Richard Maasdorp, administrator of the Zambezi Elephant Fund (ZEF) in Zimbabwe, recently took his free spirit and adventurous soul on a city-to-city tour from Europe to the United States. His mission? To talk about elephants, to meet interesting and interested people, to discuss exciting new ideas in conservation and to come back with some fresh forward thinking.
Here, he reflects on some of the notable take-outs from his trip.
I travelled to eight cities – Amsterdam, London, San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, Houston, New York and Washington DC – over a three week period and had twenty four different discussions with individuals and groups. Many of the people I met had connections with Nicci and John Stevens and these same people have supported the Zambezi Elephant Fund from its inception in February 2015.
Now, almost 3 years on, the respect for the work that the Stevens have done, and continue to do, along with many other like-minded people, was reinforced at every encounter. I am very proud to be part of their team and equally grateful to be a part of the global team that they have formed.
To meet so many people who care deeply about elephant, other animals and wilderness areas is nothing short of inspiring. As an organization and as individuals, we have sometimes felt alone and isolated – discovering that people on the other side of our fragile planet are still “with us” was a very special feeling.
I was most fortunate to have a few one-on-one discussions, which provided the time and space for candid critiques of the Zambezi Elephant Fund’s efforts and position. This invaluable input will be taken seriously and many of the ideas implemented – thank you.
We received many offers of “support from afar” in the areas of social media communications, printed marketing material, packaging requests for funding at a project level and communication with donors. Again, all gratefully received and we look forward to working together with the individuals who stepped forward with their suggestions.
It struck me, rather disappointedly, that the uniqueness of ZEF, supporting “pockets of passion” (several discreet organizations that quietly operate across the Zambezi Valley landscape), was seen as inefficient and as carrying too high an overhead. In fact, this is not the case at all and volunteers, who operate right on the ground, run many of the organizations. And all are guided by a stakeholder-driven Five Year Elephant Plan.
Thank you to each and every one of you who made this important journey a most valuable one, from my team at home in Zimbabwe to my kind hosts and ZEF’s generous supporters in Europe and America. I extend again the invitation to all of you who have not yet experienced Mana’s Magic: come and see it and feel it for yourself. We will take great pleasure in sharing the wonderful Zambezi Valley and its magnificent elephants, our global heritage to protect, with you and your families.