Our 2014 Report: The year started with a visit to the Patagonia regions of Argentina & Chile. While this South American trip was not made on behalf of MKF, we could not help but notice that the Chilean glaciers seem to be in retreat and that the various Penguin varieties – particularly the Magellanic Penguins – are struggling to maintain their numbers. We were able to observe these endearing creatures up close and were of course charmed by them. There is research in progress to mitigate their decline and reverse the trend. We hope these efforts will result in their recovery and that their numbers will stabilize. Between March and August JK & Steppenwolf played several US dates, thereby enabling MKF to continue to support its beneficiaries. It’s indeed a privilege to play with your friends for those who’ve been fans of the Wolf for decades and do this literally ‘for fun and profit’, in order for others – MKF’s recipients - to profit as well. In early September we flew to Jackson Hole, WY to participate in a fund raiser for one of those recipients, namely the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI). The event was organized by our good friend Ann Smith, whose energy seems inexhaustible when it comes to fund raising for wildlife causes. Dr. Birute Galdikas, renowned Primatologist and founder of OFI, was the event’s guest of honor. The evening started with JK performing a few songs from his solo recordings - ably assisted by husband and wife team Tucker & Kristen Smith on various string instruments – followed by the screening of JK’s video “Orangutan Odyssey” which was shot in Borneo at Camp Leakey and OFI’s Care Center for the rescued orphaned Orangutans.
Thereafter Dr. Galdikas joined JK on stage where the two continued with an in-depth interview that covered OFI’s history as well as Dr. Galdikas’ research. The evening concluded with an Audience Q&A session which gave Dr. Galdikas an opportunity to elaborate on OFI’s mission and the desperate need to protect the Orangutans remaining habitat. We closed out the year with a return to Kenya. Because of the ongoing Ivory poaching crisis in Africa we decided to visit 4 of the Kenyan NGOs MKF supports, all 4 of which strive to protect and conserve Elephants, these are: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), Cynthia Moss of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE), BIG LIFE and The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. While in Nairobi we also had the pleasure of meeting Paula Kahumbu of Wildlife Direct. Paula is a passionate Elephant defender and her “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign has created greater awareness and support in Kenya and beyond. She had much to tell us over Dinner and we were not only encouraged by what we learned, but also impressed by Paula’s energy and fierce determination. The next morning we, once again, visited the DSWT Nursery in Nairobi National Park where over 30 rescued orphan baby Elephants are currently being cared for. Head Keeper Edwin escorted us into the bush were we first met three orphans that were only two months old. These 3 were so small, fragile and still recovering from their trauma that they were kept apart from the little older orphans. It tugged at our heartstrings to see such tiny victims seek the reassurance of their Keepers, whose fingers they suck on like pacifiers. After also spending time with the much larger group of older orphans, we followed them to the bottle feeding and mud bath area where visitors and school children are able to meet the orphans from a respectful distance. The orphans’ eagerness for their large bottles of formula and their antics in the mud wallow were, as usual, a great delight to all who attended during the daily visiting hour. The following day we came to see Angela Sheldrick, her husband Robert Carr-Hartley and Dame Daphne Sheldrick. We were delighted to see that Dame Daphne was very much on the mend from the serious illness that had beset her some months prior. She is, and will always be, a woman we are exceedingly fond of and who we greatly admire. We next flew to DSWT’s Ithumba Rehabilitation Unit in Tsavo Park East. There Keeper Benjamin introduced us to the Nursery Graduates which had made the transition to Ithumba. These still milk dependant Elephants are slowly gaining the confidence to someday live in the wild again. We followed them into the bush and watched as they browsed in the company of their Keepers. It was quite obvious how much they relied on the Keepers for reassurance and guidance. The fact that some, now long wild living, ex-orphans return at times to show the Keepers their newly born babies, says more than words can adequately express. Two days later we departed for AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK and spend a couple of days learning about the Amboseli Eco System Elephants from Cynthia Moss who has been studying the pachyderms there for over 40 years. We came across several Elephant families and Cynthia, with a large binder of Elephant photos at her side, was able to identify many of them by name. The Elephants are quite accustomed to Cynthia and her vehicle and at times approached us as if to say Hello. Perhaps they were simply curious as to who those other humans with her were. What ever the case, it was a treat to be able to be so close to them, all because of their trust in Cynthia. We are very grateful for the time Cynthia set aside for us, as well as her hospitality. Although Ivory poaching continues to be a scourge in Kenya – and is even worse in other parts of Africa – the Amboseli Elephants have been relatively unaffected by poaching in the last couple of years. While the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) certainly deserves some of the credit, much of the success can be attributed to “BIG LIFE” and its efforts. Founded in 2011 by acclaimed wildlife photographer Nick Brandt, BIG LIFE has been able to effectively combat poaching in Kenya’s Amboseli region as well as parts of Tanzania. Early one morning we drove to BIG LIFE’s Headquarters to meet with Richard Bonham, co-founder of BIG LIFE and its Chief of Operations. MKF had added BIG LIFE to its beneficiaries in 2013 and we wanted to learn more about BIG LIFE’s Rangers, Outposts, Tracking Dog Teams and Community Outreach work. Richard, a dedicated and experienced conservationist for many years, took a break from his busy schedule to give us some insight into BIG LIFE’s challenges and victories. We learned for instance that the Tracking Dog Teams will at times assist the Community in identifying and locating thieves and other ne’er-do-wells, thereby strengthening BIG LIFE’s relationship with the surrounding Community. After some up-dates, conversation and a quick Lunch with Richard, we continued our day trip by driving to one of BIG LIFE many Ranger Outposts. Located a few miles from HQ, this particular Outpost is situated on an escarpment, giving the Rangers a wide overview of the expanse below. When questionable activity is observed Rapid Response Teams are deployed, particularly when intent to poach is suspected. We left the Ranger Station by mid afternoon, returned to our camp and prepared for our morning flight to the LEWA WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY, one of our favorite places in all of Africa. By noon the next day we had arrived, settled in and were on our first exploratory drive. It was heartening to see that the variety and abundance of Lewa’s wildlife was just great as we remembered it from previous visits. The resident Elephants seemed completely comfortable in the presence of humans and at times came within a few feet of our silent, stationary vehicle. It was a joy to be able to observe them in such an intimate manner. To enable migratory herds of Elephants to pass through Lewa on to the northern regions and Samburu National Park beyond, an Elephant Corridor – including an underpass beneath a major road – has been created. This was accomplished through the cooperation of various land owners. By setting aside land for the corridor, Elephant crop raiding and human conflict has been almost entirely eliminated. Lewa CEO Mike Watson flew JK in Lewa’s helicopter for an overview of this important area as well as the Elephant underpass. Much of the successful preservation of Lewa’s wildlife can be attributed to Lewa’s Rangers, Tracking Dog Teams, related security measures and use of communication technology. But what is also crucially important is the role that Community relation plays. By providing employment at Lewa’s various Lodges and Safari Camps as well as positions as Rangers etc., education, medical care and more, Lewa has made wildlife conservation of great benefit to thousands in the surrounding Communities. This model of ‘conservation of wildlife for the benefit of all’ has been so successful that in the Northern Rangelands adjoining Lewa there are now over a dozen Community Conservancies which operate in a similar fashion. After a couple more days of meeting with Lewa’s various representatives and game drives to view Elephants, Rhinos, Cheetahs, Giraffes and more, we very reluctantly departed for home. Knowing it would not be our last visit to Lewa made it somewhat easier. Now that it’s February we already have a couple of projects and events on MKF’s Calendar for 2015, we’ll report on those on the next “Notes from the Directors”. Stay wild: JK & JMK