As the days get shorter and the leaves are falling (except evergreens of course, but they’re just something else), bears and foxes retreat for the winter to take a short, seasonal nap, some other animals don’t take a break.

Plan A is part of these creatures. For the cold season, we’re taking you under the bright sun of Africa – a trip through the central jungles of Cameroon and DR Congo, as well as the frosty landscapes of the Himalayan foothills.

We are proud to introduce, with our partners on the ground Awely, our new campaign “Big hearts, big teeth”, dedicated to the conservation of elephants, tigers and gorillas. Be part of the adventure.

 

‘They’re looking’

A history of violence

Awely is an aboriginal word meaning the “law of dreamtime”, that governs the relationship between Men and nature. Expressed through body painting and danse, this is a word that carries deep notions of respect and connection between our species and our planet.

Awely’s goal is to reduce and prevent conflicts between local communities and wildlife living nearby. And it’s not just meat-eating carnivores that cause damage and sometimes grief to local communities. Elephant herds, as you can imagine, can do a lot of damage.

On the other hand, due to the high value of almost all the parts of its body, these animals become favoured targets of poachers. And Africa is suffering what people refer to as an unprecedented poaching crisis. Confirming what we had learned during our previous forest campaign, the tragic loss of habitat in the past decades have only made man and wildlife interaction more frequent… and more hunger-driven on both sides.

That’s where Awely comes into play.

‘Measuring the damage done by wildlife on human settlements (Credit: Awely)’

The main reason for the failure so far of wildlife conservation, and particularly large terrestrial animals, is the clashing priorities between local populations and external conservation objectives.

As Renaud Fulconis, the founder of Awely, puts it, “there can be no conservation without full bellies”.

Indeed, the individuals closest to these animals wear the heaviest economic and human burden linked to large fauna. Awely focuses on rebuilding the bond of mutual respect between wildlife and humans, whilst providing the means for economic development based on this biological wealth.

“There can be no conservation without development”

The reality of the field is that there can be no life without a proper life-prone environment. There can be as many initiatives for the preservation of wildlife and the protection of humans, without a strong enough and large enough ecosystem these efforts will not save any of these species. Even worse, we now know that members of an ecosystems are interlinked and the depletion of diversity weakens the remaining species.

Rightfully so, correct?

‘These towers help farmers monitor the passage of wildlife in the crop fields and avoid deadly and destructive encounters (Credit: Awely)’

Awely offers ‘mediation’ between humans and wildlife animals on a variety of contentious points. From equitable sharing of the Manas park’s resources to the protection of crop fields from wildlife, Awely deploys mediators to train and guide local populations towards viable projects that actually work for every living things. The goal is to provide guidance and training to implement community-based development.

Awely’s specialists are divided into three categories: red caps, green caps and blue caps.

Red caps work towards the reduction of conflicts among villagers and wild animals. Research and community-based initiatives are the weapons these guys use to reduce destruction on both sides.

Green caps are responsible for the bettering of conditions of a specific species strained by human activity. They design new pathways and monitor the health and general growth of a population.

Finally, blue caps work on the renovation of ecosystems as a whole, including humans. Providing the basis for life and protecting the very environment where wildlife, humans and keystone vegetation enter in synergy to create healthy and resilient ecosystems.

Seeds of wildlife conservation

Without the necessity of killing, (for a variety of reasons, from personal protection to ivory trade to hunger), wildlife becomes a formidable, self-sustaining asset, bringing in funding, external investments (in the form of aid and investment) and new activity sectors such as tourism. Kenya alone makes $50 million each year from tourism, and these resources are potentially infinite. But this is not so much the point. The point is refusing to see the most incredible miracles of life disappear in our lifetime, or on any timeline.

'It’s feeling more and more lonely in the “brousse” for the largest terrestrial species on the planet - sorry, in the milky way
‘It’s feeling more and more lonely in the “brousse” for the largest terrestrial species on the planet – sorry, in the milky way (Credit: Awely)’

The brave Awely teams need economic support to maintain their high quality work. Awely focuses on providing locals with a model that allows communities to permanently turn the tide on poaching. If together we pass the €10,000 mark, we can train and organise forest patrols for ex-hunters to monitor monkey populations, organise educational initiatives in a school to learn to live with tigers in the surroundings, and build elephant-proof granaries to allow villagers to protect their crops and wildlife not to be killed in return.

There is so much to do. Start somewhere. Start here.