Taipei, Dec. 20 (CNA) Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, the inaugural Tang Prize laureate in the Sustainable Development field, has designated NT$5 million (US$151,930) of his prize money to the conservation of African elephants in an effort to fulfill the goal of sustainable development.
Brundtland, who received a cash prize of NT$40 million and a research grant of NT$10 million, decided to donate NT$5 million from the research grant to the Milgis Trust, a Kenyan non-profit organization, to help its elephant conservation efforts.
Tang Prize Foundation CEO Chern Jenn-chuan (???) paid a visit to the Milgis conservation area in Nairobi in July where he signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Milgis Trust.
Established in 2004, the Milgis Trust aims to raise awareness of sustainable wildlife-based conservation and tourism in Africa and dissuade local residents from poaching elephants for their tusks, which destroys the ecosystem.
Helen Douglas-Dufresne, the head of the Milgis Trust, told the CNA in an e-mail interview that while the number of elephants in Africa has been on the decline, the non-profit organization’s elephant conservation efforts have yielded positive results.
“If you consider the current widespread loss of elephants around Africa, I would like to think that the Milgis conservation area is in good shape.” “I am glad to say that in the last few years, we have lost very few elephants to poaching, although the threat is always there,” she said.
“At any one time there are maybe 600 to 1000 individuals,” Douglas-Dufresne said. “Considering that they had been completely wiped out by poaching north of the Milgis Lugga at the end of the last century, it’s incredible how quickly they are coming back, especially as they have long memories and will not forget the scourge of the late 1970’s and 80s!” she added.
African elephants are largely being poached for their tusks to be sold to other countries, with mainland China one of the biggest buyers and Taiwan a former buyer.
However, Douglas-Dufresne expressed gratitude for the Tang Prize Foundation’s financial support.
“Working in such a remote and forgotten part of Africa has been very challenging. Over the years, we have struggled to get continuing funds for our project, especially for the wildlife and habitat protection,” she said.
“So we are incredibly grateful for this 5-year part funding, which will help us to continue to pay the salaries for our scouts and so protect the elephant from poaching and other dangers, to build waterholes that benefit wildlife and people together, to gently disseminate our conservation message within these tribal communities and to teach the local people how to take our work on into the future for themselves,” she added.
Douglas-Dufresne also noted that for now the help the organization’s elephant conservationists most need is to work out how to put a stop to the ivory trade and end the poaching, the senseless killing of the magnificent elephant.
Chen also said that the conservation of African elephant herds is closely related to the survival of human beings. The harmonious co-existence of elephant herds and local residents is in line with the spirit of sustainable development, and the Tang Prize is pleased to participate in this project.