Now picture this: When I was a little kid, a very small traveling circus came to the “big” town (about 400 people) near us, and for the first time I got to see elephants, three of them. Not only that but I got to ride one! I was the first one in line to climb up the steps to the platform where I slid off onto her neck, right behind her head. With those big ears coming back over my legs. I still remember the feeling of that sparse, stiff hair on her head. After the circus closed, my family and I were privileged to talk with the elephant handler and I got to pet that elephant for a long time. For that little kid, growing up on a ranch, light-years from Africa, or even a city zoo, what a thrill that was! I was ready to trade off my saddle horse for an elephant. And that was the start of my fascination with elephants.
And now there I was, traveling down a dirt track in the African bush, my world-class opportunity to see an elephant, and who knows what else, in the wild. I could hardly contain myself! I had my digital camera in hand and it was turned on. Boy was I ready. And do you know what I got to see?!.......Nothing! Not a single wild animal of any kind. Zilch. Nada. I might as well have been on the backside of the moon. I can’t find words to describe how I felt.
At that point we both felt compelled to make a very significant contribution to stopping the human atrocities in Africa and the unchecked slaughter of elephants for the illegal international ivory trade. So what did we do? We spent a very large part of the next four years trying to find a group or organization that we could partner with. What is the saying? “Good things come to those who wait…..”
Then in May of 2013, through one of Patrick’s longtime friends in the Central African Republic, we were introduced to Mr. Antonio PELOSI, the Coordinator for ECOFAUNE Project (now retired) a European Union financed, anti-poaching organization operating in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR) since April 2012.
ECOFAUNE is strictly a ground-based operation with several vehicles and locals who are trained in counter-poaching operations. They operate sort of like the game wardens do in the United States. And they are starting to make a difference. The problem is this: They have a vast area to cover, 107,800 square kilometers (41,621 square miles) and there are no roads like you know roads to be. They are nothing more than a very few dirt tracks that are in extremely poor condition and are never maintained. In other words they are slowly traveling with their vehicles locked in four wheel drive all of the time, over very long distances. The have many breakdowns, flat tires and thier vehicles get stuck a lot. An extremely slow and tedious process at best. But that is where we at African Wildlife Initiative will come in. We are all about providing ECOFAUNE with air support.
We will act as aerial reconnaissance for their ground teams. Using our Piper PA-18 Super Cub, we can cover more country in an hour than a ground team can cover in many days. Several ground teams will work in the same area that our air crew is flying over on any given day. When we spot poachers from the Super Cub, we will radio the GPS coordinates to the Ranger Team and they will make contact with the poachers and arrest them. This is why we will work so well together. It is a complete win, win deal. A match made in heaven.
In April 2017 we were in the Central African Republic for 22 days. Much of that time was spent traveling by aircraft, in vehicles, on motorcycles, and on foot, through Ecofaune's Area of Operations (AO) located deep in rebel held territory in the northern part of the country. We met with their Rangers and other personnel, and negotiated with Mr. Pelosi on guidelines for a contract. We are excited to say that we came away with a preliminary agreement to provide air support for Ecofaune Rangers! Needless to say we are thrilled.
Who are the poachers that are in the Ecofaune Area of Operation? Well there are many, but the worst ones are the LRA and the Janjaweed. The United Nations estimated that the LRA has killed more than 100,000 people and kidnapped more than 60,000 kids over the previous 25 years to use, sell, and trade as child sex slaves and child soldiers. Just during 2016 the LRA is responsible for 563 abductions in 171 attacks in the central Africa region, according to the LRA Crisis Tracker. And in just the first 90 days of 2017 (January, February, and March) the LRA carried out 43 attacks on villages in the Central African Republic, kidnapping 147 children to sell or use as sex slaves and child soldiers. Then there is the Janjaweed (literal translation: devils on horseback) from neighboring Sudan. They have killed over 480,000 people and displaced another 3.2 million in Darfur region of Sudan, which is right across the border from our area of operation. And now the Janjaweed is targeting the Central African Republic.
There has been, and continues to be, many more little kids kidnapped every week in the Central African Republic by the LRA and other terrorist groups to use and sell as sex slaves and child soldiers.
"To sin by silence makes cowards out of men." ~~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox
With all the sincerity and urgency that I can possibly express, I urge you to do these three things immediately............right now:
First: Make a donation right now. It means a great deal to the children, the elephants, and to us!
Second: Get the word out. Send a link to this website to everyone in your address book, and before long the vast majority of people will know about this. Let's you and I make this go viral and we can save kids and elephants.
Third: Please grab a cup of coffee and take the time to read the rest of this web site so that you can be well informed
My warmest regards to you and yours,