Letter written to African Wildlife Foundation, Letter to Non Profit

Dr. Bergin,

    I’ve felt honored to be a member of African Wildlife Foundation over the years, until recently.

    Since a couple of the last great tuskers have been poached, within days of each other, I’ve felt disillusioned with AWF.
How can a group, that’s primary focus is the preservation of African wildlife, that brings in more than $30 million dollars a year not do more to protect the world’s largest land mammal?

    I think of African Elephants daily, several times a day. The nagging feeling that I must do more to somehow help protect this species won’t let me be. I’ve be an environmental and animal welfare advocate since childhood. Knowing that approximately 100 elephants per day are being slaughtered is horrifying and unacceptable.

    I know that you, Dr. Bergin, agree with everything I’m saying.
    I know that as you’re reading this you must be thinking, “Boy is her anger ever misplaced?!”
    And I hope it is misplaced. I hope and have some faith that AWF is doing everything within its power as a multi-million-dollar non-profit to save all of Africa’s iconic species, in particular the elephant and rhino since they’re being highly targeted now and have been for the past few years.
I lay in bed the other night, doing the math in my head as I fell asleep:
$15/day- average wage for African anti-poaching tracker
$45/day- 24 hour protection (presuming $15 would cover an 8 hour shift and there are 3 shifts in a 24 hr. period)
$540/day- to assign 1guard per 1 of the ‘last great tuskers’ (calculation presumes there are a dozen great tuskers left)
$197,100- estimated annual cost to assign 1 heavily-armed anti-poaching-tracker to each of the last great tuskers…for around the clock protection.

    It’s a specific and affordable plan to protect the last of the greats!
    DFGFI implements around the clock protection for mountain gorillas and it has been years since a mountain gorilla has been slayed.

    Perhaps I’m being naïve, perhaps there’s more to it; I’m sure there is. There always is. There’s always ‘politics.’
However AWF really should do a better job of stating specific actions it’s taking to protect elephants, rhinoceroses, etc.
    I’ve explored your website, I’ve even called your hotline and haven’t been able to get clear, detailed answers to my questions regarding specific projects AWF is working on.
    The language on the website is very vague and nonchalantly throws in ‘conservation’ and ‘education’ in every other sentence… details please!

    When I called the organization’s hotline a few weeks ago to ask approximately how many anti-poaching-rangers AWF supports directly through paying salaries or providing equipment I was told, “We don’t have those exact numbers.”
    The young man with whom I spoke went on to say, “AWF doesn’t manage all of its money perfectly but it’s doing a lot of good in Africa. It is making a difference.”
    I sincerely hope that young man is wrong and if he’s not, well, you’re simply not doing good enough.

    Your organization is dedicated to the survival of Africa’s iconic species.
    Your organization brings in a lot of money, albeit far less than what the illegal wildlife trade does but still- you have a lot of funds to put to work on the ground in Africa.

    Thinking back to recent issues of the AWF newsletter I can honestly only recall one story about what AWF was doing -specifically- on the ground- in Africa. That was a story about the organization building a school and equipping it with computers in exchange for local cooperation with wildlife conservation. Yay! Hooray! Good for you! –Sincerely.
But something in my gut tells me you can do so much more than what you’re currently doing.

All the best,

Jessica L. Pita

update as of 04-22-16 I have seen an impressive change in AWF since writing and sending this letter (initial letter was sent in November of 2014, at the height of the poacking crisis). Statistics and specific examples of the tireless work AWF does on a daily basis are now included in its newsletters and on the site's twitter. I'm so glad the NGO's PR people are doing a better job of communicating AWF's work. :) I am a loyal member and supporter.