Saturday, November 6, 2010

Three Very Courageous Women In The Elephant Wars.

The previous post -Elephant Wars In Chad : SOS Elephants talked about a new website set up to seek support for this organisation.  Much of the information about SOS Elephants in my post has been written by a very enthusiastic woman, Meredith Kirkpatrick. Conservation of wildlife would be in a far worse state than it is today, but for the amazing work a relatively few dedicated individuals do, in seeing the need for an organisation, and gathering other followers together to work on much needed projects. I asked Meredith to  provide a bio about herself and how she met her friend Siggi  Hosenfield, another keen supporter of Stephanie Vergniault, because these 3 women are  instrumental in creating the framework for others to combine forces and effort in fighting for the survival of Chad's elephants.


Elephants out on a date at the local watering hole.

This is Meredith's story-



It was at a very young age that I discovered two things that would be very important to me throughout my life. These two things would be a necessary food for my soul. Like water is to the body. That is nature, and the wildlife that calls nature’s intricate web, “home”.

While growing up I had my fair share of hardships just like any other child, but I was lucky in the fact that I grew up with nature all around me, and it suited me. I was in my element, stuffing my pockets full of tiny tree frogs, catching lightning bugs, fishing all day under the shade of the forts I had built dotted along the river to protect what I truly believed belonged to me, my sister ,and the occasional lucky friend who joined us. I would run wild through the woods until the moon was high in the sky, and my eyes could no longer stay open despite what my heart wanted. As I drifted off into my dreams, I would curl my fingers under my nose and smell the fresh earth caked under my nails. The smell brought me back to nature. It brought me back home.

The day that I discovered how powerful I was as a human, and the impact I could make on the world around me, is as clear to me as if it had just happened yesterday. I set off on one of my daily fishing adventures. I packed up my wheel barrow with my poles, tackle box, worms, and of course my dad’s old painter’s bucket for my fish. I would normally catch spotted sun fish and yellow perch. I would bring them home at the end of the day, and clean them for my parents to fry.

However, on this one particular day, I caught a catfish, not my typical spot or perch. It was the biggest fish I had ever seen. I put the fish in the bucket, and because nothing else would fit in the bucket, my fishing day had come to a close. I packed up and headed home. 30-40 min later I was ready to show my mother what I had caught. I opened the bucket and to my surprise the fish was still alive! Gasping for air! To put it short…..I lost it. I threw my small body on the ground and screamed out in terror at the thought that I had caused the fish to suffer and to suffer for so long. My mother tried to calm me, but the only thing that would satisfy me was to get the fish back to the river, back in its home. My mother threw me and the fish in the car. We sped down to the cul de sac where the trail lead out to my favorite spot. I carried that bucket to the river and cried the whole way. Once I got to the rivers edge, I very gently put the catfish back in the water. It sat in one place for a bit and then it finally swam away. I was inconsolable for the rest of the night. I was terrified at the thought that I had the power to take life from something that wanted to live so badly. It was the first time I realized how powerful I was, and right then I knew I wanted to help to teach people how to protect nature and wildlife. I knew , even that young, that I wanted to give back to nature and wildlife because it gives me so much everyday.

With all of that said, I am always on the lookout for others who share my compassion and drive to protect wildlife. That is how I came to find one of the most amazing women I have ever met. I came across an article written about Stephanie Vergniault  Stephanie Vergniault who had started an organization in Chad, Africa called SOS Elephants. She had come to Chad to help with the elections, but while she was there she found herself in the middle of a full blown war on elephants. She started to work with the local communities, and local armed forces who where just as concerned as she was about the Ivory Wars. I had to meet her! I wrote her immediately and told her I wanted to help her in any way I could. We began talking back and forth about all the things she needed. She quickly introduced me to Siggi Hosenfeld, who has been working closely with Stephanie on raising awareness about SOS Elephants. Besides being one of the most positive people I have ever come across, Siggi is a wildlife photographer and a conservationist. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa working and volunteering on various conservation projects.

Knowing that there are women like these out there fighting for the survival of one of the most important keystone species of our time brings me a feeling of hope. A hope that all of us can find that fight in us, as I did as a small girl on the banks of a southern river shore. A hope that we can band together and stand up for all the wild lands and the animals that inhabit them. They need us, as much as we need them.



SOS Elephants are creating an orphanage for baby eles who have lost their mothers to poachers.

Thanks Meredith. Wonderful story.
We will be supporting SOS Elephants  and have made a donation. Can you?

http://www.soselephants.org/
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20 comments:

Deanne said...

I have to say my body tingled when I saw your writings "These two things would be a necessary food for my soul. Like water is to the body." I have written these same words in my connection to travel and people. I feel at one with all the people I come in contact with through out the world. This is such a moving story and so beautifully expressed. I pray that we evolve as humans and feel our wholeness with everything that inhabits or world. Many blessings to you Meredith for sharing.

Love and light,
Deanne

Jim said...

Yeah, like you Deanne I kind of tingled when I first read Meredith's submission to me, and had to go back and read it again. Coincidentally, your writings sprang to my mind at the same time. Not sure why, but somehow you share a similar style.
You might like to connect on Facebook.

Red Nomad OZ said...

That is such an inspiring story! Makes me realise the powerful impact just one person can have if they listen to and follow their inner voice. Thanx for sharing it.

Happy travels!!

Jim said...

Thanks Red, it was really great to know you appreciated it.

Deanne said...

Maybe you can make the suggestion to Meredith as some people are leery about strangers. I definitely felt a connection and had to read it again as well. I also have to look into some of the contests on your page as my soul is in great need of some nourishment through traveling. Thanks Jim

Jim said...

Travel can be very nourishing Deanne, and it doesn't have to be international travelling. Exploring your own country, even just a camping trip and getting back to nature can be just as fulfilling. Just so good to get away from the usual office/work place routine isn't it?

Cathy Sweeney said...

They truly are amazing women! It's interesting to read Meredith's personal story about how she came to her realizations about wanting to protect wildlife. And it's so commendable that she has followed through doing her important conservation work. Wonderful story and photos.

Jim said...

Thanks Cathy. Meredith's story touched me as much also. There was this beautiful plain old garden sparrow sitting on the neighbours fence singing his heart out searching for a mate I guess, and I shot it with an airgun. A young kid at the time, showing off with a slug gun.
Well I couldn't stick it in a bucket and place it back in a river and watch it swim away.
But I never shot another. Nowadays I often think about that, as I take another camera shot of another beautiful bird.
We're lucky that we do learn from those dreadful events we do as kids...

MsRefusenik said...

It is so wonderful to read this brave soul working to save these noble creatures. I worry about them a lot. God bless them and their children. Jim, you write a wonderful blog.

Jim said...

Thanks MsRefusenik, but credit should go to those ladies also.
I have been reading your blog also, I kind of like your "inner spirit" writings.

Kelly said...

Wow! Meredith, I admire you. Thank you for sharing this. Like you, I feel the same way when I have a hand in harming wildlife.. the day I accidentally hit a dog on a windy, rainy highway in Mexico I cried so hard I nearly gave myself an asthma attack. So sad!

Thanks again for sharing!

zablon said...

its amazing what Stephanie Vergniault is doing with the elephants, i have been following her work for sometime. there should be more awareness done on the plight of elephants

SOS Elephants said...

thanks so much Jim for posting this. I am so glad to see that so many people care and are relating to this. The real hero's are Stephanie and the rest of the team in Chad. They risk their lives everyday for the elephants. They need our help, and just simply spreading the word and posting things about SOS Elephants makes a huge difference. Thank you so much to you and all your readers for the support!! You have no idea how much it means :)

Jim said...

Zablon, anything you can do to spread awareness will help also.
And to SOS Elephants, we'll be supporting some specific groups working to protect wildlife. I set up this 'Holes' site as returning from Southern Africa, I realised it is the most effective way that I can contribute- by using our travel experiences to spread awareness of conservation issues.
Mali and Chad have always interested us as a travel adventure destination.....hmmmmm.

SOS Elephants said...

Thanks Jim! This is Meridith by the way :) I posted the other message from SOS too :) We love your blog! I am sure Stephanie would love to talk with you about traveling to see her in Chad. The best way to reach her is thru her facebook. Thank you again to you and your readers for everything!!! I am so glad you all liked the post!

Expat in Germany said...

Kudos for highlighting these amazing women! I bow down to anyone working for a higher purpose with animals/conservation and admire their dedication!

Jim said...

Yeah, it is kind of fantastic isn't it to see people like this who dedicate themselves to wildlife.Takes a very special kind of person.

MsRefusenik said...

I wanted to tell you that I signed up to follow this wonderful, worthy blog and I am putting a link for it on my blog. Thanks so much, Jim,for what you do.

Your story of how you gave up your well-paying job when you had a wife and three little kids is inspiring. I am always writing articles about the importance of following your bliss and living your dreams to find what you love to do so you can coincidentally make a living doing it. Thanks for being one more example of the truth of this philosophy that I live by.

Maryellen

Jim said...

Hi Maryellen, and yes,in the future I will elaborate on that time of chucking in a management career and becoming a shoemaker in our garage. It lead us on a totally different pathway and a very enjoyable life. BTW I have been reading your blog also, as that decision I made was an intuitive decision , against all logic, and was the correct decision, even though we were heading off into the unknown, financially.

Kerry-ann said...

I envy your passion for wildlife that grew out of your freedom to run 'wild' in nature. You learnt the bounds of your power early. I hope that one day I will be able to give my kids the ability to experience nature instead of a concrete jungle.