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.
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.
As mentioned in our previous post, in February we joined a most congenial group of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) supporters and traveled to Laguna San Ignacio in Baja Mexico to visit the Gray Whales. They arrive at this time of year to give birth and nurse their calves until they’re strong enough for the long journey to the northern feeding grounds. The Whale count in the Lagoon was around 300 when we arrived and – so we were told - roughly 10% of these were “friendly” Whales, meaning they were curious about humans and were likely to approach our small boats to be touched and even kissed. Well the good people of Baja Discoveries, whose tented camp was our temporary home, were spot on with their prediction. To our great delight we had several Whale encounters during the next few days. At times surrounded by numerous breaching and sky hopping whales, we were treated to repeated visits by females who seemed keen on introducing their young ones to us. More than once the calves – which were bigger than our boats - were gently nudged up against the side of our boats, so we could touch and stroke them.
A few days ago we returned from Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the Island of Borneo. There we, as part of a small group that included 4 of our good friends, visited Dr. Birute Galdikas and some of the 320 Orangutan orphans that OFI is currently nurturing and protects. After first arriving in Jakarta - where JK met with Lex Hovani of the Nature Conservancy - to learn about logging and other environmental issues in Indonesia, we flew to Pangkalanbun and continued by boat, several hours up river, into the Rain Forest, finally arriving at OFI s Camp Leakey. After showing us around the camp, Dr. Birute brought our group to a feeding platform where we watched some of her charges receive a large variety of local fruits. Although we kept a proper distance, the Orangutans decide if they want to approach and meet you, it was thrilling to be so close to these gentle primates. To observe them while they interacted, swung through trees and sometimes came close to get a better look at us, well it was magical. In the afternoon we had tea with Dr. Birute - on the same Porch where in the film BORN TO BE WILD she shared her spaghetti with the female Orangutan names Siswi - when lo and behold, Siswi appeared, joined Dr. Birute and our group and enjoyed some Rambutan fruit that was brought for her. She is quite the local star and very comfortable around humans. The next few days were filled with many extraordinary experiences as we visited several other rain forest camps and release locations.
Just a couple of quick updates. A 12 minute video of our Nov 2012 visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, featuring the Baby Orphan Elephants and their dedicated Keepers. has been posted on our YouTube Channel. Secondly, we are leaving in a few days for Indonesia to visit Dr. Birute Galdikas and the orphaned Baby Orangutans of the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) on the Island of Borneo. Deforestation there continues at an alarming rate and is usually followed by more Palm Oil Plantations being created on the denuded land. As a result more and more Orangutans are loosing their Habitat or are being killed. OFI is trying to raise enough funds, go to: www.orangutan.org to see how you can help, to purchase a major tract of unspoiled Habitat so that the rescued Orangutans will have a suitable home once they are mature enough to be reintroduced into the wild. We'll post a report of our experiences in Borneo soon after our return. All for now: JK & JMK