When John and Nicci Stevens decided to take the Zambezi Elephant Fund’s urgent cry for anti-poaching help to America in September 2016, they were not prepared for the incredible support and encouragement they received along the way, from their generous hosts to guests and other well-wishes.
Their itinerary took them from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Brooklyn, New York, from private homes to an old school house, art gallery and museum. John presented a well-prepared talk with beautifully shot photographs, which each contributed in their way to showcasing the magnificence of elephants in stark contrast to the alarming state of affairs in which they find themselves in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as John peppered the talk with fascinating stories and sound effects. The audience wanted more, in fact! Meanwhile, Nicci was hard at work behind the scenes on the technical side, prompting John at all the right moments.
A relaxed interaction with guests afterwards gave everyone the opportunity to mingle and chat with Nicci and John and their hosts. In all, about 280 people learnt about the Zambezi Elephant Fund, its efforts in the valley, what has been achieved so far and what still needs to be done. We’ve increased our mailing list, too, and look forward to spreading the word even further through our kind recipients! John’s audiences got to know elephants better, they understood poaching better within the Zimbabwean and greater African context and they could see that with active involvement and collaboration, positive things can happen and only good results can arise. They became familiar with the beautiful country of Zimbabwe; in particular Mana Pools – and they met one of the finest safari guides and impassioned conservationists in Africa, our very own John Stevens.Lessons learnt from this fund-raising tour are many. The planning and organisation that has to go into an effort such as this is phenomenal. Practice, practice, practice makes perfect! But fundraising is definitely a science and the Zambezi Elephant Fund is learning that fast.
Overall, the most important thing that Nicci and John came away with from the trip was the extraordinary response of every single person they came across along the way. For them, Zambezi Elephant Fund’s essence – “Saving the Elephants of the Zambezi Valley, Together’ was never more evident. The immense generosity of their hosts, the donations, the pledges, the thoughtful offers of practical help from audience members – from spreading the word to fundraising to marketing – it was overwhelming and really encapsulated what it means to work “together” and collaborate for our common good.
Now that the Stevens are home again, the real work begins! Time to get busy. We’re growing our database, preparing marketing material, updating our website, writing letters and kick-starting lots of new ideas. We’ll keep on keeping you posted with our progress! Do let us know if you have any news or updates for us regarding your own efforts.
The Stevens and everyone involved in the Zambezi Elephant Fund wish to thank our caring supporters in America for everything! Or, as we say in this part of the world – Tatenda! Maita basa!
If you wish to receive a copy of the presentation or if you’d like to view a slideshow of Nick Dyer’s wonderful photographs, please let us know and we’ll oblige.
NEWSFLASH: Recently, Nicci and John Stevens and Laura Taylor, volunteers for the Zambezi Elephant Fund (ZEF), were joined by another volunteer and videographer, Troy Reid of Planet Wild, to capture some film footage of the beautiful Zambezi Valley and its magnificent elephants.
The aim was to put together a clip for peer-to-peer fundraising at the request of some of ZEF’s overseas supporters.
We were based just outside Mana Pools National Park in a private concession and one morning took a walk with John and a guide from the host camp. The valley was hot and sticky after the rainstorms 36 hours before. We walked leisurely, just a few kilometres from camp, enjoying the incredibly diverse scenery, birds and animals.
On our way back to the vehicle, our guide pointed to a horrific sight. We started walking towards what looked like a large, grey boulder, our brains quickly comprehending but refusing to accept what we were seeing. Sickeningly, heartbreakingly, we realised that we had come across a recently poached elephant. Its face had been hacked off along with its tusks, its lifeless trunk lying across the front of its body. Vultures were hovering and flies had started their work in the decaying process.
A beautiful elephant, (at John’s estimate only about five years old), mud still caked on his feet, had been felled way before his time. The brutal reality was right there in front of us. John and our guide quickly contacted camp management, who in turn got hold of National Parks. Rangers were deployed within hours and over the next morning, but tracks were difficult to find after the rain. We discovered some time after that another 3 elephants had suffered a similar miserable end in surrounding areas.
It’s important to us to deliver this news to you first-hand, as it has brought home very clearly the awful and horribly dangerous situation that elephants are in. That discovery and the memory of what we saw is something we’ll carry with us always. It has further motivated us to continue to do our best to help protect these incredible creatures from extinction.