness areas from mechanization and mechanical transport, even if no motors were involved with such activities. This has meant, as Congress intended, that Wildernesses have been kept free from bicycles and other types of mechanization and mechanical transport,” the 133 organizations wrote Congress in a sign-on letter prepared for the December 7th hearing.

A copy of the letter to Congress signed by 133 conservation groups can be viewed here.

“This bill strikes at the core of what wilderness is about, and threatens the heart and letter of the Wilderness Act of 1964,” says Vance Martin, President of WILD. “The Act is very clear about not allowing mechanical access.  Access only by foot, on horseback, or in a canoe is a distinguishing characteristic and what makes wilderness distinct from other protected areas, and thereby better able to safeguard ecological services and biodiversity, and provide solitude and contemplation.”

In the letter to Congress, the 133 conservation groups point out:

“In a seemingly cynical attempt to use people with disabilities as a justification for the bill, the legislation lists ‘motorized wheelchairs’ and ‘non-motorized wheelchairs’ as the first uses to be authorized in the bill (even prior to the listing of ‘bicycles’), despite the fact that the 1990 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have allowed wheelchairs in designated Wilderness for more than a quarter-century.”

HR 1349 supporters erroneously claim that mountain bikes were allowed in Wilderness until 1984, but then banned administratively by the U.S. Forest Service. This claim is simply not true.

Lone Eagle Peak in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness © Melanie Hill

“The 1964 Wilderness Act (36 U.S.C. 1131-1136) banned all types of mechanized transport, including bicycles, in designated Wilderness. Section 4(c) of that act states, “[T]here shall be…no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.” (italics added)

“Mountain bikes are exactly the kind of mechanical devices and mechanical transport that Congress intended to keep out of Wilderness in passing the Wilderness Act. Bicycles have their place, but that place is not inside Wilderness areas,” explained Kevin Proescholdt, Conservation Director of Wilderness Watch, a moving force behind opposition to this bill.

“We believe that this protection has served our nation well, and that the ‘benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness’ would be forever lost by allowing mechanized transport in these areas,” the 133 conservation and Wilderness protection organizations wrote Congress.




Email the House Natural Resources Committee: https://naturalresources.house.gov/contact/

State your opposition TODAY to HR 1349 — no bikes or other mechanized access to wilderness!



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Working together for a wilder China https://www.wild.org/blog/working-together-for-a-wilder-china/ https://www.wild.org/blog/working-together-for-a-wilder-china/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 23:49:16 +0000 http://www.wild.org/?p=21719 My first trip to China was underway and, as the aircraft circled to land at Beijing, I had a second thought (for the third time!) about everything… “Should I be doing this?”

China was a huge mystery to me…yet very appealing. I had never been to China, only to Hong Kong when it was still a colony; only knew about China’s nature conservation through colleagues; and was politically-informed mostly by the western media – which has its own bias, as does all news media, and tends to be superficial and unflattering of China, in general.

Yunnan Province, SW China

However, the challenge was as clear as it was daunting: for wilderness and people to thrive we must commit ourselves to big visions and go where the potential for results is greatest. And what more rewarding sphere of influence than China, where WILD could support, encourage, and assist 20% of the world’s population as they awaken to the awareness of their global footprint and look for proven solutions to become the world’s first “eco-civilization”?

As the plane descended through Beijing’s dense blanket of smog, it was suddenly clear that this is where I needed to be.

There are always issues and misunderstandings when different cultures and politics converge – one need look no further than Europe! China is no different. The politics and cultural mindsets of “the West” and “the Orient” could not be more different, and each must overcome conceptual challenges to find common ground.

With China Institute for Strategy and Management and The Global Times

Nevertheless, I was soon to learn that WILD’s proven approach of “working together” is something the Chinese understand and like, and something they don’t expect when dealing with Westerners. As the next days on that first trip rolled out – followed by many succeeding trips – my hosts and new colleagues grew in confidence that we were there to assist, collaborate, and bring expertise and resources to add to their own priorities. Their response was correspondingly enthusiastic, helpful, and optimistic.

As the relationship deepened, I discovered that I had much to learn.

Though most contemporary Chinese have little understanding of the wilderness concept, and there is yet no recognition of it as a specific type of protected area, the wilderness concept is rooted deeply in China’s culture and history. Over 3000 years ago, Taoist’s demarcated some natural areas for special reverence, as ‘sacred areas’, some of which still exist today within provincial and “national” parks.  But for all practical purposes, the concept and value of wild nature has been mostly left on the roadside as China most recently drove its society forward to economic development, in 35 years moving 300 million rural people upwards into the middle class.

Huanggushou Falls, Guizhou Province

We also learned that China’s people and leaders accept the fact that this drive to economic development had its costs, significant among them being extreme pollution and a disassociation from understanding interdependence with nature and the need for sustainability.

In response to this recognition, President Xi launched a major national policy called ‘Ecocivilization’, involving a serious, long term commitment to creating what China now sees as the 4th era of human development – the progression described as from “Original” Civilization, to Agricultural, to Industrial, to Ecocivilization. The policy rests on the understanding that Ecocivilization must be attained if humankind is to survive and prosper. What’s more, part of this comprehensive policy is the (still clarifying) recognition of “red-line”, sometimes applied to no-development areas.  Another element is the creation (now in-process) of a true national park system with its own mandate and agency, building upon the existing provincial parks (interestingly, some of which have always been called “national” parks).

WILD’s Chinese hosts expressed a deep need for better understanding the basics of a respectful relationship between society and wild nature, and our core, volunteer team of advisors and collaborators expanded. We created the WILD China Project, with major partners the Paulson Institute (based in the US and China), and EcoForum Global, China’s only in-country, annual, national environmental conference and networking process.

Pallas cat, Tibetan Plateau, Qinghai, China. © Staffan Widstrand, Wild Wonders of China

Our goal is to convene WILD11, the 11th World Wilderness Congress, in China in 2019.  This is a complicated process requiring Party approval (not guaranteed!), which is now underway with oversight by one of our very senior collaborators, the Global Times (a division of the People’s Daily, the largest media company in China).

In the meantime, our accomplishments for wild nature continue to emerge in China. For the professionals and scientists, our colleagues at Tsinghua University have committed to an important agenda with us, and have already produced and published both the first-ever inventory of Chinese wilderness (currently being translated into English for the International Journal of Wilderness) and also the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to wilderness. To promote public awareness, the China Institute for Strategy and Management is deeply involved with us and our collaborators to create the first exhibition in China of global wildlife and wilderness art. And much more… such is the way that Chinese do things when they set their minds to it and we all work together.

Nature needs us to work together with China. It is my honor to help facilitate this essential and urgently needed working relationship.

Our deep appreciation  goes to many people in this work, just a very few of whom are Zhang Qian, Karl, Magnus, Staffan (Wild Wonders of China), Rose Niu, Alex Zhang, Zhang Xinsheng, WWF-Netherlands, and Li Quan.


See how WILD is creating big solutions for wild nature



Vance Martin

President of the WILD Foundation

Vance joined WILD as president in 1984 after 15 years in international business and non-profit management. An innovative leader known for bridging the interests of people and nature, he has lived extensively overseas, worked in over 45 countries, and helped to establish many non-profits. An acknowledged expert in international nature conservation and wilderness protection, he serves on the boards of numerous organizations such as the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Friends of Peace Parks, Fulcrum Publishing, Wilderness Foundation (South Africa), Wilderness Foundation (UK), International Conservation Caucus Foundation, and others. He is also the founder and current co-chairman of the IUCN Wilderness Specialist Group, and has edited and authored many publications.



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Working together brings the impossible within reach in Mali https://www.wild.org/blog/working-together-brings-the-impossible-within-reach/ https://www.wild.org/blog/working-together-brings-the-impossible-within-reach/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 16:13:25 +0000 http://www.wild.org/?p=21717 The challenge of operating in the Gourma grows as the jihadist insurgency advances by stealth, tapping into local grievances to expand their influence. This of course runs counter to the Mali Elephant Project’s strategy of bringing diverse groups together to work out transparent and equitable solutions that benefit everyone, including the elephants.  The power of its message, and its continued presence on the ground has built local trust; working together is going to be key to dealing with the latest challenge.

Those of you with good memories will remember that pre-conflict, in 2011, the Mali Elephant Project negotiated an agreement with the local population around Lake Banzena  –  the elephant’s late-dry season watering place – whereby they would leave the lake for elephant use only, in return for relocating to an area outside the elephant range of good pasture and clean water, provided by sinking a solar powered borehole. Unfortunately since then, the solar power infrastructure has been sabotaged repeatedly and the community had to move back to the lake; while the conflict and insurgency opened up social rifts between clans requiring reconciliation work needs to be done.

Lake Banzena

This year the pattern of rainfall has left Lake Banzena only half full and predicted to dry 2 months early leaving no water accessible to elephants for this period. At the same time there is plenty of good pasture to the south of the lake, but little in the areas to the north that receive herds from the inner delta, and to the east and south-east which receive the herds from Niger and Burkina Faso. This means all this livestock will descend on the area close to Banzena.

Perhaps unbelievably there is a solution! If we can rehabilitate 4 water-points around the lake they can provide water for the migratory herds, plus pump water into the lake for the elephants, we can survive this crisis and lay the foundations for a long-term solution that will avoid this situation from happening again. It depends on partnerships and negotiated agreements. If the surrounding communities are provided with water and the means to withstand an influx of livestock, they must also be responsible for ensuring that the water provided at Banzena is left for elephant use only. All these communities have existing resource management systems and the local capacity to do this, but they must work together.

Local communities gather to restore peace in the Gourma, 2015.

They know this and have asked for help. This is not just a one-off initiative as it will lay the foundation for a permanent solution for Banzena. Ideally, we hope to sink four wells at these water points as the most sustainable solution. Manual pumps mean these water-points cannot be sabotaged as solar panels can be, and they are not reliant on a continual provision of fuel required by generator-driven electric pumps. The Mali Elephant Project is working with the government and donors to see whether these wells can fit within existing water-provision programmes. But they key thing is that relationships are going to be key to pull this off.

Learn more about the Mali Elephant Project >

The Mali Elephant Project is a joint initiative of the WILD Foundation and International Conservation Fund of Canada. On-the-ground anti-poaching support for our field rangers is provided by our colleagues at Chengeta Wildlife


See how WILD is creating big solutions for wild nature



Dr. Susan Canney

Project Leader, Mali Elephant Project

Dr. Susan Canney has worked on a variety of nature conservation projects in Africa, Asia and Europe, including living for several years in Niger and Tanzania. In addition to working with WILD, she also collaborates with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) based in Oxford.

She has MAs in Natural Sciences, Landscape Design, and Environmental Policy, and a Doctorate for understanding changing human land use and its impact on a protected area in Tanzania. Her work involves using systems perspectives and collaborative approaches to understand the human-nature relationship and find sustainable solutions to conservation problems. She teaches at University of Oxford and for the Green Economics Institute and is part of Forum for the Future’s ‘Reconnections’ team for business leaders.

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Impossible is just another cop out: 30 years from now, who will believe that we never had a chance to save nature? https://www.wild.org/blog/impossible-is-just-another-cop-out/ https://www.wild.org/blog/impossible-is-just-another-cop-out/#comments Tue, 28 Nov 2017 22:20:34 +0000 http://www.wild.org/?p=21707 Lions, tigers, and pangolins, those dream-like creatures that hardly seem real and are daily becoming less so as they find themselves trafficked into extinction. The Amazon, India, and seventy dozen other landscapes that make possible a fitful coexistence between humans and the eight million species with which we share the planet. A documentary to halt mining in the tundra, a man infiltrating illegal wildlife trafficking networks in Asia, 30 villages fighting off illegal logging in a last-ditch effort to preserve an ancient culture and the rainforest upon which it depends.

All this life, all these places, all this activity, and more, under the darkening shadow of the hardest deadline humanity has ever faced: 2050.

Borneo’s forests are home to one of the world’s remaining pangolin population. Pangolins are the most illegally trafficked animals in the world.

You read that right. We’ve got 30 years: 30 years to save the pangolins and the rhinos and the polar bears; 30 years to sort out how we share the land with the web of life that efficiently manufactures all the things we need most; 30 years to do what we’ve never done before, that is, transform the way seven billion people relate to nature.

And let’s not kid ourselves here, the “we” in this equation is an escape hatch because “we” doesn’t really exist. It’s a cheap trick to shirk responsibility, an adult form of make-believe that encourages the dead-end status quo. “We” is what we say when we haven’t fully committed to the obvious next step.

“We” is gutless. “We” is for wimps.

If we were truly committed, we’d start owning the problem. We’d start saying “I” instead of “we.” We’d ask ourselves, “How can I share the planet with elephants and the tuna and the migratory birds who are dying to the habitat loss that is feeding my family?” We’d ask ourselves, “How can I transform my relationship with nature?” Can you? Can I?

Because when I say “we,” I mean I. I mean you.

The problem with saying “I” is that it makes everything seem so damn impossible and, if we’re being honest, a little bit crazy. “Here I come to save the day!” isn’t done. It isn’t even thought. At least not by sane people over the age of 12. The reason for this is that we’ve told ourselves in this rational age (paradoxically filled with some of the most irrational acts against people and nature) that being realistic is at odds with being a hero. Too frequently, we allow adulthood to strip us of our capacity to think and act big.

But if we never dare to think big and if we don’t liberate ourselves to take on the good fight, no matter the odds, how can we ever hope to solve the biggest problems we have ever faced?

For me, it’s a multi-stage process that starts with “I.” I will protect 50% of the planet by 2050.


That feeling of dread I’m experiencing right now, of powerlessness, of sheer terror – that feeling, it’s okay. It’s a necessary part of the process. Because no one can do that. Not by themselves. Especially not me. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s just not okay to stop there.

Right, so, next step: enlist some help.

I know! I’ll find friends, partners, allies, people from different walks of life who can agree on at least one thing: we need nature, let’s protect it! Then maybe we can identify some easy opportunities and settle on some common objectives, maybe a timeline. It doesn’t have to be big (although it can be!) – it can start in a region, a state, or even a city.

How can I protect nature here? How can we?

In Brazil, women bearing machetes and handwoven baskets journey into the rainforest to sustainably harvest Brazil nuts for trade on the global market. This is one among several sustainable initiatives that is providing the Kayapo with the resources they need to counter the illegal mining and logging that is destroying the Amazonian rainforest. Photo © Cristina Mittermeier

Back when WILD started Nature Needs Half in 2009, we were told that we were thinking too big by some of the very people charged with protecting nature at an international-scale. We were told that a 50% target would make us – would make them – a laughing stock. We were told that little organizations were not fit to chase big visions.

But the reality is, WILD wasn’t chasing anything. We were taking; taking responsibility for a big problem and doing what was necessary to figure out a solution.

Now, Nature Needs Half is a tangible effort, a global ground game in motion, starting with a pilot region in India to be launched this December with the goal of encouraging and supporting Indian leaders in taking their country from five to 40% protected in the next 30 years. Sanctuary Asia, WILD’s long-time partner, is the spear point of this necessary endeavor, and is taking responsibility for pulling together the necessary coalition that will coordinate society-wide action for benefit of people and the wild places upon which we depend. Because it will take a we to accomplish what I want to change. Because “we” is what happens when a bunch of “I’s” consciously work together.

30 years from now, if the oceans have been depleted of fish and the aquifers have been depleted of water and the wildlands have been depleted of animals, no one is going to accept the excuse that there was nothing I could do. They will probably wonder, with disappointment and regret, why I didn’t reach into myself, harness my potential, and grow into the person I needed to be to do the things required of me. They will shake their heads and ask themselves what I could have possibly prioritized over the opportunity of a lifetime to do something truly great.

And I will nod in agreement and ask the same of them.

But that’s not gonna happen. Not on my watch. Not on your watch. And not while Nature Needs Half continues to expand its reach and mobilize more and more regions into coordinated action for the defense of nature and the life that depends upon its survival. Because together, we have drawn a single conclusion. Together, we know, that I have hope.


See how WILD is creating big solutions for wild nature



Amy Lewis

Vice President of Development & Communications, WILD Foundation

Utilizing the power of strategic communications and storytelling, Amy Lewis designs solutions that expand and intensify actions for the benefit of nature. She is the chief communication and development officer for the WILD Foundation, and has committed herself to the global endeavor to defend nature and restore a healthy and respectful relationship between man and nature.




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The Amazon is calling, will you pick up? https://www.wild.org/blog/the-amazon-is-calling/ https://www.wild.org/blog/the-amazon-is-calling/#respond Wed, 25 Oct 2017 14:59:31 +0000 http://www.wild.org/?p=21641 The Field Guide to Nature Needs Half, Part 4



Click here to find the previous installment of the Nature Needs Half Field Guide to the Kayapo Project.


This is the fourth installment of a five-part series featuring a partner project in the Nature Needs Half Network. Each installment will run weekly, and every month we will spotlight a different member of the Network to reveal how their work is connecting nature across the planet for the benefit of all life on Earth and to ensure that we achieve our goal of 50% protected by 2050.


For more information about this project, please contact jackieb@natureneedshalf.org


Summary: Who does the Amazon belong to? As of this moment, the Kayapo steward much of the land there, but illegal industries are threatening to destroy this irreplaceable habitat that houses a third of Earth’s plants and animals. And that has consequences for all of us. If they Kayapo are to succeed, they need our help. Discover how you can become a part of the international team strengthening Kayapo territory and preserving the life-giving rainforest for all life on Earth.


Learn more about Nature Needs Half


“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” – Edward Abbey

You wish to fill your belly so you head outside the protective ring of the village, down to where the land ends until you can go no further. Standing on the shore of the great river, its waters lapping against your bare toes, you face the current. You notice the fallen fragments of the forest, swift and glittering, sailing downstream before they vanish from your view altogether.

Then you draw your weapon. Maybe it’s a bow, maybe it’s a spear. It matters not. Your muscles have a memory of their own. In minutes you pull your first catch of the day from the dark waters, and smile.

The river is abundant. Your family will eat tonight.

Abundance of fish from the Amazon River. Photos: Martin Schoeller

You hunt awhile longer, until filled with the satisfaction that you have sufficient food to feed the ones you care about most. Content, you traverse the land back to the village, silent except for the exhalation of your breath, listening to the howling, chirping, screeching life all around you. And you give thanks. For even as you carry fish back to your family you also carry within your beating heart the truth that you belong to this forest, this river, this place, and once again this place has provided for you.

You also know that when the time comes you will fight like hell to defend it from certain destruction.

This is the singular truth of the Kayapo. It is for this reason why this fragile ecosystem thrives under their care.

But the truth carried by one individual, one village, one tribe is not enough to defend the Amazon from illegal industries profiting from its devastation. The Kayapo’s truth must be shared beyond the forest’s frontier and beyond the boundaries of any one country. Their truth must become our truth.

It must become your truth.

NGOs have played a crucial role in providing the Kayapo people with the tools to withstand the industrial onslaught that threatens to deprive them of both autonomy and land. But without the continued support of a growing international community, their stewardship of the rainforest will become ever more precarious.

Kayapo man with his fish from the day. Photo: Martin Schoeller

Already, the danger around them grows. Changes in the Brazilian government forebode dark times ahead for the Kayapo and all of Brazil’s Indigenous land stewards. More than ever, they need our support. They need your support.

This protection isn’t just for them, it’s for us, for the entire world. Without sharing in the special relationship the Kayapo have with their land, we still rely on the healthy functioning of these ecosystems to provide us with climate stability. The gifts that come from the Amazon rainforest are not restricted to the 11 million square hectares of Kayapo country. They are experienced by all of us. We may not have the same relationship with the rainforest that the Kayapo do, but just like for them, it provides for us too.

And like them, we might consider giving thanks for the land, and readying ourselves for its defense.

For starters, we can support the work of those who are, at great personal risk, building coalitions between Indigenous groups, like the Kayapo and western NGOs. Without this collaboration there is little hope for the protection of the rainforest. Nature Needs Half fosters these alliances around the world, in the Amazon and in other places including India’s tiger landscape, and builds strong networks that create a web of hope for years to come.

Kayapo children playing in the village. Photo: Martin Schoeller

Working together is the natural first step to saving nature.

Here’s how you can work with the Kayapo Project to strengthen their stewardship of the land and protect the Amazonian rainforest.



The Kayapo Project remains effective because of the generous support of its partners and sponsors including:

Your help bringing greater awareness to the efforts of the Indigenous peoples who are defending the rainforests for the benefit of all life on Earth is essential. Please consider sharing the image below with your networks on social media. Thank you!

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