Hey everyone! I just got back into the US since being in South Africa & wanted to give you guys an update on how funds have been spent so far. I was hoping to be able to blog and update you more from there, but I rarely had any internet access. So I’ll be making up for it with blogs to come. I’ll also be building a new Animal Avengers website with pages for a bunch of the organizations I met & want to help support moving forward. It’ll take me some time though, so please be patient with me.
The total raised by my online Chuffed fundraiser: $32,445.
First I met Nicholas, the founder of the Save African Rhino Foundation.
He lives in Australia & just happened to be flying into Cape Town & then Zimbabwe when I was beginning my journey. So we first met in Cape Town where I gave him a bunch of the supplies that were donated through the Amazon Wish List so that he could help us get everything into Zimbabwe. Then we met up with him in Victoria Falls & then again when we got to The Hide in Hwange.
Save African Rhino Foundation funds about 20 different programs, and the water pumps in Hwange is one of those programs. The water pumps he funds are through a non-profit called Friends of Hwange, run by a great man named Dave Dell. I came to meet Dave later in the trip, but first we met Gary. Gary is who Dave employs to look after all of the pumps daily. This man never takes a break because the animals mean so much to him. They need him & those pumps need his attention every single day.
We spoke at length with Nicholas, Gary & Dell about how to install more efficient, cost effective pumps. The problem seems to be that the solar pumps that are available currently in Africa don’t pump enough water alone to make it to the 100-120K liters per day, per pump, that are needed. They feel that simply adding a battery to be charged by the solar that can make it run through the night won’t work either because it still won’t pump enough water each day & there’s a good chance that the battery will get stolen unless placed up very high on a pole or into the ground.
They have a wind pump that isn’t working & wasn’t reliable with the unpredictable winds, or producing enough. So that is out for now too.
The best solution they have for the time being is to install a solar pump next to the diesel pumps they currently have so that it will reduce the daily cost to run water in each location.
Another thing I learned is this. You don’t want to just add water anywhere & everywhere in the park. Water dictates the migration of the animals. You don’t want them to migrate to areas with less ranger protection & areas close to borders where they are more vulnerable to attacks. Also, more water could expand the herds. There are already too many elephants for this park to accommodate. So we don’t want to do anything that will increase the numbers too drastically, thus potentially increasing the chances of suffering due to dehydration, culling or poaching. The number of elephants in this park is not lacking. Of course, with the recent poisoning incidents occurring there, those numbers are constantly changing.
Next comes this. It’s not easy to just install 1 solar pump. It’s just not cost effective. The parts, as well as the installer, must travel hundreds of miles to get to the park. So Dave has stated that he’d like to wait until they are ready to install 3 solar pumps at once, and also wait for the rains to come to do so. There just wasn’t enough time to raise enough money for 2 more new pumps & get them installed before the rains, which usually come in November.
So, with that said…I have sent Dave money for diesel for the time being. Animal Avengers sent him $5,000 to keep the pumps running as much as we can for now. Hopefully with our diesel donation & other fuel he may already have, they might be able to fill the current watering holes until it rains. Fingers crossed.
He will be getting me diesel receipts so I can show you guys those soon. I figure $2,445 of that is from the online fundraiser & the rest was from some bank reserves we had. Also from my reserves, we are getting a GoPro to give to Gary so that he can document some of the great work he does there for us all to see. He has done miraculous things quite often, like finding ways to pull baby elephants out of the mud. Now, Gary might be considered more of an engineer. He’s not a vet. But when it comes to the animals, he’ll find ways to do whatever he has to to keep them safe & sound. So we asked that he document things like this for us whenever possible. That way we can all see first hand what’s happening there & how we can help in the future.
Then, when Dave & Gary are ready, we will be helping with 1 solar water pump. I have put aside 10K from the online fundraiser for them for that pump. It is actually being sponsored by one special donor who specifically asked for a pump. More details will be announced on the naming of the pump, etc., at a later date when it has been installed.
So that’s the first $12,445 allotted for the Friends of Hwange per the Save African Rhino Foundation.
Next we traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe for the AWARE Trust fundraiser. This is where I met the founders Dr. Lisa Marabini & Dr. Keith Dutlow. Lisa & Keith are local vets that travel all around Zimbabwe, donating much of their time to the welfare of the animals. We also presented them with quite a few donations from the Amazon Wish List that you guys so generously sent to me before the trip. They were overwhelmed with gratitude & asked us to thank you all profusely!
I got to spend some time with Lisa & Keith while in Zimbabwe & meet some of their local partners & see the some of the great work they’re all doing. When I set up my new charity website, I’ll be creating pages to introduce you to a few of them & the work they’re doing.
As for the money we raised for AWARE, they have asked that we purchase a couple of elephant tracking collars they desperately need. Along with these come costs of licenses for them as well as import duties, as the specific collars they need come from Germany. I am getting the exact amount (in dollars) we’ve spent on that so far. I believe it’s close to 7K, but I don’t think that includes the permits. Getting the permits has been a long process. There’s one lady who approves everything, from my understanding. So they have to be patient while gently, occasionally checking in & nudging her.
Finally, there’s Saving The Survivors. I met with Dr. Gerhard Steenkamp at his veterinary facilities in Pretoria. I presented him with at least half of the Amazon Wish List donations and he was truly very grateful. He explained to me the work they have been doing, how they came to start the organization & their hopes for the future. About a week later I met him in Pilanesberg Nation Park where he was doing a follow-up procedure on one of their survivors, Ike. It was quite an interesting experience & one I’ll write a blog on individually soon.
Dr. Steenkamp is possibly interested in using their 10K towards a much bigger purchase. They are saving for something they are hoping could change the future for the rhinos they treat in a major way. So I am awaiting word from him as to when they are ready to spend that money on their dream project. I will keep you guys updated.
There’s another thing I can tell you about that I bought with Animal Avengers reserve money. Our friend had a contact at a company called Dakine (http://www.dakine.com/). They have very high quality backpacks & water packs. So I made a deal with them & purchased 268 packs (older models) for the various rangers & anti-poaching units we would meet along the way on our journey. We have applied to get our VAT (tax) back for the purchase, which makes these packs come out to an average of about $20 each. Considering the quality & that a lot of the packs we purchased average $80+ each, these will last the rangers a long time & make a big difference for them.
I was also introduced to a man named Nico who represents a company in South Africa called Aqua For Life. http://aqua4life.net/. He also gave me a nice deal (& donation) on buying life straws to filter out impurities in the bush. We figured this would be good for the rangers who have access to water, albeit dirty. So Animal Avengers purchased 100 & Nico donated 100 Life Straws. We weren’t able to get them delivered in time for our trip to Kruger, where we wanted to take them. But we had a connection to someone who lives just outside the park. So we had the straws delivered to her for distribution to the rangers within Kruger. I asked that some pictures be taken once that is done. As soon as I get them, I will share those with you.
So, that’s the latest from the donation/fundraising front.
Thank you all again for your very generous donations of money & product. Everyone was over-joyed, as it was very clear how much help they all yearn for there. It is really hard for them as they feel very removed & disconnected, so their resources are few. It made them happy to know that there are people out there who care about the great work they’re doing. They obviously don’t do what they do for recognition. But, with that said, the bush can feel very lonely & discouraging at times. So sometimes a little bit of positive in your life goes a long way.
All the best…more to come soon.