Updated: Oct 26
An important part of Latitude Expeditions’ ethos is supporting conservation and preservation efforts for endangered animals and habitat throughout the World. Since our beginning we have been a major sponsor of Mission Wildlife Conservation, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization whose mission is to support species conservation through fundraising, awareness and education. We support MWC’s fundraising efforts through direct contribution from company profits, curating auction items for the events and spreading the word of our work to our travelers and friends.
(see: https://www.missionwildlifeconservation.org/) Each year MWC selects various animal conservation organizations to support.
On Oct 7, we participated in MWCs “Wild Celebration”. With 130+ attendees at Mission Wildlife’s gala fundraising event, we were not only wined and dined, we were treated to talks from these important conservationists, witnessed a real-time rendering of a lion painting by renowned artist Stephen Fishwick (See: Stephen Fishwick), and had close-up encounters with a number of rescued wild animals such as a kangaroo, porcupine, lemur, baby sloth, armadillo, fox, owl, snake, crocodile, and birds of prey.
A unique offering of Latitude Expeditions is to enable our guests to experience behind-the-scenes and personal tours with some of the rescue, research and conservation organizations and to engage as “citizen scientists”. Three years ago, we led a small group of travelers in Kenya and spent the day with Save The Elephants researchers. It was rewarding to be up close with approximately 135 elephants (from 2 separate family herds) with our host, David Deballen - Director of Field Operations, who could name each of them and provide insight into their habits, activities and family bonds.
In 2023 the MWC grants are to:
The African lion population has declined by 43% in the last 20 years and lions now occupy only 8% of their historical range in Africa. The estimated number of lions across Africa is approximately 20,000. In Kenya, the national population is estimated at less than 2,500 individuals. This reduction in lions is primarily due to habitat loss and conflict with humans, typically when lions kill people’s livestock.
Ewaso Lions is dedicated to conserving lions and other large carnivores by promoting coexistence between people and wildlife in three areas of Northern Kenya: Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves and eleven Community Conservancies in the area. They raise awareness of ecological problems to spur solutions from within the communities and conduct research and educational initiatives that reinforce traditionally held beliefs and the evolving culture of wildlife conservation across the landscape. Samburu warriors have long been neglected in wildlife conservation, despite their important local knowledge of wildlife issues. Ewaso engages warriors and trains participants to collect data on wildlife sightings and respond to community issues like livestock depredation, providing them important leadership opportunities.
Likewise, Ewaso developed Mama Simba, a program initiated at the request of Samburu women living in Sasaab village, Westgate conservancy, who wanted to take an active role in conservation of lions. Empowering women in all aspects of their lives. Mama Simba ladies can now not only speak up for lions; they are provided with the knowledge and skills they need to reduce their environmental impact, improve livelihoods, and help conserve and coexist with wildlife.
Ewaso Lions also addresses the challenges communities and domestic dogs face in the Samburu landscape. The program, known as Kura’s Pride (named after Ewaso Lions’ famous first dog Kura), will hopefully lead to healthier dogs and could lead to less human-carnivore conflict, reduced disease transmission to wild carnivores and an overall healthier balance between people, livestock, wildlife and the environment. This is accomplished through managing rabies and canine distemper diseases in domestic carnivore populations through vaccinations, and domestic pet population control, disease surveillance and monitoring (focusing on canine distemper and rabies) and emergency treatments for domestic animals attacked by wild animals.
Founder & Executive Director, Dr. Shivani Bhalla, a Kenya native who founded Ewaso in 2007, and her colleague Jeneria Lekilelei, a Samburu warrior who joined Shivani at the inception of Ewaso when he was 19, met with us recently at the event in San Diego.
We were also joined at Mission Wildlife’s event by Belinda Low Mackey, Co-Founder & Executive Director of the Grevy’s Zebra Trust.
Loss of grazing habitat is the major threat to Grevy’s zebra, and creating healthy rangelands is one of Grevy’s Zebra Trust’s three primary goals in the Trust’s strategic plan. They build on traditional livestock management methods used by pastoralists to address the root cause of land degradation, which directly improves the health of soils and plants.
In northern Kenya, the nomadic culture of the pastoralists is changing, with permanently settled communities across the landscape. As a result, their livestock is not moving like it used to, and there is continuous grazing of plants throughout the landscape. This limits plant growth and recovery. To address this, GZT is working with communities, to intentionally plan for recovery time, which requires identifying grazing areas where livestock is prohibited, to allow for their recovery.
The Grevy’s zebra occupies the niche between the water-dependent plains zebra and the arid-adapted wild ass, living in arid and semi-arid habitat comprised of grass and shrubland with permanent water available. Predominantly grazers, Grevy’s zebra live on forbs and grasses but during extremely dry periods they also browse (feeding on shrubs and other woody vegetation). Grevy’s zebra can go without water for up to five days; however, if lactating, the females must drink at least every other day in order to maintain milk production. With land degradation worsening each year, the distance between available grazing and water increases, meaning that Grevy’s zebra mothers have to make long and more frequent journeys to drink, resulting in high foal mortality, which is one of the major threats to the survival of the species.
GZT’s flagship Grevy’s Zebra Scout Program which has been operating in northern Kenya since 2003, employs 29 Grevy’s Zebra Scouts from seven different communities to monitor Grevy’s zebra and foster positive attitudes towards the species.
Analysis of their data provides an index of the demography of, and trends in the Grevy’s zebra population, indicating whether the population is stable, increasing or declining. This highlights the importance of the Scouts’ work as citizen scientists for long-term endangered species monitoring. The Scouts monitor the health of the Grevy’s zebra, providing valuable data on body condition, mortalities and movements, which help better target ZGT’s management interventions, such as water provision or supplementary feeding during prolonged drought periods.
From the outset, women have been uniquely included in the efforts. Twenty-one of Grevy’s Zebra Scouts are women, many of whom are widows or single mothers and are able to provide medical care and education for their children thanks to their income. Being a Grevy’s Zebra Scout increases their standing within the community, and they are publicly recognized by men for their important role in conservation of the community’s resources, and are called upon to contribute to meetings and decision-making.
As you can see, both these organizations are not only supporting wildlife, but they are also making massive contributions to the well-being of their communities.
The animal attendees at the MWC gala were from CONSERVATION AMBASSADORS CA.org of Paso Robles, California who provides a permanent home for displaced, abused and abandoned wildlife. Owners David and Lisa Jackson are passionate about sharing and these animal ambassadors through outreach programs with school children and learners of all ages to educate them about conservation, connect them to the wild world, and inspire them to protect the planet. They make the trek annually and sometimes bi-annually with their ambassadors to support MWC’s event to the delight of all attendees.
Other organizations MWC has supported in our time with them are:
Uganda Conservation Foundation, protecting giraffe, elephant primate, and pangolin populations in Uganda
Save the Elephants, of Kenya. Specializing in elephant research, they provide scientific insights into elephant behavior, intelligence, and long-distance movements and apply them to the challenges of elephant survival and harmonious coexistence with humanity.
Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation of Borneo conducts scientific field research to enhance the knowledge of the ecology and conservation status of orangutans, elephants, hornbills and other wildlife in fragmented and degraded habitat.
Spectacled Bear Conservation, conserves and protect spectacled bears and their habitat in northern Peru through scientific research, education and collaboration with local communities and land owners. Spectacled bears are endangered and the only bear species in Latin America
Hirola Conservation, protecting the critically endangered antelope, Hunter's hartebeest found on the border between Kenya and Somalia.
Painted Dog Conservation of Zimbabwe supports one of the most endangered species in all of Africa through the protection of the painted dogs and their habitat and engaging and local communities.
Save Pangolins raises awareness for the world’s most trafficked mammal, supporting seven pangolin conservationists and researchers located in Nepal, Malaysia, India, Cameroon, Nigeria and Central and West Africa
Conservation Ambassadors of Paso Robles, described above.
Look for more events with Mission Wildlife in the San Diego area as Latitude assists MWC in its quest to assist such important conservation organizations. Travel beyond boundaries. Have fun while doing good!