Pioneering charitable foundation Tusk has been working for 25 years to initiate and fund conservation, community development and environmental education programmes across Africa.
We spoke to Tusk’s Executive Director, Dan Bucknell, to find out more about the work of this incredible organisation and what makes him to dedicated to the cause.
How did your love of wildlife begin?
I was lucky enough to grow up in the Dorset countryside and have loved wildlife ever since I can remember. I was also particularly inspired by “My Family and Other Animals” by Gerald Durrell, who greatly influenced my desire to work for wildlife.
As Tusk’s Executive Director, what does your role involve?
I joined the team to spearhead Tusk’s growth in the UK, in support of our founder and global CEO, Charlie Mayhew. As such I have responsibility for the day-to-day management of the charity in the UK and for developing more sustainable income.
Why does the foundation focus on Africa? What is it about this region that makes conservation so important?
Africa presents both the greatest challenges and the greatest opportunities for conservation. Unlike other continents, Africa still has important and widely distributed populations of its large, iconic wildlife, and human pressure on the environment has been minimal relative to elsewhere.
But this is all rapidly changing. The rate of human population growth is greatest in Africa, and is estimated to quadruple to 4.4 billion by the end of the century, bringing with it increased consumption of natural resources, further loss of habitat, and human-wildlife conflict. There is therefore a very real and urgent need to find solutions that benefit both people and wildlife.
What key achievements has Tusk made since its formation?
Tusk has invested more than £30 million in conservation in Africa, and we currently support more than 60 projects across 19 countries. We have witnessed considerable successes through our project partners, reversing declines in important animal populations, reducing poaching, and ensuring that rural communities benefit from the wildlife they live alongside. We have supported many of our partners over numerous years and since their very early days for many of them. As such we have often acted as a catalyst for their further growth.
For example, we were a key early partner of the Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya, where communities have united to form conservancies that now cover 4 million acres for the benefit of wildlife. Animal populations are recovering and the communities gain from employment opportunities, improved security and tourism income.
Meanwhile, in Tanzania, we have helped the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust restore Mkomazi National Park to a spectacular wilderness. With improved infrastructure, anti-poaching patrols and the support of the local community, populations of black rhino, wild dog and elephant have recovered, and wildlife is thriving.
Throughout Africa our pioneering Pan African Conservation Education (PACE) programme – run in partnership with Siren Conservation Education – shares simple solutions to environmental problems between African communities by providing education materials to teachers across the continent. PACE has so far reached over 500,000 schoolchildren, changing attitudes and behaviours towards wildlife and conservation.
How can our readers get involved in helping support Tusk?
With the generous support of new friends to Tusk, we can and will continue to make a lasting difference for Africa’s wildlife and rural communities.
We encourage people to make a donation, take on a challenge for Tusk, come to one of our events, and follow us on social media. More information on all of these ways of getting involved can be found on our website www.tusk.org.
What else can people do to support wildlife conservation and prevent species from becoming endangered?
It’s really important that people spread the message that many wildlife populations are in very serious trouble, but that we still have a real chance to save them. People can lobby their governments to take greater action in support of wildlife, and where possible people should change their behaviour and patterns of consumption so that they reduce their negative impact on the planet.
Tell us a wildlife fact that we might not know…
People are often surprised to learn that there are fewer lions remaining in Africa than rhinos. With an estimated population of approximately 20,000, lions today occupy less than 10% of their historic range having suffered from habitat loss, declines in their prey, and retaliatory or pre-emptive killing to protect life and livestock.
Habitat loss has left a number of populations isolated, particularly in West Africa. They may also be threatened by disease from domestic dogs, and more recently they have been targeted for traditional Chinese medicine, with their bones serving as a substitute for tiger bones.
Brand to trust Pembe Club has partnered with Tusk as part of its efforts to support the welfare, safety and survival of elephants. Support this cause by purchasing the Tarangire Elephant Tusk Bracelet – 10% of each sale will be donated to the charity.
If you enjoyed this, you might like to read our interview with Valerie Wertheimer of Action Innocence.