Animal Avengers is heading back to Africa!
It's time for me to jump onto another flight (yes, still on my own dime) and head back to Africa. There's so much going on there & so many people who need our help. I realized on my last trip how truly isolated people there can be. A lot of the places I would visit in the bush had little to no internet access. And cell service was often weak at best. So they really do depend on us to share their stories and work with the world. They need us desperately to support their projects as well. And I can tell you...I met a lot of people doing really great work to save our animals, the communities around them and ultimately our ecosystem and planet!
What will I do with the funds?
There are so many organizations and things they need. I want to make a list and try to include a little for a lot of people. Then I'll explain more about who they are and what they do underneath it.
- Armasight Zeus Thermal Imaging Sight...$3,886.19 (for Pit-Track K-9 Anti-Poaching Unit)
- Helicopter Fuel...$2,000 (Flying For Freedom South Africa)
- Milk For The Rhino Orphans...$2,000/month (for Rhino Pride Foundation)
- Bio Lion Centrifuge Capillary Tube Rotor...$935.00 (for AWARE Trust vets)
- Bus Trip for Kids in Kenya to See the Rhino For The First Time & Learn About Them in the Masai Mara...$800 (Friends Of Conservation)
- Equipment for Rangers in Training...quote coming (South African Wildlife College)
- Ranger Wellness Kits...quote coming (Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust)
A bit about each organization
Pit-Track K-9 Anti-Poaching Unit
I met a lot of different anti-poaching teams while in Africa, and I have to say, so far, this is my favorite! These guys are fairly new to the scene, understand how poachers think and operate extremely well, and use dogs to assist them. These dogs are great. Some are rescues, and they are so well loved and trained.
I went out on a night patrol with them & I'll tell ya - if you ever go out into the bush in pitch black darkness...you'll be really glad you have some well trained, highly alert dogs with you. The movements of the dogs, their ears, their looks truly become your eyes and ears in the bush when you can't see anything. Imagine being surrounded by animals that you can't see, potentially poachers and only moonlight to guide you. It's not an easy job. The top "ask" on the Amazon Wish List these guys sent me is a thermal imaging sight. I experienced first hand how much this will come in handy for them. So one way or another, I will be going back with one to assist their efforts and hopefully save lives-potentially their own as well as the rhino!
Flying For Freedom South Africa
Tokkie Botes has become an integral part in the fight against rhino poaching. He has sponsored his Bel 206 helicopter with 100's of hours flying time and assisted in flying forensic teams to rhino carcasses in the Kruger Park. He really understands the magnitude of this struggle against poachers and the impact on the future of the rhino in South Africa.
Tokkie took me up in his helicopter just to give me a taste of what he does and what he's able to see on the ground. Helicopters are crucial in the bush. They are the quickest way to bring medical care to a hurt animal, examine a fresh a poaching crime scene or even scour a property for poachers.
Getting to a crime scene within the first 6 hours of a poaching gives you the best chance of collecting evidence, like DNA, in hopes of a real conviction. Crime scene experts can only reach 2-3 carcasses a day by car. But with a helicopter, 9-10 carcasses can be examined over a much more spread out diameter. There are so many poachings per day that many never get properly examined or recorded. But with Tokkie's help and our support, more can potentially be done. The more a poacher can get convicted to a real sentence, the more animals are saved that would have been his future victims.
Rhino Pride Foundation
Started by South African vet, Dr. Jana Pretorius, Rhino Pride has big aspirations and future plans to protect the rhino. Jana is currently attending to hundreds of animals in the bush, and she personally cares for over 40 rhinos daily. Three of these rhinos are orphaned babies who lost their mothers to poachers. They get milk twice a day and the expenses for the formulas are astronomical. It comes out to about $2,000 to give all three of them the milk they need for one month only.
One of these babies is named Lizzie, after me. The least I can do is get the milk formula these angels need. I have given them all hugs and kisses. Now my goal is to feed them. And if you haven't heard a rhino baby cry for their milk, it's the sweetest sound you may ever hear. It melts your heart.
Friends Of Conservation
I met this group on my recent visit to Washington, D.C. They have a great program where they enable Maasai (Maasai is the local tribe) children to experience and learn about their rich natural heritage as international visitors do, and see first-hand the economic benefit that sustainable tourism provides. FOC Conservation Clubs have engaged more than 40,000 Maasai children in hands-on activities that put them on a path toward responsibly stewarding this global treasure.
They have invited me to go on one of the "Rhino Watch" field trips with the children and experience all of their programs in Kenya. This field trip is important for so many reasons. Being in a vehicle for the first (and sometimes only) time, kids will learn about the critically endangered Black Rhinoceros and African Elephant, and their role and significance to the Mara ecosystem and the amazing biodiversity found there.
But instead of just experiencing with them, I'd like to be able to sponsor a bus of kids to participate in this amazing conservation program they are running. Involving community and teaching them the value of the animals alive is imperative to their survival! Otherwise, it's easy for a local to turn to poaching. If they're not invested in their surrounding community, then why would they care otherwise? I realized so many villages never get to see the animals, or even know what they are. So this program they are running is something I can fully back and support. I was planning on starting my journey in Kenya anyway, so I would go and work with the kids right after the ivory burn at the end of April.
I had the honor of meeting Keith and Lisa from AWARE on my last trip to Zimbabwe. We have been working to buy them two elephant tracking collars from the last fundraiser. It's been quite a process, as all kinds of permits and import duties are involved. But it looks like the collars are finally in! I am awaiting photos and verifying their current needs.
Keith and Lisa are vets in Zimbabwe who donate so much of their time to caring for the animals throughout their country. They run all types of campaigns ranging from research, education, prophylactic and rehabilitation, among many others.
The work they do is vital to the animals and the country, and they really need our support.
Tikki Hywood Trust
The Trust operates as a 24 hour wildlife rescue centre and are available to advise or assist wild animal cases around Africa and the globe. In addition to these conservation efforts, they run successful captive breeding and release programs throughout Zimbabwe in an effort to augment dwindling wild populations.
Lisa Hywood who runs the trust is an angel who not only rehabilitates pangolin, the most poached mammal in the world, but literally writes the book on wildlife legislation in her country. The work she does is tireless and endless.
I hope to be able to bring a little bit of light to her organization so the world can see the amazing work she's doing. I asked Lisa for a list of some of what she needs, and at the top of her list is a pangolin tracking device. When releasing animals back into the wild it's crucial to be able to keep an eye on them for health and research purposes. Having just gone through this process with AWARE, I know what a long road getting a device can be. I hope to be able to raise what she needs so we can show her the world is watching and say "thank you" for everything she is doing.
South African Wildlife College
Have you ever wondered how one becomes a ranger? Well, if you live in South Africa, one may just be going to this college for their studies. A new group of 120 students were just admitted into their ranger training school and they won't be graduating until February 2017. Many of their pupils are coming from very poor backgrounds and circumstances. To even have a toothbrush or a bar of soap for some is a luxury.
I found out from my last trip that because of the volume of product they need, it's best that I buy everything for this group locally in South Africa. So they are sourcing materials for me right now and as soon as I get the scoop, I will update the information here.
All I know is that I'm grateful for the work they're doing and want to support these guys, and girls, in whatever ways I can. They are literally thrown into battle in Kruger Park for on the job training in a very dangerous war. These are the people protecting our animals, ecosystem and planet. They need us as much as we need them. (Little side note...if you saw the pics of Prince Harry recently in Kruger inspecting some rhino corpses, I saw that he was with the director of this college. See, we're all connected and have to work together.)
Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust
The funding for the national parks in South Africa has been severely cut back by the government. The only way for the animals to be properly protected and cared for is for privately run non-profits to take over when their public funding has run dry. Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust was set up to assist the national park there with their efforts. Pilanesberg National Park is home to 7000 animals, 300 bird species, and more than 200km of roads. So the Trust has been critical to the survival of many of these animals within the park.
If any of you were following the story of Shannon, the rhino, online (along with her friend Elizabeth), these were the guys who were keeping an eye on those two. Shannon was in Pilanesberg and had been shot in the leg by a poacher. While her leg was healing, something happened and it ended up breaking. They called in Dr. Johan Marais from Saving The Survivors who ended up putting the first ever known rhino cast on her leg. Great parks work with great doctors and organizations...all connected!
The rangers in the park often feel very secluded and give everything for very little in return. Yet they truly need so much more than they have. They are in the line of fire and trying to protect these beautiful animals, but often have very little to eat or possibly even wear, especially during the rainy seasons.
I have asked them what they need. They are putting something together for me and as soon as I get that list, I will update the information on here.
There may still be some other organizations I'd like to help this trip. I can already think of a few. But this is a good start. As I get in touch with others and see what they need, I can add to this list. If not, then everything we raise will just be able to buy more for the people listed. We all have to stick together and help each other. Isn't that what life's all about after all? We're here to love each other-and try not to destroy this beautiful planet and all of the gifts of life that we share it with.
Transparency From The Last Fundraiser
As promised, I have been hard at work trying to make sure everything is listed and accounted for on our website from the last fundraiser I held. I have set up a page that shows, in detail, everything that has been spent or is in the process of being spent. It will be an ongoing page with constant updates as we go.
To see how the funds have been spent thus far, please go to our TRANSPARENCY page now.