Since our Baja Gray Whale adventure in February, we’ve become more and more connected to the wildlife and conservation community. This is in great part due to our friend Ann Smith who is a tireless facilitator and fund raiser for wildlife causes. We met Ann in January while visiting the Orangutan Foundation International in Borneo and discovered that we shared a passion for wildlife conservation. She knows and supports many of MKF’s beneficiaries in East Africa and has introduced us to several more. We recently added Big Life: www.biglife.org to MKF’s list of recipients. Founded by renowned wildlife photographer Nick Brandt - whose stunning books of wildlife portraits we collect - Big Life’s trained and armed rangers have helped reduce Elephant poaching in Kenya and Tanzania, including Kenya’s Amboseli Park, where Cynthia Moss has been studying Elephants for 40 years. In June Jutta reconnected with Cynthia while both were in Jackson Hole as guests of Ann Smith and MKF now supports Cynthia’s Amboseli Trust for Elephants: www.amboselitrust.org also. Shortly before our September departure for Namibia, Ann and Imaging Spence, another new friend, invited us to join them in Jackson Hole during the Wildlife Film Festival, where our Heroine Dame Daphne Sheldrick (of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya) was to receive the Teton Outstanding Achievement Award in Conservation.
In order to be there for the celebration, we flew from Namibia straight to Jackson Hole, it took 5 flights and 2 days to do it, but we made it, as did our luggage, amazing. In any case we had an absolutely marvelous time witnessing Dame Daphne’s special moments as well as meeting others whose work we greatly admire. Among these were John Hemmingway, whose National Geographic film “Battle for the Elephants” we had previously seen and Dereck & Beverly Joubert, whose astounding documentaries about Lions in Botswana, particularly their recent release “The Last Lions”, we have also greatly enjoyed. Dereck & Beverly previewed a yet to be completed film about Lions, which had an enormous effect on the audience. They are a most dedicated and charming couple and were a pleasure to meet and speak with. Another champion of wildlife, photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols, gave a presentation in Santa Barbara recently, where we were delighted to make his acquaintance. His newest book “Earth to Sky” – filled with his extraordinary images and quotes by various lovers of Elephants - encapsulates the current sad state and plight of the Elephant perfectly. All of the above mentioned men and women are engaged in the endless battle to preserve what remains of our wild living treasures and we feel honored to have made their acquaintance. Fortunately there are also major players joining the fight against Elephant and Rhino poaching and the illegal animal trade in general. The Clinton Global Initiative has committed 80 million dollars for additional rangers to be trained and equipped in Africa and the British Army has just announced it will send a contingent to Kenya to assist the Kenyan Wildlife Service. Meanwhile, Chinese Basketball star Yao Ming continues to promote the anti poaching message in his home country, which is a major recipient of ivory and Rhino horn. On November 14 the US Fish & Wildlife Service – on order to set an example and send a message - will destroy all US confiscated Ivory on hand. These are just a few positive developments which help keep our spirits afloat and our hopes alive. JK & JMK