We check in with Corie Knights on the work WildAid and the WildAid conservation travel partners are accomplishing in Kenya and Tanzania.
Since 2000 WildAid has made it their mission to end the illegal wildlife trade. To highlight the importance of their work and showcase some of their various conservation projects, Corie Knights leads donors’ trips around the world each year. In June she and her husband Peter, who founded WildAid, traveled to Kenya and Tanzania with Ker & Downey and 11 philanthropists to visit some of their partner conservation projects and check in on the progress their partnership is making. Corie sat down with us to share details of their journey with heart.
What were the highlights of your trip?
We saw hundreds of elephants in Tarangire in Tanzania; met Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino at Ol Pejeta; visited the chimps that have been rescued at the Sweetwaters sanctuary; checked in with the rangers at Ol Jogi (my heroes), to see how well baby Mei Mei, the once-blind baby rhino, is progressing (she is not blind anymore); had an up close and personal meeting in the hide at Ol Jogi with a rhino (who did not know we were there); and took a balloon ride over the Maasai Mara with hundreds of wildebeest and zebra below us. A beautiful leopard who came very close to our vehicle in the Mara.
What conservation projects did you visit at each property?
We met with four of our partner projects in Tanzania and Kenya.
While at Oliver’s Camp, we visited PAMS Foundation, which provides conservation support in Tanzania. The funds raised by the WildAid donors’ trips will be used to engage communities in reducing human-wildlife conflict in the Tarangire-Manyara region with the use of chili and beehive fences to help keep elephants away from crops, and conducting conservation education activities in local schools adjoining Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks.
At Ol Pejeta Bush Camp, we visited Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy, the largest black rhino sanctuary in EastAfrica, and home to the last three northern white rhinos on the planet. Because of its success, Ol Pejeta’s conservation model will be replicated at the adjacent 20,000-acre Mutara Conservation Area with funds from this donor trip. A 40km solar-powered perimeter fence will be installed, a rhino protection unit for the area will be established, and neighboring pastoral communities will be engaged to enhance the long-term sustainability of the area.
At Ol Jogi, we met with the Ol Jogi Ranger Patrol. The trust placed in the rangers is enormous. The temptation to receive large sums of money from poaching gangs for information as to the whereabouts of the rhino is huge; nearly all incidents of poaching in recent times can be attributed to inside information given to incoming gangs. As such, it is vital to keep the rangers safe and motivated, both for their own welfare and for the welfare of the iconic species they risk their lives to protect. Funds raised through WildAid will be used for professional anti-poaching training for four commanders and twenty-four rangers in the Ol Jogi rhino protection unit, as well as upgrading radio communications from analog to digital.
At the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park, funds will be used to support the activities of the new Mobile Response Team and nine fully-equipped Anti-Poaching Teams operating across the greater Tsavo Conservation Area and surrounding regions. They work to eradicate poaching for commercial bushmeat, ivory and rhino horn within operational zones by deterring poachers through patrols and on-the-ground presence, snare removal, and reducing illegal cattle grazing and charcoal burning. Over the past 15 years alone, the DSWT’s Anti-Poaching teams have removed in excess of 150,000 illegal snares and arrested more than 1,700 poachers.
What do you hope to accomplish with these donor trips?
We hope to raise much-needed funds for our “Poaching steals from us all” campaign and with these local projects really immerse our biggest supporters in what we do and why we do it.
Wild-Aid’s To-Do List for 2018
For April 2018, we have a trip to the Galapagos planned on “WildAid’s Passion” a 12 passenger, 14-crew luxury yacht.
June 15th-25th, 2018 we will be traveling with Ker & Downey back to Kenya to visit the projects listed above and Amboseli Trust for Elephants, helmed by Dr. Cynthia Moss.
July 22-26th, 2018 we will host our 9th annual whale shark trip in Mexico. We swim with hundreds of whales sharks and if we are lucky, giant manta rays. We bring National Geographic level underwater photographers with us to catch people up close with these gentle giants.
And in September/October, we will return to Kenya with Ker & Downey. Those dates are still to be confirmed. So, stay tuned.
To get involved with WildAid’s projects and keep up to date with the work they’re doing with their WildAid conservation travel partners, head to their website www.wildaid.org and sign up to receive their online newsletters.