UA Ambassadors of Good Will
Arusha ,Tanzania – When Tide For Tusks board members, Randy Mecredy and Reata Strickland arrived in Arusha they were not sure what to expect or what may lay ahead of them during their visit to Tanzania. Soon, any concerns were removed as they were warmly greeted by African Wildlife Trust CEO, Pratik Patel and his wife Sonea, and were given a grand tour of Tanzania’s first and only elephant orphanage.
During their exploratory visit to develop innovative learning experiences for UA students, the Ambassadors of Goodwill made their first stop at Ivory Orphans. The main objective of the orphanage is to provide refuge and rehabilitation of elephant calves that have become orphans due to poaching or human element conflicts. Once stabilized, the calves are to be reintegrated into Tanzania’s protected areas. Ivory Orphans will become the site for UA students to work on a real world problem that can be related to their discipline through their involvement in a high quality experiential learning opportunity.
Formally introduced as Ambassadors of Good Will, UA President Judy Bonner said in a letter, “I am delighted to extend the offer of a partnership between the University of Alabama Tide For Tusks Program and the African Wildlife Trust/Ivory Orphans to integrate scholarly research and service learning projects that best communicate and bring about awareness and conservation for the African elephant. We support the enthusiasm of Tide For Tusks and recognize the important role that our University mascot can play in helping to save the elephants.”
Through the generosity and support of the Friedkin Conservation Fund of Tanzania, Ivory Orphans is located near Arusha on 400 acres of a coffee plantation that has been restored to its natural habitat with native grasses and trees. The area is enclosed by an “elephant proof” electric fence with enough voltage running through it to knock back even the most rambunctious bull elephants and keep out the most persevere poachers. In addition to the elephant recovery program, future plans for the site include other wildlife recovery efforts, an education center, wildlife history museum, restaurant, and gift shop.
More than 50 stables have been widened, refurbished and modified to accommodate the needs of orphaned elephants and other wildlife that may be rescued as a result of conflicts. According to Mr. Patel, typically, Tanzanians do not intervene in wildlife matters – they let wild things remain wild. However, the Ivory Orphans project works with elephants that are already victims of human interference - often times at the hands of poachers. Calves are routinely observed dead or emaciated and dying next to their deceased mother and until now, there has been no facility in Tanzania equipped to rescue this rapidly declining species.
“Rescue efforts are very expensive,” Patel said. “The cost of transporting alone can run $6,000 or more depending on the location. And, then there are costs for the veterinarians, biologists, rangers, ground transportation, drivers, field staff, housing, formula, medical supplies and around-the-clock caregivers.”
Is it worth the cost? According to biologist and Patel, yes. The cost of saving one baby elephant is worth every cent that is spent on recovery and reintroduction efforts. Elephants are a keystone species in the African plains ecosystem. Many, if not all of the land animals are dependent on the elephants for their own existence. Elephants have been described as Mother Nature’s gardeners – mowing the grass plains by continuous grazing; pruning shrubs, bushes and trees by browsing on the leaves; and seed dispersal and fertilizing with their dung. Elephants dig the watering holes that are the source of life for most of the animals during the dry season and in arid environments.
Tarangire National Park, located in the heart of Tanzania, is home to several thousand elephants and will serve as the site for reintegrating orphaned elephants into existing herds. “How could anyone not want to save a precious little baby elephant,” said Reata Strickland while observing elephants in the wild at Tarangire and marveling at a calf playfully running between the legs of its mother. “We have to do something!”
So, what can be done to prevent an impending catastrophe of this species? Patel and Mecredy both agree that conservation efforts and awareness are the keys to successfully saving the elephants. Efforts are underway to launch a UA campus-wide campaign to bring attention to the mounting needs to protect the African elephant.
“Working with our students, faculty and staff, Tide For Tusks is pleased to support the efforts of the African Wildlife Trust/Ivory Orphans,” said Mecredy. “This partnership will allow UA students the opportunity to engage in field assessments and projects that will result in higher learning opportunities. They can work on global issues that can be of practical use so that students learn from effective, measurable outcomes… and, they help save the African elephants!”
The African Wildlife Trust is supported by the Tanzanian government and was recently recognized for exemplary conservation achievements and received the prestigious award for Sustainable Tourism Development through Environment Conservation. Visit www.africanwildlifetrust.org for more information.
Tide For Tusks is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Money raised through its efforts are split between elephant conservation work in Tanzania and scholarly research done at UA. Donations can be made at www.tidefortusks.org and they can also be found on Facebook. Care. Share. Give!
Randy Mecredy, President and CEO of Tide For Tusks firstname.lastname@example.org
Pratik Patel, President and CEO of African Wildlife Trust email@example.com
Reata Strickland, Vice President of Tide For Tusks firstname.lastname@example.org