Great Plains Foundation
Great Plains Conservation is a conservation company. As wildlife numbers decline, habitats shrink and pressure from agriculture and livelihood strategies increase, we are in a position to do more. And we want to encourage others engage as well. And so in 2010 we formed "The Great Plains Foundation", specifically so our guests and broader circle of friends could contribute to the various conservation efforts in which we believe and offer support.
The Foundation’s primary focus is as an emergency fund to support proactive and sustained conservation work.
As of January 2011 we have engaged with the following projects:
COMMUNITY OUTREACH & EDUCATION
A full-time community liaison, Kia, to work with the residents of the five villages nearest to Selinda Reserve, Botswana. Projects include wildlife conservation education, the development of a craft cooperative and a viable small-scale farm to provide fresh produce to the camps. These livelihood strategies are crucial in a region of Botswana that borders wildlife land and has very little economy or access to education. Kia is incredibly talented and we’ve provided $50,000/year for the implementation of this upliftment project.
In Botswana, the development of an ‘wildlife education packet” consisting of tools, DVDs and booklets transmitting a message of harmony between wildlife, communities and health. The packet contains the Joubert’s films translated to Setswana as well as two HIV education books (a thoughtfully-designed comic book, but with a hard yet sensitive message and all the facts regarding HIV/AIDS prevention).
In 2009 in association with National Geographic and Children of the Wilderness (Wilderness Safaris) we donated Motswiri camp and its staff to a hosted Photocamp. 18 children from the nearest villages, and from Botswana’s lowest income demographic, participated in an educational safari coupled with a photo workshops. Professional photographers provided guidance. The result was a captivating transition from a group of circumspect kids to an absolutely enthralled and spirited set of kids on departure. The images show a similar shift…the departing images of the kids, smiling, in some cases crying as they parted with new friendships and discoveries. It is our belief that Photocamps will make a substantial change in the region, both in the interactions between the communities and the wildlife but also among the children. Each Photocamp is approximately $50,000 and we are seeking sponsors.
In 2010 Dereck received a call that two lions were in danger of being shot in far eastern Botswana, where villagers were irate over livestock losses. Dereck could hardly hear the plea through the choppy connection, but he just said, “yes”. And within 36 hours, the lions were captured, darted and moved Mashatu (Tuli Block), Botswana. Soon after a Cessna Caravan armed with a vet arrived from Maun and loaded the lions for travel to Selinda Reserve. Simultaneously, we imposed on two guests flying into camp from Maun to share space with a large side of beef! The lions were treated for wounds, and then released near water and the tasty morsel. Since then the two have been seen occassionally and miraculously may survive. We believe that had we not reacted, and then the lions likely would have been shot within an hour. This immediate reaction on our part sent a strong message to the community, to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Ministry of Tourism that The Great Plains Foundation will help. We are just a call away and we do it because even though it is “shock” introduction for the animal, it without a doubt increases odds of survival. We usually keep these events private, as it is not a media event, but a rescue event, which requires immediate action. This rescue cost about $20,000.
In 2010 we received another call regarding cheetah. Researchers in southwestern Botswana found the mother of two cubs killed. The cubs were on the brink of being clubbed as well. The researchers intervened and sent the cubs to a facility in Gaborone. They then called The Great Plains Foundation. As these were two relatively young cubs, we had some additional challenges in introduction; we built a boma in Selinda Reserve to aid in re-entry and after two months in the boma, the gates were quietly opened and with little fan fare they were free to do as they chose. They thrived for a number of months before we, sadly, lost both. One of the cubs broke its leg; and while its sibling stood by in support, a male lion abushed and killed it. From our perspective - with only 12,000 cheetah remaining in the world – this rescue was well worth the effort and expense. As tragic as the final outcome may be, it was a successful reintroduction process and we hope to offer opportunity to many more species. This rescue cost about $38,000.
In 2010, we had 20 poaching incidents along the western side of the Selinda Reserve. While this is minor in comparison to some regions we concerned that poaching will escalate due to economic hardship in this remote region. Our hope is to establish an “early reaction unit” in direct communication with the military anti-poaching unit and its communication channels. Simply having some year-round presence on an area of land, which the early reaction unit would provide, often stops or curtails most poaching. The cost of this project is approximately $75,000/year.
In conjunction with the early reaction unit, we would also institute ‘fly overs’ of 100 randomly chosen helicopter transects through the reserve, specifically on its borders. This is more of a prevention than a cure approach. At a rate of $188 per helicopter hour, this is a total cost of $18,800/year.
The initiation of Photocamps in Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and Seychelles. Sponsorship is needed.
The re-introduction of rhinos to the Selinda Reserve after careful land assessment by the Botswana Government. Anti-poaching work is crucial to achieve this outcome.
In Maasailand, we continue to support the efforts of The Maasailand Preservation Trust, The Lion Guardians and National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative. Support is always welcome to continue the amelioration process between livestock, predators and people.
Maasailand Preservation Trust - www.maasailandpreservationtrust.com
Big Cats Initiative - www.nationalgeographic.com
As we embark on our efforts in Rwanda, we hope to generate enough interest in carbon bonds to develop a clear and sustainable working model for the regeneration of nearly 1000 hectares of Virunga Volcanoes National Park. In doing so, we would effectively double the existing Mountain gorilla habitat. Seed funding is necessary to embark on this project.
The Great Plains Foundation is about playing a vital role in what we believe is a tripartite partnership - imagine a triangle between communities, conservation and commerce. Conservation of the earth is the core of this relationship; but the shift in perspective is from seeing it merely as some host for our sustenance to seeing it as a mutually beneficial partnership. This positions conservation then as a necessity and not a luxury.
Like many partnerships, if one partner feels its working harder than another, then dissatisfaction develops. And it is with that understanding that we strive to find equal partnership among all stakeholders. Firstly we have conservation of the land, and wildlife. Then, we add communities, who in many cases, have lived in harmony with wildlife as neighbors for centuries; however, where this harmony erodes wildlife suffers. It is in these areas, where the partnership needs to be nurtured because without community involvement conservation fails. Finally, when we add the third prong of commerce, we must do it with some prudence. We do not believe that every inch of land has to pay for itself. Aldo Leopold put it succinctly, “to insist that wildlife pays for itself is like burning the furniture to keep the house warm.” We believe that the “if it pays it stays” philosophy is flawed.
Rather, we believe that some marginal or vulnerable areas need a light footprint type of tourism to engage communities, generate some economies and conserve land. We refer to this as Conservation Tourism and we evaluate it not only on grounds of return on investment but on the other two prongs as well. We look at projects that advance communities and conservation as much or more than by quantifiable measure. This is the prime objective of The Great Plains Foundation. Ultimately, we are all a part of this system, not apart from it, so our actions have a ripple effect for which we as a species is solely responsible.
We invite you to follow The Great Plans Foundation’s work, become involved and share ideas and contacts. This is a global venture. Should you be in a position to support one of its projects, The Foundation is a USA-registered 501(c)3 foundation eligible for tax deductable donations.
Dereck Joubert (CEO)