2017 has been a very busy year for in addition to MKF’s various activities and our conservation related trips, it is also this year that Steppenwolf celebrates its 50th Anniversary. Yes, it was that many years ago that 5 young guys formed a band that still performs, albeit at this point primarily to keep this foundation funded. The highlight of this celebration took place in August at the fabled Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN. Steppenwolf loyalists from across North America & Europe came to be part of this commemorative and memorable concert.
But despite some extra ‘Wolf’ performances this year, we managed to travel to new destinations and make the acquaintance of some dedicated and inspiring people. In search of the Northern Lights we made our way to Churchill Manitoba in February and were not disappointed, for we saw some spectacular displays. But Churchill is of course known for the Polar Bears that wait in early Winter for Hudson Bay to freeze, so they can roam the ice to hunt for Seals. In the Summer the Bay is home to Beluga Whales and visitors by the hundreds come each year to see the Bears and Whales. Unfortunately, the rail line from Winnipeg to Churchill, the indispensable life line for this town – there are no highways to Churchill - has stopped operating and is in danger of being abandoned with no solution offered so far. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the line will be rescued and operations restored so that Churchill may survive and continue to show its living treasures to those who care to learn about these iconic but threatened animals.
Not very long after returning from the frozen north we made the acquaintance of Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation: https://bornfreeusa.wixsite.com/home and learned more about its continuing efforts and campaigns to preserve and protect wildlife around the world. Not surprisingly we found that we were very much of one mind regarding this endless battle.
After a couple of Wolf play dates in early May, we joined some fellow NRDC supporters for a few days of hiking in Yellowstone Nat. Park. We had been invited by Joel Reynolds (NRDC’s Western Director, co-author of “War of the Whales” and participant in the award winning film “Sonic Sea” http://sonicsea.org/ ) to stay at the nearby B Bar Ranch with the other participants in this special event. We were in excellent company and learned much – after our daily hiking - about the NRDC’s ongoing conservation efforts and battles in the greater Yellowstone eco system. Before our departing flight out of Bozeman we met with Todd Wilkinson, writer of “Last Stand”, a book about ‘the inner Ted Turner’ and conservationist, a truly inspiring tome that can lift one’s spirits that all is not lost…….yet. By coincidence Mr. Turner was also having Lunch at the same establishment, not surprising for we were in ‘Ted’s Grill’ after all. Todd introduced us and after chatting with him briefly we returned to our table to let Mr. Turner have his privacy. Todd Wilkinson is a long time conservationist writer focused primarily on the Yellowstone Eco System and recently launched the online publication Mountain Journal http://mountainjournal.org/ MoJo for short. His energy and passion for preserving our national treasures and wildlife is infectious and we plan to work with Todd on a joint project in the near future.
After a fairly busy Summer of performing with The Wolf, we returned to Jackson Hole, this time not only for its Wildlife Film Festival, but also for the ‘Big Cat Conservation Summit’ which preceded it. While attending the JHFF is always a most enjoyable, enriching experience, this year’s Big Cat Summit was particularly rewarding. Two people, who are very dear to us and whose films and conservation efforts we so admire, namely Dereck & Beverly Joubert were in attendance. Yes, seeing their new film “Tribe versus Pride” – about Lion conservation efforts focused on redirecting the traditional Maasai young Warriors need to prove their manhood by killing a Lion, into the recently created “Maasai Olympics” www.maasaiolympics.com was, as is the case with all their films, captivating and a learning experience. But what made seeing Dereck & Beverly so astonishing was simply that they were there, for earlier this year Beverly had been attacked and gored by a Cape Buffalo Bull and Dereck was also severely injured, while rescuing Beverly. She nearly lost her life and went through weeks of recovery, multiply operations and more. In short, to see them, looking as good as ever, after such a relatively short period of healing, was absolutely the most emotional and gratifying moment of our return to Jackson Hole this year. Knowing they are back in Botswana, no doubt working on yet another exceptional film, well it makes us smile just thinking about it. Until the next post, stay well & stay wild everyone. JK & JMK
In early October we again attended the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo in San Francisco. WCN supports many independent wildlife conservationists, such as ‘Save The Elephants’, who work to save endangered animals – from African Painted Dogs to Spectacled Bears - in 37 countries. Many of these conservationists attend the annual Expo to exhibit their films and give presentations. At last year’s Expo, for example, we learned about the Saola, called the last Unicorn, a large highly threatened beautiful antelope which barely survived in the mountains between Vietnam and Laos, despite the heavy bombing of the region during the Vietnam war. It was just one of several new discoveries we encountered at the 2015 Expo. So when WCN’s CEO Charles Knowles ask JK to perform with “Notorious”, a fine regional band, at this year’s pre-Expo welcome party we made our way to the Bay area once again. The party was attended by numerous donors and conservationists, the band and JK’s performance were well received and a good time was had by all that night. But the really important event was the Expo itself of course, which took place the next day. Approximately 40 conservationist NGOs manned their booths and provided information concerning their purpose and campaigns. Whether on behalf of Lions, Grevy’s Zebras, Cheetahs, Okapis, Polar Bears, Snow Leopards, Penguins or other animals in dire need of protection, all representatives passionately explained what’s at stake, often using film footage to illustrate the urgency of their mission. One of the presentations of particular interest to us was given by the ‘Wild Dog Conservation’, headquartered in Zimbabwe. After numerous trips to Africa we finally had our first encounter with these fascinating wild dogs during our stay at Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu last May. We also met several conservationists from different parts of the world, including two women from Uzbekistan who work on behalf of the Saiga Antelope which is in steep decline in its Central Asian and Russian homeland. Altogether WCN’s Expo was once again energizing and inspirational and we hope its roughly 1000 attendees will spread their gained knowledge and awareness and promote much needed support for the non-profits dedicated to preserving and protecting the many creatures at risk. We encourage you to visit https://wildnet.org to see the various wildlife programs WCN supports. You may find that the plight of a certain animal, perhaps the Cotton-top Tamarin, or the Ethiopian Wolf, - just two of the dozen or so animals listed – inspires you to support the people who fight for its survival. JK & JMK
In previous visits to Africa we have enjoyed numerous extraordinary encounters with elephants none of which however can match what we experienced in May at the Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu, Kenya. Last September at the Elephant Summit in Jackson Hole we promised Iain Douglas Hamilton his daughter Saba and Frank Pope that we would come to Samburu to learn more about Save the Elephants and also to mingle with the elephants there. Iain is of course the renowned elephant research pioneer and founder of Save the Elephants where his son-in-law Frank Pope is chief of operations, while Saba Douglas Hamilton operates Elephant Watch Camp, one of the most enchanting camps we have visited in Africa to date. However, our journey began with a visit to the baby orphan elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's nursery in Nairobi National Park. After spending some time with the infant elephants in the bush we looked in on Dame Daphne and Angela Sheldrick as well as Robert Hartley Carr, Angela's husband. We were glad to see that Dame Daphne, who had been quite ill last year, was in good health and spirits. After a most pleasant visit with the Sheldricks we flew to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, one of our favorite places in East Africa which MKF has supported for many years. We spent a few days immersed in Lewa's serene beauty while enjoying its spectacular, diverse wildlife. Because of Lewa's crack security forces there has not been a single case of elephant poaching at Lewa for several years. As a result, the elephants at Lewa were relaxed and quite comfortable in our presence and as always, a joy to behold. On the morning of our departure Joseph, our excellent guide, drove us from Lewa House to Elephant Watch Camp where Saba and her Samburu staff gave us a warm welcome. We soon went out on a game drive and almost immediately came across a herd of elephants, in fact we were practically engulfed by them. It is truly remarkable how accustomed these elephants are to the Elephant Watch Camp vehicles and the Samburu guides. There were moments when we felt like we had become part of their herd and we were absolutely elated with our first encounter. The next day Iain, his wife Oria and Frank arrived at camp. Over dinner we caught up with, amongst other things, the state of Africa's elephants, particularly those in Samburu, the ongoing research of Save the Elephants and the wide ranging projects one of its major campaigns, The Elephant Crisis Fund. Aware of our interest Iain offered to provide more insight and invited us to join him next day at the Save the Elephants Research Camp. We learned much during our visit there because Iain was not only very generous with his time but also agreed to do a short on camera interview which you can view here. During the following days we spent many blissful hours in the company of various elephant families and herds. We watched – you can see some of this in the video clip - as families gathered by the river, then crossed over to the opposite side while other groups came from the opposite side towards them. All stopping in the middle of the river to greet one another for a brief family reunion. Words are inadequate to describe the emotions that overwhelm you when observing such a spectacle of the truly born to be wild. It is indeed a great privilege to be in their presence, particularly considering what human kind has done to their kind for countless years. While the battle to protect Elephants continues it is comforting to know that in Samburu they are thriving in great part due to Save the Elephants efforts and we’re glad that MKF is one of Save the Elephants supporters. Please consider joining the herd by becoming a fellow donor. Simply click this link to: savetheelephants.org and lend a hand. JK & JMK
We recently received "Inherit The Dust" a deeply affecting book of images by photographer Nick Brandt. It is the final sequel to the trilogy of his previous books "On This Earth" - "A Shadow Falls" - "Across The Ravaged Land" which contain stunning, unsurpassed portraits - shot between 2000 and 2012 - of Africa's vanishing wildlife, in what was then still natural habitat. In 2014 Nick returned to Africa and erected - in the same, by now devastated, shooting locations - enormous, printed panels of the animal photos featured in these books. He then photographed the resulting incongruous, disturbing settings, which comprise the images of "Inherit The Dust". To see these big as life images of Elephants, Rhinos, Lions, Chimpanzees and others, placed in the same locations where these photos were taken a few years ago, locations which are now garbage dumps, factories and other degraded areas, mere words are inadequate to describe the visceral impact of viewing what once was, now is lost and continues to rapidly disappear. Nothing we have seen to date more powerfully illustrates the desperate need to protect what still remains of the natural world and its wildlife. As co-founder of BIG LIFE, which of course is all about conservation, Nick Brandt is acutely aware of this and is doing more than his share to stem the tide. Please visit NickBrandt.com on your computer - the small screens of mobile devices can't do the images justice - and view these poignant images yourself for merely describing them is wholly inadequate. If you are deeply affected by the viewing - as we believe you will be - then please send the NickBrandt.com link to your friends and contacts so that this important work has a chance of forging greater public awareness of the rapid, ongoing destruction and urgent need of support for those fighting to protect what remains of our natural world and its wildlife. JK & JMK
We've been on the go the last few weeks - first the Elephant Summit & Wildlife Film Festival in Jackson Hole, then the Lewa USA fundraiser Gala in NYC, followed by the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo in San Francisco, that why this post - intended for September - had to wait until now. The Elephant Summit commenced at Jackson's Center For The Arts with the screening of "Soul Of The Elephant", the newest work by acclaimed film makers Dereck & Beverly Joubert. The showing of this absolutely spellbinding film was preceded with an acoustic solo performance by JK and followed with an onstage conversation between Dereck, Beverly, Cynthia Moss (Amboseli Trust for Elephants) and Joyce Poole (Elephant Voices). Much was discussed and much was learned about the state of the Elephant that evening. The following days were filled with numerous presentations, group discussions and additional screenings of Elephant focused films. It was truly a Summit of many of the most distinguished people and NGOs engaged in the study, protection and conservation of Elephants. Among these were, Iain and Saba Douglas Hamilton and Frank Pope of 'Save The Elephants', the aforementioned Cynthia Moss and Joyce Poole, John Hemingway (filmmaker of "Battle For The Elephants" and the recently broadcast "Warlords Of Ivory") and Paula Kahumbu, both of 'Wildlife Direct', Pat Awori 'Pan African Wildlife Conservation Network', Winnie Kiiru 'Conservation Kenya', Ginger Thomson 'Lewa USA', Jeffrey Parish 'Wildlife Conservation Network', Peter Knights 'Wild Aid' as well as representatives from NGOs such as WWF (World Wildlife Fund), IFAW (International Fund For Animal Welfare) etc. Also in attendance was Greg Carr who's 'Gorongosa Restoration Project' in Mozambique is one of the most ambitious conservation efforts ever undertaken. This enormous project - the restoration of Gorongosa Park after the almost total extermination of its wildlife during Mozambique's 15 year long civil war - has resulted in the successful reintroduction of numerous species in Gorongosa. The park's wildlife population is now over 20,000 strong. This was documented in the inspiring film "Gorongosa Park - Rebirth Of Paradise'" recently shown on PBS. The Summit was followed by the Wildlife Film Festival which had over 800 participants including well known producers like Disney-Nature, BBC and National Geographic but also numerous independent companies. Collectively several hundred films were submitted for consideration. Being immersed in such a multitude of committed people, during the Summit as well as the Festival, had a profoundly energizing effect on us. We made some new connections with several conservationists and were greatly encouraged by their enthusiasm and dedication. Towards the end of the Festival a 'come one, come all' BBQ sponsored by the National Geographic Wild Channel, with the theme of "Born To Be Wild", was held in nearby Moose, yes that's right Moose. JK got into the spirit of the event and performed a couple of Steppenwolf songs with the very able and versatile 'Snake River Band'. This was met with great applause and lots of action on the dance floor and was decidedly a highlight of the evening. The last Festival screening we attended was "Racing Extinction" a most sobering film about the deplorable rapid decline of wildlife everywhere and an urgent wake up call. The film showed this phrase projected onto the UN Building "The whole world is singing, but we have stopped listening". Let us hope that it's not too late for us to remember how. Next post we'll cover the Lewa USA and WCN Expo events. Until then: JK & JMK