New Zealand to ban the domestic sale of ivory!

In a recent announcement, the government of New Zealand has decided to amend its Trade in Endangered Species Act which will effectively ban the sale of ivory (with narrow exemptions). This is a huge step forward in the international effort to protect elephants across Africa and Asia and follows the progressive steps taken by countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, China and France to close their markets. 

Acknowledging the links between domestic ivory markets and the mass slaughter of elephants (tens of thousands every year), DSWF continues to work in the international policy arena calling on all governments to close their domestic ivory markets as a matter of urgency. The recent move by New Zealand is a welcome development but we must urge other countries to follow suit!

You can help us close ivory markets and ensure a sustainable future in which humans and elephants can coexist, by donating today.

Read the full article here.

Celebrating Mutaanzi David’s first birthday

Today is Mutaanzi David’s first birthday, and we are delighted to share with you this endearing video of his development over the past year.

Mutaanzi David has grown into a strong, confident little elephant, demonstrating positive growth behaviours that will one day help him thrive in the wild.

You can be part of Mutaanzi David’s journey back into the wild, alongside his mother, by adopting Chamilandu, today.

Chamilandu is the matriarch of the orphan elephant herd at Game Rangers International’s (GRI) Elephant Orphanage Project. She arrived at the Elephant Orphanage Project 11 years ago after her mother was killed by poachers.

The keepers are delighted to report that Chamilandu has become the caring and self-assured mother, they knew she would be, having nurtured all the new arrivals at the orphanage.

The Elephant Orphanage Project was established by David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) in Zambia to give orphan elephants, like Chamilandu, a second chance at life in the wild.

Mutaanzi David’s birth

Last year, Chamilandu returned to the safety of the release facility, having been a partly free-roaming elephant in Kafue National Park, to give birth. It was heart-warming for her keepers to know that the boma is where she felt safest during this vulnerable time. Without the support structure and safety of a wild elephant herd, her new calf would have been vulnerable to lions.

The arrival of a calf to an orphaned elephant is a significant milestone for conservation efforts as Chamilandu was impregnated by a wild bull, coincidentally on the exact day of David Shepherd’s death in September 2017.

Chamilandu and her calf have remained at the release facility in Kafue with the keepers and the orphan herd.

You can make a difference in the lives of these orphan elephants, bringing them one step closer to the wild, by donating today.

September 2020 – Joni-Leigh Doran

This September we warmly welcome South African artist, Joni-Leigh Doran, as our Artist of the Month.

Artist of the Month is our most recent ‘Art of Survival’ programme whereby each calendar month DSWF join forces with a different, professional wildlife artist, to not only exhibit the finest in wildlife art but raise critical funds for endangered wildlife across Africa and Asia.

About Joni-Leigh Doran

joni-leigh doran artist

Joni-Leigh Doran is a hugely talented landscape, bird and wildlife artist who embodies the spirit of David Shepherd by generously supports several conservation charities, including DSWF, through the sale of her captivating artworks.

It’s an enormous honour to be affiliated with a Foundation that shares my values and commitment to protecting the wilderness and its inhabitants. DSWF has supported my work immensely throughout this process, and it’s a great honour to stand beside their incredible team, helping them promote the wonderful work that they do.

says Joni-Leigh Doran.

Joni-Leigh was a sell-out success in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020’s online exhibition, with her landscape painting ‘The Coming Storm’ receiving a Highly Commended award from the judges.

We are proud that this international career-making art competition continues to attract talented artist from around the globe. And we are even more delighted that Joni-Leigh has made 10 limited edition prints available of ‘The Coming Storm’ for her September Artist of the Month exhibition.

Her breathtaking landscape paintings are truly an advocate for Africa’s wild spaces, and we delighted to have some of her sensational artworks available for sale in our online art shop.

My exhibition features an exciting new series of wildlife landscape paintings, a continuation of my exploration of the theme Earth’s Wild Beauty. I intend for these artworks to be deeply atmospheric, rich in colour, highly textured, and with a delicate play of light and water.

says Joni-Leigh Doran

Scott Ramsay

“I am because we are” – in the African spirit of Ubuntu, Joni-Leigh drew inspiration from the extraordinarily talented, DSWF Contributing Photographer, Scott Ramsay’s outstanding photography, for her two of her artworks ‘Black Rhino in Imfolozi’ and ‘Savannah Elephant’.

Joni-Leigh Doran’s bird artworks

Joni-Leigh’s bird artworks are inspired by the photographic works of Ian Pletzer.

Not for Sale: Ivory Antiques

Monday 17 August 2020 was a monumental day for elephants, as the Supreme Court refused to accept an appeal to overturn the UK Ivory Act after a protracted legal challenge brought by a small group of UK-based ivory antique traders.

Fewer than 450,000 elephants remain across Africa, with as many as 30,000 brutally slaughtered each year for their tusks. At the expense of the elephant’s life, its precious ivory is then smuggled to the Far East and defaced into trinkets.

“After suffering long delays due to a small group, insisting on putting their commercial interests before the survival of a species we are delighted to hear that the Supreme Court has rejected any further appeal,” says Georgina Lamb, DSWF’s Chief Executive.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s (DSWF) has worked alongside our conservation colleagues over the years to push for a comprehensive UK ivory ban and has called on governments around the world to close their domestic ivory markets in order to save the elephant.

While this is an important milestone in finally moving forward with implementing the UK Ivory Act , there is still a long road ahead as the world’s most iconic mega-fauna is still being poached at alarming rates as demand for ivory remains alive and well.

Ivory antique markets are still operational and legal in Asia, Europe and other parts of the world, providing legal loophole for more sinister activities and illegal ivory trafficking, which is pushing elephants to the brink of extinction.

History of the UK Ivory Act

In 2018, in what can only be described as a hallmark moment in elephant conservation, with overwhelming popular support, the UK Ivory Act was passed – banning the sale of ivory antiques.

Despite cross-party parliamentary backing, the Act has been continuously challenged by, Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT), a small group of ivory antique traders conducting business with the Far East.

What are ivory antiques?

While the international trade of ivory is illegal and the harvesting of new ivory stockpiles is also fortunately banned, some states allow for the domestic trade in ivory.

Antique palm-leaf fans, ornaments, gavels, and chess boards were all common objects made from the tusks of slain elephants in a bygone time, arguable the most well-known ivory object would be piano keys. While most countries no longer use ivory to make piano keys there is an ongoing demand in Asia for ivory. DSWF believes that no antique holds a higher value than the life of an elephant.

Ivory Markets

Ivory, sometimes referred to as ‘white gold’ because of the high prices it fetches, is popular amongst a rapidly growing middle/upper class in Asian economies. For decades, ivory ornaments have been regarded as a status symbol and a sign of wealth in many Asian countries.

Why is the trade of antique ivory bad?

Legal trade provides a cover for the illegal ivory trade which is driving up demand and therefore the poaching of elephants to sustain this. Any legal antique ivory can act as a cover for smuggling newly poached ivory into domestic markets or onto the illegal black market which is hard to easily identify and determine.

In addition to this, by keeping the legal trade of ivory antiques open you are enabling demand and encouraging the belief that ivory holds a commercial value.

DSWF is working to reduce the demand for ivory in Asia through campaigns, policy work and education and awareness initiatives.

You can support our critical work to save elephants and other endangered wildlife that are victims of the illegal wildlife trade, by donating to DSWF today.

Notice of Data Breach

What Happened?

On Thursday 16 July 2020 David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) was alerted to a cyberattack at one of our service providers, Blackbaud, who provide CRM solutions for many not for profits across the world, including DSWF. Blackbaud have explained that incident began in February 2020, when a cybercriminal accessed Blackbaud’s system, and continued until May 2020 when Blackbaud discovered the breach and alongside their own security teams worked with an external forensics firm and federal law enforcement and were able to expel the hacker from their system. During this time the cybercriminal was able to obtain a copy of backup data from the Raisers Edge database, which Blackbaud subsequently paid a ransom to the hacker to have deleted. Unfortunately DSWF was one of a number of organisations impacted by this breach.  Additional information on this incident is available on their website here.

What information was involved?

The database affected held supporter information, including names, contact information and details of the relationship with DSWF. This potentially includes giving history, event attendance, gift aid status and forms, correspondence and biographical details such as date of birth and more, however not all of these details were present in every record. Credit card information and bank account details were not impacted and DSWF does not hold this information on its database. 

Based on the nature of the incident, Blackbaud’s research and third party (including law enforcement) investigation, we have no reason to believe that any data went beyond the cybercriminal, was or will be misused or will be disseminated or otherwise made available publicly.

What we are doing?

DSWF takes its data protection responsibilities and the security of its database of supporters extremely seriously and as such we have closely followed all information provided by Blackbaud to ensure we are kept up to date and have reported this breach to the Information Commissioners Office. Even though Blackbaud have assured their customers that they believe the risk to individuals whose data was stolen is very low, they have teams who continue to monitor the dark web to detect for any transmission of data. We will notify individuals if we feel it is appropriate or if it becomes necessary to do so.

Blackbaud have assured us that new safeguards have been put in place to prevent this happening again.

DSWF will update this notice with any further information should it be presented.

We are sorry for any inconvenience caused by this data breach by Blackbaud. We would like to reassure our supporters that we take data protection very seriously and we are grateful for your continued support. If you have any further concerns please do contact DSWF on and we recommend that all supporters continue to take the usual steps to remain vigilant and to report anything suspicious to the proper law enforcement authorities.

Tips for using recycled material in your Global Canvas display

We know many of you are in the process of planning or creating your Global Canvas, children’s art competition, artwork displays in-line with this year’s theme, so here are some top tips.

One of the judging criteria is the use of recycled materials in your whimsical and wonderful displays because, at DSWF, we know that the humble ice-cream stick is transformed from trash to treasure in the hands of a budding Picasso.

Recycled materials, like kitchen rolls and old milk cartons, are a free and cheap source of creativity. The use of bubble wrap or empty cereal boxes not only show ingenuity and resourcefulness, but we feel, also teaches children the importance of decision making and the impacts our choices have on the environment.

So, we thought your group might like some tips and ideas for using reclaimed items in your art displays.

What are recycled materials?

Milk bottles, cereal boxes, baked bean tin cans, egg cartons, plastic yoghurt containers, bubble wrap, cardboard boxes, out-of-date newspapers, scratched CDs and even pressed flowers can be salvaged for your colourful artwork displays.

pressed flowers

The judges at Global Canvas have seen some very interesting pieces created over the years, including an origami-like display made from folded pages of outdated books.

dunhurst, bedales
Dunhurst, Bedales

We also know of artist who combs beaches for washed-up plastic to use in their fishy creations. It takes a lot of time and effort, a bit like a puzzle, to make old toothbrushes and flip-flops look like a fish. Sadly, despite the ‘ban the straw movement’ to save the oceans’ sensational sea turtles, single-use plastic is still turning up on our beaches. Brands like Levi Jeans are trying to use recycled plastic bottles in their jean materials to become more sustainable.

Where to find them?

We recommend raiding the recycling bin at school or at home (in lockdown) for anything you might need. Also, pay attention to anything you might be throwing out at home, could it be used somewhere in your display? Even a broken piece of furniture might be worth up-cycling in your group’s display.

How to use recycled materials in art?

Here are FIVE inventive ways to use recycled produced in your artwork just to get you creative juices flowing and your team thinking green.

1. Bottle caps make brilliant snakes when strung up together.

2. Who knew the bottom of plastic containers from supermarkets were so bumpy, textured, ‘liney’ and fill of ridges – just perfect for screen printing? The bottom of a plastic veggie container can be used to make passport-like stamps in your display, giving it a cool texture.

3. Cuttings from old magazines and newspapers make for super collages. Take a look at this Wildlife Artist of the Year entry in 2020, where artist, Violet von Riot, used a 1000 face cutting to create a wasp!

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 competition entry - Wasp Paper Collage
Artwork by Violet von Riot

4. Sardine cans and shoe boxes make superb mini dioramas. If you have a lot of people in your group, remember sometimes entire schools or year groups enter Global Canvas, why not encourage everyone in the team to create their own mini diorama for your display. A diorama, mini set representing an environmental scene.

5. Shredding old, stained, and torn clothing into strips can make great yarn for knitting. Why not try dying the clothing using natural dies like beetroot, red cabbage, turmeric, coffee, tea or jackfruit to get your ideal colour. Don’t forget to ask permission from a parent or guardian first and make sure you protect your clothing and any surfaces.

Introducing DSWF’s new Art Patron

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is delighted to announce that David Shepherd’s eldest grand-daughter and renowned wildlife artist, Emily Lamb, has been appointed as DSWF’s very first Art Patron.

Like her grandfather and aunt Mandy Shepherd, Emily is a hugely successful wildlife artist, having created world-class pieces, which highlight the beauty, interconnectivity and dependency of wildlife and people on nature, such as ‘Mother’, ‘Within and World’ and ‘Gatekeepers’.

“It couldn’t be with a stronger will and with heartfelt gratitude, that I accept and acknowledge my new role as Art Patron for DSWF,” says Emily Lamb. “Observing what the natural world is facing today, and how fragile the future is for ecosystems to thrive, and let alone flourish, I believe it’s imperative to work with honest, strong and good people, who dare to challenge current frameworks to bring about change.”

DSWF is a highly respected and well-loved charity which has become a key player in the conservation field. Tantamount to the Foundation’s success is the Shepherd family and its unique wildlife art heritage.

Emily has always been a part of the DSWF family, more recently in an official capacity as a Wildlife Art Ambassador, pioneering the #SketchforWildlife Instagram movement, successfully raising over £40,000 for DSWF’s conservation efforts across Africa and Asia. She is also a judge in our international Wildlife Artist of the Year competition and exhibition, often described as the ‘Oscars of wildlife art’.

“The arts have always had their place in the fabric of humanity and its relationship with the natural world. I believe that through art, supporting DSWF’s amazing work, it can contribute and share the stories of wildlife, in a way intrinsic to soulful and steadfast recovery,” says Emily. “If I can share my art and build up the foundations created by three decades of hard work, then it is an honour and privilege to partake in such endeavours.”

The trustees feel Emily truly embodies DSWF’s ‘Art of Survival’ message – to fight, protect and engage on behalf of wildlife across the world, making her the natural choice for this new position.

Her creative flair is a welcomed addition to the DSWF team and will be a shepherding light in driving our ‘Art of Survival’ programmes forward. Art is DSWF’s lifeblood. Wildlife Artist of the Year, Artist of the Month and our Global Canvas children’s art competition are critical fundraising tools, that not only showcase magnificent wildlife art and highlight global conservation issues but raise lifegiving funds for some of the world’s most endangered wildlife.

Emily’s appointment comes after her sister, Georgina Lamb, was made the Chief Executive of the Foundation in April 2020.

While art is the Foundation’s lifeblood, the Shepherd family is at its heart. ‘Art is long, and life is short’ – no truer words were spoken, David Shepherd was one of the world’s most successful and prolific wildlife artists, who dedicated his life and work to protecting wildlife and the wilderness.

David vehemently believed that he had to give back to the creatures, that not only inspired him as an artist but that he felt he owed his commercial success to; thus, he started DSWF 36 years ago.

“Art throughout history has not only dared to challenge fraught times head-on, through messaging and visual prowess but has also shed light on an otherwise very dark battlefield, which needs more energy than ever before. Community is our power, and through art, its power is infinite. This is what I believe, and so I take the role with great anticipation and excitement,” says Emily.

Continuing David’s legacy is the next generation of Shepherds and Lambs who are flocking together to save the world’s precious wildlife from extinction.

Georgina’s expertise, working on global conservation issues, complemented by Emily’s artistic energy will be the driving force behind the Foundation’s ever-expanding horizons and bright future.

August 2020 – Daniel Wilson

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is delighted to announce that wildlife artist, Daniel Wilson from greater Manchester, is our Artist of the Month for August.

Daniels outstanding charcoal drawings will be available for sale in DSWF’s online shop. A portion of the sale of these stunning artworks goes to preserving endangered African and Asian species in the wild.

“My exhibition for Artist of the Month consists solely of my charcoal work. There are several pieces available in my signature style. I plan to create some new original works over the month and intend to experiment more. Hopefully, I will deliver my best work yet.”

Says Daniel

Keep an eye out for Daniel’s new additions to his August exhibition. We will be updating our online shop with his latest artworks.

Daniel’s exhibition is comprised of stunning, wolf, gorilla, cheetah, and leopard charcoal drawings. Also featured in his exhibition are tigers, elephants, lions and snow leopards – a few of the deeply threatened species DSWF works to protect.

“There is an assortment of animals being shown as part of the exhibition in a range of sizes, so I am hoping there is something for everyone,” says Daniel.”

Says Daniel

Look out for his live videos and Q&A sessions via his social media accounts, Facebook and Instagram.

About wildlife artist, Daniel Wilson

daniel wilson

Daniel is an A-Level biology teacher and part-time wildlife artist. Dan is a multimedia artist who primarily focuses on charcoal drawings and paintings of wildlife. He draws his inspiration for his wildlife art through his keen interest in biology and his love of the natural world.

“l love to paint and draw animals with distinct patterns or features. Anything with spots or stripes is brilliant for me. If I had to pick one though it would be tigers. When I paint, I tend to work in colour. The oranges, browns and blues found in the fur of a tiger are some of my favourite colours to work with.

Says Daniel

Daniel’s monochrome charcoal work displays a balance between abstract and realism that captures the form and character of the animals he portrays.

Daniel Wilson artistic journey through Wildlife Artist of the Year

Daniel succeeds his partner, wildlife and pet artist, Amber Tyldesley, as DSWF’s Artist of the Month. Amber was July’s Artist of the Month featuring her emotive big cat acrylic artworks. The artist couple met at the Mall Galleries while setting up their artworks for the Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019 exhibition.

Daniel is a regular entrant in DSWF’s Wildlife Artist of the Year competition and exhibition, his outstanding artworks were shortlisted in 2018, 2019 and 2020. His journey as an artist has strong ties to this international competition and exhibition.

“I first discovered DSWF’s Wildlife Artist of the Year in 2017 when I came across the competition in an artist’s blog. At the time I was looking for a place to share my art. My art has evolved over the years – in 2017, when I first entered Wildlife Artist of the Year, I wasn’t focused on painting wildlife and had not developed my style. None of my pieces got in that year.”

explains Daniel

“Then I began experimenting with charcoal and developed my style exploring using marks rather than focusing all my attention on detail. I decided to try to enter again in 2018 this time my two of my pieces were shortlisted.”

“I continued to build and develop with the charcoal and started to settle into a style that I hope one day will be recognised as my own. I entered again in 2019 and again two pieces were shortlisted and exhibited at the Mall Gallery,”

Says Daniel

His charcoal creations, ‘Fading Away’, ‘One Step Closer’ and ‘No Laughing Matter’ all featured in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020’s online exhibition.

Wildlife Artist of the Year has been running since 2008, over the years this competition has developed a large wildlife-inspired art community, with extremely talented wildlife artists like Amber and Daniel participating year-after-year.

Artist of the Month

Artist of the Month is the latest addition to several ‘Art of Survival’ programmes including our annual Wildlife Artist of the Year competition, Global Canvas – Children’s Art Competition and Sketch for Wildlife.

Artist of the Month personifies our ‘Art of Survival’ vision and gives wildlife artists a platform to raise awareness for, not only their exceptional artworks but their endangered animal muses. Funds raised from this novel initiative go support DSWF’s vital conservation work across Africa and Asia.

Sparking Change: what we can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic

In 2007, a University of Hong Kong study warned that the presence of a “large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses” in horseshoe bats, combined with the trade and consumption of exotic animals in China, was a ticking time bomb for a global pandemic.

Fast-forward to 2019 and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, began to spread across the world like wildfire. Economies have crumbled and lives have been lost in the hundreds of thousands (658,861 at time of writing).

A wet market in Wuhan, China, has been marked as the common denominator in earlier cases and the pandemic’s epicentre. However, in truth an outbreak could have sparked from anywhere – a bushmeat market in the Congo, an international sports event in Brazil, a port in the United Kingdom. In fact, these are all locations where large populations have been exposed to catastrophic emerging zoonotic diseases in the recent past. Ebola virus in the Congo, Zika virus in Brazil, and foot and mouth disease closer to home in the UK.

Zoonotic diseases (zoonoses) are infectious diseases caused by pathogens passed from non-human species to humans. An estimated sixty percent of known human diseases are zoonoses, and coronaviruses in particular, are a clear threat to us with SARS-CoV-2 being one of seven able to infect humans.

Besides the 2007 study, immunologists and microbiologists have known and warned of the danger of zoonoses for a frustratingly long time now. The factors that allow these viruses to spill-over into humans and potentially trigger global pandemics are also known: wildlife trade and consumption, the burgeoning human population, and environmental destruction.

What was not forecasted, however, was the impact of a global pandemic on biodiversity conservation. There have been both good and bad consequences; with the transportation industry brought largely to a halt, for example, carbon emissions have plummeted much to our delight. On the other hand, poachers have been taking advantage of the extended closure of most national parks across the world with increasing success.

This pandemic-induced poaching is a worrying by-product and suggests a tough post-lockdown reality for those concerned with our planet’s rarest species.

Preventing the next pandemic must combine strictly enforced wildlife trade policy, education on risky wildlife consumption practices, and abandonment of our unsustainable exploitation of the environment. Without this, another pandemic is inevitable.

We, the Problem.

A pandemic is not a new phenomenon experienced by modern human civilisation. Indeed, this century has already seen five: H1N1 in 2009; Polio in 2014; Ebola in 2014; Zika in 2016, and; Ebola again in 2019. Covid-19, however, has been the most ruinous and widespread of them all.

The Huanan South China Seafood Market in Wuhan has been deduced as the origin of the outbreak. This wet market, like others across the globe, sells live and dead animals for consumption which are often rare and from isolated places far from human settlements. We do not yet know from which species the virus made the jump to humans, although researchers are certain that the virus emerged from horseshoe bats in Yunnan Province. Since bats were in hibernation during the initial outbreak, and it is unclear as to whether they were even sold at the market, the virus would have been transmitted via other species at the market.

Suspicions abound, ferrets and snakes are possible suspects, among others and contrary to public discourse, pangolins have been potentially ruled out. The intermediate host for Ebola is still unknown forty-five years after its discovery, and so this question may remain unsolved for some time yet.

Regardless, the role of wet markets in this and potentially future pandemics is unequivocal. Described as perfect laboratories for creating new viruses, live animals of various species are stored in small cages next to and on top of one another, with faecal matter and other bodily fluids passing freely from one species to another. If a virus is present in one individual or species, it does not take much for it to spread to the others. Next to these infected live animals, raw meat. Alas, nor does it take much for it to then spread to consumers.

Wildlife trade, both legal and illegal, provides safe passage for zoonotic diseases to make their way to humans where naturally they would not. Seventy percent of zoonoses are believed to originate in wild (or ‘exotic’) animals found in remote areas. Trade in these species, whilst prolific (think pangolins, the most trafficked mammal on the planet), represents a massive threat to us humans since we are more likely to have never come into contact with the diseases they harbour. Thus, humans will lack the herd immunity required to protect us from an emerging pandemic.

Yet another shot in our own foot is our rapid expansion into wilder areas, and the resulting exploitation of natural resources.

Human encroachment into wild and biodiverse areas makes us increasingly more exposed to animals we don’t usually have contact with, and thus increasingly more vulnerable to new pathogens. More than this, deforestation is a proven method for introducing new diseases into the population.

After deforestation has occurred, the landscape is modified to facilitate economic activities which increases the spatial overlap between wildlife disease reservoirs and humans. For example, slash-and-burn deforestation in Southeast Asia during the build-up to the end of the last century resulted in an opaque haze blanketing much of the region. As drought ensued, the availability of flowering and fruiting forest trees on which fruit bats forage reduced, and they swarmed into cultivated fruit orchards – many of which were part pig farm. The pigs acted as intermediate hosts, facilitating the transmission of a novel virus (Nipah virus) from the bats to humans.

Right now, more than ever, our constant exploitation and abuse of the planet’s biodiversity for our singular species gain just does not seem worth the risk.

Impacts on conservation.

So far, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to serious implications for biodiversity.

Those involved in the illicit wildlife trade have not let up during the lockdown. Because governments have closed so many national parks, tourists are absent, and rangers are scarce, poachers are taking advantage and hunting animals that are not being so closely guarded as before. In Uganda, 367 poaching incidents were reported between February and May this year, more than double that of last year.

Animals and their derivatives are then being stockpiled, and there is a rising fear amongst the conservation community that trade will come roaring back as lockdowns are lifted.

Another worrying trend occurring concerns local superstitions in southern Africa. Rangers have been finding mutilated lion corpses, missing heads, tails, and paws. Known as muti, these body parts are used in traditional medicine because of their association with prosperity and good luck, suggesting that local peoples in fear of the coronavirus are seeking alternative medicine from wildlife.

One unfortunate by-product of our fight against the pandemic is the dramatic increase in single-use plastics. The necessity for gloves, masks, gowns, and other plastic materials, especially needed by those leading the Covid-19 response and saving lives, will result in a surge of plastic waste. This will be especially disastrous for ocean conservation, just when the anti-plastic movement was seeing real progress.

There is good news, however. Apart from the remarkable environmental effect that the limitation on transportation and industrial waste has yielded (and let us not forget that the UK was coal-free for over 67 days during lockdown), conservation has directly benefitted from the lockdown in some ways.

As tourism dropped, so did the presence and movement of people inside protected areas, reducing stress and exposure to wildlife. Reductions in logging activities and commercial fishing are showing rebounds for many species. Furthermore, the increased human usage of ‘green’ areas adjacent to urban centres (i.e. our newfound hobby of walking) could inspire novel strategies to rewild ecosystems, as public perceptions on natural spaces change and improve.

It has also been forecasted that wildlife trade for the purposes of consumption will take a big hit due to the public awareness of the zoonotic origin of Covid-19, despite the aforementioned stockpiling.

The unprecedented confinement of over 4.4 billion people around the globe (over half the global population) in full or partial lockdown over the past five to six months, having good and bad impacts on the environment and biodiversity, is being viewed by some as a ‘Global Human Confinement Experiment.’ This represents a unique opportunity to identify both the positive and negative effects of human presence and movement on a wide range of natural systems, which could advance our understanding and practice of conservation biology.

The outcomes of this ‘experiment’ could also help us in methods to prevent the next pandemic – something of utmost importance to the future of our species and others.

Preventing the next pandemic.

An outbreak of this magnitude has been anticipated for some time now, and it is almost certain to happen again unless we drastically change the way we treat our planet’s living environment.

The cost of preventing further pandemics over the next decade through the preservation of wildlife and forests is just two percent of the financial ruin caused by SARS-CoV-2, which has risen to an estimated $11.5 trillion in lost GDP and mortality costs. To break it down, the annual prevention costs sum to $26 billion ($260 billion over the next decade) and is comprised of disease spill-over reduction, early disease detection and control, monitoring the wildlife trade, reducing tropical deforestation, and closing wet markets worldwide. The choices we have to make to prevent future pandemics are no-brainers.

Vietnam has been bold with its total ban on the import of wildlife and wildlife products, as well as a strict crackdown on illegal wildlife markets. China had followed the same strategy early on, but still allowed the use of wildlife for traditional medicine – a gaping loophole that renders the ban useless.

Of course, it is not that simple. During times of crisis, biodiversity oft become a primary resource for many of the worst affected. During the Sudanese war, impoverished communities used and sold wild fruits to provide income, whilst in Zimbabwe, more than one third of households relied on trading and consuming wild foods following the collapse of the economy. Total bans on wildlife trade will surely affect the livelihoods of a substantial proportion of the global population, and likely shift much of the trade onto the black market.

Perhaps a more nuanced approach is education and support for affected communities where poverty is already an issue.

The One Health concept was introduced in the 2000s as a collaborative global approach to understanding the risks for human and animal health, and ecosystem health as a whole. This initiative, adopted widely across many scientific and social disciplines, will be a focal point in our fight to prevent future outbreaks.

Sustainable and non-consumptive use of wildlife and alternatives needs to be recognised as an essential coping and resilience strategy. The pandemic-induced poaching we are seeing is not so surprising; most poaching incidents have been locals attempting to find food for their families, people are trying to survive.

Since this is the last article of the conservation series, now is a perfect time to mention E.O. Wilson’s pioneering ‘Half-Earth Project,’ which could provide the foundations of our post-lockdown actions to prevent a pandemic from reappearing.

One of the world’s most distinguished biologists, Wilson and a team of other scientists, businessmen, and activists, are working to conserve ‘half the land and sea to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, including ourselves.’ Inter-connected reserves within the planet’s most important ecosystems. Realisation of the Half-Earth Project would see the acceleration of species extinction rates come to a halt and it would bring closer to us a natural world so complex and beautiful beyond our imagining. The human-wildlife interface, across which zoonoses find their success, would be diminished in such a way as to make future pandemics near impossible.

Perhaps his work is more relevant to us now than ever before. A world of protected and connected wildlands, neither exploited nor discarded, where once endangered species can thrive, and the Earth can breathe once more.

Written by: Linus Hiscox, studying MSc Global Biodiversity Health and Conservation at the University of Bristol and DSWF Programmes and Policy Intern.

A day in the life of a Kafue ranger, Neddy Mulimo

neddy from game rangers international

Neddy Mulimo is the backbone of Game Rangers International’s (GRI) Resource Protection Programme. He has had a long and distinguished career protecting Zambia’s wildlife in the fight against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. He is currently the Senior Support Manager for the Resource Protection Programme having been a frontline ranger for 28 years.

Neddy started his career in 1985 when he joined the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Even during his training, he was never far from danger. He recalls one specific incident when, as he was approaching a wounded buffalo, which had been snared by poachers, he was almost mauled to death by the suffering animal. Had it not been for the swift thinking by both him and his instructor, which enabled them both to escape, this incident could have quickly turned fatal.

A one year, wildlife management course was Neddy’s first exposure to the world of conservation and anti-poaching. After that, his intelligence and determination as a young ranger enabled him to pass a gruelling nine-month paramilitary course in Sondela, furthering his skills and knowledge.

He used this new knowledge, as well as his significant experience of anti-poaching operations, to introduce new tactics and techniques into the Resource Protection Programme. Whilst working in Zambia’s Blue Lagoon National Park, he introduced a new method of tracking poachers, who had become especially elusive in this park. Neddy also headed up night patrols, using trenches to ambush poachers. Night patrols are extremely dangerous due to the threat of poachers and nocturnal wildlife. All of these new approaches led to the increased capture of poachers before eventually resulting in a reduction of all illegal activity across the park. It is this level of innovation and motivation, coupled with a true love for the wildlife, , which made Neddy, and indeed all rangers, so effective in their vital roles.

On another occasion, Neddy was supervising the construction of mud houses in the Lukanga swamps, illustrating the wide variety of tasks rangers are more than capable of. He was collecting elephant grass for the rooves and came into contact with seven poachers, all carrying firearms. Neddy, dressed in civilian clothing, quickly managed to disguise himself as a poacher and joined their group. With little regard for his own life, he managed to send word back to his team, informing them of his location and company. His team acted without hesitation, laying an ambush, waiting for the poachers. The ambush was sprung, leading to the arrest of five of the seven poachers, as well as confiscation of the firearms. Neddy was presented with an award for quick thinking and courage for his actions on that day.

These acts of courage in the face of danger are, sadly, all too necessary and regular.

Neddy is currently based at Musa Gate, on the edge of Kafue National Park, where he now supports the work of the rangers on the ground. During a recent operation conducted by the Marine Anti-Poaching Unit, the rangers were moving in a patrol boat towards a suspected poachers’ camp. The poachers, on seeing the Rangers approach, panicked and engaged the patrol with their rifles. The intensity and accuracy of the fire was such that the rangers were forced to jump into the water to avoid being shot. After regrouping on the shores of the lake, the Marine Unit then attacked the poachers’ camp, which led to the seizure of two large elephant tusks, as well as its meat, and a boat which would have been used to transport the ivory out of the park.

These rangers, some of whom are from the communities near where they operate, mostly join the fight against poaching because they want to conserve nature. They also see themselves as bastions of the wildlife, understanding that their job does not stop when they put down their weapons. They understand the importance of educating their families and friends about the benefit of protecting wildlife and wild spaces.

They chose a job which can put them at odds with their communities and even families.

They chose a job which is under appreciated, sometimes poorly paid, often deadly, and always hard.

They chose a job which benefits everyone on our planet, whether they know it or not. These men and women did not have to become rangers. They chose to.

Written by: James Amoore from Game Rangers International.

Updates from the field: Phoenix Fund

The effects of the pandemic have been felt across the globe, including in the remote birch forests of eastern Russia, one of the last strongholds of the infamous Amur tiger, the largest of the six surviving tiger subspecies.

Through this trying time our ground-based conservation partners, Phoenix Fund, have continued their incredible work protecting Amur tigers and their crucial habitat as well as working to reduce the human-wildlife conflict.

We received this update from Victoria Parfyonova Projects Coordinator in Russia:

“We all are safe, and things are starting to go back to normal – we are back in the office, having worked from home the whole of April and May. Thanks to preventative measures set by the government, the outbreak has not affected Vladivostok that badly and we have been able to continue working with some minor adjustments.

Our finances have suffered and a lot of people in the area have lost their jobs. The rangers have continued to patrol the protected areas with even greater vigilance in recent months, in order to prevent a potential increase in wildlife crimes.

Illegal hunting and arrests update

Land of the Leopard National Park’s rangers prevented an illegal hunt in the area by a potential poacher. Thanks to coordinated teamwork with the police, the unregistered firearms were seized.

“The possession of unregistered weapons at the borders of the national park is a crime, which implies the intention to conduct poaching. In our practice, there have already been similar precedents. Such people will not buy permits, engage in legal hunting in hunting farms.” said Eugeny Stoma, deputy director for protection of the Land of the Leopard.

“Our task is not only to detain violators directly in the protected area but also to facilitate the withdrawal of illegal arms from circulation. We will continue to collect and process operational information about such case,” continues Stoma.

The law enforcement team at Sikhote-Alin Nature Reserve also seized an illegal rifle and initiated criminal procedure for poaching.

According to Primorsky Krai Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife Management, the number of hunting violations has significantly dropped in the area, compared with the number of violations revealed during the same period in 2019. For example, from March 15 to April 12 wildlife managers issued 194 administrative citations compared with 283 administrative citations during the same period in 2019.

It is likely, some of the would-be poachers were put off during the lockdown period. Moreover, the waterfowl hunting season was closed earlier than usual this year, meaning there were fewer people in the parks.

Conservation Education programmes updates

Not only does Phoenix Fund safeguard Amur tigers in protected areas, they also create awareness for conservation issues among local communities through their education programmes.

Whilst law enforcement in the field remains unaffected by the pandemic, our educational activities had to slow down in the last two months of spring. In April, all the schools and kindergartens were closed, they are still closed, and the children are dismissed. To keep our young followers busy we organized drawing contest via Instagram and have received some amazing works.

Closing of schools meant our educators had to use online learning to continue their lessons. Some of our educators have been using Zoom to deliver their lessons and to connect with schoolchildren remotely. Unfortunately, in some villages, the Internet is very slow and sometimes even unavailable.

In 2019-2020, Phoenix focused on the issue of forest fires and took steps to help educators and outreach specialists teach school children about the implications of forest fires and how to prevent them from starting. We published a teacher’s guide with lesson plans, games and scenarios. Luckily, we were able to hold our annual workshop for 50 educators and outreach specialists at the end of March, just before all group gatherings were prohibited.

This spring we also published and distributed new materials on the peaceful coexistence with tigers.

We are now preparing for Tiger Day. We are hoping it will take place in September, but the final date is yet to be confirmed.”

Conservation has not stopped during all this global unrest and in parts of the world, the need has become even greater. With the economic world in turmoil, many have turned to the illegal wildlife trade as an alternative source of income to support their families, it is because of the courageous work that our partners are doing that are keeping these animals safe.

Losing the legacy: the plight of the lion

The king of the jungle (or more accurately, the savannah) is under siege, with the lion more vulnerable now than ever before.

As human encroachment continues to threaten the lion’s kingdom and all within, this fearsome and awe-inspiring big cat – which holds such significant cultural, ecological, and economic value for the continent – has been reduced to small, isolated populations scattered across sub-Saharan Africa.

An estimated 20,000 lions remain in the wild today, down from 200,000 in 1975 and double that in 1950. These catastrophic losses have undoubtedly had likewise catastrophic impacts on ecosystems, as the lion is an apex predator, ruling from the top and regulating prey populations in lower trophic levels.

The threats to Africa’s largest felid are becoming more prominent with the growing human population, and lion conservation priorities must be identified and acted upon with haste. Establishing and maintaining connectivity between remnant populations, most found in far between protected areas, is critical to the species’ survival, as is the quelling of lion-human conflict occurring on the boundaries of these protected areas.

Without proper consensus between the relevant authorities, however, the effectiveness of efforts to save the lion may be futile.

Ecological and cultural significance of the lion.

The fate of lions holds importance beyond their own species.

They are generalist hypercarnivores (unfussy and prolific meat-eaters), hunting a wide range of prey from giraffe and buffalo to porcupines and honey badgers. Lions are unrivalled in their role as apex predators, dominating other big cats such as cheetahs and leopards by stealing kills and occasionally killing cubs and adults.

This ecological niche they fill exerts a powerful influence on the ecosystem processes and trophic interactions within savannah habitats. By feeding heavily on herbivore populations, and thereby regulating them, lions indirectly shape the vegetative communities on which their prey feed. This holds intrinsic value in suppressing grazers and browsers, reducing herbivore population densities and preventing vegetation from being decimated. This in turn not only allows for healthy, well-nourished herbivore species, but also maintains habitat for smaller animals.

Reductions or total loss of lion populations from ecosystems trigger meso-predator release, a specific type of trophic cascade resulting in increased numbers of smaller carnivores ordinarily limited by the apex predator. Bird populations take the brunt of this, and the consequential alteration in vegetation community structure ultimately contributes to climate change. In this respect, much like the elephant, the lion is a keystone species in the savannah ecosystem of sub-Saharan Africa.

Aside from their ecological significance, lions also hold cultural significance across much of their historic range, including Eurasia.

Lions ranged throughout Eurasia and Africa during the Pleistocene epoch, which lasted from just over two million years ago to 11,000 years ago. The earliest cultural depictions of them – ivory carvings found in Vogelherd Cave, Germany – have been dated to between 32,000 to 40,000 years ago. Carvings and paintings depicting lions in numerous caves in France date back to 17,000 years ago. More recently, the Greek historian Herodotus reported lions as common in Greece in 480 BC, however, they were extirpated shortly after the turn of the millennium.

Despite their widespread historical range, lions have now been reduced to fragmented populations in sub-Saharan Africa and one Critically Endangered population in western India. Their current predicament is perilous, and the lion is well on its way to extinction in the wild.

Conservation status and threats.

A lack of consistency among two of the leading global authorities on wildlife conservation presents its own threat to lion conservation.

The lion has been listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List since 1996, and on Appendix II under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 1977. These listings do not match up; ‘Vulnerable’ species are defined as those threatened with extinction, whereas species listed on Appendix II are those not yet threatened with extinction, but close to it. Appendix II species can be subject to trade.

Lion populations have declined by up to 90 % since they were placed on Appendix II, suggesting the need for a higher level of legal protection for the species is not only appropriate, but downright obvious.

Multiple proposals to up-list the species to Appendix I have been met with resistance and failure, with opposition stemming from fear of threatening the trophy hunting industry. These proposals did, however, force a new annotation to the listing in 2016 which prohibited the commercial trade of bones from wild lions – compromise seems to be an all too familiar fate in wildlife conservation.

Threats abound, unless governing bodies are willing to put the lion first and show the same zeal and commitment shown by conservation charities and supporters worldwide, no substantial progress can be made to protect the species’ future.

In Africa, lions have lost over 75 % of their habitat over the last hundred years due to urban development and agriculture. What’s left is a fragmented landscape of small, distant habitat patches with insufficient numbers of prey to sustain long-term viable lion populations; instead, these populations are at great risk of suffering inbreeding depression and subsequent loss of genetic diversity. Local extinctions further down the road, without appropriate intervention, are inevitable.

As these wide-ranging animals are squeezed into smaller and more isolated areas, conflict with humans becomes a burgeoning issue. The smaller size of these areas means a larger proportion is comprised of ‘edge’ – zones encompassing the core interior which have greater contact with outside influences, such as livestock and human settlements.

These zones can create deceptive vacuums for lions, especially males. Males whose territories include protected area boundaries are more likely to prey on livestock, and retaliatory killing by herders is a common response. This then leaves empty territories for other males, attracted by the abundance of easy prey (livestock) and unattended prides of females. They too, most likely, will fall victim to retaliatory killing and so the cycle continues.

It is clear that population connectivity and conflict prevention methods are the most urgent approaches in lion conservation. Potent legal protection through collaboration between lion range states is necessary to maximise the effectiveness of these approaches.

Lion conservation.

Connectivity between remnant lion populations is critical for maintaining their long-term viability. Currently, dispersal between protected areas is risky for lions due to the matrix of agricultural land and human settlements which lie between and the resulting conflict with humans is a leading cause of mortality for the species.

The creation and protection of dispersal corridors is an emerging popular strategy for many wide-ranging species, improving connectivity between isolated populations and hence safeguarding them from genetic decline. Strategically placed fences can be used to funnel dispersing individuals between protected areas via corridors of suitable habitat, protected from human land-use. These corridors would also provide safe dispersal routes for myriad other species.

Where designation of protected corridors is not possible, translocations of individuals is a viable alternative used widely in conservation, although should not be the preferred method.

Without these protected corridors, livestock depredation by lions moving through pastoral land-use areas is more likely, resulting in local persecution and retaliatory killings by herders. Where livestock is kept in close proximity to protected lion populations, use of traditional livestock-guarding practices, such as keeping them in enclosures at night, is proven to greatly reduce loss of livestock and goes a long way to promoting tolerance of lions by local communities.

These conservation efforts to protect the lion, however, are meaningless unless the legal protections applied to the species is significant and enforced.

Legislation and policy regarding wildlife faces significant challenges in application, often due to inadequate funding, competing political interests, and differential enforcement. In some cases, due to outright resistance. International treaties have often been accused of confronting urgent environmental issues with a “lack of teeth,” not holding perpetrating governments to account. Cross-jurisdictional and cross-border regulations and enforcement of wildlife policy are crucial to ensuring lion conservation is effective in practice.

Joint initiatives, such as that established in 2017 between the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and CITES, known as the African Carnivores Initiative (ACI), are the way forward. ACI’s mandate is to develop concrete, coordinated and synergistic conservation programs, guide policy and organise collaboration with other conservation programmes and relevant organisations.

While governing bodies fuss and fight over ineffective compromises to protect one of Africa’s most ecologically and culturally important species, conservation charities and those that support them must persevere in their work to protect the lion.

Lions’ beneficial impact on ecosystems must not be understated, and all efforts must be made to maintain the long-term viability of populations and resolve lion-human conflict where possible.

Long live the king.

Written by: Linus Hiscox, studying MSc Global Biodiversity Health and Conservation at the University of Bristol and DSWF Programmes and Policy Intern.

The SockStar Project, keeping rangers in the field.

The SockStar Project was started by Lewis Bedford, a go-getting Durham University student, who decided to be the change he wanted to see in the world. Instead of taking an internship at a wildlife charity, Lewis opted to start his own conservation-based initiative, The SockStar Project.

The SockStar Project has successfully raised £3,000 for David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s (DSWF) ground-based conservation partners, Game Rangers International (GRI) in Zambia and Aaranyak is based in Assam, northeast India.

About The SockStar Project

The SockStar Project ensures that the basic welfare needs of rangers, the lifeblood of conservation, are met by supplying these brave men and women on the front lines with improved personal equipment, such as boots, socks, feminine hygiene products, dental care products, underwear and whatever else they might need to do their job comfortably.

“We aim to support projects that do require our assistance so that our efforts can make more of a direct impact on the livelihood of every single wildlife ranger,” says Lewis.

Why socks?

Rangers walk many kilometres in the aid of conservation efforts and species protection. But sometimes it is not always possible for their basic needs to be fully supported.

“We are changing that, one sock, one boot and one ranger at a time,” says Lewis.

The front lines of conservation are literal warzones, with helicopters, the latest tech, guns, species rescues and relocations… This is the so-called ‘sexy-side’ of conservation with bigger budgets and military personal.

But how can the average conservation-minded person make a difference in a warzone?

“The reason SockStar is so successful is because of its simplicity – boots and socks are basic things, which anyone can readily donate that have a life-changing impact for a ranger,” says Lewis.

The SockStar Project is about connecting the people who are looking to make a difference with the ranger at a grassroots level.

SockStar donating to DSWF

Lewis Bedford from The SockStar Project has successfully raised £2,000 for GRI and £1,000 for rangers in Assam, India.

How DSWF helps wildlife rangers in Zambia

DSWF has been supporting GRI since its inception in 2007. Along with helping GRI’s flagship project the Elephant Orphanage Project (GRI-EOP) in Kafue National Park, we also supply provisions and training to rangers fighting wildlife crime.

DSWF has been facilitating wildlife rangers in Africa for over 30 years. From protecting elephants in Kafue and desert-adapted black rhino in the deserts of Namibia, DSWF acknowledges the essential role of the selfless ranger in Africa.

How DSWF helps wildlife rangers in Assam

Aaranyak is another one of DSWF’s conservation partners, we have been working with them for over 25 years.

DSWF has supported Aaranyak with funding for anti-poaching efforts, park protection, education, and wildlife crime investigation initiatives.

If the socks in the boots on the ground wear thin, our conservation efforts blister. The DSWF team would like to thank, The SockStar Project for helping our rangers to put their best foot forward.

Living with snow leopards: the role of local communities in conservation.

For centuries, if not millennia, mountain communities from southern Russia to the Tibetan plateau have traded in tales of transient beasts patrolling the deep gorges and steep cliff faces around them – phantom cats that dissipate into the rocky terrain before you can glimpse their ice-blue eyes.

Better known now as snow leopards, these large predators are truly becoming the ghosts of folklore as their population continues to fall. Poaching, habitat degradation, retaliatory killing from herders, and a growing scarcity of wild prey are pushing the species towards a bleak existence and quite possibly, extinction. Somewhere between 4,000 to 7,000 individuals are estimated to remain, living few and far between across twelve range countries within and around the Himalaya.

Limited global scientific research and a long history of persecution by livestock owners – who make up a significant proportion of the human population within snow leopard range – presents great challenges for conservation efforts. Further to this, the IUCN down-listing of the species from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Vulnerable’ in 2017 set a dangerous precedent that has seen an increase in the illegal trade of snow leopards and their derivatives. The increasingly fragmented and changing environment of Asia’s mountainous regions leave little margin for error for conservation practitioners.

However, the tale of the snow leopard could soon become one of revival, and a conservation success to savour.

Innovative and progressive approaches have been taken in recent years to restore populations, incorporating local communities in decision-making processes and ensuring that they benefit from the continued existence of these elusive creatures. Not only do these conservation strategies set a benchmark for the protection of large carnivores across the globe, but they have the potential to put an end to human-wildlife conflict once and for all.

Snow leopard ecology and behaviour.

Snow leopards show incredibly efficient and purposeful, yet subtle, adaptions to deal with the harsh climate they inhabit. Their charcoal-spotted dirty white coat allows them to blend in perfectly with barren, rocky mountain landscapes. Small rounded ears and dense fur minimise heat loss in frostbite-inducing temperatures, and they use their oversized tail as a blanket to protect their face from the biting wind. Their broad paws with fur-laden undersides allow them to walk comfortably on snow and provide grip on the steep cliffs they use for hunting grounds.

With quick pace and sharp agility (combined with a casual leaping capacity of six times their own body length) snow leopards are fearsome predators, ambushing their prey from above. Wild prey consists primarily of mountain goats, ibex, and blue sheep, all formidable in their ability to dance with ease across near-vertical cliff faces. As more and more land is used for pastoral grazing by local communities, food availability for snow leopard prey reduces and as a result, prey numbers dwindle. This forces snow leopards to turn to killing domesticated livestock as a source of food and increases the strain on their relationship with local peoples.

Spatial ecology is one of the most important considerations for snow leopard conservation. Ranges can be as large as 500 km2, simply due to the scarcity of prey. If their range is restricted for whatever reason, then these solitary hunters must compete with others for what limited prey there is – currently a major threat to their survival. Females will rear offspring for up to two years before they move off to establish their own territories. Males, on the other hand, usually spend only two days each year in the company of another snow leopard – when mating – due to the sheer size of these vast ranges and low snow leopard densities. However, these ranges may not be so vast anymore.

As the effects of climate change expand and intensify throughout Asia and the rest of the world, rising temperatures are altering treelines and vegetative communities, shrinking the already degraded and fragmented suitable habitat left for snow leopards.

Threats to the snow leopard.

As our planet’s alpine zones continue to shrink due to greenhouse gas emissions, snow leopard range is projected to decrease by thirty percent by 2050 – coupled with the concurrent shifting treeline in the Himalaya caused by rising temperatures, snow leopards are losing habitat at an alarming rate.

Habitat loss, however, is not confined as a symptom of climate change alone. The mining industry has been furtively turning their attentions to the mineral-rich mountain ranges of the Himalaya, devastating natural habitats for snow leopards and their prey. In addition, their habitat has been severely fragmented by railways and highways that cut through ranges and important movement corridors that link subpopulations; these linkages are essential for dispersal and maintaining genetic diversity at the population level.

China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ program – due to be completed by 2049 – represents a huge threat to habitats and wildlife movement corridors, with new railways, highways, and gas and oil pipelines planned. It is essential that snow leopards be allowed the ecological plasticity and adaptive potential to respond to changes in habitat initiated by global warming, however human development such as China’s aforementioned program prevent them from shifting their ranges.

Another significant threat to the snow leopard is conflict with humans.

An estimated 450 snow leopards are killed annually, many through poaching for the illegal trade in bone and skins, but most cases involve retaliatory killing by local herders. Pastoralism has been an essential piece of the culture of mountain communities for up to three millennia and continues to dominate land use to this day; seven of the dozen snow leopard range countries have more than a quarter of their total land area under permanent pastures. Historically, snow leopards have been viewed as a curse in these communities, provoking resentment for the big cats when their livestock are killed.

However, livestock and snow leopard prey show considerable overlap in diet. Due to the large numbers and high densities of livestock kept by local communities, snow leopard prey are outcompeted for grazing access and are forced to move elsewhere lest they starve to death. Consequently, snow leopards themselves must then turn to livestock to find food.

Curtailing retaliatory killing and restoring wild prey populations are perhaps the most urgent issues that snow leopard conservation must address. Local communities worldwide bear heavy costs related to the presence of large carnivores, deriving little benefit from wildlife conservation.

Snow leopard conservation in particular has long sought to remedy these issues and made positive steps towards ameliorating the relationships between local communities and snow leopards.

Snow leopard conservation–to spare or to share?

Conserving any large-bodied animal – such as the snow leopard – near human settlements often acts to local people’s detriment. Livestock depredation represents a significant threat to the livelihoods of communities within snow leopard range, as livestock constitute the wealth of most herding families. For example, with a mean of thirteen livestock heads per family in the Indian Trans-Himalaya, five are killed by snow leopards on an annual basis. This can be financially ruinous for those living in regions with underdeveloped economies where more than half the populations struggle below national poverty lines.

Much of the failures of conservation efforts worldwide can be boiled down to the neglect of local community needs and livelihoods. Protected areas (the land sparing approach) are essential for maintaining ecosystems and the organisms within by shielding them from human activity and presence. Land sparing does work, but it cannot work alone; the case of the snow leopard is testament to this. Forty percent of the 170 protected areas within snow leopard range countries are smaller than the average home range of a single snow leopard. This means that the conflict ignited by the interface between pastoralism and snow leopards cannot be solved simply through land sparing. It provides little to no benefit for local peoples, and little to no refuge for snow leopards.

Land sharing seems to be the approach that best serves both snow leopards and local communities, by encouraging coexistence.

In 1998, then student and now Science and Conservation Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, Charudutt Mishra, proposed a locally managed livestock insurance program for villagers in the northern Indian Spiti Valley, who had been in conflict with snow leopards for centuries. The idea was to discourage retaliatory killings. In the first year, four claims were paid out in front of the entire community, supported by India’s Nature Conservation Foundation as well as the Snow Leopard Trust, prompting all to join. Biannual monetary rewards are given to those who practice ‘safe-herding’ (least number of livestock predation cases), whilst regulations include clauses that safeguard wildlife from persecution and prohibit retaliation. Furthermore, in exchange for the potential financial rewards offered by the scheme, village councils agreed to set aside large swathes of grazing land in order to help local snow leopard prey populations rebound.

After four years of protection from livestock grazing, these set-asides saw a threefold increase in numbers of blue sheep, snow leopards’ primary prey. With prey abound and retaliatory killings discouraged by community members, this program led to a healthy increase in snow leopard numbers. As a consequence of this land sharing conservation strategy, the Spiti Valley has become a hotspot for wildlife tourism and one village (Kibber) made approximately US$100,000 in 2019 from ‘snow leopard tourists’ alone.

The successes achieved by Mishra’s work and local communities in protecting the snow leopard are substantial and highlight the need for conservation practitioners to consider the risks and costs for local people sharing their homes with endangered animals. This approach is now being implemented widely in various forms of conservation and provides us with a joyful tale of man and creature, where so often it has been one of tragedy.

Defending the conservation interests of wildlife need not proceed at the expense of the local community. In fact, it must not.

DSWF has been supporting the work of the Snow Leopard Trust and community engagement and conservation participation for over 23 years.

Written by: Linus Hiscox, studying MSc Global Biodiversity Health and Conservation at the University of Bristol and DSWF Programmes and Policy Intern.

People’s Choice Award winner 2020 announced

You voted, we counted and we’re delighted to announce that ‘Paradise Flycatcher‘ by Rajasthan-based artist, Madhavi Rathore, has been voted as the 2020 Wildlife Artist of the Year ’People’s Choice’.  

Madhavi’s elegant artwork received 543 votes out of 6,741 votes across all 159 featured artworks, winning her a £500 GreatArt voucher.

In second place was ‘A Wasp with a Thousand Faces’ by Violet von Riot with 392 votes and third place goes to Kate Tume for her artwork, ‘A Benediction from the Old World’ with 337 votes. 

All voters were automatically entered into a free prize draw for the chance to win a pair of Patrick Mavros cufflinks and a beautiful scarf donated by DSWF Partner Artist, Mia Kora. A lucky winner has been randomly selected and contacted by email. 

Madhavi Rathore the People’s Choice Award winner

This is Madhavi Rathore’s second time entering Wildlife Artist of the Year after she was made aware of the competition by a friend.

Rathore is also a massive David Shepherd fan, as David used to visit Ranthambore National Park with her uncle when she was a child. She subsequently found a signed David Shepherd coffee table book and fell in love with his artworks. 

“His paintings are realistic and expressive without looking like photographs. When I paint I try to keep the essence of a painting while not taking away the fundamentals of the animal.”

says Madhavi

Madhavi studied at J.J. School of Arts.

“I got my first commission from a hotel in Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan. They asked me to paint four big cat artworks of a tiger, lion, cheetah and a leopard. Ever since then I have been hooked on wildlife paintings.”

says Madhavi

Paradise Flycatcher Gouache entry into Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

Madhavi loves painting leopards which are native to her region. She also enjoys painting birds. The paradise flycatcher is a songbird that occurs across Africa and Asia. Madhavi spotted the beautiful flycatcher featured in her winning artwork when the bright colours in its wings caught her eye.

“I loved its ribbon-like tail which when painted on white, can almost blend in with the background showing shades of grey. It gives you a chance to play with the negative space.”

says Madhavi

Tips for artists competing for the People’s Choice Award

Madhavi shared the link to her artwork across her social media channels regularly. She also attributes word of mouth and asking all her family and friends to vote, to her success. 

“I routinely created Instagram stories every couple of days to make sure all of my followers got to see my artwork at least once.”

says Madhavi

Social media algorithms and people’s busy lives means not all your followers see your social media content when you post, this is why it is important to post regularly at strategic times.

At the end of the day, the voting was completely out of my control. Honestly, I didn’t know if they would vote for my artwork but I hugely appreciate it,

says Madhavi

Other popular artworks in the exhibition were ‘Hope’, ‘Killer Fashion’, ‘Harsh to us is Home to them’ and ‘Tansy Beetle’, winner of the Elizabeth Hosking Prize for Watercolour.

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 wrap up 

Thank you for your incredible support and dedication over the last month. Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020, DSWF’s first online exhibition, is now closed. 

We would also like to extend our gratitude to our generous sponsors and all contributing artists. Wildlife Artist of the Year would not be possible without your ongoing support. Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 has continued to raise vital funds for endangered wildlife across Africa and Asia. 

Entries for Wildlife Artist of the Year 2021 will open on Wednesday 23 September 2020. Find out how and why you should enter here

Broken Bloodlines: the importance of chimpanzee conservation

Despite being our closest living relative, chimpanzees have long been treated as nothing but faceless human commodities.

Bought and sold in black markets, probed and prodded in laboratories, left homeless and in despair, the number of chimpanzees lost from the wild in the last three decades has fallen from one million to as low as 170,000. This decline shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

The threats they face are, shamefully, shared by wildlife worldwide: habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and disease. These fearsome indications of extinction are not out of our control, they are human-induced and very much our problem to fix. Groups like the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre and the Jane Goodall Institute are working tirelessly to undo our wrongs but rely on continued public support to be effective in protecting chimpanzees in the wild and from wildlife trafficking.

So, why should we care about chimpanzee conservation?

Despite the obvious moral and ethical concerns surrounding anthropogenic extinctions, chimpanzees are an essential part of their ecosystems, strongly influencing forest regeneration and biodiversity, and are key to our understanding of human evolution. If we lose the chimpanzee, we risk losing not only the precious ecological processes of which they effortlessly guide, but also an ancient part of our own species’ history.

Chimps are our closest living relative.

Chimpanzee and human lineages diverged from a common ancestor around seven million years ago and considering primate evolution began over sixty million years beforehand, our separation is relatively recent – we are more closely related to chimpanzees and bonobos than they are to gorillas or orangutans. Modern humans (Homo sapiens) are already in the unique and lonely position of being the only species left to represent our genus (Homo) and with the current decreasing trend in wild chimpanzee populations, we are on course to lose the closest wild family we have left, besides bonobos.

From a human perspective, chimpanzees show a high degree of intelligence, and comparisons are difficult to ignore. Their advanced social intelligence enables chimpanzees to engage in deception, social learning, and trading. Chimpanzees also show many characteristically human traits; they smile and laugh to communicate positive emotions, possess meta-cognition which allows them to reflect on their own thoughts and mental processes, have a sense of morality, enact war, and create meaningful and lasting friendships. Meta-cognition is perhaps the most powerful similarity shared between humans and chimpanzees, and Frans de Waal – one of the world’s leading primatologists – argues that it allows chimpanzees to exhibit the highest level of empathy, empathic perspective-taking. This level of empathy is used, for example, by mother chimpanzees to assess specific reasons for their offspring’s distress or their goals.

Tool use in chimpanzees

Tool use is another example of the advanced cognitive abilities of chimpanzees. In the wild, these highly intelligent animals have been observed using twigs, leaves, clubs, and stones to scoop up ants, inspect beehives and fish for honey, crack nuts, and pick marrow out of bone. The methods of tool preparation and use varies between groups, indicating some influence of cultural heritage within chimpanzee populations.

Research on chimpanzees has been of great importance to human evolutionary studies. Much of our knowledge of the Early Pliocene (~ 5 million years ago) hominids stems from what we know about chimpanzee behaviour, since fossils of these ancient human ancestors are extremely rare. We have strong theories on their hunting ecology based on chimpanzee hunting strategies; Pliocene hominids were territorial and lived in groups, were primarily frugivorous (fruit-eaters) and hunted socially for meat when the opportunity arose.

Understanding chimpanzee ecology does not only shed light on our mysterious origins, but also on the subtle processes that maintain ecosystems and biodiversity. Herein lies the true importance of chimpanzee conservation.

Constant gardeners.

As we hastily try to reverse the destruction of our planet’s forests, especially in highly productive tropical regions such as West and Central Africa, we must look deeper into the components which allow tropical forests to thrive.

Frugivores (fruit eaters) play vital roles in tropical forest diversity and regeneration, as well as the establishment of new habitat, via seed dispersal. Chimpanzees are a key dispersal species, ingesting seeds and depositing them into new areas, thereby contributing to the spatial and genetic structure of plant communities. The quantity of seeds able to be carried in a chimpanzee gut passage is also important for forest ecosystems, as is the diversity of seeds carried. In Rwanda, chimpanzees have been found to disperse nearly 600 seeds per kilometre each day, and these seeds comprise 37 different fruiting species; that’s a pretty efficient tree planting service, and completely free!

This dispersal mechanism (zoochory) is often relied heavily upon by tree species with large seeds which cannot be dispersed by wind. Particularly important for gene flow in fragmented landscapes, the long gut retention times and large home ranges of chimpanzees (up to 300 km2) ensure that seeds are dispersed over long distances. However, the reliance of some tree species on chimpanzees as seed dispersers is worrying in the face of their precarious status as an ‘Endangered’ species.

In Gabon, chimpanzees are the main dispersers of Dacryodes normandii, an endemic evergreen tree confined to the region. There are also many tree species with which co-evolutionary interactions with chimpanzees have resulted in gut passage determining germination success. Thus, loss of chimpanzees as seed dispersers for these species could reduce the distribution of and genetic variation in tree species, impacting ecosystems on a larger scale. Each tree species maintains a plethora of other organisms – beetles, birds, reptiles, fungi, bacteria – and so should these trees dwindle in numbers and range due to loss of dispersal mechanism, others who rely on their refuge will soon follow suit.

No single species or organism should be underestimated in the importance of its particular ecological niche – to do so would be dangerously naïve. The consequences of losing chimpanzees from West and Central Africa may well contribute to reductions in carbon storage in these tropical regions and ultimately influence the global climate.

Chimpanzees – stolen apes.

Trade in chimpanzees, despite being banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), is thriving. An estimated 15,000 chimpanzees fell victim to illegal trade between 2005-2011, whilst only 27 arrests were made in that same time period in connection with trade in great apes (including gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos, but excluding us) – one in four were not prosecuted.

A considerable number of chimpanzees are poached at an extremely young age – an age when they should be clinging to their mother – and sold into a range of markets via transnational criminal networks. The end consumers include the tourist entertainment industry, disreputable zoos, and those who use exotic pets as some gauche status symbol. Considering the cognitive abilities of chimpanzees previously discussed, one can only imagine the long-term effects that live trade can have on their behaviour and wellbeing – cognitive deficits, attachment disorders, and chronic anxiety are among myriad psychological issues that result.

Ten chimpanzees are killed for each one stolen; these innocents, murdered defending their own kin, are then sold to bushmeat markets. The rapid rate of urban development, as well as proliferation of logging and mining camps, has driven the demand for bushmeat markets. This expansion of human range has led to the massive decline in natural chimpanzee range, promoting contact and conflict between chimp and man. It has been projected that by the end of the next decade only ten percent of current chimpanzee range will remain. This will surely see chimpanzees functionally extinct in the wild and cannot be accepted as just another lost cause.

The illegal wildlife trade now ranks amongst the most significant illegal activities in the world, aided by deforestation and the apathetic lack of CITES and national law enforcement. Compliance with wildlife policy must be encouraged through strict regulation and sure-fire prosecution, and education on the ecological importance of chimpanzees is necessary to both deter poaching, reduce demand, and encourage support for conservation efforts.

Loss of chimpanzees from the wild will have sad consequences for the biodiversity of tropical regions, given their necessary role in seed dispersal. As we share a relatively recent common ancestor with chimpanzees, we should take offence at the violation of our fellow great apes. Those who actively choose to steal wild chimpanzees from their home should inspire public indignation and criminal networks responsible should be investigated and punished without reprieve.

Written by: Linus Hiscox, studying MSc Global Biodiversity Health and Conservation at the University of Bristol and DSWF Programmes and Policy Intern.

July 2020 – Amber Tyldesley

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation is delighted to announce that UK -based artist, Amber Tyldesley, is our very first Artist of the Month. 

For July, Amber’s impactful artworks will available for sale via DSWF’s online shop, with 50% of the sale of these magnificent pieces supporting DSWF critical conservation work across Africa and Asia.

“I am delighted to have been selected as DSWF‘s Artist of the Month for July. I am a big supporter of the Foundation and pleased that my artwork will be helping to protect some of the world’s most precious and endangered animals.”

Amber Tyldesley

Amber regularly paints tigerssnow leopards and lions – all deeply threatened species that DSWF is working tirelessly to protect. 

Our Founder, David Shepherd, was also well regarded for his tiger paintings, with ‘Tiger Fire’ selling for £127,000 to raise funds for Indira Gandhi’s Operation Tiger in 1973.

Amber Tyldesley’s July artworks

Included in Amber’s July exhibition are three incredible original big cat artworks ‘All he Surveys’, ‘Reflections of Home’, ‘Unconditional’, ‘The Waiting Game’, ‘Evening Light’ ‘Morning Light’ and ‘Futurity’.

‘Closing In’ – 25 special edition prints

Amber’s artwork of a jaguar, ‘Closing In’ won the People’s Choice Award and came Highly Commended in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019.  

In honour of this extremely popular artwork and Artist of the Month, Amber has made available 25 special edition prints of ‘Closing In’ only accessible via DSWF’s shop for £199.

Follow Amber and @DSWFwildlifeart on Instagram to be the first to know about (and purchase) Amber’s latest creations.

wildllife artist Amber Tyldesley

About Amber Tyldesley

Amber Tyldesley is a 26-year-old artist from Warrington. Her high-impact pieces feature a striking level of detail and an interest in the interplay of light and dark. Working primarily in acrylics, Amber often incorporates high-gloss resin into her work to achieve a heightened contrast and a distinctive contemporary finish. When Amber is not creating detailed pet portraits, she loves drawing big cats and primates. 

“I have always been drawn to big cats – they are so intense, with such engaging expressions. They also have remarkable coats.”  

says Amber.

Amber is a regular entrant in DSWF’s Wildlife Artist of the Year, with most of her artworks featuring in the shortlisted exhibition. Her powerful artwork of a jaguar ‘Vantage Point’, came Highly Commended in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020’s online exhibition

Artist of the Month 

Artist of the Month is an exciting new initiative by DSWF, in which we will be collaborating with different wildlife artists each month to raise funds for endangered wildlife. 50% of the sale of these artworks is donated to DSWF’s conservation efforts.

This initiative personifies our ‘Art of Survival’ vision and gives wildlife artists a platform to raise awareness for, not only their outstanding artworks but endangered species close to their hearts. 

Painted dogs – the laws of Dogtown

African wild dogs have been listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List for 30 years now, and yet their numbers are still falling.

Otherwise known as painted dogs, these visually inspiring characters are a storyteller’s dream, with their tricolour coats and ears uncanny to those of a Disney’s cartoon mouse. Their population, however, has declined across sub-Saharan Africa from approximately 600,000 three decades ago to just 6,600 individuals alive today. Having disappeared from much of their historical range due to human encroachment and persecution, the last remaining painted dog subpopulations are few and far between.

Painted dog packs have highly complex social structures with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females, cooperative breeding systems, and nuanced forms of communication not yet fully understood by science. As a hypercarnivorous species, they help to regulate ungulate populations and in doing so are vital to the health of Africa’s savannah habitat, a priority for the conservation of the continent’s biodiversity.

Painted dogs cooperative breeding

Cooperative breeding is the care of offspring shared amongst group members. This social system is seen in approximately eight percent of bird species, as well as in meerkats, red wolves, and Arctic foxes.

In painted dog packs, reproduction is monopolised by the alpha male and female (the breeding pair) who then share the duties of offspring care with yearlings and sub-dominant adults (helpers). Since they show the highest energetic costs of gestation of all group-living carnivores and their population dynamics are most affected by pup survival, the altruism of cooperative breeding is a very important and necessary strategy for maintaining the biological fitness of the pack.

The alpha pair, as well as producing offspring, are seen defending the den from predators more often than helpers and are essential in alleviating conflict within the group. Helpers regurgitate food for the denning female and her pups, and after pups are weaned at around three months the helpers will begin leading them to fresh kills where the young have priority access to the carcass.

Interestingly, this would seem to be to the helper’s detriment as they are then the last allowed to feed on the kill, however, there are advantages of being complicit in cooperative breeding. Although helpers are not directly related to offspring, packs are mostly comprised of closely related kin, and so helpers do benefit from offspring survival in that it preserves their genetic lineage to some extent. Another advantage to be gained by helpers is that by increasing offspring survival they help to increase pack size, and larger packs have been proven to be more successful hunters.

Painted dog pack sizes

Smaller packs have the potential to become stuck in what has been described as a ‘poverty trap,’ whereby lower hunting success coupled with smaller litters leads to greater vulnerability to local extirpation and species extinction. Large packs exhibit a greater ability to persist and so this must be considered in painted dog conservation programmes.

Hunting and territory overlap.

Preying on a wide range of animals from hare to wildebeest, painted dogs consume more meat per day relative to their own size than any other carnivore. To satisfy their incomparable hunger packs have extremely well-coordinated methods for predation. Much like their breeding strategy painted dogs are cooperative hunters, directed by a dominant member who leads the chase whilst the rest of the hunting pack cut off potential escape routes and distract the prey.

The most impressive aspect of a painted dog hunt, however, is not the hunt itself but its initiation.

Using abrupt exhalations of air through the nose – sounding similar to a sneeze – a quorum ‘vote’ on whether or not to depart from their resting site and search for prey. Higher ranking individuals such as the breeding pair require less sneezes to initiate a hunt – around three – whilst lower ranking sub-dominant adults require at least 10. This voting system is predictable and a driven decision-making process, indicating a high degree of intelligence. Whilst the effectiveness of painted dog’s use of sneezing as a predeparture cue is unique and warrants special interest, such efficient communication and skewed democracy in canids is not uncommon and has been seen in golden jackals, coyotes, and foxes.

Communication between painted dogs does not only occur between pack members, but also between packs. Painted dog territories are large – typically ranging from 200-900 km2 – and dominant dogs demarcate their pack’s territory through scent-marking and ‘hoo-calls’. However, territories are not exclusive and often overlap. At around two years old subordinates emigrate in search of unrelated groups with which to form their own packs. They tend to establish territories bordering natal packs, and these dyads are more likely to overlap extensively. Decide for yourself whether or not you would want your whole extended family living in the house next door, but this seems to serve good purpose for painted dog packs; since relatives share a relatively high proportion of their genes, closely related packs are likely to behave more altruistically towards each other and represent less of a threat than an unrelated pack.

Studies have shown that closely related packs result in higher painted dog population densities, warranting the focus of conservation efforts.

Painted dog conservation.

All threats to the existence of painted dogs stem from habitat loss and fragmentation. A lack of space has brought the dogs in closer competition with predators and other carnivores, such as lions and spotted hyenas, and thus being the smaller of the three, painted dogs have been pushed into rural communities where they take the brunt of human-wildlife conflict.

One of the leading causes of mortality amongst painted dogs is infectious disease, such as rabies. Domestic dog populations serve as widespread reservoirs of rabies infection, and in 2014 a pack of 35 painted dogs in Botswana fell to just six individuals in two months following an attack by poachers’ dogs. Regular, targeted vaccinations of domestic dogs is seen as the most sustainable, practical, and cost-effective long-term solution to this problem where human encroachment and intersection is unpreventable.

Another issue facing Africa’s painted dogs is human persecution. As agriculture continues to dominate the planet’s landscapes, conflict between wildlife and rural farming communities increases. Painted dogs do not tend to shy away from an easy meal, and farmers resort to shooting or poisoning to protect their livestock. However, painted dogs only hunt livestock where densities of wild ungulates are very low, suggesting that it would be prudent to conserve wild ungulate populations and promote traditional livestock husbandry methods of enclosing livestock herds in bomas when unattended.

One promising in situ conservation strategy is to increase painted dog numbers through translocations and reintroductions. In South Africa, painted dog subpopulations are managed as a single metapopulation, which has been stable since the mid-1990s. Today, South Africa is one of the few countries with a growing painted dog population, despite not having enough space to sustain them. In order to bolster populations elsewhere in Africa, South African ecologists relocate newly formed packs into suitable areas where painted dogs have gone extinct.

The threats responsible for the African wild dog’s longstanding position on the IUCN Red List must be dealt with swiftly. Education of their ecosystem role and importance for tourism would go a long way, and we need to actively ensure that what habitat they have remaining is protected and worthy.

Written by: Linus Hiscox, studying MSc Global Biodiversity Health and Conservation at the University of Bristol and DSWF Programmes and Policy Intern.

Captive tiger management: what separates the good, the bad, and the ugly?

The number of tigers living in caged Texan backyards is greater than the global population of wild tigers.

This alarming statement may be oversimplified and in need of probing, but the fact that our best estimates of wild tigers are more reliable than our knowledge of captive tiger numbers in just one US state is worrying, to say the least.

Whilst today there are less than 4,000 wild tigers, there may be up to 20,000 living in captivity throughout the world. Some are found in accredited zoos and facilities, however, the overwhelming majority are subjected to inhumane treatment and unsuitable conditions in private collections in the United States, as well as commercial tiger breeding farms in Asia. Captive tigers are prisoners of war – a war against wild tigers which spanned the twentieth century and still ravages the forests of Asia and the Russian Far-East today. The last century saw vast tracts of habitat degraded and lost, government-backed eradication efforts intensified, and the imprisonment and exploitation of tigers become the norm. By the mid-1900s the Bali tiger had been hunted to extinction, then both the Javan and Caspian tiger sometime before 1980, and soon followed the disappearance of the South China tiger from the wild – six subspecies remain, and all are in dire straits.

Captive Tigers

The captivity of tigers can be separated into three loose categories: the (comparatively) good, the bad, and the ugly. The good – captive management by reputable sanctuaries, zoos which are as close to wild situation facilities as possible – work with the primary goal of conserving endangered species; due to the situation of wild tigers and how close to extinction wild populations are, modern zoos have had to become a part of the conservation toolkit and can provide much-needed education and funding for real-world biodiversity issues, including tiger conservation.

Alas, the antagonists of the story – such as the exploitative exotic pet owners posing as big cat lovers (the bad) or the criminal tiger farm owners killing for profit (the ugly) – seem to be in an uncomfortably comfortable position. Laws surrounding big cat ownership throughout most of US is vague and easily circumvented, whilst the trade in tiger parts and their derivatives in Asia is flourishing despite international and domestic bans.

More must be done to alienate irresponsible tiger owners and managers claiming to do conservation work from the scientifically managed zoos who as a result need to defend their good practice and intentions. More urgently, however, the farming of tigers for medicinal and ornamental purposes must be quashed like the virulent plague it is.

The good – tiger conservation and responsible captive management.

Over the past 150 years, tigers have lost 93% of their range due to human exploitation, leading to isolated and declining populations. Behind habitat restoration and landscape continuity projects, captive management of endangered species represents a well-proven and controlled way of protecting species from extinction in many cases where options are limited. Zoos play a last resort role as insurance against the extinction of tigers from the wild by collectively maintaining interbreeding populations. Should it be necessary, this allows the opportunity to support wild populations via reintroductions.

The success of captive tiger populations relies heavily on the cooperative and coordinated relationships that exist between zoos across the globe, held accountable by regional, national, and international bodies. Herein lies the difference between the good and the bad or the ugly – private owners and breeders do not work under such high standards and conservation-focused mandates. Instead, they often stem from a childish want and financial incentives.

The bad – tiger exploitation and irresponsible captive management.

A tiger is a 500-pound apex predator with three-inch teeth and retractable claws; a tiger is not an animal that anyone should want to keep in captivity unless for urgent conservation purposes only. Tigers confined to cages in private backyard collections hold no conservation value for wild tigers whatsoever and instead are a danger to human welfare, let alone subject to pitiful standards of animal welfare. Between 1998 to 2007, there were 159 tiger attacks on humans (114 injuries and 45 deaths) in the US alone. Injuries and deaths, however, are brushed aside as poor husbandry or bad luck and not the inevitable consequence of hundreds of thousands of years of innate predatory instinct.

Tigers bred in captivity in the US do not run the gauntlet of natural selection, instead they are bred to be unusual or different, weeding out strong genes needed to survive in the wild. Captive tigers are often crossed with lions to produce an unnatural liger. The crossing of different tiger subspecies also means that captive bred cats are mutts and cannot be placed into conservation-based breeding programmes in credited zoos. Humanity’s obsession with ‘other’ has resulted in white tigers being extremely popular in big cat facilities. All white tigers in the US originate from a single white Bengal tiger caught from the wild in the 1960s, meaning they are heavily inbred. The white leucistic gene is meant to be rare and not naturally selected for in nature.

An issue recently drawn into public forum regarding the bad is that of the exotic pet trade. The US has no federal laws prohibiting or even regulating private possession of big cats, which has led to the burgeoning subculture of tiger “enthusiasts” breeding tigers for private collections. The demand in the US has resulted in a growing number of breeders, mass producing tiger cubs to sell to private customers as cute pets.

However, as these cubs grow into the fearsome predators they are destined to be, they are no longer the cute plaything they once were and are, either sold on to a willing buyer or passed on to overcrowded sanctuaries. With up to 400 requests received each year to accept big cats, sanctuaries just cannot keep up and the tiger is becoming overpopulated and homeless in the US. Buyers blame the breeders who supply the cubs, and breeders predictably blame the demand. This form of tiger breeding has no beneficial bearing on tiger conservation and is not done in a way to maintain genetic diversity, instead solely focused on profit margins and a continuous supply of inbred cubs.

Worth more dead than alive in Asia, captive-bred tigers are farmed and then sold into the black market to fuel the demand for traditional medicine and unessential lifestyle accessories.

The ugly – tiger farms and morality management.

In 2007, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the international and domestic trade in captive-bred tiger parts and their derivatives. However, since then countries such as China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam have intensified tiger farming operations in flagrant non-compliance of international wildlife trade policy. Tigers have an extremely high reproductive potential, with females breeding as early as three years old and gestation periods of only 100 days culminating in up to five cubs. Along with a lack of government intervention, this has allowed tiger farms to thrive in these countries and the huge profits of the business have resulted in other countries emerging as a source, such as South Africa.

Whilst the wild tiger population in China is less than 50 individuals, an estimated 6,000 are found throughout hundreds of Chinese tiger farms. By its own admission, the government does not have the capacity (or will) to monitor this illegal activity and in fact, seems to encourage it. In 2005, Chinese tiger breeders and traders claim to have received a ‘secret’ government notification allowing the sale of tiger bone from tiger farms to hospitals for use in traditional medicine as an anti-inflammatory drug. Widely available throughout Asia, tiger skins, teeth, and claws are used for home décor and statements of power and wealth, and tiger meat is seen as an exotic delicacy. The supply of such trivial yet damning trinkets seems to be in no danger of suffering from trade restrictions. – Between 2016 and 2017 a facility in Vietnam supplied more than 300 tigers both dead and alive into the illegal trade. Chinese policy changes announced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, prohibiting the trade of wildlife for purposes of consumption, is a big positive, however, these changes do not go far enough as wildlife parts can still be traded for medicinal purposes.

There has been no halt in tiger farming even since trade was banned. The large, emerging middle-class across some parts of Asia has increased the demand for expensive tiger parts and products, fuelling an already thriving illegal international trade. Not only are these captive-breeding facilities in violation of animal welfare by any standard, but they put wild tigers in further jeopardy due to the perceived superiority and novelty of tiger parts not derived from captivity.

The focus of tiger conservation

The captivity and breeding of tigers must be reserved only for conservation purposes, and even then, it must be minimised with a far greater focus on protecting wild populations. Unregulated breeding facilities and private collections offer no value to wild tigers and only serve to escalate their risk of extinction from the wild. Tiger conservation should be focused on habitat protection and restoration, genetic bolstering, changing legislation and education programmes. . The great number of tigers bred in captivity and resigned to a life outside of their rightful homes requires further attention, with the continuous supply chain needing to be cut. This would lessen the need for sanctuaries, freeing up funds to be diverted into meaningful conservation efforts. A caged tiger is not a spiritual encounter with nature, it is a desperately sad expression of the human ego.

Written by: Linus Hiscox, studying MSc Global Biodiversity Health and Conservation at the University of Bristol and DSWF Programmes and Policy Intern.

Failing the rhino: controversial conservation

The mass slaughter of rhinoceroses for their medicinally useless horn has left the African and Asian populations on the brink of extinction. Today, the global wild rhino population stands at around only 27,000 individuals and although this represents a worldwide increase over the last decade, figures show a steady decline since 2016 – a worrying trend for a group of such endangered species. The international trade in rhino horn was banned in 1977, however, a lack of resource and law enforcement clout, ineffective policy implementation, and apathy among governing bodies has seen it become a prime commodity in the illegal wildlife trade. The illegal trade in rhino horn is valued at between USD 64-190 million per year and horns themselves can fetch for USD 36,000 per kg. It is clear to see why the financial incentive for poachers is hard to resist, and their increasingly sophisticated poaching methods reflect a desperate need for conservation and anti-poaching efforts to keep up. Right now, the poachers and crooked consumers are winning the fight, and our efforts to protect the rhino must be reviewed and drastically improved upon.

Green militarisation

The most controversial anti-poaching method currently underway is green militarisation. Also known as green violence, it is the deployment of violent instruments and tactics towards the protection of nature where in many cases no other alternatives exist. As a result of national security implications resulting from poaching and trafficking, which have been described as synonymous with the threat of terrorism, the war on poaching is internationally supported as a just war. One obvious argument for green militarisation is the fact that most poaching attempts are carried out with the use of weapons, killing two rangers a week on average. Thus, those rangers who devote their lives to protecting wildlife must be equipped to deal with the threats of violence that for them, exist on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, targeting violent retaliation or prevention measures on poachers has negative consequences for neighbouring communities and their relationships to protected areas and the wildlife therein. ‘Shoot-to-kill’ policies have been adopted by many countries, most notoriously and recently in Botswana, and described as a necessary evil. However, the militarisation of conservation – particularly in Africa – creates a debate and pitches a conflict over morality and human rights with our obligation (and it is an obligation) to protect endangered wildlife. This forces a false dichotomy upon policymakers and conservationists: protect humans or protect wildlife. The sad reality is, however, that little option is given to those trying to protect wildlife; poachers are often armed and carelessly determined, and the rangers must do whatever possible to prevent loss of life, whether it be a rhino’s or their own, and rightly so. Regardless, fighting violent wildlife crime with like violence fails to address the underlying causes of poaching, such as the global trade networks and demand from consumer markets, where greater effort is needed.

Legalised trade

There is fierce debate over whether or not to legalise the international trade in rhino horn, which has been banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement between governments aimed at regulating and controlling the international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants, since 1977. A significant proportion of the global rhino population is maintained within privately-owned reserves, and rhino farmers are increasingly moving toward disinvesting in rhino due to the escalating risks and costs associated with protecting them from poachers. Those that advocate for legal trade argue that this will take the money away from the illegal market and criminals, instead ensuring the money goes to rhino managers who can put this additional income back into rhino conservation. This implies that a legal trade network for rhino horn would quash the existing illegal trade; in a spectacular show of hypocrisy, CITES’ authorisation of multiple “one-off” sales of ivory stockpiles has provided the evidence to suggest otherwise.

In 1999, CITES authorised a one-off sale of over 50 tons of stockpiled ivory from Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to Japan, less than a decade after international trade in ivory had been banned. This was done in the name of experimentation, in order to gather data on the trade’s impact on the Japanese market – the data showed no impact on the total volume, price, or demand of Japan’s ivory trade, giving no reason to believe that legal trade is a useful tool for reducing demand or disincentivising poaching. However, this “one-off” sale (their words, not mine) was repeated again in 2008 – this time for a total of 108 tons of stockpiled ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe to Japan and China. This sudden flooding of the ivory market fuelled a dramatic increase in demand and poaching, contributing to the illegal killing of some 100,000 African elephants from 2010 to 2012. There is nothing to suggest that a legal rhino trade will have any different effect, and thus represents a dangerous threat to rhino conservation that must be confronted and rejected. Instead, it has been found that less conventional demand management strategies, such as consumer education and behaviour modification, are much more effective in reducing demand for rhino horn than trade legalisation. These strategies must be, and are, implemented by the more responsible players in rhino conservation, and their efforts should be supported with the same gusto and force as that of those campaigning for legalised rhino horn trade.

Maximum population growth

An obvious method of rhino conservation is, of course, increasing rhino population sizes as well as establishing new populations. Rhino farming does exist, however, as long as the illegal rhino horn trade exists then it is not sustainable or profitable enough for farmers to be a long-term solution. Complex models have been simulated regarding management interventions when seeking to grow rhino populations, and these have been shown not to work for intensive rhino farms where biodiversity conservation is not considered a priority, such as John Hume’s Buffalo Dream Ranch.

Rather, these models are aimed at growing rhino populations in a way that optimises population growth rates, while at the same time minimising any negative impacts on the local ecosystem of a protected area. The main thematic element of this is the biological management of the rhino population. Managers can stimulate high population growth by manipulating population density, sex and age ratios, and aspects of the gene pool, all done in such a way as to mimic the characteristics of a wild rhino population. These manipulations are often achieved through translocating individuals elsewhere, inferring the need for new populations to be established.

For the Javan rhino, of which there are less than 70 individuals left, the establishment of new populations is essential for their protection. After the illegal killing of Vietnam’s last Javan rhino in 2010, all remaining individuals are found in a single, isolated population in Ujung Kulon National Park at the westernmost tip of Java, Indonesia. This area is at high risk of tsunamis, and with the majority of the rhino population concentrated near the shoreline, a single giant wave could see their extinction. The establishment of a second independent population has been proposed and will show that additional populations of all five species of rhino are valid options for conservation. How you protect those populations however, as discussed, is a topic of great scrutiny and uncertainty.

Why we should protect the rhino

The single biggest risk to the existence of the rhino is undoubtedly the illegal trade in their horn. This is what we have to stop if we want to save the rhino. Governing bodies have been ineffective in working towards this and time is running out. Nearly 10,000 African and Asian rhinos were poached in the last decade; basic math will tell you that with a global population of less than 30,000, the next decade must see that figure drastically reduced. We are obliged to support the rangers working on the ground, education initiatives aimed at demand reduction, sustainable population growth efforts, and sign every petition in sight to keep international trade in rhino horn bound tightly in the history books. If we can’t halt the illegal killing of rhinos across Africa and Asia, the only rhino left will be ornamental pieces of keratin on the shelves of trivial businessmen.

Written by: Linus Hiscox, studying MSc Global Biodiversity Health and Conservation at University of Bristol and DSWF Programmes and Policy Intern.

Kichwa Tembo – the head elephant

The following post was written by dedicated David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) Partner Artist, Martin Aveling, about his Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 entry, ‘Kichwa Tembo’.

‘Kichwa Tembo’ is a wonderfully detailed pastel pencil drawing of an elephant’s eye, inspired by One Tusk, the head elephant.

This beautiful artwork is available for sale via our online shop with 50% of the proceeds going to DSWF’s vital work, protecting elephants and other endangered wildlife across Africa and Asia.

The hyena den was bathed in that slanting sunlight of the golden hour before nightfall, and we felt at peace with life hanging out on the plains of Ol Pejeta Conservancy in northern Kenya. Our Japanese hire car would talk and sing to us at every opportunity when the keys were engaged, and none of us knew how to mute it, so I had removed them from the ignition and dropped them in my lap. I turned to smile in shared contentment at my partner, Amy in the passenger seat, and to our friend Charlotte in the back.

The noses of little hyena pups flirted with the entrance to the den where mum sat keeping watch. Right behind us were two friends, and about fifty feet beyond their car was a docile bull elephant, minding his own business and becoming ever more silhouetted with each passing moment. This elephant had two tusks. That was a relief. As nice as it was to rejoice in an elephant having all his bits, at this point no rumour of the grumpy ‘One tusk’ had yet been confirmed.

Earlier that day at The Stables diner, we had engaged in a brief conversation with a safari group from Nairobi. They had regaled us with a story of a dangerous encounter with ‘One Tusk’ the elephant on their morning game drive. He had apparently charged at their car. One lady was audibly and theatrically miming the whole incident, waving her hands around with great enthusiasm.

“Beware of the ‘One tusk’, she said. We smiled and parted ways.

Back at the den the hyena pups had now all but emerged. Some were playing while others explored. One was quite persistently bothering mum, but she was patient. The sunlight bounced off her mane and shimmering gold particles were scattered back from whence they came. She was sphinx-like, as she guarded her babies and struggled to adjust her eyes to the changing light.

We had started checking our watches, but we were close enough to base and still had time. On the horizon an elephant appeared, cutting a 90-degree path towards the road up in front of us. Amy’s binoculars caught him in the scopes. As she adjusted the focus, she pulled a face like she was trying to divide 368 by 17.

“I think that elephant has One Tusk”, she said.

Well what do you know!

One Tusk continued walking towards the road, right up until the point that he reached it. Without a smidgen’s hesitation, he turned and started walking down the road directly towards us. Still, a fair distance away, there was no reason to feel alarmed. But he kept coming.

With a swagger fit for Michael Jordan, and keeping a steady pace, he walked on. The sunlight sculpted his face more and more with each step, and he looked glorious. That said, at this point, my mind was already fighting off anxiety ninjas and trying to think of every possible escape route. After all, he had, allegedly, already charged at people today, and it didn’t look as though he had any intention of slowing down.

I looked at the keys on my lap and wondered whether I should start the car, but the only way to go was forward. One Tusk was within ten meters now, and if anything was going to irk him it would be the sound of our talking car! Amy was cool as a cucumber. Unnervingly so. She looked at the keys on my lap and then looked at me, shaking her head, which I acknowledged with a nervous quiver. I put all my faith in her experience of having spent a field season working very closely to wild bull elephants, and just held my breath.

Admittedly, that was not a great idea. My heart was now pumping even faster. One Tusk was only three meters away when he stopped. And he just stood there. Slowly my eyes moved from my lap up to the enormous head of this incredible animal, who was eyeballing us right back. We didn’t dare speak. There was absolutely no question as to who was in charge here.

He stood there for what felt like an eternity, as I considered just how easily he could crush our car, and that a solitary tusk was easily enough to pierce it through, together with its occupants. With the briefest show of dominance, he put some of his immense weight to his left and then veered off to the right. As he walked past, we could pick out every wrinkle of skin.

That moment when you let out a deep breath and smile at the same time. We all had goofy faces as we turned to watch him walk away. Once he had passed both cars, he briefly picked up the pace and ushered the other bull away with such ease that it was clear One Tusk was this boss amongst elephants. He was the head elephant, the ‘Kichwa Tembo’

I hold my hands up to say that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to hanging with wild animals, and I’m not ashamed of it. I have a very healthy respect that a number of them have the ability to totally destroy me, whether it be by trampling, scratching or death by poison. Unless it’s a dog I’m mostly happy for us to be apart. The reasons I do still get quite close to animals is that they are awesome and most of them won’t just kill you for the sake of it.

Turning on the ignition of our singing car, we drove slowly back to base as dusk formed around us. I smiled broadly as we relived the moment, knowing that the memory of our encounter with One Tusk will remain etched in my mind forever, and was vivid enough to translate into an etching or two of my own once my heartbeat had returned to normal again.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DSWF.

The Human Impact on the Environment

Everything we humans need to survive and thrive comes from nature’s life-giving ecosystems – the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. A healthy environment means healthy humans, animals, and ecosystems. 

World Environment Day 

Started by the United Nations, World Environment Day has been celebrated annually on 5 June since 1974. It is a day for governments, businesses, and the general population to reflect and educate themselves on urgent environmental issues. 

World Environment Day 2020’s theme is biodiversity. Biodiversity is the assortment of plant and animal life in a particular habitat. Sadly, the world is in the throes of the sixth mass extinction with plants, animals, and invaluable ecosystems under threat. 

Whale linocut entry into Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020
Noah Warnes

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is working to protect some of the world’s most threatened wildlife across Africa and Asia. If we lose these species to extinction, the knock-on effect on the ecosystems they inhabit could be devastating.  

Our impact on the environment has been underscored in recent events, with bushfires choking Australia, Brazil and Thailand, insect infestations swarming across East Africa, and the current pandemic that has the world assiduously washing our hands in disgrace (and antibacterial soap).

Humans are dependent on our environment; if our world goes out of balance the consequences will be dire and those affected most are today’s youth? 

The Human Impact Category in Wildlife Artist of the Year 

In these exceptional times, DSWF has been encouraging young artists aged between 17 and 22 to enter the relatively new Human Impact category in our international art competition Wildlife Artist of the Year

The Human Impact category uses art to start uncomfortable conversations about the degradation humans are having on our environment.

Mouse pen and watercolour entry into Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020
Simran Kotecha
Human impact winner 2019 Wildlife artist of the year
Sofiya Shukhova

Snake pen entry into Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020
Simran Kotecha

The insightful artworks entered in this category are conversation starters, not wallflowers, and possess a strong environmental message, whether it is plastic pollution in the ocean, the abuse of animals in the beauty industry or suffocating air pollution. 

Watch this educational video as the Human Impact judges discuss the role art can play in creating awareness for the environment. 

Smoke pen and ink entry into Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020
Scarlett Henderson

Human Impact Category Winner 

This year’s Human Impact category winner was Bath’s Scarlett Henderson. She won for her  artwork ‘There’s No Smoke Without Fire.’ 

The judges particularly loved Scarlett’s use of dots as a representation of pollution particles in the smoke cloud.

By purchasing artworks from Wildlife Artist of the Year you are helping DSWF turn the tide on extinction. You are also amplifying the environmental messages these young artists are conveying through their powerful artworks.

Journey into Africa from the heart of Scotland

Two friends, Emily Lamb and Boyd Varty spent the initial global lockdown 6000 kilometres apart and yet intrinsically linked in honour of art, exploration and Mother Earth.  It was a journey inspired by Boyd’s pledge to spend 40 days and 40 nights alone in the wilderness and discover the true mystic in Nature. The result is a wild and beautiful artwork, ‘Mother’ by Emily Lamb. 

Mother’ is a painting of life, memory, forgiveness and hope. The energy in this painting was embraced and painted with intention to reflect the fierce life-force that is needed to transform our relationship with the natural world so we no longer loot her bounty.

Says Emily Lamb

The artwork encompasses the magic and mystic realms through the golds and blues that dance among clashing oryx, lions roaring, leopards prowling and the iconic African fish eagle in full flight.

Emily, a DSWF Wildlife Art Ambassador and past Artist in Residence at Londolozi, spent lockdown creating ‘Mother’ in Scotland.

Below is the video that can be found on the blog section at Londolozi and full credit goes to Bronwyn Varty-Laburn for the vision to merge our journeys into artwork, and Richard Laburn for creating it. Thank you also to photographer Matthew Armstrong-Ford for the photographs of the painting as I worked.

Taking advantage of lockdown, Boyd Varty spent 40 days and 40 nights alone in the Londolozi wilderness exploring the delights and delicacies of nature on foot and in isolation.

In what was described as a lightning bolt moment, Emily decided to dedicate the same period of time to painting ‘Mother’, an artwork brewing in her mind’s eye.

Together, but far apart, Emily and Boyd immersed themselves in the wonders of nature and the imagination. While living in the treehouse Boyd kept a podcast of his experiences. 

Mother artwork by emily lamb

Emily following in her grandfather, David Shepherd’s footprints, embodies DSWF’s vision the Art of Survival as she uses her paintbrush in service to endangered wildlife and the wildernesses she loves so much. 

“We are blessed with infinite creative potential and clues from nature to invent our ways to live more sustainably with mother earth,” says Emily. “This was my time to stop and be still, and to step up and celebrate the majesty of Africa.”

‘Mother’ is available for sale via our online shop. 50% of the proceeds go to DSWF so that we can continue our vital work protecting deeply threatened species across Africa and Asia. 

“I would like to dedicate this piece to Dan Lawrence for his belief in me when I was lost, and the countless hours he gifted me to find recovery and peace,” says Emily.

The pangolin puzzle: scratching the surface

The pangolin may represent one of the biggest challenges the conservation world currently faces. Exploited for their meat and scales, growing demand has crippled most viable populations in the wild, with the only limiting factor in the centuries-old pangolin trade being their increasing scarcity. As some of the lesser-known species to science, pangolins have largely gone under the radar; that is until 2016 when all eight extant species were re-classified from Appendix II to Appendix I, the highest level of protection under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). CITES is an international agreement between governments who’s aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. For all those years before that, the pangolin was quietly and unassumingly being hunted and traded into extinction. The four decades prior to the CITES amendment saw a 150% increase in the number of pangolins hunted, with some species losing up to 90% of individuals. Since 2000, more than one million pangolins have been traded, giving them the regrettable title of the world’s most trafficked wild mammal. Despite hard-hitting conservation efforts and thorough scientific research, we still know very little about any of the eight species – a gaping hole that must be filled if the pangolin is to survive the decades to come.

A unique ecology

So, what do we know about this scaly mammalian cousin of ours? Found across Africa and Asia, you could be forgiven in mistaking a pangolin for some otherworldly anteater-armadillo hybrid, or perhaps an artichoke with legs. Really, they are far more unique than that, giving taxonomists an all too familiar headache when it comes to naming and grouping them; they settled on defining an entirely new order for the pangolin – Pholidota – comprised only of the eight known species. The pangolin lives a nocturnal and solitary life, only finding the company of others when mating or caring for their young, who cling to their mother’s tail on foraging trips away from the nest. The nests are built in excavated burrows, conspicuously pangolin-made due to their uniquely round entrances – of which there are several, sealed with loose earth to prevent predators and other unwanted visitors from intruding. Burrows can be more than 5m deep and are important in finding solace from the searing midday heat, as temperature regulation is not a strong suit for pangolins. Their prey consists primarily of ants and termites – for the crossword fanatics amongst you, this makes them both myrmecophagous and termitophagous. Pangolins are remarkably well-adapted for this feeding behaviour. They possess a fly tape-like tongue as long as their body (attached to their pelvis, of course) and special muscles that seal the nostrils and ears shut when digging through soil to reach insect colonies. On average, an adult pangolin will consume some 70 million ants annually, leaving no doubt as to why the pangolin is referred to as Nature’s own pest control service.

Pangolins are nature’s pest control

Maize production is a considerable source of food and income across Africa and Asia, most notably in South Africa and China, and pangolins may play an important role in preventing mass crop damage. With few, if any, effective control methods available to farmers, termite populations left unchecked are the major constraint to increasing yields of maize; in Africa, 20-30% of preharvest loss is due to termites. By preying heavily on termites, pangolins influence their abundance and community structure in a way that minimizes these losses and thereby appear to be unlikely contributors to the agricultural economy of both continents.

Moreover, in Taiwan, the Chinese pangolin feeds primarily on yellow crazy ants, an invasive species in the region, and so are critical in maintaining local ecosystem function and biodiversity – invasive species are one of the “Evil Quartet” responsible for extinctions, along with habitat degradation, pollution, and over-harvesting.

Pangolins as bioturbators

It is likely that pangolins also influence a number of soil process through their excavation and use of burrows. Acting as bioturbators – organisms that rearrange and aerate soils – they contribute to soil mixing and create preferential flow paths for infiltrating water. In this way, they could also be defined as ecosystem engineers because they alter the physical environment around them, and their burrows can be used by a range of commensal organisms. Pangolins are clearly of more use to communities as pest control and bioturbators than as a source of trade.

A challenge for conservation

Pangolin conservation has proven to be a difficult and sometimes futile task. The lack of research and data on population trends and sizes, reproductive potential, and their natural history is a hindrance in their protection, muddying the waters when it comes to discerning the specific conservation needs of different pangolin species and populations. Tracking trade data is also an arduous task due to the alternative supply chains in Africa. For example, hunters in Ghana often trade to wholesalers away from the bushmeat markets, whilst in Gabon, Asian industry workers will buy directly from the hunters. However, this is not simply a case preventing the illegal hunting of and trade in pangolins and their derivatives, we really have no clue as to the extent of damage already done to populations. Their nocturnal and secretive nature makes them extremely hard to study and gather population estimates from, and seizures almost certainly represent a small fraction of the pangolins actually being traded. Alas, it is undoubtful that populations are decreasing across both Africa and Asia. More often than not conservation will intervene through captive breeding programs in order to reverse these declines, however, pangolins show poor acclimatization to captive environments; over the last 150 years more than 100 zoos or organisations have attempted to maintain pangolins, yet most have died within 6 months and breeding programs have been largely unsuccessful.

Why we should protect pangolins

You may question how we know that pangolin populations are decreasing, without already having concrete population data. The hunting of pangolins, as it is currently, is not sustainable; the fact that 45% of individuals found in wild meat markets in west Africa were juveniles or subadults is a strong indicator of overexploitation. More definitive than that, all eight pangolin species show the tell-tale signs of a species at risk of extinction: low reproductive rates, poor breeding and longevity in captivity, fragmented populations, high demand for their meat and derivatives, and continuous habitat degradation. The use of pangolins for their meat and scales does not take priority over their existence. Pangolin scales hold no known medicinal properties, they make terrible pets, and much like their morphological brethren the artichoke, I doubt the meat is worth the effort.

Written by: Linus Hiscox, studying MSc Global Biodiversity Health and Conservation at University of Bristol and DSWF Programmes and Policy Intern.

The ecological role of elephants: shaping the land and lending a hand

In 1979 the world’s elephant population totalled 1.3 million individuals across Africa and Asia; fast-forward to 2016 and that number had reduced to just 450,000. Both the African elephant and the Asian elephant have been subjected to relentless poaching for centuries, with the emerging illegal wildlife trade in the 20th century accelerating the population declines. Habitat loss and fragmentation on a massive scale has worsened these declines tenfold. The impending loss of a gentle giant so close to the hearts of men, women, and children across the globe is a devastating prospect.

Elephants are not just flagship species; they are so much more.

Elephants are an Umbrella species

Since they inhabit and roam vast areas, their protection also covers myriad species within their range, making them what is known as an umbrella species. Due to their large size and range, elephants have an enormous impact on their environment. Dubbed as ecosystem engineers, they control resource availability for other species by modifying the physical environment around them and in doing so transform, maintain, and create habitats.

The umbrella species concept refers to the minimum area requirements of a population of a wide-ranging species, such as elephants. Thus, conservation areas designed to meet these requirements will inadvertently protect a plethora of ‘beneficiary’ species with smaller ranges within. Think of it as a nifty conservation cheat code. This strategy can only be effective with species who naturally cover vast areas, like elephants and painted dogs. Asian elephant home ranges can be over 400 km2, whilst home ranges of African elephants have been reported at more than 15,000 km2; these massive areas required by elephants to migrate makes them an ideal umbrella species. Furthermore, elephants do not use habitat randomly and use well-defined corridors and trails for movement. This provides a useful tool for reserve networks – establishing continuity within and between protected areas to allow free movement for migrations and dispersal, two vital aspects of many species’ persistence. Using elephants as an umbrella species is a strong incentive for their protection; save them and others will benefit. Elephants play a hugely active role in wildlife conservation.

Elephant are Keystone species

Elephants also function as a keystone species. The ecological processes and interactions within ecosystems are dependent on keystone species such as elephants. Elephants play an invaluable role in their ecosystem, shaping the landscape in front of them and allowing others to thrive.

Further to the dependence of some animal and plant communities on ecosystem engineers, whole ecosystems are often strongly influenced by just a few keystone species. For instance, much in line with their ecosystem engineering role elephants in the Kalahari-sand woodlands consume more woody vegetation than do all other large herbivore species combined.[5] This facilitates a fast and shallow nutrient cycle, giving rise to higher productivity and diversity of plants and animals than would occur otherwise. Elephants also act as major agents of seed dispersal. In the Taï Forest of the Ivory Coast, 21 of 71 plant species sampled by scientists in 1989 were strongly adapted to dispersal by elephants, who ingest the seeds and release them elsewhere. [14][15] At that time, there were roughly 1,500 elephants in the region; that figure is now likely to be under 200 individuals. [16][17] We don’t have to imagine the consequences of this in the long-term, we already know them. The extinctions of the elephant-like megafauna in the late Pleistocene Epoch (roughly 12,000 years ago) meant the loss of dispersal agents for several tree species across the globe, which were then too forced into extinction. Loss of tree species means loss of food and habitat for wildlife which in turn results in extinctions. With global deforestation rates through the roof and conscious efforts of individuals, corporate giants, and governments to reverse the climate crisis now slowly coming to the fore, we cannot afford to continuously and needlessly lose forest. As if we needed it, we have yet another reason to conserve the elephant.

Elephants are ecosystem engineers

Through their sheer size elephants can modify and maintain the physical environment around them in a way that benefits the whole wildlife community. In doing so, elephants act as ecosystem engineers to increase habitat complexity. Their activity produces new habitat for smaller animals like lizards, which show a strong preference for elephant-damaged trees, using the crevices created by broken tree limbs and torn bark to find refuge. Elephants also create gaps in the forest as they march through, opening up dense woodland canopies and allowing for a variety of plant species to exploit the penetrating light and proliferate. These novel plant communities offer an abundance of vegetation and shelter, helping to maintain the complexity and diversity of faunal communities. The ecosystem engineer role is most effectively carried out on a large scale by megafauna like elephants and rhinos, two groups that face sinking into the obscurity of extinction in the near future. If we lose these animals from the landscape, we risk losing many more.

Why we should protect elephants

All life on the planet exists today as a champion in their field. The very fact that a species exists is due to its ability to adapt to harsh conditions and find ingenious ways in which to flourish in competition with others. However, elephants have become such a fundamental part of their ecosystems that for many species, their ingenious methods of survival may revolve around elephants. Conserving the elephant isn’t just about conserving the elephant, it’s about conserving the whole ecosystem. From the tiny lizard who builds its nest in the crevices of elephant-damaged trees to the grazing zebra and wildebeest rejoicing at the luscious open grasslands, we could learn a lot from the consequences of elephants’ actions. For a species from which we have taken so much, elephants seem to give rather a lot.

Written by: Linus Hiscox, studying MSc Global Biodiversity Health and Conservation at University of Bristol and DSWF Programmes and Policy Intern.

Golden oil painting emerges from the woodwork

Andrew Pledge has been crowned David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 for his remarkably detailed and strikingly beautiful ‘Wood Stork’ created from oils and gold leaf. The Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 winners were announced in an online Awards Ceremony hosted by mezzo-soprano singer, Laura Wright, and DSWF Chief Executive, Georgina Lamb on Tuesday 26 May. 

The esteemed award, decided by an expert judging panel, wins London-based artist, Andrew Pledge, the top prize of £10,000 for his entry. Pledge has also won a two-week residency with Ongava Game Reserve and Lodge in Namibia. Ongava is an art-oriented game reserve close to where DSWF is working to protect the remaining desert-adapted black rhino

Despite looking like an ibis, the American wood stork (Mycteria americana) is a large white wading bird from the stork family. Pledge, as an artist, tends to focus on the more unusual species, like wood storks, and where others see imperfections or ugliness, he sees beauty and intricacy.

Often the best artworks appear deceptively simple… Arguably the wood stork is not the most attractive bird on earth. But this painting exudes an uncanny and breath-taking beauty. It’s very difficult to explain but very clear to see – a worthy winner,” says Hazel Soan, a Wildlife Artist of the Year judge. 

‘Wood Stork’ entered into the Wings Category has beaten all 159 other outstanding shortlisted artworks exhibited in an online gallery via DSWF’s website.

“The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s DNA and heartbeat is art. It’s how we started and it’s our life force,” says Georgina Lamb, DSWF Chief Executive. Since its inception, Wildlife Artist of the Year has attracted more than 12,000 entries and raised more than £1.2m for conservation.

This year DSWF received 1,200 entries from artists across 53 countries, a noteworthy number of entries featured koala bears in the wake of the Australian fires. 

Koala pastel drawing entered Wildlife Artists of the Year 2020
Alex Fleming

The pangolin is another endangered species worth highlighting in this prestigious competition – its artichoke-like appearance makes the shy pangolin the perfect artistic muse. Nonetheless, this scaly anteater is also the most trafficked mammal in the world and is at the heart of the illegal wildlife trade and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pangolin pencil artwork entry in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020
Paul Gunning

“We are currently living through unprecedented times but it’s important to remember how we all ended up here. It was a result of the illegal wildlife trade, a multi-billion dollar industry which is driving species to extinction,” says Lamb.

Wildlife Artist of the Year celebrates the beauty of the natural world in a variety of different mediums. The competition allows artists to give back to their wild inspirations with 50% of proceeds from the sale of artworks going to protecting endangered species across Africa and Asia.

If you do purchase artwork through Wildlife Artist of the Year you can go to sleep knowing that it will really make a difference to some of the world’s most threatened and vulnerable species,” says Lamb.

Featured in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020’s online gallery is the hugely popular ‘Sketch for Wildlife’ postcards, artworks by David Shepherd and our Art Ambassadors and a special Guest Artist Gallery, all for sale to support DSWF. Wildlife Artist of the Year Judge and DSWF Art Ambassador, Mandy Shepherd, is also exhibiting her ‘Sketches from the Field’ with a 100% of the proceeds going to DSWF. 

Artworks from the Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 exhibition will be available for purchase in an online gallery on DSWF’s website from Thursday 21 May to Sunday 28 June 2020. 

Online viewers can also vote for their favourite pieces in the People’s Choice Award. The winning artist will receive £500 Great Art vouchers and all voters will be entered into a free prize draw for the chance to win a pair of silver Patrick Mavros elephant cufflinks and a Mia Kora silk scarf.

Full winners list:

Wood Stork oil painting entry in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020
Andrew Pledge

Overall winner £10,000 sponsored by Mr & Mrs Covey and prize by Ongava Game Reserve and Lodge.

Wood Stork – Andrew Pledge

The judges’ feedback: “The masterful technique, the exquisite detail and pure craftsmanship make ‘Wood Stork’ deserving of the top prize. Such huge contrast and impact of the dark black background set the bird off in its finery,” says Mandy Shepherd.                                                                          

Andrew recently decided to become a full-time artist. He was previously an architectural model maker, a profession he claims taught him that taught him the importance of attention to detail.

Overall Runner-up £1,000 sponsored by Moore Barlow:

Bison bronze sculpture entered Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

Bison – Umberto from Argenvieres, France

The judges’ feedback: ” This magnificent work of art is a true reflection of the sheer power that the bison is so famous for. The heaving force of it, so accurately yet masterfully depicted in its weight, grace and power. Each and every one of us was drawn to Umberto’s Bison, intoxicated by its elegance and of course its beautifully compelling dark, dark patina. Truly a world-class sculpture. I wish we could all see this in the flesh and marvel at its details,” says Emily Lamb.

Category winner £500 each:

Animal Behaviour – a real understanding of animal behaviour and a sense of character. Sponsored by Gary Hodges.
Category Winner: The Cardboard Gorilla – Olivier Bertrand from Fuveau, France.

paul dixon painting of cheetahs

Earth’s Wild Beautya category open to art illustrating wild landscapes, seascapes and the people who live in these environments or work to protect them. Sponsored by Moore Barlow.
Category Winner: Ethosha! – Paul Dixon from Southampton, United Kingdom.

Polar bear bronze and glass entry in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

Facing Extinction –showing our vanishing world – it can be any species officially listed as endangered or threatened on the IUCN Red List – or any a landscape that is at risk. Sponsored by Martin & Emma Leuw.
Category Winner: Paradis Perdu – Jean-Francois Gambino from Gagny, France.

Smoke pen and ink entry into Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

Human Impact – gives young adults (aged 17 to 22) a platform to make a statement with their art on how humans are having an impact on the environment. Sponsored by Indus Experiences.
Category Winner: There’s No Smoke Without Fire – Scarlett Henderson from Bath, United Kingdom.

Hammerhead shark in graphite in art competition Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

Into the Blue – illustrating the wonderful world of water, be it ocean, seashore, wetland, river or stream. Sponsored by Paul Traub Associates.
Category Winner: Silver Lining – Tom Middleton from London, United Kingdom.

snake Bronze and Methacrylate scultpure entered Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

Urban Wildlife –entries in an urban style or depicting the city life of animals and plants. Judges were looking for both originality in the habitat as well as the contrast between wild and urban life. Sponsored by Moore Barlow.
Category Winner:  Plastic Camouflage – Javier de la Rosa from London, United Kingdom.  

Wings –the extraordinary variety of winged wildlife – birds and insects, in flight or at rest. Sponsored by Silversurfers.
Category Winner: Modelling – Ze Ze Lai from Yuen Long, Hong Kong

Beetle watercolour painting entry in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

The Elizabeth Hosking Prize for Watercolour

New to the competition Elizabeth Hosking Prize for Watercolour sponsored by DSWF supporter Elizabeth Hosking. The first winner of this exciting new prize is, Nichola Hope for her bright green and yellow ‘Tansy Beetle’ which was selected from 12 wonderful watercolour entries. 

Category Winner: Tansy Beetle – Nichola Hope from Barry, United Kingdom.

Guinea Fowl Oil on Wood entry in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

The Artist Magazine Award – selected by the editor of The Artist Magazine, Dr Sally Bulgin (feature article for the successful artist in The Artist magazine).
Category Winner:  A Confusion of Guinea Fowl – Colette Clegg from Cobham, United Kingdom

Highly Commended:

100 Elephants (Facing Extinction) – Charlotte Pack      

Artists of Antarctic Waters (Earth’s Wild Beauty) – Rens Hensgens                                 

Asiatic Lions (Animal Behaviour) – Marie Antoniou      

Bad Hair Day (Animal Behaviour) – Diane Haines         

Bison Haydon Valley (Earth’s Wild Beauty) – Heather Irvine       

Caught you Looking (Animal Behaviour) – Emma Swift 

Evolution (Urban Wildlife) – Chris Voas                              

Focus (Animal Behaviour) – Stephen Rew                        

Giant African Millipede (Earth’s Wild Beauty) – Eric Smith           

Gorilla (Facing Extinction) – Alex Fleming                         

Hammer Planet (Into the Blue) – Nick Oneill                   

In Between (Into the Blue) – Tamara Pokorny                 

Into the Darkness (Animal Behaviour) – Clare Parkes 

Kichwa Tembo (Facing Extinction) – Martin Aveling    

Morning in Mara North (Earth’s Wild Beauty) – Colette Clegg    

New Zealand Kakapo (Facing Extinction) – Janet Luxton             

Octopus (Into the Blue) – Umberto Nuzzo                         

Orangutan (Facing Extinction) – Fiona Sperryn              

Pangolin (Facing Extinction) – Stephen Rew                   

Place of Peace (Earth’s Wild Beauty) – Heidi Wirgentius

Ray Mass (Into the Blue) – Bill Prickett                                

Rush Hour Okavango (Animal Behaviour) – Tomas O’Maoldomhnaigh               

Shoal of Sardines (Into the Blue) – Danni Bradford      

Tale of Three Spiders (Earth’s Wild Beauty) – Magdelena Zwierzchowska                      

The Coming Storm (Earth’s Wild Beauty) – Joni-Leigh Doran     

Toads Crossing (Animal Behaviour) – Sandra Mackus 

Vantage Point (Animal Behaviour) – Amber Tyldesley

Wild Dog – Feeling Good (Animal Behaviour) – Nick Mackman 

Zebra Shallows (Into the Blue) – Nick Oneill                    

— Ends —

For more information please contact:
Georgina Lockwood, Communications and Marketing Manager at DSWF


CLICK HERE for Images of Artworks

Credits: ‘Title of the artwork’ – Artist’s Name/ David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
ie: ‘The School Run’ by artist Amber Tyldesley/ David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is a highly effective wildlife charity funding key conservation projects across Africa and Asia

Wildlife Artist of the Year

DSWF’s annual Wildlife Artist of the Year competition was founded by the late, great wildlife artist and conservationist David Shepherd CBE FRSA (1931 – 2017) and is now in its 13th year. The competition continues to be an important date in the art calendar.

Proceeds from the Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition support DSWF’s work to fight wildlife crime, protect endangered species, and engage local communities to protect their native wildlife across Asia and Africa.

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 online

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s (DSWF) Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 this year goes digital in the shadow of Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

The winners of Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 will be announced via an online Awards Ceremony, hosted by David Shepherd’s granddaughter and DSWF CEO Georgina ‘Peanut’ Lamb and classical soprano and DSWF Ambassador, Laura Wright.

The winning artist will not only receive the £10,000 grand prize sponsored by Neil and June Covey, but they will also win a safari and two-week artist residency* with the art-orientated, Ongava Lodge and Game Reserve in Namibia. During the trip, the winning artist will have the opportunity to see the conservation work that DSWF is funding to protect the last stronghold of the desert-adapted black rhino.

DSWF’s Wildlife Artist of the Year competition and exhibition has been described as the ‘Oscars of international wildlife art’ and showcases the beauty and colour of the natural world.

This year DSWF received 1,200 entries from artists across 53 countries, with 159 incredible artworks shortlisted for the final exhibition.

Each year, this global competition sees over a thousand entries from professional and talented amateur wildlife artists, with shortlisted artworks being exhibited at a prestigious exhibition at Mall Galleries, London.

In the wake of the pandemic, all 159 shortlisted artworks are displayed in a breath-taking online gallery and are available to purchase. The sale of these artworks will help raise vital funds for DSWF to protect wildlife across Africa and Asia.

The Covid-19 outbreak reiterates how important DSWF’s work is in the current climate – the pangolin is the most trafficked mammal in the world, and this elusive species is at the very centre of the pandemic. DSWF is campaigning at the highest level for better laws to stop the illegal wildlife trade that triggered this outbreak.

Register for the online awards ceremony on Tuesday 26 May 2020 to be the first to find out who will win Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020, when we will also here feedback from the judges on the winning artworks.

Wildlife Artist of the Year Categories and sponsors

This year we have also introduced the Elizabeth Hosking Prize for Watercolour sponsored by DSWF supporter Elizabeth Hosking. Other awards present include the Artist Magazine Personal Choice Award. Online viewers can also vote in the People’s Choice Award for your favourite artwork – the winning artist will receive £500 Great Art vouchers and all voters will be entered into a free prize draw for the chance to win a pair of silver Patrick Mavros elephant cufflinks and a Mia Kora silk scarf.

The shortlisted artworks showcase the very best of wildlife art across many different mediums from tranquil watercolours to masterful oil paintings, detailed ink sketches, powerful sculptures and elaborate embroidery pieces.

DSWF is not only a highly effective wildlife charity working to save endangered species such as the snow leopard and elephant, but the Foundation is also a warden of wildlife art.

Wildlife art is very much at the heart of DSWF.

daniel wilson charcoal drawing of a snow leopard
Artwork by Daniel Wilson
Artwork by Javier de la Rosa
rachel toll watercolour painting of a polar bear
Artwork by Rachel Toll

Commenting on the initiative, the late David Shepherd said: “I set up my Foundation with the sole purpose of giving something back to the animals that helped me achieve success as an artist. Every single entry into this premier art competition helps to save endangered wildlife.

To this day, David Shepherd continues to inspire many talented artists, many of whom regularly enter Wildlife Artist of the Year, giving back to the wildlife that motivates them as wildlife artists. 50% of the funds generated from the sale of these entries will go towards DSWF’s conservation efforts on the ground in Africa and Asia.

One such artist is Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019 overall winner, UK-based artist Stephen Rew, who took home the grand prize last year with ‘Writhe’ – an incredible sculpture of an octopus in bronze. Rew continues to support DSWF as a Partner Artist for the Foundation and is quick to claim that his love of wildlife art began with David Shepherd.

DSWF is extremely proud of our Human Impact Category that is gaining the attention of young artists around the world. Artivism allows young artists to create awareness around the impact humans are having on our environment through the medium of art. Wildlife Artist of the Year is a career-launching opportunity for young artists whose work will be exhibited alongside some of the world’s finest wildlife artists.

Included in the online exhibition for 2020 is an incredible line up of guest artists including renowned wildlife artist and David Shepherd’s daughter Mandy Shepherd and granddaughter, Emily Lamb, plus international cricketer and renowned artist, Jack Russell MBE. Their artworks will feature in specially curated online galleries, with at least 50% from all sales being donated to DSWF to help raise even more funds during these difficult times. Back again this year are the hugely popular £60 ‘Sketch for Wildlife’ postcards.

The online galleries and exhibitions are free to view, but DSWF suggests a £5 voluntary donation when viewing the artworks, to help recoup some income from monies lost from the cancellation of the physical exhibition.

To stay up to date with Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 please sign up to e-news. Alternatively, follow DSWF on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

— Ends —

For more information please contact:
Georgina Lockwood, Communications and Marketing Manager at DSWF

Artwork Images

CLICK HERE for Images of Artworks

Credits: ‘Title of the artwork’ – Artist’s Name/ David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
ie: ‘The School Run’ by artist Amber Tyldesley/ David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

Wildlife Artist of the Year

DSWF’s annual Wildlife Artist of the Year competition was founded by the late, great wildlife artist and conservationist David Shepherd CBE FRSA (1931 – 2017) and is now in its 13th year.

Since it began, DSWF’s Wildlife Artist of the Year competition has attracted more than 12,000 entries and raised more than £1.2m for conservation. The competition continues to be an important date in the art calendar.

Proceeds from the Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition support DSWF’s work to fight wildlife crime, protect endangered species and engage local communities to protect their native wildlife across Asia and Africa.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is a highly effective wildlife conservation charity founded by David Shepherd to help save endangered wildlife around the world.

Take on the 2.6 Challenge for DSWF

DSWF are relaunching the 2.6 Challenge from Saturday 26 September, leading up to the Virtual London Marathon on Sunday 4 October.

Covid-19 is affecting all walks of life and the work of DSWF is no exception, with events and activities being cancelled or limited due to the current crisis. Which is why we’re taking part in The 2.6 Challenge – a nationwide initiative set up by Save the UK Charities to engage people like you around the world in a show of strength and support for the causes dear to them. And we’d love for you to join our 2.6 Challenge team!

Our wildlife needs us now, more than ever before and with your help, we can continue to stand together and save endangered species from the brink of extinction. 

Get involved in the #TwoPointSixChallenge

The #TwoPointSixChallenge is a fun and easy way to support DSWF and our precious wildlife from your own home. The idea is to…

  • Choose your own #TwoPointSixChallenge – a challenge that suits your skills and ability, involving the numbers 2.6 or 26*
  • Create your own fundraising page on JustGiving and ask your friends and family to support your #TwoPointSixChallenge
  • Donate £26 (or any amount you wish) to DSWF through our JustGiving page
  • Share your challenge on social media, tagging us @dswfwildlife #TwoPointSixChallenge and nominating others to take part!

What will be your #TwoPointSixChallenge for wildlife?

Here are some ideas to get you started or click here for more inspiration…

  • Get Social ask 2.6 friends to join your challenge
  • Get Active move for 26 minutes, walk 2.6 miles, add 26 new exercises into your workout
  • Get Creative write a 26 line poem, sing for 2.6 minutes every day, create 26 artworks across the week
  • Get Involved start your #TwoPointSixChallenge now!

Stand with us and our wildlife

Please do email Tabitha at to let us know if you’d like to join the 2.6 Challenge in support of DSWF and thank you so much for all that you do to help fund our vital conservation work across Africa and Asia.

We are proud to have you as part of our DSWF family

*The number 2.6 / 26 is connected to the 26.2-mile distance of the London Marathon, one the many fundraising events that was due to go ahead this year.

DSWF appoints new CEO, Georgina Lamb

Sometimes, following in footsteps just seems right, and the Trustees of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation have invited Georgina Lamb, grand-daughter of our founder, David Shepherd CBE, to lead the charity forward as the new Chief Executive of the Foundation.

The Board is thrilled that Georgina wishes to carry on her family’s work,” says Nigel Colne CBE, the longest-serving Trustee of DSWF. “We are enormously excited by the vision Georgina has for the future, and the energy and passion she has to achieve her ambitions for the Foundation. She understands the values of the Foundation through and through. That’s no surprise, as conservation is in Georgina’s DNA.

In recent years, Georgina has led the Programmes and Policy team, supporting global investigations to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. She also manages DSWF’s relationships with ground-based conservation partners working to protect endangered species in Africa and Asia.

In particular, Georgina has played a pivotal role in establishing DSWF as one of the leading UK based charities supporting pangolin conservation – the most trafficked mammal in the world. Pangolins have recently been catapulted into the global media as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Now in its 36th year, DSWF continues to deliver vital funding to protect endangered species, including some of the most iconic and threatened animals on the planet such as elephants, tigers, and rhinos. A critical part of that work is to support some of the most vulnerable, impoverished and overlooked communities who live next to the magnificent wild creatures we are fighting to protect. In so doing, the Foundation can ensure that they too benefit from its conservation goals.

As Georgina, fondly known as ‘Peanut’ by many, puts it, “I feel deeply honoured to be continuing the family legacy and to be representing the brave men and women on the front line of conservation in our joint fight to end wildlife crime. The world is at a tipping point and it is within our grasp to drive forward transformative change to ensure that environmental action and impact are at the forefront of everything we do.”

Whilst Georgina brings with her new ideas for DSWF, she intends to expand on, and stay true to, the Foundation’s strong art heritage. David’s iconic paintings are loved throughout the world, and Wildlife Artist of the Year has become a noteworthy date in the annual art calendar.

The Shepherd family have created a trusted, highly respected and well-loved charity which has become a key player in the conservation field.

Had he known that the new CEO would be his grand-daughter he would have beamed with joy. David’s legacy is safe in Georgina’s expert hands.

DSWF has been under the leadership of Karen Botha, another well-known and highly respected colleague in the conservation sector. The Trustees are immensely grateful to Karen for all she has done for DSWF during her time at the helm. She leaves the Foundation in a strong position. Karen now continues her career as Managing Director at the Born Free Foundation.

Georgina becomes the new CEO today on the 9 April 2020.


Urgent Announcement: Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

Urgent Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 Announcement.

Firstly, we would like to thank all our supporters for your patience around this year’s Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 exhibition.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will not be holding our Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition at Mall Galleries this year. The gallery is closed until further notice and is unlikely to reopen before the end of May.

We are truly saddened by this; not only is Wildlife Artist of the Year an important fundraising event for DSWF, it is also a much-anticipated event in the art calendar.

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” In the spirit of Orson Welles, we will be ‘stringing up’ all the shortlisted artworks in an online gallery via our website. Art buyers and wildlife lovers will be able to buy and view, Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 artworks online.

The winners will be announced via an online award ceremony. More details to follow.


We remain committed to promoting the online exhibition but ask that shortlisted artists refrain from sending their artworks. If ever there was a time for us to ensure beautiful wildlife art and the message of conservation reaches as many people as possible, it is now.

As a charity that relies hugely on our events and supporters to fund our vital conservation work across Africa and Asia; I’m sure you can appreciate the effect the cancellation of the physical exhibition might have on us and our ground-based conservation partners. We hope you will stand with us and support us as we deliver what we hope will be an extraordinary online offering for all involved.

Please bear with us while we finalise our plans over the next week. We aim to send all the finalists full guidance as to what will happen over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, thank you so much for your patience and we look forward to what we hope will be an exciting Wildlife Artist of the Year month of May.

Dethroning of the Tiger King as a human-drama mockumentary

Finding light relief in a time of crisis, people often find themselves drawn to entertainment as a form of escapism. Tiger King, the new Netflix documentary series, which rotates around the bizarre, ludicrous and often extreme has proven to be the escape most of us didn’t even know we needed!

The world seems to have developed a morbid fascination with the obscene characters of the shady American big cat world.   Whilst viewers might regard the series as a light form of entertainment, the harsh reality behind the tiger breeding industry is one of death and unimaginable cruelty.  Tigers are solitary animals and are not meant to be kept in cages with seven other tigers. Three-hour old cubs should be bonding with their mother not having selfies taken with visitors.

The exotic array of characters operating in the lucrative big cat captive industry window dress their desire for money and fame, the true motivation behind their actions, as a deep-seated ‘passion’ for big cats.

Breeding exotic cats are not helping endangered species in the wild

There are more than double the number of tigers living in American backyards than there are in the wild.

At a point in the series, a big cat breeder claims he is breeding tigers for conservation.  The breeding of big cats in captivity does not help save the species in the wild. Tigers are critically endangered, but domestic or ‘tame’ tigers cannot be released back into the wild to help bolster numbers.

There are nine subspecies of tiger, each subspecies has adapted to survive in their native range. The larger Amur tiger, for example, thrives in the snow and cold, white India’s Bengal tiger lives in the jungle. Tigers bred in captivity are generic, meaning they are ‘mixed breeds’ and cannot positively contribute to wild tiger genetics or populations. These generic tigers are no longer adapted to survive in their natural habitats. This begs the question of why breeders are commoditising big cats; it is certainly not for conservation.

What happens to that baby tiger you played with once?

When the cubs grow beyond a ‘useful’ age and are no longer the cute little cash cows, they are euthanised. We are treating a critically endangered species, the tiger, as a disposable commodity. A six-month-old tiger cub is no longer safe for human interaction. The cost, and risk, of keeping an adult tiger is too great and so many of these captive big cat breeders neglect or dispose of the older cats.

The human drama of Tiger King detracts from the abuse of big cats

The characters, Joe Exotic and ‘Doc’ Antle, among others, seem to be plucked from a black comedy cast, and highlight all that is wrong with the industry.  Not only putting ego before compassion but money before the basic welfare of staff and animals.  How anyone can condone the captive breeding of big and exotic cats and condemn them to life in a cage is beyond us.

And so while the documentary is a highly recommended watch it is a shame that so much airtime was devoted to the human drama, all while neglecting the larger conservation issues at play.  Now, is the time to play on the success of ‘Tiger King’ in pushing for serious legislative reform and implementation in order to close this abusive industry down.

Abysmal laws allow for the private ownership of big cats in Tiger King

Whilst ‘Tiger King’ is a must-watch for a brief insight into the shady underworld of people, politics, and egos, as the plot develops the series sadly loses sight of the true-crime, the abhorrent abuse and utilisation of wild animals for entertainment.    

The harsh reality of captive breeding and petting facilities for human entertainment is out of control in American and other parts of the world. This is a result of woefully inadequate laws protecting endangered and vulnerable species.  The lack of awareness from individuals, media, and governments is also shocking.

According to legal experts from the Animal Legal Defence Fund “There are currently no federal laws prohibiting or regulating private possession of big cats in the United States.”

Big cat ownership and cub petting worldwide

The practice of cub petting and big cat ownership for commercial purposes is sadly not isolated to America alone and is prevalent across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The lion cub petting industry remains a massive problem in South Africa and cheetahs are stolen from the wild to become house cats in the Middle East. Until people start putting the survival of a species before their next selfie opportunity, we could see tigers, lions, snow leopards and many other big cats condemned to extinction.

Tiger King, in conclusion

There is also growing hype around the upcoming mini-series and which celebrity will be cast as who.  What is far more imperative than casting calamities, is ensuring that no real tigers and other big cats are used in any ongoing filming, further perpetuating this abhorrent industry.

Tiger King was not made to shed light on the abusive tiger breeding industry in America, it was made to get eyeballs on screens, but it could be the catalyst that puts policy into place that shatters the exotic big cat captive breeding empire.

How you can help?

  • Do not visit and financially support exotic big cat breeding facilities where you can touch wild animals.
  • Educate, and encourage friends and family to do the same.
  • Refuse to cuddle or touch any captive wild animal, including tigers, lions and other cats, regardless of whether the organisation seems credible. This includes elephant-back riding.
  • Try, if possible, to see wildlife in their wild homes in national parks and game reserves across Africa and Asia. Tourism is a vital way of saving species in the wild.
  • Support non-profits working to change legislature and wildlife laws around the breeding of captive-bred animals.

Pangolins, pandemics and the bottom line

This is a story of how an animal unwittingly caused a pandemic and plunged the world into chaos, making the illegal wildlife trade everyone’s problem.

One of the biggest global recessions in modern history has just begun. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is gearing up to donate 1 trillion dollars from its war chest to bolster economies that collapsed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly half a million people have now been infected with the virus and the toll keeps rising. Never before has the paradigm of ‘your health is your wealth’ rung so true.

The world has gone into lockdown -from the largest corporate entities to the small independent businesses. Transport hubs, massive sporting events, and even the local pub have all come to a grinding halt as governments scramble to halt the spread of the deadly disease.

As we sit reflecting in isolation, looking for life lessons to get us through the current crisis, we are reminded that we are all equal and more connected than we previously thought.

In the pandemonium of it all however, most of us seem to have forgotten how the Covid-19 virus came about. The answer is the pangolin; a charismatic but shy scaly anteater that occurs in Africa and Asia.

Experts have concluded that the Coronavirus made the leap from bats to pangolins and then humans in a live wildlife market in Wuhan, China. Snakes, civets, pangolins, tigers and other exotic endangered animals, that ordinarily would never encounter each other in the wild, are stacked and racked in cages for human consumption. This is how diseases start and spread.

History shows that human disease outbreaks are rising and are for most parts zoonotic, meaning they originate from animals. In fact, we know that as much as “75% of all emerging infectious diseases come from wildlife,” including:

  • HIV, originating in chimpanzees
  • Strands of influenza virus have been passed on by chickens and pigs
  • Ebola is transmitted and carried by bats
  • The SARS outbreak arose in civet cats

In a TED Talk in 2015 Bill Gates said: “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war – not missiles, but microbes.” Prof Andrew Cunningham, from the Zoological Society of London also stated that “the emergence and spread of Covid-19 was not only predictable, it was predicted [in the sense that] there would be another viral emergence from wildlife that would be a public health threat”. The pandemic we are facing today should not shock us: it was in fact forecasted and was avoidable. How we act once the storm has passed in order to avoid this ever happening again will indicate our true willingness to finally tackle, with the appropriate means, the illegal wildlife trade in order to best learn from our mistakes.

The Illegal Wildlife Trade

Despite a more recent shift in global attitudes to the consumption of wildlife products and use of endangered species for human benefit, some places like the Far East still show a high demand for endangered species products, including rhino horn and pangolin scales.

Now a multi-billion-dollar industry, and hot on the tails of arms, drugs and human trafficking, the illegal wildlife trade is a criminal enterprise on steroids.

Wildlife is listed as a natural resource in China, so it is legal for citizens to breed non-domesticated animals, including pangolins for consumption. Pangolins, however, do not keep well in captivity. Firstly, their ant diet makes it hard to appropriately feed them, and secondly, their susceptibility to stress and disease, means their reproductive capacity and lifespan are significantly reduced. As a result, the illegal import of exotic and endangered wildlife, like pangolins, is rife.

On a positive note, and as a result of Covid-19 and the destruction it has wrought, China has now banned the consumption of wildlife. Sadly, major loopholes remain and this does not include the use of animal parts, like tiger bone, rhino horn and pangolin scales in traditional medicine but it’s a start. To learn more about the ban read, The Scales of Justice.

Picking Your Battles

The world now has a common cause: to defeat the illegal wildlife trade. Covid-19 does not discriminate so it does not matter if you’re Joe Jonas, Joe Bloggs, a boardroom big shot, a senior ranking government official or a wildlife charity; the illegal wildlife trade needs to stop. It is a health threat to everyone and a costly exercise for the economy. This is not something for conservationists to tackle alone any longer.

We are now living with the consequences of our disregard for nature.

The bottom line is the illegal wildlife trade is a global problem. Can we really blame the pangolins for plunging the economy into a global recession?

Image credit: Wesley Hartmann


Wildlife is at the heart of the recent COVID-19 crisis and people around the world are struggling day-to-day with the realities of isolation and challenging social situations.

In light of this, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is launching a new online #ArtofSurvival initiative as a way of using art and conservation to engage and bring supporters together during this difficult time.

Every day we will bring you inspirational and creative ideas online to access or download through our social media, website and other platforms. This will include online art workshops, learning content for children and young people, Conservation Conversations and much more.

All of our ideas and resources are FREE to access and get involved with. However, we hope that you will consider donating to our: #ArtofSurvival campaign. Help us continue funding our conservation partners in Africa and Asia and give back to the wildlife we work so tirelessly to protect.


Creative wildlife arts ideas for people isolated at home and looking for something to do either by themselves or to entertain children.


Ideas for how you can feel part of our ‘Change Maker’ family for wildlife even if you’re stuck at home or alone.


At home workshops for you to do with children and young people to help engage and learn about different animals and habitats.


Look out for our interesting ‘Conservation Conversations’ to read, listen to or even get involved with, including updates from our Head of Programmes and Policy and from our conservation project partners across Africa and Asia.


We will be running an exciting art competition on our Wildlife Artists Instagram. All artists (and non-artists), both young and old are encouraged to partake. Each week you will be tasked with drawing, doodling and creating a different endangered animal while in self-isolation. Visit @DSWFwildlifeart for details.

Get involved…

  • Social Media: Follow/like us on social media to stay up to date with #ArtofSurvival news. You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • E-news: Sign up to our new weekly e-news.
  • Donate and support: Visit our #ArtofSurvival Just Giving page to donate and to help turn the tide on extinction before it’s too late.

Stay safe and thank you for your support.

Global Canvas 2020 – Endangered

Global Canvas is an annual international art competition for groups of children aged 16 and under.

Set up by David Shepherd in 2004, the competition has engaged thousands of children from all over the world through art, giving them the opportunity to find out about endangered species, their habitats and the threats that they face. Global Canvas also allows them to express themselves through their creativity.

The judges selected 19 entries to go through to the final, which was held at the Natural History Museum, London, on Thursday, 12 March. They had a very difficult time choosing the winners from such a colourful and creative shortlist. There were some wonderful examples of reusing materials to create art; an octopus made of old tights, a snake made of garlic netting and trees made of broom bristles were just some of the highlights.

Global Canvas 2020 – theme ‘Endangered’

To enter this year’s competition children were asked to create mini displays based on the theme ‘Endangered’; 5086 children from 21 countries including; Mexico, China, Canada, Moldova and Ghana, participated in creating 133 wonderful entries.

Global Canva 2020 guest speaker Stephen Rew

The winners were announced during a prize-giving ceremony where we were very fortunate to have artist and winner of Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019, Stephen Rew, as our guest speaker. Stephen gave an inspiring talk and the children had lots of questions for him afterwards.

“If endangered animals go extinct, I will have nothing to paint,” said Rew very much in the spirit of David Shepherd. “Find what it is you love and then use it to give back to the world,” Stephen Rew

global canvas 2020

Global Canva 2020 Winners  – The Makers from Oaks Park High

This entry incorporated an ark of endangered species made from papier-mâché. Proving someone else’s trash is the art class’s treasure, contributing young artists collected plastic bottles and paper found in the school’s bins to create their chosen endangered species. The judges felt this artwork captured the theme ‘Endangered’ with a sustainable twist.

global canvas 2020

Second Prize  – Antz Kidz, Berkshire

Garlic netting and broom bristles where just some of the recycled materials used to create this sophisticated art piece. The judges admired the attention to detail and the intricacy of this artwork. It was also deemed a very original entry. 

global canvas 2020

Third Prize – St Bartholomew’s Primary

The future of orangutans is bleak if we do not stop deforestation. The judges commented on the clever and impactful way the students exhibited this important conservation message with their orangutan portrait. 

global canvas 2020

Stephen Rew Personal Choice Award  – St Hilary’s School

Rew enjoyed the use of vibrant coloured wool, as an artistic medium, applied to capture the pantones of the forest. Hidden in the woodlands was weird and wonderful creepy-crawlies. 

global canvas 2020

Michael O’Mara Books Personal Choice Award  – Langrish Primary School

Dive into the underwater world of Langlish’s educational artwork made from a variety of different artistic mediums from papier-mâché to recycled messages in a bottle. 

global canvas 2020

The David Shepherd Award – Caleb British International School, Nigeria

The David Shepherd Award is presented in memory of the talented wildlife artist, conservationist and founder of DSWF. This award is decided by the DSWF staff who admired the powerful message on plastic pollution displayed by the kaleidoscopic marine fish and shark made from recycled materials. 

global canvas 2020

Global Canvas Prizes

Prizes included: trophies, DSWF species adoptions, art materials vouchers for the top 3 schools, and a selection of books.

With thanks to our wonderful competition sponsors: Michael O’Mara Books.

Enter Global Canvas 2021

Look out on the website for the launch of the Global Canvas 2021 competition this summer. The deadline for entries will be January 2021 (date and theme to be confirmed).

Covid-19 Announcement

Tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic requires all of us, individually and collectively, to adhere to the measures that authorities have put in place to contain the virus so as not to put additional stress on our public health system.

Following the guidelines from the UK government issued on Monday 16 March, we at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation have implemented a series of measures to protect our staff and contribute to the wider protection of our community.

We have asked the majority of our staff to work from home as of Tuesday morning. Our office is being managed with a skeleton team until further notice so please do bear with us as we ask for your patience in these difficult times which could cause delays in daily operations. We are also looking to adjust our level, frequency, and style of communication with our followers in light of recent pressures.

We will continue to be guided by the UK government on the duration and the level of restrictions and will implement all further recommendations from authorities. Rest assured we will continue our vital work to fight wildlife crime and support the needs of our conservation partners in Africa and Asia. Never before has our policy work been so important in tackling the illegal wildlife trade so we can prevent something like this from occurring again.

The DSWF team wants to wish our greater family and dedicated supporters strength during these challenging times ahead.

Please continue to contact DSWF team members where you have their email addresses already or email and your enquiry will be forwarded to the appropriate person accordingly.

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 Finalist Announced

DSWF is delighted to announce that 160 incredible artworks have been shortlisted for this year’s David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition.

We received nearly 1,200 entries from artists around the world and were delighted to see such a high standard of artworks across a variety of different mediums and subject matters.

Our expert panel of judges, including renowned wildlife artists and Shepherd family members Mandy Shepherd and Emily Lamb, spent hours discussing entries and as always, it proved a difficult task to shortlist down to the exhibition number.

“It is a privilege to be part of the judging panel for Wildlife Artist of the Year and to have the chance to explore such an inspiring range of wildlife art. I am proud to help continue my father’s legacy of conservation through art and in awe of the incredible talent out there amongst the world’s wildlife artists. Thank you to everyone for embracing and sharing the natural world with us and helping DSWF to protect our wildlife.”

Mandy Shepherd, Wildlife Artist of the Year Judge and David Shepherd’s daughter

The Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition is due to take place at Mall Galleries, London from Wednesday 27 – Sunday 31 May. However, we are monitoring the situation closely and will update again as to our plans around the exhibition and the announcement of winners over the next couple of weeks.

We’ll be launching an online exhibition of the shortlisted artworks, including the opportunity for you to buy your favourite artworks and vote online for the ‘People’s Choice’ winner. Please do sign up to our e-news to be the first to hear about how we will bring you this incredible display of wildlife art.

Congratulations to all shortlisted artists and a huge thank you to everyone who entered Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 for supporting DSWF’s vital work protecting endangered species across Africa and Asia.  Thank you for being part of our wildlife art family and for being the Change Makers who are helping to turn the tide on extinction before it’s too late.

Image credit: Anna Reed, Cy Baker and Hashim Akib

The scales of justice

Pangolins, along with bats and civets have been put forward as the cause of the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19. Pangolins are one of the most trafficked mammals in the world. It is estimated that 300 pangolins are taken from the wild every day, to supply illegal wildlife markets in the Far East. David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is working to help protect pangolins and reduce the demand for its meat and scales on the black market.

The Novel Coronavirus is said to have made the transition from animal to human in China’s live-wildlife markets in Wuhan.

Wuhan’s live-wildlife markets and the conditions animals were kept in, created the perfect storm for zoonotic diseases in which to incubate.

While scientists are scrambling to find the animal responsible to prevent an outbreak from happening again and to apportion blame, the tragic loss of human life and the beginnings of a pandemic has brought a much-needed shift in China’s wildlife laws but is it enough?

China’s wildlife laws thrown onto the scales due to Novel Coronavirus

On February 24, 2020, the unthinkable happened – the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress made a series of amendments to China’s wildlife laws, prohibiting the sale of wildlife as a food source. CLICK HERE to read the decisions.

The trade and conservation of wildlife in China is regulated by the Wildlife Protection Law. Previously loopholes in these laws allow for the commercial sale of products made from protected species. A consequence of this has been the captive breeding of wildlife and the illegal wildlife trade across borders.

Chinks in the pangolin’s armour

What you will note, is that the changes to China’s wildlife laws, however, do not prohibit the use of wildlife parts for traditional medicine or ornamental objects. It just mentions the banning of terrestrial wildlife as food.

Other points of concern in the current interpretation are:

  • These new decisions do not include animals classified under ‘livestock and poultry.’
  • The amendments only refer to terrestrial mammals. Many aquatic and plant species are also endangered.
  • The decisions mention the banning of farmed (or commercial breeding) of wildlife for food but neglect to mention how the government will dispose of these animals or compensate the investors.

Many conservation organisations, who DSWF work closely with, are saying the changes to the Wildlife Protection Law is not enough. We should be using the opportunity, born from the tragic outbreak, to call for a total ban on the commercial trade in all threatened wildlife and

to strengthen law enforcement efforts to crack down on illegal markets and criminal syndicates.

While these changes to wildlife laws reflect a positive shift in policy, it does not prevent humans from coming into contact, and consuming wildlife (thus preventing disease) as wild animals are still being killed, processes and consumed for medicinal purposes.

If current interpretations of these new laws are correct it means the consumption of pangolin foetus soup, a delicacy in China, is now illegal. However, the use of traditional Chinese medicine made from pangolin scales is still legal, therefore mitigating the false narrative around limiting consumption. Other endangered species still effected by traditional medicine markets are tigers, lions, leopard, bears and rhino.

Up until now, little has been done by local law officials to prosecute illegal wildlife traffickers in certain parts of Asia. These new decisions do not mention how apprehended wildlife traffickers will be dealt with, nor what happens to the stockpiles or seized products. Unless these laws are implemented and traffickers brought to justice, little will change for pangolins and other affected species. Another grey area is the breeding of wildlife for commercial gain, something we have seen to have devastating impacts on wild populations in the case of commercial tiger farms.

Policy, pangolins, and pandemonium

While this is a positive step for a country that has long abused animal rights and the serious threat which domestic markets play to the ultimate survival of a species, Novel Coronavirus has given China the opportunity to be the Zeus of conservation – to be a real Change Maker, and potentially alter the course of natural history, by truly re-evaluating their wildlife laws. It is all thunder and no lightning however unless these laws are acted on and address far wider consumptive behaviours.

Novel Coronavirus is now a pandemic, there is pandemonium in the press and while the loss of human life is tragic, hopefully, some good can come out of this for the pangolin and other endangered species. It’s a steppingstone in turning the tide of extinction.

In addition, to protecting species on the ground, DSWF is also involved in the international policy arena fighting to end the trade of ivory and other endangered wildlife products, such as pangolins.

Image credits: Wesley Hartmann, Will Riley and Ulrico Grech-Cumbo

DSWF Youth Ambassador Bria Shay Neff talks Artivism and her plans for 2020

In our autumn edition of Wildlife Matters we introduced you to our new Youth Ambassadors, Sapphire Hope and Bria Shay Neff. These inspiring young artists are helping spread the word of conservation through artivism and inspiring the next generation of wildlife guardians.

What is Artivism?

Artivism is the use of art, in any medium, to promote a cause.

This future generation of artists are using their wildlife art to create awareness for prominent conservation issues.

Through art and open conversation, they are proving that no matter how old you are you can make a difference.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Bria.

Here is what is Bria Shay Neff has been up to over the last year

“Over the last year my art has taken me to some amazing places. I’ve gotten to go to LA and be part of an awesome awards ceremony where I met lots of influencers, like myself.”

“Plus, I have gotten to work with some really cool brands that share my passion for organics and sustainability. The best part has been meeting other artists that use #artivism to make the world a better place.”

Bria Shay Neff on using social media for the cause

Social media is a great resource to spread awareness and make noise about the things that are important to me. That is why I am so proud to be part of a very special group of wildlife warriors and artists, known as #wildoceans11.

Even though I am young it doesn’t stop me from trying to make an impact for animals all over our planet. I have created #Kidscanchangetheworld on my website where I highlight other kids who are using their time and talents to positively impact the world around them. This has opened many doors to new friendships.

Auctions, Art and Fundraising

“I have reached over $70,000 in donations for wildlife. At an auction held last summer in NYC, a painting of mine sold for $25,000! It was so exciting knowing that 100% of the money raised was going to help protect red wolves and Mexican grey wolves.”

“In 2020, I aim to raise $100k while continuing to paint a face to the epidemic of the endangered,” she says.

Keep up to date on Bria’s work on her Instagram here.

Conservation education

Conservation education is a vital tool in the fight to end extinction.

By educating and empowering young people around the globe, whether on the frontlines in Africa and Asia or here in the UK, about the value of wildlife we can support the next generation of conservationists.

Find out more about the education work we do, here. Alternatively, keep an eye out on our children’s wildlife art initiative, Global Canvas.

Losing our grip on humanity


Navigating the constant stream of negative news, the constant race against extinction and the ailing health of our planet takes its toll on even the most hardened.

The often-overwhelming barrage of environmental information featured on the daily news channels puts us at risk of becoming distant in our approaches and disconnected in our concerns.

But what if we all gave up and did nothing?

We often find ourselves at a loss as to how to best tackle the ever-growing and overwhelming problems facing environmentalists and conservationists in our journey to save species and habitats from extinction.

The planet is dying on our watch, while we frantically try and catch up with the current rate of destruction.

Recent environmental reports state that over 1,000,000 species are now at threat from extinction, the Amazon rainforest is burning, and human populations are exploding. How can we keep up when the key to winning the war against wildlife extinction remains at the mercy of human generosity?

The path towards greater humanity, caring and compassion is littered and overgrown with consumerism and the need for fast, accessible consumption, but at what cost? We only have one home, one planet; if we do not put the health of the Earth at the forefront of all industrial action, policy, global strategy and daily thinking, there will be no point discussing future technologies, scientific developments or the next big breakthrough. We will have run out of time as the planet withered beneath our feet.

Having just returned from the recent CITES meeting in Geneva (see page 10), the biggest ‘elephant in the room’ was the outdated voices of those who still believe that killing, utilising and exploiting critically endangered species is the best and only solution to save them. At what point did we allow the socio-economic rhetoric to overtake that of the biological and scientific drivers of our conservation strategies? There is no doubt that the poverty and economic vulnerability of so many is a complex and urgent issue which needs addressing, but to use it as a driving argument for the utilisation of trade is akin to environmental blackmail.

For millennia the world survived without the trade in wildlife trinkets. Would it be so hard to live in a world without them if the reward was nature itself?

Too often, we ourselves get lost staring into the dark tunnel of destruction and extinction and yet, as an organisation, we at DSWF have the absolute privilege to work with some of the world’s most committed individuals and projects who are striving for change and keeping the fires at bay. They are the hope we all need.

While we must always strive to do more, raise more and commit more, it’s the brave men and women on the front line of conservation who will not ever stop while there is is still a world left to save. These individuals are the true heroes and guardians of our world; they have chosen to give up the comforts of their lives and commit wholeheartedly to saving the animals and habitats around them and we must do all we can to support them.

While we remain behind the curve in solving many of the environmental hurdles that face us, without the work that began 50 years ago and continues to this day, we certainly wouldn’t be debating declining populations but instead total extinction.

Conservation isn’t failing. It’s the growth, scale and pressure from unrelated external commercial pressures, international and political development and the incorrect prioritisation of reward over nature which is increasing beyond what traditional conservation efforts can sustain. prioritisation of reward over nature which is increasing beyond what traditional conservation efforts can sustain.

So how do we keep up with the current rates of destruction? The answer is by making environmental issues relevant to everyone. We need industrial change from every single aspect of modern society; we need thinkers, business leaders, politicians, teachers, education groups, artists, collaborators and everyone with a voice to realise that extinction is forever but that we still have time to turn the tide.

We need engagement in mainstream media, action regardless of political or religious persuasion, and we need it now. The more these issues become a part of our everyday lives, not held in some distant fantasy where someone else will act on our behalf, the more power we have to restore what we have broken.

The fire that tore through Notre-Dame cathedral in April this year should act as a shining example of what unity can achieve. If we can work together to raise £650 million and restore a 700-year-old cathedral, why can’t we unite to save a 4-billion-year-old planet?

With your support, we can change the world. What is an African savannah without her elephants, a leafy canopy without its chimpanzees or a snow-capped mountain without the majestic snow leopard?

If we don’t act today, all that remains is a barren and empty world in which we will gain no joy in living in and where the fragile ecologies and food chains collapse. It’s because of these precious and vanishing animals and environments that we must all do what we can, fund what we are able and connect others to the cause.

Those who wish to trade or experiment with the sale of wildlife and their products often do so as a last resort from a broken and desperate place. What if we were to give them an alternative? What if we could provide them with the hope that humanity has not turned her back on the planet and her species but that we will fight to give it life and see more value in living species than dead?

We believe, as David did, that there is enough human goodness to right the wrongs of a few and to grant the space and capacity needed for the recovery of some of the world’s most iconic species.

Sign up to our e-news or to receive our biannual Wildlife Matters magazine for even more articles like this here.

Christmas concert a success for conservation

Broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson, actor Brian Blessed and singer-songwriter Emma Stevens joined children from local schools at a special community Christmas Concert in Guildford raising more than £4,000 for David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF).

The event, held at the beautiful St Nicolas church in Guildford, gathered supporters, the local community and members of the Shepherd family together to celebrate the festive season and support wildlife across Africa and Asia.

Emma’s stunning voice was joined by Ardingly Prep Chamber Choir and Guildford County School Chamber Choir as they performed a variety of traditional and original festive songs.

Special readings from Sir Michael Parkinson and Brian Blessed entertained the audience and truly brought feelings of festive cheer; from Sir Michael’s eloquent reading of Sir John Betjeman’s ‘Christmas’, to Brian’s enthusiastic performance of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.

The concert was followed by mince pies kindly donated by Merrow Savouries, along with a glass of mulled wine and an exclusive exhibition of Shepherd family artwork, including originals by David, his daughter Mandy and his granddaughter Emily Lamb.

Susie Baxter, Head of Fundraising at DSWF, said: “This year, we are celebrating 35 years since our beloved Founder, David Shepherd, set up the Foundation. That’s 35 years of protecting endangered species across Africa and Asia and 35 years of working tirelessly to turn the tide on extinction before it’s too late.

“We couldn’t do what we do without you – our family of supporters who have chosen to stand with us and ensure that the precious animals that roam our planet continue to thrive and live free in their natural habitat.

“As we head into the Christmas period and think of family, food, presents and warm fires, we would like to dedicate tonight to our Wildlife Rangers – the brave men and women who stand on the front line of conservation – who sacrifice their own Christmas and risk their lives in harsh and unforgiving environments to ensure that our precious wildlife has a future.”

A big thanks to all who helped organise the event, who performed and those who came to support us.

Funds raised from the concert will help DSWF continue our mission to fight wildlife crime, protect endangered species and engage with communities across Africa and Asia. We are working to help save threatened animals such as elephants, tigers, rhinos and pangolins.

To find out more about our work click here.

Conservation Faces: Bayara Agvaantseren

Bayara Argvaantseren is the Director of the Snow Leopard Trust Mongolia, and one of the co-founders of the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation. Both organisations are leaders in their field of protecting the elusive snow leopard and its habitat.

Bayara won the 2019 Goldman Award this year, which was a huge achievement for her and her work. The Award was given to her in recognition of her role in securing the first ever protected snow leopard nature reserve and preventing mining in the area,

We spoke to Bayara about how she came to dedicate her life to protecting the snow leopard and what it’s like to work in the field in such a remote part of the world.

When did you first become interested in wildlife and what was your first memory of needing to help animals and the environment?

I grew up in Northern Mongolia, very close to nature in a remote town close to the wilderness. During school breaks in summer, I used to go to the countryside to help my grandmother tend to her livestock and that made me feel very close to nature. She taught me a lot about local plants and how to harvest wild berries. But in this part of Mongolia, we didn’t have snow leopards.

As a young child at school, I was taught about local wildlife like red deer, musk deer, marmots and of course wolves; but not about snow leopards. When I was an adult, and I started working for the conservation of the snow leopard, I became even more interested about wildlife and I finally began to know more about the big cats.

Why did you decide to dedicate your life and career to protecting wildlife?

Snow leopards are of course very beautiful, but also very secretive. I started working with Dr. Tom McCarthy to find out the threats facing snow leopards. Talking to local people, I saw that poaching of snow leopards and negative attitudes from local people is a big threat to the cats. I felt like I could help snow leopard conservation by building collaborations with local people. That was a very important turning point for me. I decided to work for conservation and not to go back to my other job, and I decided to make conservation my career. I began working with local people to improve their lives, and we started snow leopard enterprises [handicraft program] in 1998 and I have been managing it since then.

How did you come to work with Snow Leopard Trust & the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation?

We created the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (SLCF) in 2007.  We needed more effort and time dedicated to snow leopard conservation, and I realized that Mongolia needed better capacity and a stronger team to work for snow leopards. I think within the country, we had quite low capacity to do snow leopard work and we had limited information and resources. That was the turning point when we needed to create this new organisation. SLCF is the only organisation in Mongolia solely focused on snow leopard conservation, which makes us unique from other organisations. Even before we were formally registered, we were working with the Snow Leopard Trust and today we continue to share a very close partnership.

What is one of the biggest achievements of your career?

Formation of the new Tost-Tosonbumba nature reserve [Mongolia’s first protected areas designated specifically for snow leopards] is definitely a big achievement for me. Another big achievement is that local people are now collaborating with conservation organisations—the fact that they are doing this and the ways in which they are doing this are now much different and at a much higher level than before. I am seeing that local people are realising they have a great amount of power and voice. This is something my team has worked on for many years, and now I have started to see these changes within our partner communities—and this feels great.

What does a ‘day in the life’ look like for you?

Our headquarters are in the capital city of Ulanbaataar. I discuss with my team individually what their tasks are, and we have weekly staff meeting to talk about who is working on what and what needs to be done.

The normal day is making phone calls, talking to governmental offices, having meetings and working on emails. I’ll also have calls with local people to talk about issues with our different programs, like snow leopard enterprises and livestock insurance.

In the field—for me and for anyone else—the days are much longer! There are also no weekends for us. It takes 10-14 days to reach out-field sites in the South, and we’re usually out at least a week to 10 days. Visiting families takes lots of time and everything is very spread apart, so we try to do as much as we can when we are in the field–we can’t just do one thing. We visit families, host workshops, have full-day meetings with the local governor’s office, and travel to our research base camp.

At base camp, it’s really important for me to do hiking too. When I go into the field, I always travel with my camera and I like to have a matchbox in case we need to make a fire. In my emergency kit I have a very little bottle of vodka because when you visit different kinds of places and families, you can get food poisoning or sick from the water, which is very different in the Gobi. So my treatment is to have a couple shots of vodka!

What are some of the major challenges you face doing your job?

Bureaucracy, lack of awareness, and lack of networking between different levels of government. There is not lots of collaboration and networking, so I have to spend a lot of time to get people at different levels working together, which makes a lot of decisions take longer. Also, I feel like when you are a woman initiating something and working towards these things, you have to work twice as hard. In the field, at the local level, there are women who are quite motivated and active. But there are very few women at the highest levels of government, and I still see gender imbalance. Overall, these challenges mean I must push harder, and wait longer to get things done.

What do you enjoy and find most rewarding about your job?

The most rewarding thing is that local people have started realising that in order to save their livelihoods they need to be working with conservation. This realization and motivation has taken a long time to achieve, and this attitude has been hard to change. But it’s rewarding to see local people think this way now. I see a number of local volunteer rangers and local people making public statements and fighting for their land and wildlife.

Do you feel positive about the future of Snow Leopards and their habitat?

Yes, I do—you have to be positive! I know that it’s hard and there always challenges. But I am positive about saving snow leopards for future generations. Of course, we have a lot of obstacles to overcome and lots of work to do; but a lot has changed since I started in 1998.


If you would like to support Bayara and the work that Snow Leopard Trust do, then you can donate here:

Celebrating 35 years of conservation at the Wildlife Ball

Dame Judi Dench, actress Pam St Clements, singer Laura Wright and cricketer David Gower joined more than 300 people at The Dorchester in London to celebrate David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s 35th anniversary at the annual Wildlife Ball.

The dazzling annual event this year made sure to keep conservation at the heart of the evening, with host and leading conservationist and journalist Mark Carwardine hosting the night, using his extensive knowledge of wildlife and wonderful anecdotes of his times with David Shepherd to remind all the guests what the event is truly all about: conservation.

Host of the evening Mark Carwardine

The ‘Out of Africa’ themed event was opened with a performance by the incredibly talented West End Kids, who have performed for the Queen at her Jubilee, Chelsea Flower Show, the Olympic Games and much more. Their energetic interpretation of the Lion King started the evening off with a bang.

Powerful speeches by DSWF CEO Karen Botha and DSWF Head of Programmes & Policy and David Shepherd’s granddaughter Georgina ‘Peanut’ Lamb reminded all in the room of how important is it to continue the fight to protect endangered species across the world, with an inspirational message speaking of the power that resides with the influencers in the room.

Peanut said: “In this room tonight, we have wildlife heroes who have dedicated their lives to making a difference. From the policy halls of governments calling for the closure of ivory markets around the world, to the plains of Africa, where they witness the heart of the poaching crisis as they extract traumatised elephant calves from their dead mothers’ sides. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and never waver in our promise to do more.

“My grandfather, David, taught us compassion and how to wholeheartedly and unashamedly fall in love with the natural world but it was my mother, Melanie, who ran the Foundation for over 25 years and grew it into what it is today, who taught us how to be strong and that we must take brave steps along often difficult paths.

“DSWF is a beautiful combination of those two things.  We provide an unwavering voice for conservation and are steadfast in our commitment to supporting real conservation efforts and the brave men and women who are having a real impact in keeping some of the planets most vulnerable and threatened species alive.”

Please see below to watch the inspiring film that Peanut showed during her speech, reaffirming DSWF’s commitment to continuing to protect endangered wildlife.

The prestigious event celebrates art and wildlife together, continuing the legacy started by David Shepherd, and this night was no exception; incredible pieces by members of the Shepherd family were auctioned, alongside many unique artworks generously donated by artists and friends of the Foundation. All proceeds from the night go directly to helping to protect some of the most precious endangered species across Africa and Asia.

Avril Shepherd with a David Shepherd original painting

A particular highlight of the auction was an incredible collection of ‘Sketch for Wildlife’ paintings created by Emily Lamb, wildlife artist and David Shepherd’s granddaughter.

Earlier this year, Emily launched the Sketch for Wildlife movement on Instagram, painting one 30-minute sketch a day and selling it for £100, 100% donated to wildlife. So far this year she has raised over £20,000 to help wildlife, and especially for the Wildlife Ball she created 10 paintings from this series.

Each painting was available individually in the silent auction and they led to bidding wars as guests were so keen to own their own from the series. Emily will be ending this project on 31st December 2019 so this will be one of the last chances to own one of your own. Take a look at Emily’s Instagram account to find out more.

Following thousands of online votes, the winner of the David Shepherd Conservation Award 2019 was announced as Patrick Agaba, from Uganda, who was nominated by DSWF’s ground-based conservation partners, the Uganda Conservation Foundation. Patrick is a dedicated campaigner for conservation and has been directly credited for the success of the Recovery of Murchison Falls project that he manages, and that has seen a dramatic turnaround in wildlife numbers in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda. Patrick won £1,000, a David Shepherd print and a trophy. The David Shepherd Conservation Award prize was kindly supported this year by Helen Clifford Law. See below to hear Patrick’s delighted acceptance speech:

The evening concluded with a fundraising auction led by expert auctioneer Charles Hanson. The three lots on sale represented the Shepherd family dynasty: an original unique watercolour tiger by David Shepherd (who usually only painted in oil), an original painting of a dramatic scene of bull elephants entitled ‘Savuti Skies’ by Mandy Shepherd, David’s daughter, and a powerful painting of lions called ‘Brothers’ by Emily Lamb.

huge thank you to all who attended; to our guests, performers, artists, auction donors, sponsors, volunteers and staff, who were all part of making the evening so special. Because of you, the evening raised over £160,000 to together continue the fight against wildlife crime. We are touched and sincerely grateful for the impact that your part played will have on protecting some of the world’s most precious and endangered species.

If you would like to hear more about next year’s event, please call Susie Baxter on 01483 272 323.

Antiques trade fails to stop ivory ban in UK High Court

We at DSWF and conservation groups across the UK and around the world are celebrating today after a group of antiques traders failed to overturn the UK Ivory Act, intended to save elephants and passed with overwhelming popular support and cross-party Parliamentary backing in 2018.
The Act, which has received Royal Assent but has not yet taken effect, will restrict the sale of ivory to, from, and within the UK.

A High Court Judge found in favour of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and against a lobby group of antiques traders, called the Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT), who had argued that the Ivory Act was in violation of European law and was an infringement of their human rights.

Mary Rice, CEO of the Environmental Investigation Agency, (EIA), said: “This is a victory for common sense and one which maintains the UK’s position as a global leader when it comes to fighting the illegal ivory trade.”

The EIA is part of a coalition of 11 leading conservation organisations which supported the Ivory Act, arguing that any legal trade in ivory provides cover for the illegal trade because it is difficult to distinguish between antique and newly carved ivory. The UK is one of the world’s leading exporters of antique ivory and sends more to China and Hong Kong than any other country. Moreover, the legal ivory trade fuels a continued demand for the commodity by perpetuating its perceived value in the eyes of consumers and making it socially acceptable.

The European Commission is currently considering new restrictions on ivory trade across Europe which are based in part on the UK Ivory Act and even uses similar language. Other countries, such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, have introduced, or are in the process of introducing, similar legislation also based on the Act.

While the antiques trade had claimed the UK Ivory Act will cause “substantial economic damage” to the industry, ivory accounts for less than one per cent of annual sales in many UK auction houses.

John Stephenson, CEO of Stop Ivorysaid “Challenges to the new legislation fly in the face of British public opinion, which increasingly puts the conservation of nature before profit. We hope that’s the end of the matter and that the government can get on with implementing the Act, without further distractions.”

The UK Ivory Act has the support of many African countries with significant elephant populations, which are calling for stricter controls on the sale of ivory abroad as they struggle to control poaching at home.

Thirteen African governments belonging to the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) signed a statement hailing the passing of the Act in 2018: “We believe the UK’s new law will … support and encourage enforcement efforts and initiatives to reduce ivory trafficking in Africa, and around the world.”

Approximately 55 African elephants are poached every day, an unsustainable rate of loss.

At DSWF we are delighted and relieved to hear this news. With one elephant shot every 20 minutes for their ivory, wild elephant populations can’t afford to be lost to poaching to feed the ivory trade.

We are proud to support our partners EIA and their incredibly important work to prevent illegal trade and protecting endangered species.

Please help us continue to fund their vital work by donating.

Netflix movie filmed at the Elephant Orphanage Project in Zambia

We’re very excited to announce our ground-based conservation partners Game Rangers International – Elephant Orphanage Project (GRI – EOP). Founded by DSWF, were involved in a brand new Netflix film ‘Holiday in the Wild’ which has just been released.

The beautiful and touching story was inspired by the real life events of lead actress Kristin Davis who developed a deep connection to elephants over 12 years ago when she helped rescue an orphaned elephant in Kenya.

Watch the trailer now:

Scenes from the film set at the elephant orphanage were filmed on location at GRI-EOP in Zambia and feature the real elephants that your donations support! It’s a rare and wonderful window into life at the orphanage, and the day-to-day life of caring for the elephant calves. The film also tackles the harsh reality of poaching and how the young orphans are found by rangers, often after a traumatic start to life due to human-wildlife conflict.

Huge efforts and systems were in place to safeguard the elephants at all times and minimise their impact including a focused behaviour study, personnel and distance restrictions and international animal welfare inspectors. GRI were incredibly impressed by the crew who prioritised the elephants at all times. Plans are in place to release a feature on ‘the making of Holiday In The Wild’ soon  and we are sure everyone will be impressed with the robotic and puppet elephants used to minimise the need for filming the orphans!

We’re so proud of the incredible work GRI-EOP do to rehabilitate orphaned elephants and prepare them to re-join the wild, and this beautiful film helps bring their incredible dedication and hard work to the rest of the world.

Make sure it’s on your watchlist! We will be sharing more about the film and especially how the elephants welfare and care came throughout the entire process as lead by our long-term colleagues at GRI.

Please donate to help us continue to support GRI-EOP’s work here.

A busy time for the Elephant Orphanage Project as two new calves are rescued

It has been an incredibly busy time at Game Ranger International in Zambia, and especially at the Lilayi Nursery, where the team are caring for two new arrivals.

Two weeks ago, community members in Rufunsa GMA captured a young male elephant, who had been spotted alone during the previous 4 days. As the GRI Wildlife Rescue team rushed into action, he was safely secured with help from Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DPNW) officers from Luangwa Boma HQ. ⁣

Upon the team’s arrival, the feisty calf was loaded onto the Rescue Trailer – quite a challenge since he is approximately 2.5 years old and was charging everyone – a normal response for a wild elephant who doesn’t understand that we are trying to help.⁣

Once stable, the team began the long, slow journey back to the Elephant Nursery, checking on him every couple of hours, and providing drinking water, fresh browse and cooling splashes. Eight hours later, the team finally arrived at the Nursery, and the calf rushed out of the trailer and into the boma where he spent a few hours calming down before being lured into a stable with food. ⁣

After the rescue, the calf became much more sedate. His extremely emaciated condition was indicative of being without his mother for a long period of time, which may have compromised his internal organ system. Therefore, great care is being taken over his diet, with small steps to increase his intake whilst supporting his weakened state.⁣

Orphans of this age have been known to relapse up to two weeks post-rescue and there is no quick fix to reverse long-term starvation. He responded positively to his new family of Keepers who will play the significant role of mother as he overcomes his tragic loss.

After 11 days in care at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery, ‘Ludaka’, (named after the village he was found, to acknowledge his rescuers), calmed significantly since his arrival and was finally deemed strong enough to meet the Nursery Herd! Whilst still underweight, he has been stable for some time and the benefits of his interaction with the other elephants will be significant in his emotional recovery to the traumas he has experienced.

He spent a good hour getting to know the whole herd and in particular spent time with Lani and Kasewe, with some friendly trunk twining. As you can see from the clip below, as is typical of these young elephants, their highest priority remains food, so when this came between them Kasewe was more concerned with challenging him for browse than offering up comfort – but Ludaka held his own!

A second rescue…

It was less than a week since rescuing Ludaka when GRI and the DPNW in Zambia were called to respond to another tragic elephant orphaning.

Near South Luangwa National Park, DNPW Rangers came across this tragic scene: a mother elephant agonisingly caught around the neck in a poacher’s snare and bearing three fatal gun shot wounds. Standing under her chin, her 1-year-old female calf was clearly in terror after the traumatic experience of being shot at and running for their lives.

Tragically, her mother was too injured to be saved and had to be put out of her suffering. This traumatised little calf was darted with sedative and carefully moved with the help of Conservation South Luangwa and DNPW to Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust who have been a long-term first response for orphaned elephants and other wildlife in need.

The GRI Vet Unit were onsite to help stabilise the calf as they coordinate the logistics to relocate her to the Lilayi Elephant Nursery to reunite her with other elephants. This scenario is reminiscent of Chamilandu’s story and she suffered with nightmares for weeks after experiencing such brutality, so it is critical that this little calf gets into a secure environment with other elephants, attentive keepers and daily routine to help her overcome such horrors.

Having been with her mother up to the bitter end she is in good physical condition, but is incredibly traumatised, frightened and confused having lost her mother and her herd due to the incessant and insatiable demand for ivory.

Both of these calves will require round-the-clock care to help give them the best chance of recovering from the trauma they have suffered. Please consider donating to support the incredible work undertaken by the keepers and rangers at GRI.

Wildlife Artist of the Year entries open

The hunt is on for the world’s Wildlife Artist of the Year, as David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) officially opens its prestigious annual art competition for 2020.

With a top prize of £10,000 and the chance to exhibit in a top London location, the contest attracts hundreds of entries from artists across the globe. Now in its 13th year, the exhibition and related sale has become an eagerly awaited highlight of the art calendar for both artists and art buyers.The main competition is open to amateur and professional artists aged 17 and over in all genres (excluding photography and digital painting) and offers numerous categories and prizes.

Human Impact – youth category

Continuing this year is the ‘Human Impact’ category, a special class open to artists aged 16-22. We are inviting them to express their concern about the impact human beings have on the planet through their artwork. The category was introduced to great reception last year and we are excited to see what is submitted this year. Costing only £10 to enter, this category is perfect for art students and up-and-coming artists.

Endangered: Wildlife in Motion – brand new category

This year we are also thrilled to be announcing a new category for this year, which will allow a medium that Wildlife Artist of the Year has never accepted before. ‘Endangered: Wildlife in Motion’ invites filmmakers and animators to submit short films which capture the reality that endangered creatures face; whether telling a story through script, using footage captured from the wild or a combination of both, we welcome creative short films which successfully communicate the urgent extinction crisis.

“We are always hugely impressed by the incredibly high standard of artwork entered into Wildlife Artist of the Year every year,” said DSWF’s CEO Karen Botha. “The resulting exhibition provides an important showcase for artists around the world to celebrate endangered species and highlight the critical problems they face.

“Our Founder David Shepherd was passionate about encouraging the use of art to communicate the need to care about conservation, and we are excited to see the messages this new category will bring. Alongside continuing the youth category, we felt we were continuing his legacy.”

Each year the competition’s top £10,000 prize has been generously supported by a private donor. Along with the £1,000 runner-up and £500 category prizes, the Wildlife Artist of the Year offers artists around the world the chance to win a prestigious accolade.

The top prize winner in 2019 was Welsh artist Stephen Rew, with his striking bronze sculpture of an octopus called ‘Writhe’.

His incredible and unique piece formed part of an exquisite exhibition of more than 150 shortlisted competition entries in London last May.

The eight categories for Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 are:

  • Animal Behaviour
  • Earth’s Wild Beauty
  • Human Impact (16-22yrs)
  • Into the Blue
  • Urban Wildlife
  • Facing Extinction
  • Wings
  • Endangered Wildlife in Motion

The annual Wildlife Artist of the Year competition was established by the late, great wildlife artist David Shepherd CBE FRSA (1931 – 2017). The event embodies David’s vision for ‘The Art of Survival’ – using art for wildlife conservation.

Since the competition began in 2007, it has attracted more than 10,000 entries and raised more than £1.2m to fund DSWF’s vital work to fight wildlife crime, protect endangered species and engage with communities on the ground across Africa and Asia.

Competition entry costs £25 per artwork, with a concessionary rate of £10 for entry in the Human Impact category. Entries are open until Monday 10 February 2020. For more details on all the categories, how to enter and full terms and conditions, click here.

DSWF brings powerful ivory art exhibition to LA

To buy any of the artworks still available from this exhibition, browse the catalogue here and call us on 01483 272323.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) crossed the pond this October to hold a powerful exhibition focused on elephants and their plight against the ivory trade. This was an incredible opportunity kindly supported by Christie’s in Beverly Hills, giving us the exciting opportunity to hold this three-day exhibition in a brand new city to us.

The End of Ivory: The Art of Survival exhibition celebrated elephants as sentient beings but also highlighted their desperate struggle for survival in the face of extinction through phenomenal works of art by our DSWF Art Ambassadors.

Provocative paintings, sculptures and photographs created by DSWF Art Ambassadors were on display and available for sale, with a percentage of all sales going directly to DSWF to fund key conservation projects in Africa and Asia.

Drawing on DSWF’s rich art and conservation heritage, we were honoured to partner with our dedicated and internationally renowned Wildlife Art Ambassadors – Emily Lamb, Mandy Shepherd, David Filer, James Kydd, and Simon Max Bannister – whose mission is to raise awareness and funds to save endangered species through highly visual and emotive media.

The exhibition also featured artworks from guest artists, including Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019 winner Stephen Rew, US-based artists Matt Shapira, Anne London and Carrie Cook.

The exhibition was a great success and it was wonderful for the team to meet supporters and form new relationships with contacts in America, helping us to continue our work to protect wildlife.

Some of the works are still available for sale, please take a look at the catalogue

A new partnership to get your claws into

Barry M partners with David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation to save endangered species

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is excited to announce an exciting new partnership with leading cosmetics brand Barry M and we are proud to have been chosen as the charity partner for this new initiative, with 20% of profits directly funding DSWF’s work protecting endangered species across Africa and Asia.

The exclusive new range, WILDLIFE®, aims to give back to nature – provide funding for wildlife conservation around the world.

The range is launching exclusively in Superdrug from 9 October and online with two Limited Edition 9-shade eyeshadow palettes; WILDLIFE® ‘Tiger’ and WILDLIFE® ‘Snow Leopard’.

The palette designs feature tiger and snow leopard artworks created by artist Emily Lamb, granddaughter of the charity’s founder, David Shepherd. The shades inside have also been inspired by the two iconic big cats – from the Himalayan blue of ‘Frost’ and the twilight grey of ‘Silent’ in the Snow Leopard palette, to the ‘Ferocious’ hot orange and green ‘Jungle’ in the Tiger selection.

Why Barry M?

Since their launch in 1982, Barry M has always been a Cruelty Free brand and campaigns for the end of cosmetic animal testing around the world. However, with the horrific and growing threat of global wildlife extinction, they are now committed to do more – namely, to provide vital funding for those working to protect animals and nature around the world.

• 20% of Barry M’s profits for all WILDLIFE® products sold will go to David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. In the case of the ‘Tiger’ and ‘Snow Leopard’ WILDLIFE® palettes, profits from each palette will go directly to support the featured big cat – funds from the Tiger palette will support tigers, Snow Leopard will provide funding for snow leopard conservation (details of the specific ways DSWF supports these species are provided below).

How DSWF is protecting tigers

DSWF supports tiger conservation across Asia through funding key ground-based project partners in Russia, Thailand and India. The organisation fights to protect the world’s last remaining wild populations in their natural habitat.

Through educational programmes involving creative arts in Russia, to anti-poaching dog squads in India, DSWF is committed to protecting these species and the communities who share their space. DSWF also fights for greater legal protection and calls for an end to all trade in tiger parts and derivatives.

Find out more about our work with tigers.

How DSWF is protecting snow leopards

DSWF supports field-based snow leopard protection and community engagement programmes in both Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. They not only provide support to both habitat expansion and protection but also viable sustainable alternative livelihoods and micro-financing initiatives for rural herders and communities living in harmony with these elusive creatures.

Find out more about our work with snow leopards.

Update from CITES CoP18

This August, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) attended the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to CITES (an international conference that regulates the trade of endangered species). The two-week conference, hosted in Geneva, had a packed agenda for delegates to debate, ranging from the trade in wild caught elephants to the sale of ivory and rhino horn stockpiles.


During CITES, DSWF works closely with a team of expert lawyers, biologists, scientists and conservationists to support the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), a group of more that 30 African countries dedicated to the survival of the species and ending the trade in ivory. Please find a comprehensive write up of the elephant related topics at CoP18 below:

The trade in live elephants:

Intro: At CoP18, the AEC submitted a proposal to CITES aiming to end the export of live, wild caught, elephants from Africa oversees to unnatural locations. The current CITES text allows live elephants listed in Appendix II to be traded to “appropriate and acceptable destinations”. However, this wording creates loop holes to continue the trade in live elephants. The AEC sought to clarify this wording to “in situ conservation programmes within their natural range”. In short, if adopted, this wording would stop the trade of live elephants oversees.

Outcome: Following a historic vote, 46 governments voiced their unequivocal support of the AEC’s proposal to end the barbaric trade of live elephants to international locations. Despite this critical victory, it emerged that the European Union hadn’t voted due to voting technicalities. During the plenary sessions, where decisions are reviewed and adopted, the EU reopened the debate and suggested compromised wording that would allow live trade only in only in exceptional or emergency circumstances (where it provides considerable conservation benefit to elephants in the wild.) This wording was agreed and adopted by the CoP.

Our views: DSWF were delighted to see this proposal adopted as the first major step to ensure international legislation protects wild elephants from international export, and only then in exceptional circumstances.  Although the wording wasn’t as strong as the original proposal, due to conditions insisted upon by the EU, it’s adoption marks significant progress and will prevent elephants being ripped from their herds to fuel the brutal and traumatic demand from zoos, circuses and entertainment facilities around the world.

The Closure of Domestic Ivory Markets:

Intro: At CoP18, the AEC submitted a document calling on all countries to close their domestic ivory markets as a matter of urgency. Unfortunately, the current wording only calls on counties whose markets contribute to poaching to close their markets. This creates loopholes, notably in Japan and the EU, to keep their markets open. These markets enable the laundering of ivory from poaching and allows trade to migrate to open markets. It is impossible to maintain regulated national markets alongside illegal ones and elephants will continue to be killed for their ivory unless they are shut.

Outcome: During the CoP, the US proposed a compromise on the floor that would shift the burden of proof to those countries with markets still in operation. In short, the wording would require counties with legal markets to report back to CITES on the measures they are taking to ensure their markets aren’t contributing to illegal trade and poaching. This wording was adopted after a vote on the floor.

Our View: Despite not adopting language to close down all markets, the decision taken by the CoP is a huge step forward and will provide further protection for wild elephants. Countries can no longer simply deny the connection between legal markets and the poaching of elephants; they must now prove it. The closure of domestic ivory markets has been at the forefront of DSWF’s mission to protect elephants and we welcome this historic decision for further protect them.

Ivory Stockpile management:

Intro: Ivory stockpiles are prevalent across the world and theft is a common occurrence. Despite the size of these stockpiles, there is currently a lack of information on the stocks and not all parties comply with their reporting obligations. At CoP17, the Secretariat was directed to provide practical guidance on ivory stockpile management to mitigate their leakage into the illegal trade and to help reduce the burden around security and secure storage. At CoP18, the AEC submitted a document proposing a way forward to finalise and adopt the delayed guidance and proposed measures to strengthen annual reporting by parties, including stolen and missing ivory. The proposal also directed the Secretariat to publish data of the regional levels of stocks and identify parties who fail to report stocks for further action.

Outcome: During discussions, the CoP agreed to adopt amended language to the CITES text which would ensure parties maintain an inventory of government stockpiles (including those privately held where possible) and inform the Secretariat on the levels of these stockpiles.

Our View: Despite delays from the Secretariat, DSWF were pleased that the document was adopted as it will advise on how to limit the leakage of ivory stocks into the illegal trade and help manage, secure and dispose of stockpiles with compliance measures for those who flout the advice.

Appendix I:

Intro: At CoP18, the AEC submitted a proposal which would uplist the elephant populations of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa from Appendix II to Appendix I status. Since 1980, Africa’s elephant populations have declined by 68% and therefore meet the biological criteria for an Appendix I listing.  At least 76% of these elephants are transnational and are not limited by national borders. In short, this means that elephants can be listed under two appendices in the same day as they migrate across borders. The status of elephants MUST be addressed at the continental level. The proposal submitted by the would give elephants the highest possible protection under CITES and end the ‘split listing’ of a migratory, transboundary species.

Outcome: During a vote on the floor, the AEC’s proposal was sadly rejected maintaining the split-listing of the populations from Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa on Appendix II.

Our View: Due to unfair time restraints from the chair, discussions only lasted twenty minutes, markedly shorter than the two previous pro-trade proposals which were allocated 2.5 hours. The CoP’s decision means that elephants will continue to be ‘split-listed’ and not offered the equal protection they should be. DSWF were disappointed by the outcome but will continue to fight for a continental Appendix I uplisting based on sound biological and scientific evidence.

Zambia Downlisting:

Intro: During CoP18, Zambia submitted a proposal to downlist their elephant populations from Appendix II to Appendix I to allow trade in ivory and elephant by products such as skin and hair (subject to criteria). This proposal would further complicate the ‘split-listing’ issues discussed above. Furthermore, Zambia’s elephant’s population is small and has suffered a marked decline from 200,000 in 1972 to 17-26,000 in 2015. Furthermore, the proposal fails to mention large scale poaching in Sioma Ngwezi National Park, Luangwa Valley, Kafue National Park, Lower Zambezi system and South Luangwa National Park.

Outcome: Heated debates occurred on the floor from many countries and the chair progressed the discussions to a vote. The proposal was voted down concluding that Zambia’s elephant populations would remain on Appendix I.

Our view: DSWF were delighted to see this proposal rejected. It’s sends a clear message to the world that ivory is not a commodity to be traded, especially in a country where poaching is rife. It only takes a glance as the headlines to conclude that elephants face a daunting future unless we unite to protect these sentient beings. Ivory and elephant parts are not a commodity to be traded, they belong on an elephant, in the wild. We must bust the myth that trade is going to conserve wildlife. It’s been tried, tested and failed. We must halt the trade of endangered species and focus our attention on efforts to protect them in their natural habitat, not trade them for our own financial greed.

Southern African Trade Proposal:

Intro: The elephant populations of Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana are currently listed on Appendix II. However, there is an annotation restricting the trade in ivory. During CoP18, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana submitted a proposal to remove this annotation which would allow trade in ivory and for the sale of ivory stockpiles.

Outcome: After a controversial debate, the chair proceeded discussions to a vote where the majority of parties voted to reject the proposal.

Our view: DSWF were delighted to see countries unite against this proposal. When elephant populations across the continent are suffering from huge poaching losses, legalising the trade in ivory is not the answer. Legal trade fuels and provides cover for illegal trade and increases consumer demand. The increase of poaching and illegal trade after the 2008 ‘one-off’ ivory stockpile sales demonstrate this point. Furthermore, opening up the trade of ivory is contrary to the huge efforts made by parties such as China, the US and Hong Kong to close their domestic ivory markets. History shows that international ivory trade cannot be controlled. In the decade before the 1989 Appendix I listing, when all African elephants were listed on Appendix II, legal trade under CITES permit led to the loss of half the continental population – an estimated 600,000 elephants.

Woolly Mammoth:

Intro: Israel submitted a proposal to the CoP requesting that Woolly Mammoths be listed on Appendix II to help regulate the trade in mammoth ivory and to understand the implications and unintended consequences of this trade on live elephants.

Outcome: An amended proposal which requests the CITES Secretariat to commission a study on trade in mammoth ivory and its contribution to illegal trade in elephant ivory was accepted by consensus.

Our view: DSWF were happy to see parties support the new study, despite strong opposition which will continue to safeguard elephants in the wild. This is the first time an ‘extinct’ species would have been listed if approved in its original form.


On the whole it was a positive CoP for rhinos. DSWF have been working closely with the Species Survival Network (SSN), a coalition of more than 80 NGO’s committed to the species protection, to ensure that rhinos receive the greatest protectionist policies possible. Please find a comprehensive write up of the rhino related topics at CoP18 below:

Eswatini Trade Proposal:

Intro: The rhino population of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), is currently listed on Appendix II.  However, there is currently an annotation to their appendix listing to only trade; in live rhinos to “appropriate and acceptable destinations” and hunting trophies. The proposal, if accepted, would remove this annotation and allow Eswatini to trade in white rhinos, their products including horn and derivatives.

Outcome: CITES parties strongly rejected Eswatini’s proposal to rescind the ban on international trade in rhino horn by a margin of 25 for the proposal to 102 against (with seven abstentions).

Our View: DSWF were pleased to see the proposal rejected. We strongly believe that trade stimulates demand and where legal markets exist, black markets and poaching flourish.  Now is not the time to ‘experiment’ with legal trade when the worlds rhino populations are facing decimation.

Namibia Downlisting Proposal:

Intro: During CoP18, Namibia submitted a proposal which sought to transfer its population of white rhinos from Appendix I to Appendix II, limiting commercial trade to live rhinos and hunting trophies.

Outcome: After debates on the floor, the chair proceeded discussions to a vote where Namibia’s proposal was rejected by a margin of 39 for the proposal to 82 against (with 11 abstentions).

Our View: Similarly to Eswatini’s proposal above, DSWF were pleased to see the CoP reject this proposal. The international trade ban on rhino horn has been upheld by the parties and rhinos will continue to be protected under CITES. However, there is still much work to do.

The Closure of Domestic Rhino Horn Markets:

Intro: At CoP18, Kenya submitted a document to insert domestic market closure language into CITES text. The document urged parties to take steps to close all existing domestic markets for the trade in raw and worked rhino horn as a matter of urgency and to inform the Secretariat of the status of their markets.

Outcome: The insertion of language submitted by Kenya was not adopted during the CoP discussions. However, parties did agree by consensus to add a decision directing parties to close rhino horn markets that contribute to poaching or illegal trade.

Our View: DSWF were disappointed that Kenya’s proposal to close all domestic markets wasn’t adopted. However, we were happy to see a new decision directing parties to close markets that contribute to poaching which is a major step forward to close rhino horn markets.


Vietnam came under heavy scrutiny in pre-CoP meetings for its continued role in international rhino horn trafficking. If Vietnam doesn’t submit a detailed report to the next intersessional meeting on enforcement actions to combat the illegal trade, CITES will consider initiating compliance proceedings.


At an intersessional meeting, the CITES secretariat reported that it had identified 66 facilities in 7 countries keeping captive tigers that were of concern. The Secretariat reported it would be writing to these countries to present the details and propose visits (where appropriate) to gain a better understanding of their activities.

By CoP18, no information had been made public on the progression of the above decisions. As a result, India submitted a proposal to CoP18 which:

  • Directed facilities of concern to develop a phase out program and to inventory and monitor the populations to prevent laundering
  • Would prohibit domestic and international commercial trade in all Asian big cats and derivatives
  • Would offer non-native species of big cats the same protection as native species
  • Directed parties to share images of seized tiger skins
  • Provided specific recommendations to Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, India, Lao, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam
  • Recommended the Secretariat to prepare a report on the above decisions and present them for review at the next CTES intersessional meeting.

Outcome: India’s document received overwhelming support on the floor. Several of the proposed decisions were adopted including urging parties to close their domestic markets for Asian big cats and parts, implementing stricter controls over captive breeding facilities, ensuring that legislation addressed illegal trade and that international cooperation was improved. The Secretariat confirmed it will be conducting research into facilities of concern and visits where appropriate.

Our View: DSWF were very pleased that the majority of the decisions proposed by India were adopted (with a few amendments). Tiger farms continue to fuel demand and these decisions are a major step towards preventing the illegal trade and protecting these sentient beings that have declined by 96% in the wild in less than 100 years.

Marking two years since the death of David Shepherd, DSWF founder

On this day two years ago, we sadly lost our founder and an iconic figure in wildlife conservation and art, David Shepherd. He is dearly missed by us all and by those he worked with and inspired around the world. Not long after David died in 2017, a little orphan was rescued and in honour of David was then named Mulisani (meaning ‘Shepherd’ in the local Ila language).

To mark this two-year anniversary of David’s death, and in DSWF’s 35th year, we are greatly honoured to announce that Game Rangers International, our long-term partners as a founding member, have decided to name the new wild elephant calf born last week to orphan rescue Chamilandu: Mutaanzi David, meaning ‘first born’ in Ila, and the second name in honour of the man whose life’s work gave Chamilandu a second chance and enabled this calf to enter the world.

Mutaanzi David

This choice of name is particularly significant for DSWF as Chamilandu was mated on the very day that David Shepherd passed away, 19th September 2017. Today especially, DSWF stands together with all the rangers at GRI and conservationists around the world to pay our highest respects to them, as we remember our founder. David and the entire Shepherd family have dedicated their lives to funding wildlife conservation activities and it was through his vision that he founded the GRI – Elephant Orphanage Project in Kafue National Park, in order to give Zambia’s orphaned elephants a second chance for a life in the wild.

David is known throughout Zambia and the world for his incredible artwork and all he did for wildlife. He was often referred to by many as a ‘Zambian living in the UK’, including by his long-standing friend His Excellency, the first President of Zambia, Dr Kenneth Kaunda.

Mutaanzi David

“The birth of Mutaanzi David is an amazing milestone for GRI. It is an event we have imagined for so many years and it has finally happened. It has been such a huge team effort at every level to reach this point and I am so proud to be working amongst such a dedicated and passionate team of rangers. This young calf is symbolic of our hopes for the future, in which humans and wildlife will co-exist and for which GRI strives for in supporting the bigger picture of conservation. He represents an 11-year journey which so many people in Zambia and around the world have shared and supported, including, most notably Mr David Shepherd. We are honoured that GRI can play a part in continuing with David’s amazing legacy as it lives and breathes in this young calf and every other elephant that his work has helped to protect.” Sport Beattie, Founder & CEO GRI.

David Shepherd OBE with elephants

To help ensure David’s legacy isn’t lost, please donate to support the work carried out in his name. You will be ensuring the care and protection of young elephants like Mutaanzi David and his mother Chamilandu in Zambia alongside other conservation projects in Africa and Asia.

Tost Snow Leopard Reserve in Mongolia Gets Bigger and Better

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) supports snow leopard conservation through providing funding to the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) in Mongolia. Recently, SLT has celebrated success with the Tost nature reserve – the first ever reserve dedicated to snow leopards and free of government mining contracts.

This month, through SLT’s hard work, the reserve is even bigger. The update below was shared from their website:

“Great news for snow leopards and local herding communities: the Mongolian government has decided to expand the Tost Nature Reserve in the country’s South Gobi province by 150 km2. In doing so, the government also revoked a mining license that had threatened a water source that is critical for people and wildlife.

When the Mongolian parliament designated the Tost Mountains as the country’s first nature reserve specifically for snow leopards in 2016, thereby protecting the area from destruction by mining, it gave conservationists and local people a huge reason to celebrate. Side by side, our Mongolia team and the local herding people had campaigned for over a decade to gain protection for these important wildlife habitats and pasture lands.

Herders and conservationists worked together to gain protection for the Tost Mountains. Photo by Snow Leopard Trust / Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation

However, the government had excluded one corner of the suggested nature reserve area from protection: the Khuvd Khurshuut oasis, a critically important water source for both local people and wildlife in this desert landscape of the Gobi. This oasis was part of a mining license that had been issued years before. While other mining licenses were revoked to make way for the protection of Tost, this particular license remained valid, and the company holding it soon made moves to begin extracting minerals.

Bayara Agvaantseren (2nd from left), discussing conservation ideas with herders in the Tost Mountains. Photo by Goldman Environmental Prize.

‘Mining in this oasis would have destroyed a vital part of the ecosystem of Tost. Both people and wildlife use the water from this area. It is wonderful to see local people’s achievement to protect their land,’ says Bayara Agvaantseren, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Mongolia Program Director and winner of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize.

The local herding community of Tost, led among others by Surenkhuu Luvsan, challenged the legality of the mining license for Khuvd Khurshuut.

Surenkhuu Luvsan, a community leader from Tost, addressed guests at the Presidential Town Hall Meeting on Tost Nature Reserve in Ulaanbataar. Photo by Snow Leopard Trust / Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation

Now, the Mongolian government has ruled in the community’s favour, cancelling the mining license expanding the Tost Nature Reserve to a total protected area of 8965 sq km.

‘We are very happy with this decision,’ says Surenkhuu Luvsan. ‘The entire community has worked hard to protect our pasturelands and this important oasis.’

For Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Acting Executive Director, it is welcome news. ‘We’re delighted that this vital oasis will now be a part of the nature reserve. It’s great for snow leopards and their prey, but most of all for our partner communities in the area, who have advocated for this through a remarkable grassroots campaign for many years.’

Tost Mountain is a snow leopard stronghold today — thanks to the long-term efforts of the local community and our Mongolia team. Photo by Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation Mongolia / Snow Leopard Trust

The Tost Mountains are home to a thriving, breeding snow leopard population of between 12 and 15 adult cats, a healthy population of ibex and argali; and 280 nomadic herder families. The Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation Mongolia have partnered with the local community for two decades, working on conservation solutions that empower herders to live side by side with snow leopards peacefully.”

The community comes together to build in Murchison Falls National Park

We are delighted to bring a very positive update from our ground-based conservation partners the Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF), who DSWF has supported since 2001 and who have worked hard to recover the wildlife populations and habitats of Murchison Falls National Park in north Uganda, while fighting poaching across the park.

Thanks to the ‘Recovery of Murchison Falls National Park’ programme, large areas of the park are now far better patrolled and protected, resulting in a fantastic recovery in wildlife and tourism numbers. Whilst there is still lots more work being done to expand and improve anti-poaching, with the support of DSWF, UCF is working with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to help the communities north of the park to develop, as they live so close to the wildlife.

The Lord’s Resistance Army sadly wreaked havoc for decades, with many of the subsistence families north of the park being badly affected. Despite peace for a decade now, the relationship between the park and local people has always been a negative one. Cries of elephant crop raiding from the communities were matched by incredible levels of poaching and gunshots fired at rangers over those decades. It’s unfortunately a scenario that makes things difficult for everyone, including the regional and national economies. With tourism being largest contributor to GDP in Uganda and Murchison being a top ten national park, the time has come to ensure the partnership between the communities and the park changes for the better.

Since the beginning of the year, UWA’s community conservation department has been working with families north of the park to break the cycle. Youth from the area have been offered sponsored vocational courses, each course resulting in paid apprenticeships and potentially a job. Over 80 youths have already benefited from the programme.

Working with industry leaders such as Mutoni Construction and Plascon Paints, men and women from the community aged between 18 to 26 years old have completed courses, and many are already benefiting from employment in the park and other projects across the region.

Renovating two old buildings – the youth have experienced a huge amount and achieved so much.

With education levels relatively low, this is the generation to ‘skill up’ and employ. Meanwhile UWA is ensuring that 20% of park revenue (from gate entry fees) goes into community development, ensuring the region’s youth get an education beyond primary and early secondary school levels – for both boys and girls.

‘I can’t wait to celebrate kids from this area getting a degree!’
Wilson Kagoro, UWA Warden in Charge of Community Conservation Warden.

It is never easy to find jobs or apprenticeships. However, UCF and UWA are running many projects in the park and wherever possible, the community are now heavily involved.

One such project is building the Law Enforcement ‘Joint Operations Command Centre’ (JOC) where all park operations will be managed with UWA responding to incidents such as anti-poaching, veterinary rescues and tourism cars crashing.

The building of the JOC needed 20,000 bricks – and so a hydrofoam brick-making course was put on for over 35 youths. Under experienced supervision from a senior foreman,, the team of apprentices and employees are now building this facility and are also renovating two accommodation blocks in which they can live while doing so. Another team, also from an area where serious poaching originates, were trained into industrial painting. This team has already painted the accommodation blocks, the local clinic and are now painting the JOC, ablution blocks and far more.

Brick-making, brick laying, setting a foundation, metal work, team work, supply chain management, stock keeping… the list goes on!

The Chief Park Warden has coined the strategy ‘changing lives, giving opportunity and making long term friends’. He is right. Historically the Wardens were hated by the communities, but now these youths regard the Wardens as mentors and friends. This is progress indeed.

Last year’s runner up of the DSWF Conservation Champion Award, Eric Erycel, puts in particular effort.

‘These kids could be laying the snares that trap the animals that I am working so hard to save. We have to help them and the community at large become our partners in conservation, for future generations and to sustain the success we have had through the Recovery of Murchison Falls programme.

Some 15,000 poaching snares that have been recovered from the area and have been buried in the foundation slab of the JOC – never to be used again.

Well known poaching groups have approached the park management to find alternative employment from poaching, they all recognise Murchison Falls is now far more professionally managed, and prison holds no future for their families.

So far 80 youth have gone through courses, with each course identified as being of a type where a skill could provide long term employment. In addition, local enterprises are being set up, including a tree nursery training facility – building towards planting one million trees in the area.

There is far more to come, but what we are sure of is that all of these youths are now ambassadors for UWA in the communities, and are firm friends of the park already.

We look forward to keeping you up to date!

In the middle is Julius Obwono, Warden in Charge of Law Enforcement – the Duke of Cambridge 2018 Africa Ranger of the Year, overall winner.

CITES – Week One for Elephants

A quick summary of CITES:

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation  is currently attending the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to CITES, an international conference which regulates the trade of endangered species. It’s been a full and controversial agenda over the last seven days for elephants and other flora and fauna, but the team have been fighting day and night to help influence policy and safeguard the lives of the species we work to protect.

CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and was established to regulate the trade of endangered flora and fauna by subjecting individual species certain levels of control. These controls are represented under three appendices which can be found here.

Elephants currently sit across two appendices in what is called a ‘split-listing’. This Is something which is not encouraged by the Convention and advocated strongly against by many conservation organisations for such a migratory and transboundary species such as elephants.  DSWF, in support of the large majority of African elephant range states, believe that elephants and the impacts of trade on wild populations should be assessed across a continental basis and not in isolation.  The countries of Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia currently have ‘their’ elephant populations listed in a lower and less stringent category of protection and are fighting to re-open the trade in ivory and sell ivory stockpiles. Zambia is also wanting to join this group of Southern African countries. As we and many other conservationists and biologists advocate, how can a convention which is set up to supposedly protect species from the impacts of trade justify a system which allows an elephant who can migrate across borders in so many instances different levels of protection.  In the space of a day an elephant from say Namibia can find itself in Angola by the afternoon and suffer the consequences.  It’s a system which should be rejected and reformed to reflect the trans-boundary nature of elephant moments.

Elephants at CITES are always a hugely controversial species which result in highly contentious debates and often polar-opposite views over the best way to ensure their survival.  A number of elephant related proposals were submitted and tabled for discussion last week from both sides of the debate which we have summarised below:

Live Trade – 18th August:

Summary: The African Elephant Coalition (AEC), a group of more than 30 African countries, submitted a proposal to CITES CoP18 which would restrict the export of live elephants from Africa. The proposal suggested changing the wording of the convention to restrict the live trade of elephants from Africa to “in situ conservation programmes in their natural habitat only”, therefore preventing international export to unnatural locations. If adopted by the Parties this wording would stop the brutal trade of wild caught elephants which are ripped from their herds to supply zoo’s, circuses and entertainment facilities across the world.

Outcome:  In a historic vote, the Conference of the Parties voted in favour of the AEC’s proposal which would stop the brutal trade of live elephants and limit translocations to their natural range only! This is a momentous victory for elephants and those, including the Foundation, who have been fighting to achieve this!  This proposal puts the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of elephants before financial and human benefit.

As one non-elephant range state supported on the wider issue of what is an ‘appropriate and acceptable destinations’ all animals should have the right to ‘freedom from pain’ especially when the brutal trade in live elephants was linked to that of animal slavery.

However the victory is not yet secure. The EU and the USA (who both opposed the original decision) have voiced their intention to reopen discussions later this week to try and overturn the outcome. DSWF are working hard to make sure that these discussions are not reopened, and that this historic decision still stands!

Domestic Ivory Markets – 21st August:

Summary: Several African countries submitted a proposal to CITES CoP18 urging all parties to close their domestic ivory markets as a matter of urgency. The current wording only calls on those countries whose markets ‘contribute to poaching’ to close their markets which creates loopholes and leaves the definition up to the Parties themselves. The document which was submitted called on ALL parties (notably Japan and the EU) to close their markets as a matter of urgency.

Outcome: During the debate, many countries spoke in favour of closing domestic ivory markets, including India and Angola. However, several countries also opposed it due to issues of national sovereignty. On the floor, the USA and Canada proposed a compromise that was adopted, shifted the burden of proof. The compromise stated that all countries with legal markets for ‘worked’ or raw ivory would report back to CITES on what measures they are taking to guarantee their markets aren’t contributing to poaching or illegal trade.

Stocks and Stockpiles – 21stAugust:

Summary: At the 65thStanding Committee (SC65) in 2014, Chad and the Philippines submitted a proposal concerning the management and destruction of ivory stockpiles. These stocks present considerable enforcement and financial burdens and often result in theft and leakage of ivory into the illegal trade. At CoP17, the Secretariat was directed to provide practical guidance on stockpile management.

During CoP18, the AEC submitted a document proposing a way forward to finalise and adopt the delayed guidance including measures to strengthen reporting and directed the Secretariat to publish data on regional levels of stocks and identify parties who fail to submit reports for further action.

Outcome: During discussions on the floor, the CoP agreed to adopt amended language to the CITES text which would maintain an inventory of government stockpiles (including those privately held where possible) and inform the Secretariat on the levels of these stockpiles. Whilst we were disappointed at the delays in producing and disseminating draft guidelines on stockpile management and disposal, as prepared by TRAFFIC, which were shared only a day before the debate was tabled and too late for a full analysis we were pleased to see in the draft guidelines language around the need for compliance measure for those parties who fail to evidence competent systems of control.

DSWF were very pleased the AEC document was adopted as it will continue to limit the leakage of ivory stocks into the illegal trade and further protect elephants in the wild.

Zambia: Proposal to downlist their population and re-open the trade in ivory – 22nd August:

Summary: Zambia submitted a proposal to CITES CoP18 requesting a downlisting of their elephant populations from Appendix I to Appendix II (subject to certain criteria). The proposal claimed that Zambia’s elephant populations meet the biological criteria for Appendix II, something that DSWF and many others firmly dispute.

Outcome: After a lengthy and heated debate with no consensus, Zambia proposed an amendment to their proposal on the floor. The amendment would allow Zambia to downlist their elephant populations from Appendix II to I. However, the downlisting would prevent Zambia from selling ivory. Two votes were taken, the first on the proposed amendment, the second on the original proposal. DSWF were pleased to see both votes overwhelmingly rejected safeguarding the lives of elephants in a country where poaching is rife and unmanageable.  The rejection of this proposal sends a clear message to the world that elephants are not a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder when populations are still vulnerable and at risk from extinction.

Southern African ivory trade Proposal – 22nd August:

Summary: The elephant populations of Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana are all on Appendix II. However, when the controversial decision was made to downlist their populations in 1997 and 2000, an annotation was included to restrict ivory trade as part of a compromise deal including two ‘one-off’ ivory stockpile sales to Asia. This proposal to CITES CoP18 requested Parties to remove the annotation and allow the trade in ivory from these populations.

Outcome: After another controversial debate on the floor, in which Botswana shockingly said ‘‘We cannot be a good zoo and not be paid to be a good zoo keeper’ the Chair called parties to vote on the removal of the above-mentioned annotation and allow the trade of ivory. DSWF and many others were delighted to see the request rejected by a large majority of Parties.

When elephant populations across the continent are suffering from huge poaching losses and an ever-growing illegal trade, now is not the time to re-open the international trade in ivory, stimulate markets and send a message that elephants are safe.  Everything must be done to secure elephant populations across Africa, not simply isolated populations, and ensure all elephants are given the highest protection possible to aid their recovery. This proposal would have undermined efforts and put the species at further risk from extinction.

Ensuring all African elephants on Appendix I– 22nd August:

Summary: This proposal was submitted by the AEC and urged the Conference of the Parties to agree to a continental Appendix I listing for all African Elephant as the only way to ensure their survival. The only countries that remain on Appendix II are Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. DSWF were hugely supportive of this proposal as it would prohibit the trade of ivory, reduce consumer demand and protect elephants in the wild, granting them the highest level of protection possible.

Outcome: Unfortunately, due to unfair and mis-managed time constraints, discussions on this topic only lasted twenty minutes compared to the above trade proposals which were granted over 2 hours with many protectionist countries denied the opportunity to speak on the floor. Far too quickly the proposal went to a vote and was sadly rejected by parties meaning that the elephant populations of the four mentioned countries will remain on Appendix II. Notably China supported this vote to further protect African elephants.

The week ahead:

CITES CoP18 will reopen after a two-day rest on Sunday with Rhino listing and trade proposals coming up first. Although many topics have been discussed, we are expecting another jam-packed week. If the EU reopen the debate on live trade, DSWF will continue to fight to hold the decision made last week to ban the trade, uaranteeing a life without stress and pain for elephants. We are also expecting some heated debates on trade related to rhinos, pangolins and Asian big cats.

Stay tuned on the DSWF website and social media pages for live updates on our work to protect species.

The work done around international policy and legislation is imperative if we are to give endangered and vulnerable species a chance to recover and thrive.  Please support our urgent fight for greater protectionist policies for wildlife by clicking the link below.

DSWF heads to CITES to provide technical assistance and advice

DSWF’s Head of Programmes & Policy Georgina Lamb, along with Programmes & Policy Executive Theo Bromfield and DSWF CEO Karen Botha will be travelling to Geneva this week for the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Conference of the Parties (CoP18).

Topics discussed and decisions taken throughout the conference will have a direct effect on the trade of endangered species across the world and the level of international protection granted, either helping key species on the road to recovery or pushing them further down the path of extinction.

Alongside Fondation Franz Weber, the DSWF team will be providing technical assistance and advice to the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) – a committed group of 30 African countries whose elephant populations represent two thirds of African elephant populations across the continent. This group is the true majority voice of elephants in Africa: it calls for the full protection of all African elephants by including them in CITES Appendix I, as well as for the provision of practical guidelines for ivory stockpile management, the closure of all domestic markets and an end to the trade in live elephants.

To find out more about the work DSWF are undertaking alongside Fondation Franz Weber, check out the common position paper.

Operation Footprints: Update on veterans training rangers

Supporting rangers across Africa and Asia tfight wildlife crime and protect endangered species is at the heart of our work at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and has been since our inception 35 years ago Without the frontline protection that wildlife rangers provide, many species would face almost certain extinction.  

To further support and empower rangers working on the ground in some of the world’s most harsh environments, DSWF were proud to initiate and team up with Walking with the Wounded, The Royal Foundation and Game Rangers International to launch ‘Operation Footprints’ late last yearThe initiative supports former servicemen and women to train wildlife rangers at in-situ conservation locations and provides veterans with the opportunity to share the skills they acquired during active military service, gain training qualifications and provide them with hands-on work experience while upskilling the wildlife rangers they are training. Ultimately helping to protect some of the planets most vulnerable and threatened wildlife 

This week, DSWF and Operation Footprints areproud to have supported the third training intervention under this initiative and have been eagerly receiving live updates from the team in Africa.  The three former British soldiers have volunteered their time to help provide training to over 200 wildlife rangers and special elite anti-poaching units supported by DSWF and Game Rangers International.   

This initiative is designed to enhance the already excellent training provided to rangers on the ground, but also providing training on elements that that may not be provided as standard in their onward professional development.     

The current training focusses on several non-combatant essentials such as medical training, lifesaving swimming techniquesdrowning mitigation drills and operational communication skills.  

Africa is prone to dangerous flash flooding and the terrain sometimes requires the rangers to cross rivers.  Game Rangers International, DSWF’s ground based partners, felt it was vital the rangers received swimming training.  

“Every ranger I taught basic life support to, thought that water was held in the stomach in a drowning victim. They had been pressing on people’s stomachs when giving first aid. Dispelling this myth was a simple fix, providing a huge impact and ultimately saving lives.  In terms of personal experience, it has helped me switch to a more positive mental attitude being in Zambia providing vital training to the rangers on the ground and those coming through the training academy.  This will most certainly allow me to come home appreciating my own skills and abilities making my life more enjoyable and also having a positive effect on those closest to me.” Says Jordan, Army veteran and currently an Operation Footprints team member.  

Operation Footprints importantly not only provides first-class lifesaving training to the wildlife rangers but also helps bring a new perspective to the veterans participating.   

James, another member of the current team shared how personally rewarding the experience has been “Seeing how eager the rangers were to learn, and how they want to absorb every bit of information we taught, was hugely gratifying. The job they’re doing out here is critical, and so to be even a small part of enabling their role gives a true sense of doing something useful. Incredibly good for the soul.”  


The project so far has been a huge success and the response from the wildlife ranger teams in Zambia has been nothing but positive More importantly however is the long term sustainable aim  that By ‘training the trainer’, these skills will continue to be passed onto new recruits and ensure continuity of training. It’s incredible to have such a receptive audience and be able to teach rangers basic skills which can have such a large effect on their ability to do their jobs.’ says Nick, the final member of the team currently in Africa 

DSWF are hugely proud to be supporting this initiative, which not only helps veterans put their valuable military experience and training to good us but also to help empower and develop the vital skills needed for rangers in Zambia to help prevent poaching and fight wildlife crime. 

The project is also generously sponsored in part by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.

Wildlife Artist of the Year category winner actions art to protect the pangolin

We would like to say a huge thank you to artist Chris Rose and to TV presenter Nigel Marven for donating £400 to our Pangolin conservation project.

Chris, winner of the ‘Earth’s Wild Beauty’ category at DSWF Wildlife Artist of the Year 2018, was recently part of a group of speakers giving a wildlife talk for the guests at the Grant Arms Hotel in the Cairngorms National Park.

Chris in action during his painting demonstration

Chris’s speech involved a painting demonstration, with the intention to auction off the completed piece to the audience and for all proceeds to be donated to a wildlife charity of the winning bidder’s choice. The beautiful acrylic representation of a redshank, completed in only 90 minutes, was won by Natural History TV presenter Nigel Marven, who decided to donate the £400 bid to our pangolin projects at DSWF.

We are extremely grateful to both Chris and Nigel, not only for raising awareness of the plight of the pangolin, but also for contributing to our mission to save these unique scaly mammals.

Chris and Nigel with the completed piece 

The illegal trafficking of pangolins continues to grow exponentially, with approximately one million traded in the last decade alone. At DSWF, we employ a holistic approach that targets all levels of the illegal wildlife trade. We fund vital outreach campaigns in both Asia and Africa, aimed at changing consumer behaviour through educating communities about the severe consequences of hunting these endangered creatures. We are also pioneering new research projects in Zambia and Uganda that seek to improve current understanding of pangolin behaviour, populations and poaching hotspots. This data allows for the formation and implementation of successful conservation initiatives.

We still have so much work to do if we are to save this enigmatic species from extinction.

Wildlife TV Presenter Nigel Marven snaps a rare picture with a pangolin

If you are able to help us continue our fight, then please consider joining our DSWF family by becoming a Wildlife Shepherd. As a Wildlife Shepherd, you will receive our bi-annual magazine, ‘Wildlife Matters’, and an annual update on the pivotal work your regular donation is helping to fund.

Every donation, large or small, makes a difference.

African Elephant Coalition (AEC) calls Japan to close their ivory market

The Council of Elders of the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) comprising 32 African countries and the majority of African elephant range states is calling on the government of Japan to close its ivory market, among the world’s largest, and support stronger protection of Africa’s elephants.

“We’re calling on Japan to follow the example of China and close its domestic ivory market. We believe that doing so will strengthen Japan’s international conservation image ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics”, said Azizou El Hadj Issa, Chairman of the AEC’s Council of Elders, in an appeal to Taro Kono, Japan’s foreign minister to support the Coalition.

The AEC’s Council of Elders has written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Japan, Taro Kono, asking for assistance and collaboration to strengthen international measures in reducing the demand for elephant ivory “so that elephant tusks are no longer desirable objects”.

Specifically, the AEC wants:

  • All countries to follow China’s example in closing their domestic ivory markets by strengthening a resolution (10.10)at the Conference of the Parties.
  • To up-list all African elephants to Appendix I, the strongest possible protection under CITES. Currently, elephants in Africa are split-listed with elephants in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe in Appendix II, which allows trade under certain circumstances.

The AEC has long held the view that if elephants are to be fully protected it is imperative that they all be up-listed to Appendix I. The split-listing has led to confusion in consumer demand and resulted in a continued trade in ivory, which soared after the sale of ivory stockpiles from southern Africa to China and Japan in 2008. China closed its market in 2017, but Japan’s ivory market remains one of the largest in the world, and substantial evidence existsthat ivory from Japan is being illegally exported to China in significant amounts, undermining the ban.

The Coalition is urging significant domestic ivory markets – particularly those of Japan and the European Union – to follow China’s example. The letter to Minister Kono appeals to Japan to close its ivory market, and is copied to the Ministers for Environment, Yoshiaki Harada, as well as the Economy, Trade and Industry, Hiroshige Seko, who are both responsible for policy-making on ivory trade, controls over domestic ivory trade and implementation of the ivory-related CITES resolution (10.10)in Japan. The Council believes that closing its ivory market “will strengthen Japan’s international conservation image ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics”.

The Chairman of the Council of Elders, Azizou El Hadj Issa, has also written to the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, expressing gratitude for China’s “historic conservation policy in closing its domestic ivory market under the leadership of President Xi Jingping”, and asked China to support the AEC’s proposals.

The letters to both countries cite the recently releasedGlobal Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which highlights the urgency in protecting endangered species like elephants. The report found that exploitation of elephants in trade is accelerating their demise. The AEC’s Council of Elders warns that CITES has so far failed African elephants, the very symbol of the Convention.

Both letters stress that the AEC represents a unified voice of the majority of African elephant range states and aligns with the sentiment of the global public and most elephant scientists. A few African countries – led by Botswana– still want to exploit elephants for their ivory. However, the mission of the 32-country Coalition is to maintain a viable and healthy elephant population free of threats from international ivory trade.


Botswana’s U-turn on elephants

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has announced the re-introduction of elephant hunting across the country, overturning a five-year ban on hunting elephants in Botswana.

This shocking news comes after national consultation, launched in advance of elections looming later this year. The dramatic policy U-turn was announced at a multi-Government summit last month, hosted by Botswana’s president, that intended to forge a common position with a handful of Southern African allies for managing their shared elephant population in the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA).

In addition to the return to trophy hunting, Botswana – along with Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa – wants to open up the international trade in ivory, which would be disastrous for elephant populations across Africa. The Africa Elephant Coalition, a group of 32 African states, including the majority of countries where elephants are found, strongly dispute the position of Botswana and its allies around the future trajectory and security of elephant populations. They are calling for an end to all trade in ivory.

Speakers at the KAZA summit characterised Botswana’s key challenge as an exploding elephant population and increasing human-wildlife conflict.

Botswana’s Tourist and Environment minister, Kitso Mokaila, has claimed, without evidence, that Botswana has too many elephants, with populations nearly three times the ecosystem’s “carrying capacity”. According to Mokaila, the shift in environmental policy and the reintroduction of elephant hunting will mitigate human-wildlife conflict, provide benefits to local communities and reduce poaching levels throughout Botswana.

The big question is, does Botswana’s new conservation stance have any merit or is there something larger at play?

According to independent economist Ross Harvey, before the ban was imposed in 2014 “elephant numbers had droppedby 15% in the preceding decade, abuse was prolific and communities were not benefiting from the fees that hunters were paying.” Moreover, hunting can exacerbate human-animal conflict through increased elephant aggression.

It appears that President Masisi’s new doctrine may be driven more by politics and a desire to undermine and reverse that of his predecessor, Ian Khama, a committed conservationist whose environmental policies were aimed at protecting the country’s natural resources from over-exploitation.

Botswana’s move has provoked a backlash in Southern Africa. Critics, including the African Institute for Security Studies, along with Ross Harvey, believe that Masisi’s real objective is to win the rural vote for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the October elections. Shannon Ebrahim, Foreign Editor of South Africa’s Independent online, condemns President Masisi’s decision, saying “What the Elephant Summit in Kasane was really all about was Masisi convincing the leaders of neighboring countries to back his decision to lift a ban on elephant hunting and to push for the legalization of the ivory trade. The motivation being that Botswana has an impending election in October that is a tight race between Masisi’s ruling party and the opposition”. In protest, Ian Khama has resigned from the BDP, which has ruled Botswana since Independence, and backed the opposition.

Botswana’s move is seen as a backwards shift toward ‘consumptive use’. This is deeply disturbing considering Botswana is home to one third of Africa’s elephants and has been called “Africa’s last stronghold”.

The escalation in elephant poaching following the sale of ivory stockpiles to China and Japan in 2008 demonstrates that trade is not the answer to Africa’s poaching crisis. Botswana’s latest proposal to re-open international ivory trade, submitted to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), is “playing with fire with Africa’s elephants” said Georgina Lamb, Head of Programmes and Policy from the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. “If CITES were to agree the proposal, elephant populations would never recover, including those in Botswana.”

All 28 EU member states oppose any move to reopen the international trade in ivory and many countries are now implementing comprehensive ivory bans to try and curb the illegal poaching of elephants including China and the UK.

The paradoxical policy reversal comes in the wake of a new surveyreleased by conservation group Elephants Without Borders that disputes Mokaila’s claims on Botswana’s elephant population trend.

The 2018 survey estimated a population of 126,114 in northern Botswana, indicating stability NOT growth since 2014, and documented asurge in recent poaching incidents. According to Ross Harvey, “If the country’s not careful, poaching will take root in the same way it has in Tanzania” which lost 60% of its elephant population in just 5 years.

Furthermore, Mokaila’s statement on elephants exceeding environmental carrying capacity is based on opinion and out-dated policy rather than ecological science. An international team, including several Botswana researchers, who studied elephant and habitat changes concluded in 2004that Botswana’s Chobe National Park, rather than suffering elephant-induced damage, was “reverting towards a situation somewhat similar to the one before the excessive hunting of elephants” during the colonial-era ivory onslaught of the 18thto 20thcenturies.

Losses of crops, property and human life present huge challenges to rural communities sharing elephant habitats. However, there are more factors at play, and more potential solutions, than simply killing elephants for dubious reasons. Conflict needs to be mitigated, for example through a combination of bee-hive, chilli and “smart” electric fences and safe migratory corridors. Coexistence should be strengthened by empowering communities, not through creating market demand for products from endangered species with an uncertain future.

Botswana is at serious risk of losing its conservation reputation. In view of the rising global sentiment against the consumptive use of wildlife products, President Masisi is tempting fate by abandoning precautionary conservation principles, which could lead to the collapse of their second largest economic sector, tourism and threaten elephant populations everywhere.

Membership: The Next Steps

Membership is changing – for the better

We want to ensure that we can support the projects we fund for years to come, helping them to plan for the long-term and implement meaningful, sustainable change.

As part of our 35th anniversary this year, we are making an exciting change to our Membership programme. Having recently met with long-term supporters and gained valuable feedback on our activities and fundraising methods, our research helped us to understand that, in order to keep up with modern day requirements, we need to ensure that our fundraising methods are relevant, up-to-date and as efficient – administratively and financially – as possible.  We were also reminded that family is at the heart of everything we do and that the Shepherd family’s continued involvement with DSWF remains as important to our supporters as it is to us.

With that in mind, we are making two positive changes to our Membership programme:

  • In future our Members will be called Wildlife Shepherds. We hope this playful name not only brings a smile, but is also a special reminder that we consider every supporter a part of our DSWF family.
  • Our Wildlife Shepherds will be made up of those who choose to invest in longer term support for DSWF by making a regular gift to us. In this way, we will be able to efficiently streamline our fundraising efforts and administrative costs, thereby ensuring that as much of the donation as possible is directed where it is needed most.

The difference a regular gift could make…

A wildlife ranger will spend up to 240 days a year sleeping out in the bush on patrol to protect endangered species.

£5 a month could help provide vital supplies to enable these brave men and women to continue the fight against wildlife crime.


If you would like to become a Wildlife Shepherd, please visit our donations page to set up your regular gift.

Thank you.

The other cost of climate change

Climate change is a complicated, urgent environmental issue with the scope to devastate our planet’s health. In the last few decades, we have already begun to witness an increase in extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding and storms as human-induced carbon emissions continue to grow at an alarming rate. This is likely to cause irreversible impact to the worlds remaining wildlife.

No longer a distant vision of a troubled future, climate change sits very much on our collective doorstep, in need of our immediate attention. On a recent trip to the small Pacific nation Kiribati, ex-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated: “Climate change is not about tomorrow. It is lapping at our feet.”

In order to tackle one of the greatest challenges of our time, we must first accept that our current model of economic development and its reliance on fossil fuel consumption is unsustainable. If we are serious about conserving the world’s wildlife, we must address, tackle and engage in conversations to openly discuss how it impacts on our sector. In a consumer driven world, this change will likely come at a high cost to the way we currently, and rather blindly, live our lives.

The reality is that right now, as we write this, melting ice caps and thermal expansion are causing sea levels to rise, devastating low-lying areas and the wildlife who call it home. How we respond to climate change in the next decade will likely determine the future of the world’s wildlife for generations to come.

As changing climates alter landscapes, habitats are becoming inhospitable for many species, and those unable to adapt or migrate are likely to die. Earlier this year, the Australian government officially announced the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomy, a small island rodent, which represents the first mammal extinction accredited solely to climate change. Although largely unknown, the melomy now acts as a tragic ambassador of what is to come if we don’t make fundamental changes to our way of living.

The wildlife lucky enough to adapt to or migrate from the impacts of climate change will still face their own struggles; they will have to compete for limited resources in already stretched and shrinking environments. These dramatic migrations are also likely to increase human-wildlife conflict by animals turning to crop and livestock raiding for survival, resulting in retaliatory killings from the farmers who seek to provide for their families and make a living.

Wildlife continues to be forced into closer and closer proximity with humans as a result of human population growth, which has doubled in less than 40 years. Within the short parameters of this article, it is hard to shed light on the sheer size and scale of the threat that climate change poses to our natural world. If our way of living remains unchanged, our current efforts to protect wildlife may be in vain.

Since the industrial revolution, economic growth has been a founding pillar of so-called ‘educated development’, driven by the unsustainable consumption of fossil fuels. The level of carbon dioxide emissions into Earth’s atmosphere has increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from greenhouse gas emissions but also from land use changes like deforestation.

The drive for economic expansion lies at the heart of this insatiable consumption and is essentially linked to human welfare and the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – as in, the more money you make, the more cars you have, the bigger the house, the happier you’ll be.

So, while human welfare and happiness remain linked to economic growth, and economic growth is, in return, linked to unsustainable consumption, it is not in anyone’s immediate interest to curb greenhouse gas emissions and change our consumer habits. National governments face a major challenge in reducing their emissions in line with growing their economies – historically, one has never been achieved without the other.

This topic has been at the forefront of academic discussion over the past few years and has led to emerging concepts and models such as sustainable development, green growth and low carbon development. What is clear is that our current economic paradigm is not consistent with the level of emission reductions needed to protect our wildlife and the ensure future stability of the planet.

Climate change therefore is a particularly ‘wicked problem’ with many variables to consider. For instance, despite the damaging link so clearly evidenced between economic growth and climate change, we must surely acknowledge that it is socially and ethically unacceptable to deny the developing world the ability to advance their way out of poverty as has been achieved in the developed world, despite the massive pressures on natural resources.

Mitigation of the impacts of climate change must then lie in the hands of those responsible for historic emissions, and those that have already developed the technologies and models that are capable to prevent future damage.

Global climate change no longer remains the drum beat of the conservation and environmental activists; it will affect all people, governments, businesses, environments and landscapes. No matter who you are, where you live, what you believe, it will have a devastating effect on your world. If left unchecked, climate change could result in the mass extinction of thousands of species. Perhaps it is time to reconsider our quest for endless economic growth and prioritise the conservation of the natural world instead of depleting it.

DSWF will be featuring further pieces on the impacts of climate change on conservation and posing questions, solutions, ideas and information on the issue so look at our news section online at

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019 winners announced

Incredible bronze sculpture of an octopus by Stephen Rew scoops top prize

During a wonderful evening at the Mall Galleries in London on 28 May, the Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019 exhibition was revealed to eagerly awaiting artists and buyers, and the winners were revealed.

The overall winner of the competition, earning the £10,000 prize generously donated Neil and June Covey, was ‘Writhe’ by Stephen Rew, an incredible dynamic sculpture of an octopus, made from solid bronze, climbing around a wall.

The judges commented on how brave the piece was, to create something so incredible and unique to be hung on a wall.

Stephen with his winning piece

The runner-up was the incredibly detailed ‘Reflections’, a scratchboard depiction of a lionfish by Tamara Pokorny.

The category winners were:

Animal Behaviour: ‘All Mine’ by Sarah Cosby

Earth’s Wild Beauty: ‘New Forest Dawn’ by Cy Baker

Urban Wildlife: ‘Black and White’ by Daniel Krysta

Vanishing Fast: ‘Desert Haze’ by Laura Pearse

Wings: ‘Johnny Crow and the Tremoloes’ by Michael Fitzgerald

Into the Blue: ‘Tayinloan Velvet 514’ by Rich Simpson

The Artist Magazine Editor’s Choice: ‘All Mine’ by Sarah Cosby

Human Impact (aged 17-25): ‘Shark Fins’ by Sofiya Shukhova

Wildlife Artist of the Year showcases the beauty and drama of the natural world, supporting some of the finest and most exciting wildlife artists, and raising vital awareness and funds to protect endangered species.

Now in its twelfth year, the internationally-renowned competition brings together talented artists and art-lovers from across the world to celebrate our planet’s diverse wildlife through exciting and dynamic wildlife art.

The 152 finalist artworks are exhibited and on sale at the Mall Galleries, London from Wednesday 29 May until 1pm Sunday 2 June.

50% of every sale will go directly to saving endangered species and fighting wildlife crime across Africa and Asia.

There will also be artwork for sale (50% of sale to DSWF) by David Shepherd’s granddaughter Emily Lamb, skilled sketch artist Gary Hodges, Watercolour Challenge star Hazel Soan, graphic designers Under the Skin, watercolour artist Jos Haigh and graphic artist Louise McNaught.

New study predicts no viable Indian tiger habitats left by 2070

The Sundarbans is a vast mangrove forest that stretches almost 4,000 square kilometres across India and Bangladesh. The forest is home to one of the largest populations of Bengal tigers. However, due to climate change this prime tiger habitat is in trouble.

A recent study released in Science of The Total Environment has predicted that by 2070, there will be no viable tiger habitats left in the Sundarbans. A scary prospect considering that 95% of wild populations have been lost in the last century.

The level of carbon dioxide emissions into the earth’s atmosphere has increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from greenhouse gas emissions but also from land use changes such as deforestation. The levels of these increases are likely to cause irreversible negative changes to our planet’s ecosystem.

The Sundarbans position makes it highly vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather events, both attributed to climate change. The mean elevation of the forest is less than one metre above sea level which threatens the entire habitat. Furthermore, the report didn’t factor in threats like poaching, human-tiger conflicts and disease. Rising sea levels are also increasing the salinity of the regions water, killing trees, reducing tiger habitats and the availability of fresh water.

Tigers face a threat unprecedented in history and if we don’t act now, this majestic species could become extinct within our life time. However, these is still hope.

The publication of the IPBES Global Assessment Report earlier this month highlights the size of the challenge we face. However, the Report also tells us that it is “not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global”.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is helping to protect wild tiger populations throughout Asia by funding ground-based tiger conservation initiatives in India, Thailand and Russia.

Find out more about DSWF’s work with tigers.

Guest post by artist Jack Russell – David Shepherd: My Hero, My Insipration!

“If it wasn’t for David Shepherd CBE I wouldn’t be a professional artist. It was his inspiration that made me decide to go for it and teach myself to paint.

“It all started while I was still playing cricket for Gloucestershire CCC and England. Sat in the pavilion watching the rain fall during the wet periods of an English Summer can be very frustrating. Being someone who can’t sit still and needs to be doing something productive all the time and not wasting away life’s precious days I stormed out of the dressing room one day and decided I was going to be a painter. If Rembrandt could do it I thought,  then so could I!  I say Rembrandt, because I love the old masters and I’m a big fan of so many of them.  Constable, Turner, Sargent, Whistler, Seago, Stanhope-Forbes, the list goes on!  I never did art at school, I was too busy missing lessons to play cricket but I had always been interested in paintings and particulary how clever these painters were. It fascinated me as to how they achieved the effects that they did.  When I saw a Rembrandt for the first time it blew me away.  I’ll never be in the same league as him but there’s no shame in trying to aim for the top! But when I saw a David Shepherd original oil painting for the first time that also blew me away! It was at one David’s exhibitions near Bristol promoting wildlife conservation in the 1980’s.  Right I thought, there must be a way of doing this, I’m going to do have a go.

“At the time people were telling me that to learn to paint you first have to learn to draw so during a long rain delay at a county match I left the ground and went to the shops and bought a sketchpad and some pencils.  This was in the beautiful city of Worcester.  I spent the rest of the day wondering up and down the banks of the River Severn sketching. I’ve still got my first ever sketch, “Man Under a Tree Reading a Newspaper.”  It’s only about three inches square but it is one of my most treasured possessions.  I was too shy at first to let people see what I was doing so whenever anyone passed by I would quickly hide the sketchpad.  Eventually I plucked up enough courage to do it at the cricket where I started sketching the grounds and even portraits of my team mates.  It was 1987. At the end of that season I took a number of sketches into a Bristol gallery to have them framed just to put them on our walls at home. However, the gallery owner recognised me.  I had just been picked to go on my first England Cricket Team Tour which was scheduled that Winter for Pakistan.  He told me that if I came back with enough sketches he would hold an exhibition.  I was reserve wicketkeeper at the time so only played 2 days cricket in 8 weeks so there was plenty of time for the sketching!  He was true to his word and at the start of the 1988 cricket season he held the exhibition.  To my amazement, all 40 sketches sold out within 2 days!  I was in a state of shock but my career as a professional artist had begun.  In fact last year we celebrated the 30th anniversary of that first sell out exhibition by exhibiting back in London at The Chris Beetles Gallery in Ryder Street.

2It was early days but commissions began to flood in and I was busy for the next couple of years. It was great! I was either catching cricket balls or drawing pictures for people, it was like being in heaven.  During that time I took on the mammoth commission of drawing Gloucester Cathedral literally stone by stone to celebrate their 200th anniversary. I worked on the drawing day and night for 3 weeks solid. After it was finished I put the pencil down and decided that was it, that’s enough drawing now, I’m going to concentrate on the oils.  I felt I’d taken the drawing as far as I could and it was time to concentrate on the colours because they fascinated me most. A couple of years later the same gallery held an exhibition of 30 of my oil paintings and amazingly they sold out as well!  So that was the start of my whole success and my career as an artist snowballed from there.  My two immediate dreams were to one, have a book of my paintings published, and two, sell my work in my own gallery. Well both dreams came true, although not in the same order.  In 1994 I bought an old coaching inn in Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire which we restored and converted into an art gallery.   Only a few years later Harper Collins of London published my first collection of paintings and sketches. Fortunately things didn’t stop there, in fact it still hasn’t stopped to this day!  Thanks to all the collectors all over the world who collect my work the gallery is still going strong.  We now do our own book and limited edition print publishing in house.  I’m still furiously trying to paint everything I want to paint before it’s too late, so life is very good I’m fortunate to say and 24 hours a day simply isn’t enough! If anyone can organise a 48 hour day please get in touch!!

“All this is down to David. Or rather David’s unquenchable enthusiasm for life and his paintings. If he could paint such amazing pictures having learnt from scratch, then so could I.  That’s what gave me the confidence to go for it. I know he had Robin Goodwin to guide him in the early years but basically he started from nothing and that was a big motivation for me.   Even he himself has been quoted saying that the paintings that were rejected when he attempted to enter the Slade School of Art were “Birds travelling in rather doubtful directions!” If you look at those early paintings and see where David’s work went to from there, and where it stands today, that can only give you inspiration. His attitude has been a major factor for me. His sheer determination to succeed was a guiding light.  I can remember in my early years when I was throwing 9 out of 10 canvases in the bin because they were’t good enough, it was David’s determination not to give up that kept me going.  Every so often a couple of square inches of canvas would work out well and that was the light at the end of the tunnel that spurred me on. Taking a closer look at his work he taught me the lesson of creating the illusion of three dimensions on a flat surface.  Whether it’s a tusk coming out of the canvas, or the buffer beam on a steam locomotive, or the branches of a tree, his skill of having something leap out at you is one of his greatest assets.  Not all artists can achieve that. It’s something I strive for every day!  By the way, I think some of his train pictures are his best work. In particular the colour sketches painted from life during the last days of steam. They’re sensational. He was right when he said Rembrandt would have loved it in the steam sheds. Talking of Rembrandt, he was a genius, a master of creating light. In my opinion David was the same.  Rembrandt’s paintings are 3-D. You feel as though you could put your hand into the painting and pick something up.  David’s paintings are the same.

“In my early days as an artist I was lucky enough to have lunch with David and Avril at Winkworth Farm.  It was a day I will treasure forever. Not only did I discover David’s boundless enthusiasm for everything important but we talked at length about saving the subjects he was painting. He opened my eyes that day.  I don’t just mean painting, but the work that needs to be done for wildlife.  If ever I get up in the morning and go into my studio feeling a little sorry for myself or a little lacking in enthusiasm I simply put on a David Shepherd dvd and within seconds he snaps me out of my lethargy and I crack on making the day count. Never waste a minute. That was David’s philosophy.  Even to this day his words hold true.  I think that’s why we got on so well.

“Thank you to David’s family and the team at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation for inviting me to come on board.  It’s a great honour. I feel privileged.  There’s a lot to be done but I’m very much looking forward to working with you all and all the supporters of the foundation. If I can add in any small way to help carry on David’s dream and legacy I am very happy to do so. I owe him a great deal, because David has done so much for me.”

Jack Russell, MBE

Join our family – Become a Wildlife Shepherd

We want to ensure that we support the projects we fund for years to come, helping them to plan for the long-term and implement meaningful, sustainable change.

As part of our 35th anniversary, we have launched Wildlife Shepherds, a very special initiative which aims to create a sustainable future for wildlife through regular giving.

By becoming a Wildlife Shepherd and committing to a regular monthly gift, you will be joining the DSWF family and becoming a fundamental part of our fight to create a lasting and brighter future for endangered wildlife in their natural habitat..

As a Wildlife Shepherd, you will receive our bi-annual magazine ‘Wildlife Matters’ and an annual update on the vital work your donation is helping to fund.

The difference your regular gift could make…

A wildlife ranger will spend up to 240 days a year sleeping out in the bush on patrol to protect endangered species.

£5 a month could help provide vital supplies to enable these brave men and women to continue the fight against wildlife crime.

Whatever you can give will make a difference and we hope you will consider joining our family and investing in the future of wildlife.

If you would like to become a Wildlife Shepherd, please visit our donations page to set up your regular gift.

Thank you.

Lord Ashcroft makes a call to ban the ‘barbaric’ import of captive lion trophies.

Following a year-long investigation into lion farming in South Africa, a recent article by Lord Ashcroft (former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party) claims that lions are being bred en mass to be slaughtered for medicine and trinkets in the far east.

In just 20 years, lion populations have fallen by 43% and only 20,000 remain in the wild. But why has the ‘king of the jungle’ suddenly come under threat and how is this related to tigers?

For hundreds of years, tiger parts and their derivatives have been used in traditional Asian medicines for the belief they cure disease and replenish the body’s ‘essential energy’.

This demand has driven a 96% decline in tiger populations in just 100 years and has motivated consumers and criminal syndicates to turn their attention to lions as a viable alternative.



The investigation concluded that in the space of just two days, “54 lions were killed in a single slaughterhouse, so that their bones could be harvested and sent to companies who want to use them in traditional Asian medicine.”

The legal market of lion bones and skeletons to Asia from South Africa, who’s quota was almost doubled last year, creates a prime opportunity for illegally obtained tiger parts to be laundered into a legal market, condoning consumptive use in Asia. This undermines efforts to change behaviours and reduce consumptive demand for disproved traditional medicines and continues to threaten wild lion and tiger populations across their natural habitats.



If we are to protect the remaining wild tiger and lion populations, we must debunk the myth that animal parts hold medicinal value, otherwise we will see the extinction of tigers within our lifetime.

Sign up to TigerTime below and help us protect tigers in the wild.


China lift a 25-year ban on the trade of tiger parts

In October last year the Chinese government released a statement stating lifting a 25-year ban on the use of tiger parts and rhino horn in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This was a terrifying prospect considering that tiger populations have declined by 96% in the last 100 years and that as few as 3,500 are estimated to remain in the wild today.

As a result of immense public pressure, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) were pleased to see the potential postponement of this policy. However, following an official notice released last month, the Government of the Shaanxi Province are allowing permits to buy and sell tiger and rhino products in ‘special circumstances. This move by China shows a complete disregard in acknowledging the links between the trade in tiger parts and the illegal killing of wild tigers.

Legal markets for tiger parts create a guise under which to launder illegal parts and sends mixed messages to consumers about consumption. Demand in China continues to thrive, and we must now call for a robust and comprehensive ban in the trade of all tiger parts and their derivatives and the closure of captive breeding facilities which perpetuate the illegal trade.

Please click here to sign up to the TigerTime campaign below and show your support and help up protect the worlds last remaining wild tiger populations.

Sign up to TigerTime and help protect tigers

Two lions collared in huge six-day mission in Uganda

Our project partners the Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF) have reported to us that after a tough mission through southern Murchison Falls across six nights they have successfully managed to collar two new lions.

On the 15 February, the experienced team arrived in southern Murchison Falls – conditions meant they were able to access an area called the ‘honeymoon track’ – where lions were known to be regularly.

The experienced team included Michael Keigwin, Mustapha (Ishasha/WCS Lion project), Dr Richard Semanda, Dr Erik Erycel (veterinarian) and Dr Patrick Okello (veterinarian). The programme was also supported by two UCF cars to get them around the area and transport the equipment.

After four days and nights of not being close to lions the team had to resupply, refuel and get sleep. The lions were being heard but they are not used to people or cars – and were very wary and shy. Most ‘lion calling’ resulted in dozens of hyena arriving, showing a least that the hyena populations are very healthy!

The team camped and cooked out in the bush while they tried to get closer to the lions

The following morning, the team drove many miles off-road to the closest areas where lions were being heard – only one of the vehicles was able to move through the terrain, which was rocky, rough and involved crossing more than one river.

DSWF Lion collaring
The terrain was rough, and required many difficult river crossings

Finally, on the sixth night, two lions were successfully darted and collared, one female and one adolescent male.

The very healthy adolescent male was given a female collar

Both were from the same pride, and both had female collars put on. The adolescent male was a little too small for the full male collar and ran the risk of the collar slipping around the neck, hampering the GPS signal.

After six nights of tracking, both lions were finally darted and collared

The adolescent male was included in the collaring exercise to ensure that there are at least two collars on lions in the Mupina pride which roams the area, to better understand their use of the region. The team also suspects that in the next six months he will be pushed out of the pride by the two large males and will have to explore southern Murchison Falls to establish his own pride home range. His movement patters will be interesting to see the extent of the movement across the region.

After collaring these two lions, the team had to return to various parks and crises, including in Ishasha where six lions had left Queen Elizabeth Park and needed to be encouraged back.

Understanding how prides use the regions they live in is vital information which the members of the conservation projects can use to prevent poaching and protect their populations. Find out more about DSWF’s funded work with UCF and lions.

Global Canvas 2019 explores habitats of the world

Global Canvas, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s annual art competition for groups of children aged 16 and under, received a record-breaking 129 entries this year, celebrating 15 years of engaging students in wildlife conservation and art.

For 2019, the theme was ‘Habitats of the World’, which invited schools from around the world to build creative, artistic depictions of habitats that can be found all over our planet.

129 schools and art clubs submitted entries this year from 26 countries including USA, Kazakhstan, Canada, Korea, India and many more across 4 continents. In total, we’re delighted to say that 5,055 children participated in our Global Canvas competition – it’s been inspiring to see how far our conservation message has spread!

Judging and prize-giving took place at the Natural History Museum on Thursday 7 March 2019. There were 18 finalists vying for first, second and third prizes along with additional Personal Choice awards from guest speaker Melanie Shepherd, David Shepherd’s daughter, and event sponsors Michael O’ Mara Books as well as a new David Shepherd Award given in his memory.

Entries this year displayed a wide range of creativity and interests, featuring habitats such as the ocean, hydrothermal vents, the world of bees, bear caves, spider webs and much more. The continuing battle against plastic pollution was also evident in nearly all the submissions, with representations of the effects of litter and human impact on a variety of habitats.

In first place was George Betts Primary School, based in Smethwick. Their entry, ‘Bees and their Environment’ demonstrated an incredible amount of technical skill while illustrating the colourful, complex world of the bee.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation - Global Canvas 2019 - George Betts Primary School
Winners of Global Canvas 2019 – George Betts Primary School

In second place was the Kazakhstan-based Art Studio at the Museum of Arts, who submitted an incredible sculpture which exhibited great imagination and technical skill.

The piece, which you can see from the image below, depicted a variety of wildlife crossing an intricate ‘bridge’ structure flowing from land to water and the animals residing in them, and included books displaying different animal habitats hand-drawn by the students. Sadly the Art Studio was not able to join us as the Natural History Museum but we are glad they submitted and hope the children were pleased by the success!

Art Studio at the Museum of Arts, Kazakhstan - Global Canvas 2019 2nd Place
Art Studio at the Museum of Arts, Kazakhstan – Global Canvas 2019 2nd Place

In third place was London-based Heber Primary school, whose submission focused on hydrothermal vents, was a particular highlight for the competition due to the unique and specialist topic of their project.

Their sculpture, created from recycled materials, represented the extraordinarily rich lifeforms which inhabit these deep-sea vents, thought to be the source of live on Earth millions of years ago. The pupils from Heber Primary demonstrated their enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject wonderfully through the intricate, colourful sculpture.

Heber Primary School - 3rd Place, Global Canvas 2019
Heber Primary School – 3rd Place, Global Canvas 2019

Jo Elphick, DSWF Education Manager said: “I’ve been really bowled over by the standard of entries this year and plastic pollution continues to be feature as a strong theme throughout the submissions, which shows that children are taking the environmental issues that we face very seriously. The winner, ‘Bees and their Environment’ by George Betts Primary School really blew us away particularly when it came to the intricate attention to detail.”

Mandy Shepherd, David Shepherd’s daughter also attended the event, giving a speech about the importance of art and conservation to the pupils and chose to present the David Shepherd Award to Chinthurst Prep School, for their wonderful submission, an ornate replica of a habitat near to them, Leith Hill.

Chinthurst Prep School – David Shepherd Award – Global Canvas 2019

Michael and Lesley O’Mara from Michael O’ Mara books, who have sponsored the event for the past four years, chose Reay Primary School for their Personal Choice award. The submission focused on the ‘Lost Words’ campaign, a book which seeks to reintroduce into children’s vocabulary the essential wildlife words which have been taken out of a popular children’s dictionary.

The Lost Words by Reay Primary School
The Lost Words by Reay Primary School

Thanks to all involved in Global Canvas 2019, we look forward already to the competition in 2020!

Project update: DSWF visits Save the Rhino Trust

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation X Save the Rhino Trust
Inka and her new calf


David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) takes responsibility for the funds that you donate to us for conservation projects, and where possible, our team will visit a project for first-hand evidence that the impact of your funding is being maximised, so that we can report directly back to you the change you are personally helping us to achieve.

In February 2019, Karen Botha (DSWF CEO), Peanut Lamb (DSWF Head of Policy and Programmes) and Emily Lamb (DSWF Art Ambassador and artist) visited the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) in Namibia.

The mid-1980s bore witness to the savage slaughter of wildlife in Africa and particularly of the black rhino which suffered a catastrophic 98% decline throughout its historic range across Africa. The world’s last remaining truly wild population of desert-adapted rhino, together with the desert elephant, was facing extinction. Rhino numbers were reduced to approximately 30 animals in the remote landscape of Kunene province.

In 1994, our founder David Shepherd chose to fund SRT in the Kunene and Erongo Region – fast forward 25 years and our team is delighted to report back to you, our donors, on our most recent visit to the project in February 2019.

As is always the case in conservation, success is built upon the unfaltering dedication and unwavering commitment to the cause and animal.  The inspiring Namibian-born CEO Simson Uri-Khob has worked with the Trust since 1991, beginning his career for the organisation as a ranger, now leading a world class field-based team including, to name just a few, Director of Field Operations, Lesley Karutjaiva, Science Advisor Dr Jeff Muntifering and Tommy, SRT’s intelligence-led law enforcement unit.

The field-based team is ably backed up by brave rangers and incredible trackers for whom the environment can be easily interpreted, and to whom the rocky terrain can be read like a book. It is difficult to impart how impressive this skill is without adequately describing the lunar like landscape in which they work and their ability to track wild black rhinos and other species living in the area across vast featureless plains of rock and stones.

This project is attracting attention across the world, for all the right reasons.

Namibia’s Save the Rhino Trust has recorded zero deaths of the desert-adapted black rhino in the last 18 months as a result of poaching.  This is even more remarkable given that this area does not enjoy National Park protection and there is no fence line to patrol and monitor.  This population of desert-adapted black rhino truly are one of the last surviving wild populations in the world, a responsibility their wildlife guardians bravely acknowledge and accept.

In addition, there has been a baby boom with unprecedented recordings of black rhino births, much to the delight of the trackers and rangers who have come to know the animals so well over the years. Our DSWF-adopted Inka is also now a proud parent of a beautiful healthy calf seen late last year for the first time.

Again, this success is hard to truly articulate without being able to adequately describe the vast landscape of 25,000 km2 protected by the SRT project by so few trackers and rangers, the incredibly hostile lunar-like terrain and the constant heat during the days averaging 40°C+.

Just 30 trackers and 53 rhino rangers, with support from the Namibian Police, protect this vast stretch of an isolated province, 24 hours each and every day on long operational shifts of up to 20 days at a time in the field.

The legacy of the SRT field-based work is the scientific contribution of the project to improving knowledge and understanding of the desert-adapted black rhino which informs planning and management strategies for its conservation.

Using the best technologies available, the confidential data collected by the teams on the ground is maximised to further develop the Rhino Viewing Protocol and to strengthen the working relationship with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and other stakeholders to improve rhino-related tourism practices, particularly related to human wildlife conflict.

We were fortunate to be on site when a Rhino Pride meeting took place, a joint collaboration to engage with youth groups between SRT, local conservancies and IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation).

We were truly impressed listening to youths from two conservancies discussing the issues they face with inter-generational attitudes to wildlife and natural resource and how they intend to develop their group engagement with youths in other conservancies. SRT attribute a good amount of the success in recent years to their work with the communities, and the dynamic relationship that exists between all of the stakeholders.

Having also had the opportunity to meet with project Trustees whilst in Namibia, clearly SRT enjoys strong governance with Trustees who are wholly invested in the project, and in Namibia.

Overall, we were struck by the high level of collaboration in Namibia between NGO’s, conservancies, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibian Police and law enforcement agencies and tourism enterprises.


Whilst there are no doubt successes under this exceptional team, what is very clear is that there cannot be room for complacency, not even for a few hours.

The international illegal wildlife trade is a £15 billion industry with rhino horn valued at US$60,000/ kg, making it more valuable on the black market than cocaine and gold.  And therein lays the problem.

Every single day presents new and ongoing threats to this wild black rhino population. SRT fights a highly dangerous daily battle to maintain critical pressure on poachers, the undercover operations team are working often throughout the night to head off would-be poachers before they can get near an animal, community engagement in the conservancies takes place seven days a week, tracking and monitoring wild rhinos continues every single day.

And this level of pressure must continue for the foreseeable future to protect this iconic species.

We cannot afford to divert attention from the protection that this project offers to the desert adapted black rhino.  The truth is that SRT needs many more boots on the ground to cover the huge areas described in this report if they are to succeed in the long term, under growing pressure and poaching threats, to save the black rhino.

The tide is currently being stemmed by persistent and brave efforts from the dedicated and professional SRT team but the situation remains critical and we need your support more than ever to help SRT to continue to do what they do. Please help us protect rhinos by donating here.

Origami Pangolins!

This Saturday 16 February is World Pangolin Day – Can you help us get the world talking about these incredible creatures?

Whether you know about pangolins or not, the stark reality is that these amazing animals are on a fast track to extinction and are being poached, killed, live-trafficked and eaten on a daily basis while their scales are used for leathers or traditional medicines despite having no proven medicinal value. Please help us raise awareness for the world’s most trafficked animal.

We’re making origami pangolins to spread the pangolin message and celebrate these curious creatures!  Here’s a tutorial to help get you started – get practicing, folding and crafting and share your paper pangolins with us on World Pangolin Day. Tag us on social media @DSWFWildlife using the hashtags #UniteForPangolins #OrigamiPangolins and let us know where you are in the world!

The more people who know about pangolins and the more people who donate to protect them, the bigger the impact we can have to save our planet’s pangolins!

What can you do to help?

We are sorry to share the distressing images below and hope that our supporters understand the need to let the world know of the illegal wildlife trade obliterating pangolin populations across Africa and Asia. The screenshots are from a BBC News article yesterday courtesy of Traffic – you can read the article at

Pangolins, despite being so unknown, are trafficked more than any other animal in the world. It is estimated that one million individuals were illegally trafficked over the last decade. At DSWF we work at all levels of the illegal wildlife chain to protect these amazing species. We are funding demand reduction campaigns in Asia aimed at changing consumer behaviours and at educating people about the plight of the pangolin. We also fund ground-based work in Africa to ensure pangolins remain as protected as possible in the wild and that those tasked with protecting them are as well trained and equipped as possible in pangolin specific conservation techniques.

Find out more about pangolins!



Operation Footprints: DSWF joins forces with military veterans to protect wildlife

We’re delighted to announce our new project, Operation Footprints, where DSWF is working with The Royal Foundation (TRF), the charitable vehicle for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the military charity Walking With The Wounded (WWTW) to help crack down on the illegal wildlife trade and poaching in Africa.

Together, we are joining forces to launch Operation Footprints, supporting former servicemen and women to train wildlife rangers on the ground. The project will provide veterans the opportunity to share the skills they acquired during their military service, enhance their CVs, gain training qualifications, provide them with quality ‘hands-on’ work experience as well as significantly upskill the game rangers they are training.

Some of the ex-military beneficiaries of this training include the ‘harder to reach’ group, due to social isolation, disability or mental health issues and they will benefit greatly from such an experience. WWTW provide vulnerable veterans independence through employment and the current cohort of veterans engaged with this project are supported by the WWTW charity.

Operation Footprints – training rangers with Walking With The Wounded and The Royal Foundation

Operation Footprints will use the expert operational skills of former soldiers to empower wildlife rangers, focusing on non-combatant skills such as medical training, vehicle maintenance and ranger welfare.

“The project will not only provide African anti-poaching rangers with excellent training, but it will offer valuable opportunities in conservation for veterans.”
Walking With The Wounded Trustee, Guy Disney

The world is fighting a war on poaching – over 30,000 elephants are killed every year in Africa alone. In just 40 years, wildlife populations across the planet have fallen by 60% with some species on a fast track to extinction. Despite this shocking fact, the illegal trade in wildlife parts feeds an industry worth £15bn per year as consumer demand for wildlife products in Asian markets grows.

“Supporting veterans transitioning into civilian life from serving in the armed forces and conservation are key areas of focus for TRF. Therefore, we have provided a grant and are delighted to support the ‘Operation Footprints’ initiative which combines these two important areas of interest as this will jointly benefit veterans and rangers.”
The Royal Foundation Veteran’s Employment Programme Manager, Karen Hodgson

Providing ‘boots on the ground’ support and the development of in-country ranger teams is one of the most effective and sustainable conservation tools used to tackle environmental crime.

“We owe it to the rangers, incredibly brave men and women working in increasingly hostile environments to provide the best possible resources to carry out their critical work in keeping endangered wildlife safe.
“Enabling access to the first-hand practical knowledge and expertise from British military veterans, who have undergone the most elite training in the world, will have an extremely positive impact.
“By deploying innovative ideas, aimed at not only long-term sustainable personnel development, but also at immediate impact-results training, we hope to help turn the tide against the poaching epidemic sweeping the region.”
DSWF CEO, Karen Botha

A successful pilot Operation Footprints training session took place in Zambia in October 2017, with DSWF working alongside ground-based partner Game Rangers International (GRI). It focussed on first response medical training with the GRI-supported government ‘Special Anti-Poaching Unit’ – an elite team of intelligence-led park protection rangers.

DSWF’s Head of Programmes and Policy, Georgina Lamb, who hosted the initial pilot session, said the interaction between the veterans and the rangers was ‘amazing to witness’.

“The ex-servicemen and women are no strangers to operating in difficult and challenging landscapes – the environment in which African-based anti-poaching units operate is no different.
“They shared a connection and had something in common from the first day, an understanding of the hardships that go with the job, which few can appreciate and replicate.
“The veterans’ experiences of working with different cultures and in hostile environments will provide an invaluable resource in the training arena, imparting world class knowledge to wildlife rangers operating on the front line of wildlife protection.”
DSWF Head of Programmes and Policy, Georgina Lamb

The official Operation Footprints project began in Zambia in August 2018. Four training sessions will be held throughout the year, focused on imparting practical knowledge for all parties. It’s hoped the project will help save lives and increase the impacts wildlife rangers have on protecting Africa’s vulnerable and iconic species and landscapes.

The project is also generously sponsored in part by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.

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DSWF joins African Elephant Coalition in Kenya to decide strategy for upcoming CITES CoP18

Foundation Franz Weber (FFW) and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) have been invited this week to attend and provide technical advice to the 2019 African Elephant Coalition (AEC) Summit meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

The aim of the meeting is to discuss the joint strategy in view of the upcoming 18th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES – CoP18). The AEC has submitted four proposals to CoP18 to strengthen the international protection of the African elephant, in particular through tighter measures on ivory trade.

With over 25 representatives attending from all over Africa, the coalition voiced their concerns for the future of all African elephants. In order to safeguard the species from extinction, the AEC is asking CoP18 to up-list all African elephants on Appendix I CITES, close all domestic ivory markets, better manage government-held ivory stockpiles and tighten controls over the export of live wild-caught African elephants outside their range.

The AEC expressed its growing concern regarding the existence of many domestic ‘legal’ ivory markets, notably the legal markets which still remain open (the EU and Japan). The delegates, many of whom have direct experience in the field, are convinced that these major markets are directly linked to poaching and illegal trade, since they allow for laundering of illegal ivory into so-called ‘legal’ domestic markets.

“The poaching epidemic is not only decimating elephant populations at unsustainable rates but also resulting in growing ivory stockpiles which represent a significant finical and logistical burden for governments.
“It’s important to send a clear message that by encouraging speculative accumulation of ivory, in both source and consumer countries, it retains a commercial value for potential future sale. The only way to send this message is to definitively and comprehensive ban ivory trade, at all levels.

Vera Weber, President of Fondation Franz Weber (FFW).

FFW and DSWF, alongside other NGO colleagues, expressed their support of the AEC position on elephant conservation and re-affirmed their pledge to help fight for the strongest domestic and international legislation to protect this iconic animal.  Both organisations are active advisors to the African Elephant Coalition, and have supported African range states and in-situ conservation efforts for over 30 years.

“The joint commitment shown by the AEC to take the strongest and most vocal stance possible as a voice for elephants needs to be heard and listened to.
“They represent those on the front line of the illegal trade, witnessing first-hand the devastating impacts of elephant poaching. Other governments need to stand behind the AEC to ensure their warnings are adequately heeded or we risk seeing the extinction of the elephant.”

Georgina Lamb, Head of Programmes and Policy for DSWF and who was at the meeting.

FFW and DSWF look forward to following and supporting the AEC in its mission to save the African elephant, and will both be present at CoP18 as observers.

Find out more about CITES and why it’s so important to our work at DSWF.


DSWF co-signs public letter to European Commission pushing back on inadequate proposal to fight EU ivory trade

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) has joined with 15 other Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) to sign a public letter to the European Commission for their non-paper on the elephant ivory trade in the EU.

Between September and December 2017, a public consultation was held to gather evidence and views on ivory trade and ivory trafficking within the EU, and the overwhelming majority of the 92,000 respondents called for the closure of the EU’s domestic ivory market. As a result, the European Commission (EC) held a stakeholder consultation meeting last month to discuss possible measures that could be put in place to further restrict the trade.

While the European conservation and wildlife trade NGOs welcomed the meeting and the European Commission’s non-paper proposal, they considered the proposal to be inadequate and not going far enough to address the loopholes in the current rules, which many, including several African countries have highlighted encourage the laundering of poached and illegally acquired ivory through the EU domestic market.

Read the letter: Joint NGO response to the EC non-paper on elephant ivory trade in the EU

What is a non-paper?
non-paper is an informal discussion document which is put forward in closed negotiations within EU institutions looking for agreement on a controversial procedural or policy issue. Often circulated by the presidency of the Council, an individual member state or the European Commission, non-papers look to test the reaction of other parties to possible solutions, without necessarily committing the proposer or reflecting his or her public position up to that point.

#sketchforwildlife takes off on Instagram

Started by our Wildlife Art Ambassador and David Shepherd’s granddaughter Emily Lamb, an exciting new campaign has come onto Instagram, celebrating wildlife and art together while working to save endangered species.

#Sketchforwildlife involves artists creating beautiful sketches in a short period of time, and ‘selling’ them to those who donate £100 to a wildlife charity. We’re delighted that Emily Lamb alongside artists Stephen Rew and Emily Tan and others have joined in on this exciting project which makes such a huge difference to our projects.

We look forward to seeing this catch on, as we’ve seen other artists joining in to sponsor other charities, and we love to see the support grow for saving our wildlife!

Take a look at some of the incredible sketches which have already been sold for donations – check out the hashtag #sketchforwildlife on Instagram to see more and participate in the project!







Sock stars: little donations make a big difference

The Game Rangers International Elephant Orphanage Project (GRI-EOP) team based in Zambia were thrilled to receive an incredibly generous donation of socks from Lewis Bedford, son of Karen Botha, our CEO.

GRI-EOP work to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned elephants back in the wild, working alongside the Department of National Parks and Wildlife in Zambia. At David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, we’re extremely proud to fund them and the incredible work they do for elephants in the area.

Whether cleaning, teaching, securing the premises or nurturing the calves, the dedicated teams are on their feet every single day, doing whatever it takes to ensure the highest standard of care for the orphan elephants.

We are so grateful to Lewis for recognising their commitment to conservation! Find Lewis on Twitter and Instagram to see more of his donation ideas.

The Art of Survival: exhibition launches to honour David Shepherd’s legacy

The Art of Survival’ – on show from 16 – 31 January 2019 – Gladwell & Patterson

Yesterday evening, the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), together with some of David’s family, attended the opening of a special exhibition and celebration of David Shepherd’s remarkable painting career.

The evening was particularly special for me as an opportunity to see some of Grandad’s earliest and most iconic works, many of which I had never even seen before! I was delighted to attend the opening night of ‘The Art of Survival’ and to see the beautifully curated exhibition that is helping to support the Foundation through the sales of Grandad’s work.

Georgina Lamb, DSWF’s Head of Programmes and Policy, and David Shepherd’s granddaughter.

Curated by Gladwell & Patterson at their gallery in Knightsbridge, ‘The Art of Survival’ is a unique exhibition of some of David’s early, iconic, and rarely seen paintings.  We are thrilled to be working in partnership with the family run gallery, who have long championed David’s artistic and charitable work, and we would like to extend our sincere thanks to all at Gladwell & Patterson for their continued support.

I would highly recommend that all art and conservation connoisseurs, or simply enthusiasts, make the time to go and see this fantastic show. It combines the two passions and commitments that Grandad embraced and instilled within the Foundation; to conserve wildlifeand to use the creative arts as a platform for conversation and change – A legacy which we are now working so hard to continue in his name. Grandad would have been overwhelmed at seeing so many of his beautiful pieces together in one exhibition, even more so because a percentage of sales are going to help the beloved animals which graced his canvases, many of which were seen on the walls last night.” said Georgina.

After attending the Foundation’s annual fundraising dinner at The Dorchester with David in 2014, Gladwell and Patterson’s Anthony Fuller wrote: “David is a truly remarkable man, one I have had the pleasure of knowing for 30 years at Gladwell’s. His work in the conservation of both steam engines and wildlife has given him some incredible subjects to translate to canvas. Some of my favourite examples over the years have been some amazing safari scenes and those wonderful elephants.

The exhibition and celebration of David’s paintings showcases a beautiful selection of his work, spanning his extraordinary career, with 10% of the net profits from any sales donated to DSWF to help fund conservation efforts.

If you are in London between now and 31st January, we thoroughly recommend visiting this beautifully curated glimpse at David Shepherd’s art legacy; a truly great honour to his memory.

Find out more about the exhibition and view all paintings online here on the Gladwell & Patterson website.

A New Year and a New Chance

While many around the world settled into Christmas, enjoying the festivities and making those last few preparations, a tiny elephant was discovered wandering alone along the banks of the Luangwa River in Rufunsa, Zambia.

Thanks to swift action by local community members and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), the small female orphan was reported, rescued and taken into protection at the DNPW Headquarters for initial treatment and vital stabilisation.

She was observed in an area where a large herd of elephants had previously passed through. However, with daylight fading, her condition deteriorating and no sign of any herds nearby, action was taken and the exhausted baby was rescued and brought to safety.

Deprived of her mother’s care and milk, she was in a desperate condition and collapsed from extreme exhaustion just after the rescue. At just under a year old she is able to eat vegetation but is still dependent on milk to survive. After receiving life-saving IV fluids and other veterinary treatments, she was transferred to our ground-based Project Partners, the Game Rangers International Elephant Orphanage Project (GRI EOP) to receive the care and a second chance which she so greatly deserves.

Over the next few critical days, Little ‘Lani’, named Fungulani after the village she was found in, was in much need of rest, unable to stand without the help of the EOP Nursery keepers. She spent much of her time sleeping. Her scrapes and sores were treated with turmeric powder, a natural healing agent and fly repellent (the yellow markings in the photos), and she accepted every drink she was offered. Slowly she began regaining energy.

Over Christmas she managed to stand alone and, after five days of bed rest, she was encouraged out of the stable for a little exercise. She has found it challenging to adjust to the changes in her diet and is still in need of a lot of rest, but little Lani is doing well and continues to improve.

Liz O’Brien, who looks after the veterinary, medical and nutritional needs of the calves at GRI EOP, visited the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) offices during her Christmas holiday back to the UK.

Having responded well to her initial convalescent period, we are pleased with Lani’s continued progress. She is having her milk formula increased every few days as well as spending increased amounts of time in the boma gaining confidence in her new surroundings.”  Liz told DSWF staff. “I am hopeful that she will be strong enough to join the nursery herd soon.”

Your donations help support the incredible and dedicated team providing this care and the rescue of orphan elephants like Lani, often as a result of human wildlife conflict. Thanks to you, and all involved, little Lani can start 2019 on her journey through care, rehabilitation and, when she is ready, release back into the wild.

Thank you for your continued support.

You can find out more about the elephant orphans in Zambia and our work to protect elephants by clicking the links below:

  • Protecting Elephants
  • Elephant Orphans in Zambia

Help us continue to protect elephants

We still have so much work to do to try to protect these sentient animals from wildlife crime and ensure the future of the species.


  • Campaign for the strongest laws and international protectionist policies
  • Fund the rescue, rehabilitation and release of orphaned elephants in Zambia
  • Support wildlife rangers at the ground-based projects we fund across Africa
  • Fund rapid response to wildlife emergencies to help mitigate human wildlife conflict in Asia

If you feel able to do more, then please let us know if you would like to make a regular monthly gift by clicking here or calling 01483 272323.

What you can do to help


Make a donation to support our work protecting elephants 


Adopt an Elephant today!


New Year’s Resolutions for Wildlife

Elephants – We restate our commitment to campaign for a total and comprehensive closure of all domestic ivory markets around the world.

Tigers – We promise to fight for the closure of all tiger breeding facilities in order to end the trade in tiger parts and their derivatives.

Pangolins – We pledge to continue our longstanding support for demand reduction campaigns in key consumer countries and to raise awareness of the impacts that trade and consumption have on wild pangolin populations.

Snow Leopards – We will work to ensure that mining licenses, which could threaten key snow leopard habitats and the future survival of the species, remain withdrawn.

Lions – For the benefit of both people and wildlife, we commit to furthering our understanding of wild lion populations in order to help inform the mitigation of human wildlife conflict.

Chimpanzees – We promise to help protect vulnerable chimpanzees from the illegal wildlife trade in West Africa and work to ensure trafficking incidences are minimised to avoid the destruction of troop welfare and dynamics.

Painted Dogs – We restate our dedication to engaging individuals and communities who live alongside painted dogs about the benefits of positive interaction and sustainable coexistence.

Rhinos – We commit to reducing poaching incidences and helping to ensure that wild populations are given the strongest opportunity to thrive.

Wildlife Rangers – We will work to ensure that brave men and women, fighting on the front line of conservation, are best equipped, supported, trained and empowered to protect the world’s most threatened species.

Discover more about our work.

Ivory Act 2018: UK Ivory Bill receives Royal Assent

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) welcomes today’s news that the Bill to ban ivory dealing in the UK has officially received Royal Assent and becomes the Ivory Act 2018. It is expected to come into force in mid-2019, which is a huge step towards reducing ivory trafficking around the world, as well as in Britain.

The news follows years of lobbying and campaigning by DSWF and conservation colleagues. The Foundation supported the Bill from the outset  and provided briefings to Members of Parliament and Peers at every key stage in its passage.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s CEO Karen Botha said: “DSWF has been actively campaigning for the closure of domestic ivory markets and for a total ban in the trade in ivory. So we are delighted by the enactment of the new UK law today. We are one step closer to our goal of attaining the toughest possible protection for elephants, in order to ensure the survival of one of the world’s most iconic species.

“However this historic news comes at a time when elephants are still being slaughtered in their tens of thousands each year across Africa. DSWF hope the example set by the UK Government sends a signal to other countries, notably the EU and Japan, of the need to urgently close their own domestic ivory markets.

DSWF strongly believes that when legal domestic ivory markets remain open, illegal markets thrive, adding to the pressure on wild populations across the continent, which risks driving this irreplaceable species towards extinction.”

The Ivory Act 2018 represents one of the strongest bans on ivory trading in the world. DSWF is urging the Government to act swiftly in implementing the new laws next year and to ensure enforcement agencies and relevant implementing partners are adequately supported and resourced. It will also be vital for devolved administrations to play their part in prohibiting sales everywhere in the UK.

DSWF is also calling on the Government to ensure the limited exemptions in the new law are kept to a minimum. They must also be fully and transparently monitored and policed.

The UK Government has taken a leading role in the fight against the Illegal Wildlife Trade, which is a global industry worth a staggering £15 billion. The Ivory Act 2018 follows one of the largest public consultations ever held in the UK and reflects the overwhelming view that ivory markets around the world need to be closed down permanently. This historic step bolsters the growing efforts by Governments, conservationists and concerned citizens around the world to help save elephants from extinction.

Christmas Concert for Conservation

Star mezzo soprano Laura Wright and former England Cricket Captain David Gower joined children from local schools at a special community Christmas Concert in Cranleigh raising more than £4800 for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF).

Mezzo soprano Laura Wright sings with children's choir at the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Christmas Concert

The event at St Nicolas Church featured the beautiful voices of Laura, Cranleigh Preparatory School Chamber Choir and a soloist from Tillingbourne Junior School. Concert pianist Richard Saxel also performed an incredible solo and provided musical accompaniment for the evening’s performances. David Gower, Honourary Vice President for DSWF, set the tone of the evening with a witty and memorable reading.

Former England Cricket Captain David Gower reads at the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Christmas Concert

Laura, who is the Foundation’s Community Outreach Ambassador and best known as the ‘Nation’s Sporting Soprano’ said: “I am extremely proud to be supporting the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation by performing at their first ever Christmas Concert. The Foundation is extremely dear to my heart and I have been lucky enough to witness first-hand how important their support is for projects such as the Elephant Orphanage Project in Zambia.”

Mezzo soprano Laura Wright  sings at the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Christmas Concert

Kindly sponsored by Cromwell Coffee House of Cranleigh, the concert was followed by an exclusive exhibition of paintings by the wildlife artist and conservationist David Shepherd CBE FRSA (1931 – 2017) – many of which came from the Shepherd family’s private collection.

The Foundation’s CEO Karen Botha said: “At this time of the year we reflect on how we have made a difference to the communities and wildlife in Africa and Asia where we fund projects, and to celebrate the incredible legacy of David Shepherd, our Founder. David was so fond of Cranleigh and would have been delighted to see so many at the concert supporting his beloved Foundation’s work.

Our wildlife rangers, incredibly brave men and women who work tirelessly to protect endangered species around the world, don’t have the luxury of a Christmas break. They’re often working far from home, living in extremely hostile and dangerous environments. We are so grateful to all who came to our concert, which supports the vital work of rangers on the conservation frontline.

Funds raised from the concert will help the Foundation continue our mission to fight wildlife crime, protect endangered species and engage with communities across Africa and Asia. We are working to help save threatened animals such as elephants, tigers, rhinos and pangolins. To find out more about our work click here.

St Nicolas Church Cranleigh for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Christmas Concert

Candles at the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Christmas Concert

Children's choir sings to the audience at the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Christmas Concert

Painted Dog Pack Returns to the Wild

A family of painted dogs rescued by our project partners in Zimbabwe have been successfully returned to the wild where they belong.

Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) rescued the dogs at the end of June, which involved digging the family out of their den, deep underground. The pack of 2 adults named Snow-Tail and Jonathan and their eight pups have been in PDC’s Rehabilitation Facility for the past 6 months.

The painted dog pack were transported by trailer to a safe release site. Image credit: Vuk Valcic | Painted Dog Conservation.

This week the family was deemed ready for release – so the dogs were safely caught in nets and anaesthetised by a specialist vet. The adults were then fitted with tracking collars.

The adults were fitted with tracking collars. Image credit: Painted Dog Conservation.

All ten dogs were transported in a trailer for release inside the safety of the protected area Hwange National Park, far from the communal land where they were originally found.

The pack were released in Hwange National Park. Image credit: Painted Dog Conservation.

Peter Blinston, PDC’s Executive Director said: “We released the painted dogs at the Jambili pan. We believe the place has reasonable prey base and will help fast track the adaptation of the pack to their life back in the wild.

“This is an area that is not known for its lion or hyena populations and in between different packs of dogs that we know, so they will find their place here hopefully.”

Painted dogs have a large home range and it’s very likely they will move on from the release site to establish their own territories. The tracking collars fitted on the adult dogs will allow the PDC team to follow the pack’s progress.

The dogs ran off into the bush near a water hole. Image credit: Painted Dog Conservation.

“We know there will be mortality – that’s the tough part of these exercises,” added Peter. “But this is conservation on the front line. We rescued these pups and adults and now we’ve got them back in the wild where they belong.

“Life is much safer for them in our rehab centre, but they belong in the wild. That’s where they are now and we wish them the best of luck.”

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) funds PDC’s work with communities in Zimbabwe to conserve the species in one of its last strongholds. DSWF funds vital anti-poaching work and education programmes to encourage tolerance for the dogs from local communities and land owners.

Painted dog puppy lifted from deep den as rescued
The pack were rescued in the summer from their underground den.

Painted dogs – also known as African wild dogs or painted wolves – are unique to Africa and are among the continent’s most endangered species. Fewer than 3-5,000 of the animals survive in viable populations in just four countries. Since the PDC project began in 1992, dog numbers have risen from 400 to approximately 750 in Zimbabwe today.

Painted dog puppy held as rescued

The BBC’s Dynasties programme has highlighted the problems faced by painted dogs and helped the world understand more about this complex and fascinating species.

DSWF’s #ProtectThePack appeal has already raised several thousand pounds to help our work protecting these incredible and endangered animals.

Find out more about our work protecting painted dogs.

You can help secure their future by supporting our #ProtectThePack appeal here. Thank you!

Pangolin Project Raises Funds

From cake sales to sponsored rickshaw rides, we’re always so grateful for the wonderful fund-raising support we receive from wildlife lovers young and old in the community.

Eight-year-old Lukas from Surrey chose the pangolin as his fund-raising focus for a rainforest project at school. The schoolboy went on to make a model pangolin, held a bake sale and adopted a pangolin through DSWF, raising over £160 for our work.

Lukas held a bake sale at his Surrey school to raise money for endangered pangolins.
Lukas held a bake sale at his Surrey school to raise money for endangered pangolins.

Lukas’ mum said: “He wanted to report on a rare and endangered animal – he discovered the pangolin and made this cute animal known at school. Until then, 90% of the students and also some teachers did not know the animal.”

Thanks to the ISL Surrey Primary  school, who made this pangolin project possible for Lukas.

Lukas helped spread awareness about pangolins in his school.

From cake baking to rickshaw rides – Tom Gordon-Colebrook is joining two others on a trip across Sri Lanka to raise funds for our work.

Tom said: “I’m one wheel of the three-wheeled Rikki-Tikki-Tarvies, chaps from the UK who’ve banded together to push the reasonable limits of tuk-tuk travel in the legendary Rickshaw Run.

“With my two teammates, I’ll be navigating the length of Sri Lanka from north to south in a 10.5bhp Bajaj auto-Rickshaw. It’ll be a wild ride over a week of sense-scalding adventure: gnarly roads, forest tracks, mountain passes all lie in wait to conquer us and our wheezing four-stroke steed.”

We all wish the Rikki-Tikki-Tarvies the best of luck on their adventure – you can sponsor their efforts at on their Just Giving page.

Meanwhile Surrey Jazz Orchestra is holding a special concert in support of DSWF on 26 March 2019. All are welcome and tickets are available on the door. For more information please visit the orchestra’s website here.

If you would like to hold your own fundraising event or challenge, or if you are interested in becoming a DSWF Community Ambassador, please contact Amanda Butler, our Community Fundraising Team Leader.

“There are plenty of counties across the UK who would love to have their own Ambassador, sharing a passion for wildlife and the work of DSWF. Each ambassador has their own unique way of supporting DSWF, so please join us and do your bit to help save wildlife around the world,” said Amanda.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can get involved in DSWF’s work, please contact Amanda by emailing her at .

Rhino Slaughter Shocks DSWF Team – Orphan Baby Rescued

A sickening slaughter of rhinos has been witnessed, first hand by a team from the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, as they visited the Foundation’s project partners, Rhino 911, in South Africa.

The team had been on a mission to humanely trim horns from rhinos to deter poachers, but sadly the poachers had got there first. Several carcasses of recently killed rhinos were found, among them a dead female, whose vulnerable orphaned calf was found nearby.

The Rhino 911 and DSWF team discovered several slaughtered rhinos. 

The team sprang into action, capturing the stricken baby rhino and bringing it to safety. The Rhino 911 team then named him ‘David’ in honour of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, which funds Rhino 911’s work.

The orphaned calf was found nearby. Image credit: DSWF.

DSWF’s Head of Programmes and Policy Georgina Lamb was travelling with the Rhino 911 rapid response helicopter when the tragic death toll was discovered.

Georgina, who is David Shepherd’s granddaughter, was accompanied by her sister, the artist Emily Lamb, DSWF Art Ambassador and DSWF Wildlife Ranger Ambassador Jacques Rudolph, who lives in South Africa. The team were deeply moved after witnessing the devastating effects of rhino poaching first hand.

“This is possibly one of the most heart-breaking days I have ever experienced,” said Georgina. “We’re so sad to have to share such horrible news with our supporters, but this really does show why our work is so important. When the orphan rhino was named David as thanks for our support, we were all in tears.”

Video credit: Rhino 911

Rhino 911 pilot and co-founder Nico Jacobs said: “If we hadn’t been here, this little baby rhino would have dehydrated and died. This is the problem we’re facing in South Africa every week – it’s terribly sad that the people can’t unite to save these amazing animals.”

David the baby rhino is thought to be around four months old. Fortunately he was small enough to fit into the back of a Toyota Landcruiser, so he could be transported to safety under the watchful eye of Rhino 911 and supporting vets and handed over to be cared for by The Rhino Orphanage.

Baby David was transported to safety by Rhino 911. DSWF Wildlife Ambassador Jacques Rudolph and Rhino 911 pilot Nico Jacobs. Image credit: Rhino 911.

Rhino 911 is a rapid response helicopter unit, flying in to help wounded or orphaned rhinos with expert veterinary aid. DSWF funding goes directly towards the maintenance and flying costs of the Rhino 911 helicopters to keep the team operational and in the air.

Rhino 911’s Nico added: “Thank you to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation for being here – we really appreciate their support from the UK. Without their support our work would not be possible – we would not be able to stay in the air.”

Rhino 911 operates an emergency response helicopter. Image credit: Rhino 911.

During their eventful trip the team also successfully trimmed the horn from an adult rhino, reducing the risk of it being killed in the future by poachers.

Rhinos’ horns are trimmed to deter poachers. Image credit: Rhino 911.

DSWF’s Georgina Lamb added: “This is what it was all about. It felt heavy in my hands, and quite frankly it simply looked like old wood from the outside. It’s made of keratin, the same substance as our finger nails and hair – and yet people believe this has curative and healing properties that are worth killing for.

“The illegal wildlife trade is a staggering billion dollar industry and after arms trafficking, drugs trafficking and human trafficking, is one of the world most lucrative but destabilising illegal activities. Yet it remains woefully under discussed with a blatant and gross lack of commitment and attention to force change. Neglecting environmental issues and inactivity will be our undoing.”

DSWF’s Georgina Lamb examines freshly trimmed rhino horn. Image credit: DSWF.

In just a decade, more than 7,000 African rhinos have been lost to poaching, to feed the demand in Asian markets for rhino horn, which is wrongly thought to have ancient medicinal properties. From 2007-2014, South Africa saw a growth of over 9,000% in rhino poaching. If poaching continues at this level, this iconic species will be hunted to extinction.

Rhino 911 and DSWF team at a successful horn trimming operation. Georgina Lamb – left. Artist Emily Lamb – right. Image credit: Rhino 911.

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation is proud to fund Rhino 911 in their brave and dedicated efforts.  You can help save this incredible and ancient animal by donating to our work here. Please help us to support them and keep their rescue helicopter flying. Or you can adopt a rhino by visiting our adoption page.

Donate to help save endangered species!

Thank you!

And the Winner Is…

After an exciting online poll, the winner of this year’s ‘David Shepherd Conservation Award’ has been announced as Surenkhuu Luvsan from the Snow Leopard Trust in Mongolia.

More than 3,000 people voted in the competition to find the ‘Conservation Champion 2018′ and the winner was announced at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s Winter Wildlife Ball in London last Friday.

Surenkhuu was among five short-listed finalists nominated for the award by the DSWF funded projects they work for. Watch her reaction to the news of her award win:

The result was announced at the ball by Georgina Lamb, DSWF’s Head of Programmes and Policy and David Shepherd’s granddaughter.

“Surenkhuu has worked tirelessly for the last 18 years campaigning for snow leopards and their habitats on behalf her community and has been a leading voice in the creation and expansion of national parks and in preservation campaigns to protect key snow leopard habitat,” she said.

“A huge thank-you to all the projects that submitted incredible nominees, all of whom are our conservation champions and of course to our wonderful supporters who voted.”

This year’s £1,000 ‘Conservation Champion Award’ prize was generously sponsored by Helen Clifford in memory of her father Frank Clifford, who was a great admirer of David Shepherd’s work and loved wildlife.

The ‘David Shepherd Conservation Award’ was launched last year in memory of our Founder, David, to commend remarkable contributions to conservation.

Well done to Surenkhuu and to all of our nominees who will receive special certificates and letters to congratulate them on their valuable contribution to conservation.

For more news and photographs from our Winter Wildlife Ball click here. To find out about our work to save endangered snow leopards visit our species page here.

Stars Align at Winter Wildlife Ball

Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench, top science and wildlife presenter Liz Bonnin and former England cricket captain David Gower joined more than 300 guests at London’s The Dorchester on Friday evening for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s Winter Wildlife Ball.

Watch the event highlights!

The prestigious event in Mayfair is an annual celebration of art and wildlife and raises thousands of pounds for conservation every year. All proceeds from the star-studded night will go towards the Foundation’s work fighting wildlife crime, protecting endangered species and engaging with communities on the ground across Africa and Asia.

Science and wildlife presenter Liz Bonnin said: “I have seen at first hand the desperate fight for survival of so many of our iconic animals and the devastating destruction of our planet’s wild habitats.

“The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation is working tirelessly to give endangered species a future in our world and I truly believe that if wildlife is to stand a chance, we must all come together and play a part in protecting them. We must make our voices heard, before it’s too late.”

Guests were treated to entertainment from MOBO award winning star Jamelia, South African soloist Brown Lindiwe Mkhize with a stunning rendition of ‘The Circle of Life’ and Mezzo-soprano and DSWF Ambassador Laura Wright – fresh from her performance at the Invictus Games – singing a moving version of ‘Imagine’.

Karen Botha, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s CEO, told guests the Foundation had had a busy year, working from grass roots to the world stage, continuing its vital mission to save endangered wildlife.

“This year our funding has made an enormous positive difference to conservation efforts in the areas where we invest. Our project partners are using every pound and penny we invest in them to fight wildlife crime, to protect endangered species by securing and developing habitats for species to grow and thrive on and to engage with local communities most affected by wildlife issues, ensuring that they are integral to providing solutions to the problems they face in the ground,” she said.

“But tens of thousands of elephants are still being slaughtered for their ivory every year, while tigers edge closer and closer to extinction. Without serious intervention, we could see what has been described as the world’s sixth mass extinction. The situation is now critical.”

Karen concluded by introducing the premiere of the Foundation’s new short film ‘The Art of Survival’ capturing its mission, the plight of wildlife and the beauty in communities who are most affected by wildlife crime issues. Produced at no cost to the Foundation by freelance videographer Tristan Kermode, we would like to thank our kind sponsor and Tristan for his incredible film-making talent, commitment and pro-bono hours invested in creating this powerful asset. Watch the film below!

Following thousands of online votes, the winner of the David Shepherd Conservation Award ‘Conservation Champion 2018’ was announced as Surenkhuu Luvsan, from Mongolia, who was nominated by the Foundation’s project partners, the Snow Leopard Trust. Surenkhuu is a dedicated campaigner for snow leopards and won £1,000 for her project and a trophy. The ‘Conservation Champion’ prize was kindly supported this year by Helen Clifford in memory of her father who loved David’s work and was passionate about wildlife.

Speaking at the ball, Georgina Lamb, the Foundation’s Head of Programmes and Policy and David Shepherd’s granddaughter, said that despite the colossal challenges ahead, there was still hope: “The hope that by investing in future generations, children will grow up with the simple ingrained belief that wildlife have a value but are not a currency.

“The hope that business leaders and industry tycoons will join the fight to use their influence to leverage deals that trade in ethical exchange, not commercial greed. The hope that individuals will stand up and join a global movement for change, not simply stand by as observers watching the world’s wildlife vanish. And of course, the hope that is inspired by those who came before us, Grandad and his passion, enthusiasm and love for wildlife – a legacy that we now have a duty to uphold.”

The evening concluded with a fundraising auction led by TV antiques expert and auctioneer Charlie Ross. Top lots included an original pencil sketch by the charity’s late founder David Shepherd and a beautiful elephant painting created live on the night by artist Matt Shapira, as well as stunning artworks by Mandy Shepherd and Emily Lamb – David’s daughter and granddaughter.

huge thank-you to all who attended; to our guests, performers, artists, auction donors, sponsors, volunteers and staff, who were all part of making the evening so special. Because of you, the evening raised over £185,000 to together continue the fight against wildlife crime. We are touched and sincerely grateful for the impact that your part played will have on protecting some of the world’s most precious and endangered species.

If you would like to hear more about next year’s event please call Rachel Nugent on 01483 272 323.

The Winter Wildlife Ball was generously hosted by the Dorchester Collection.

Mulisani on the Move!

The orphan elephant Mulisani – named in honour of our founder David Shepherd – has made a huge step on his road to rehabilitation in Zambia this week. The three-year-old was successfully translocated from Game Rangers International’s (GRI) Elephant Nursery in Lusaka to the Release Facility in Kafue National Park.

Mulisani was rescued in October last year, shortly after David’s death and he was named in memory of a conservation giant. Mulisani means ‘shepherd’ in the Zambian language of Lozi.

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation originally set up the Elephant Orphanage Project and continues to support it through the funding of GRI.

After a battle for survival when he was first rescued, Mulisani soon grew strong and was outgrowing the nursery, both physically and socially. As the oldest orphan of the herd, and the only male, he had started to behave aggressively towards the younger female orphans, rarely displaying any submissive behaviours, which are so important for his future release success and integration into a wild herd. So it was agreed that is was time to introduce Mulisani to a larger herd where he will be surrounded by older, more experienced elephants who he can learn from.

Mulisani starts his road trip.
Mulisani starts his road trip.

At the weekend, Mulisani was loaded into the translocation vehicle, with temptation from his milk bottle, before setting off on the long 10-hour journey to his new home. The Head Keeper from the Elephant Nursery, Oliver, travelled with him to check up on the elephant along the way.

On arrival at his new home, Mulisani was guided into his stable by Oliver, where he safely stayed overnight. The following morning, the little orphan was introduced to his new elephant family – the release herd consisting of 11 elephants.

Mulisani is accepted into the herd.
Mulisani is accepted into the herd.

“Many interesting behaviours were observed and many interactions were exchanged as the herd members investigated the newcomer. They were intrigued, reaching their trunks through the fence that separated them during this introduction,” said GRI’s Lauren Cawley.

Mulisani says hello.
Mulisani says hello.

“The matriarch of the herd, Chamilandu, affectionately greeted him. She was evidently streaming from her temporal glands, indicating her heightened emotion. She warmly welcomed Mulisani, frequently placing her protective trunk over his back, offering him the comfort he needed during this time of uncertainty.”

Although Mulisani responded well to such interactions, he repeatedly searched for Oliver and headed towards him. During this overwhelming time, he found comfort in Oliver, who is staying at the Release Facility for a few days whilst he settles in.

Mulisani walks with his new herd.
Mulisani walks with his new herd.

Mulisani has been joining the daily bush walks with the rest of the herd, although he is lagging behind a little, partly due to the fact that he isn’t used to walking such long distances and partly because he wants to stay close to the keepers. And he stands out a mile, as he is covered in the red dust from Lusaka!

Mulisani’s behaviour will be closely monitored over the coming days for any signs of stress but these initial interactions and behaviours suggest he will settle into his new home just fine.

This is an exciting step forward for David’s namesake elephant and all of us at the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation look forward to following his continuing rehabilitation journey, with the hope that one day Mulisani will return to the wild.

You can help our work with the Elephant Orphanage Project by adopting an elephant here. To find out more about how your support is helping us to save elephants in the wild click here.

DSWF Ambassadors Play Key Community Role

Community Ambassadors play a key role at the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, raising money for our work and spreading awareness of our fight to save endangered species.

Val Green is our volunteer Community Ambassador for the Midlands – she visited The Rotary Club of Carlton near Nottingham this month, to give a talk about the wildlife we work so hard to protect.

Val Green at Carlton Rotary Club
Val Green at Carlton Rotary Club.

The Rotary Club said: “What an interesting talk! Val showed us some great slides of rhinos, elephants, pangolins, snow leopards, painted dogs, lions, tigers etc and gave us facts and figures about how some of our much loved wildlife are dwindling in numbers. What a worrying situation.

“She explained some of the work the Foundation is doing in so many countries in Africa and Asia to fight wildlife crime, to work with rangers and local communities to bring awareness.”

Talks to community groups are just one of the ways that our Community Ambassadors help our work. They also run stalls at major events, organise fundraising activities, support the Foundation at its own events and spread the word about DSWF.

Amanda Butler, DSWF’s Community Fundraising Team Leader, said: “Could you be a DSWF Ambassador like Val? Or do you have other talents – chatting to people, baking cakes or extreme sports? Our team needs you!

“There are plenty of counties across the UK who would love to have their own Ambassador, sharing a passion for wildlife and the work of DSWF. Each ambassador has their own unique way of supporting DSWF, so please join us and do your bit to help save wildlife around the world.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can get involved in DSWF’s work, please contact Amanda by emailing her at

2019 Wildlife Artist of the Year Opens for Entries

Entries for Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019 closed at 5pm 18 February 2019 – for more information about the competition and 2019 exhibition visit our Wildlife Artist of the Year pages.

The hunt is on for the world’s Wildlife Artist of the Year, as the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) officially opens its prestigious annual art competition for 2019.

With a top prize of £10,000 and the chance to exhibit in a top London location, the contest attracts hundreds of entries from artists across the globe. Now in its 12th year, the exhibition and related sale has become an eagerly awaited highlight of the art calendar for both artists and art buyers.

The main competition is open to amateur and professional artists aged 17 and over in all genres (excluding photography) and offers numerous categories and prizes. New for 2019 is a special class for emerging young artists to express their concern about the impact human beings have on the planet. This ‘Human Impact’ category is open to artists aged 17 to 25 years and costs just £10 to enter, to encourage art students and up and coming artists.

Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition 2018
Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition 2018

“We are always hugely impressed by the incredibly high standard of artwork that is entered into our Wildlife Artist of the Year competition,” said DSWF’s CEO Karen Botha. “The resulting exhibition provides an important showcase for artists around the world to celebrate endangered species and highlight the critical problems they face.

“Our Founder David Shepherd was passionate about encouraging the next generation to care about conservation and to nurture young art talent, so our new young artist’s category this year is a fitting way to continue his legacy.”

Each year the competition’s top £10,000 prize has been generously supported by a private donor. Along with the £1,000 runner-up and £500 category prizes, the Wildlife Artist of the Year offers artists around the world the chance to win a prestigious accolade.

The top prize winner in 2018 was Prague artist Radka Kirby, with her striking painting of saddle-billed storks called ‘Peaceful Place’.

Peaceful Place by Radka Kirby
Peaceful Place by Radka Kirby – Winner of the Wildlife Artist of the Year 2018

Her colourful oil on canvas formed part of an exquisite exhibition of more than 150 shortlisted competition entries in London last May.

The seven categories for Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019 are:

  • Animal Behaviour
  • Earth’s Wild Beauty
  • Human Impact (17-25yrs)
  • Into the Blue
  • Urban Wildlife
  • Vanishing Fast
  • Wings, Feathered or Otherwise

The annual Wildlife Artist of the Year competition was established by the late, great wildlife artist David Shepherd CBE FRSA (1931 – 2017). The event embodies David’s vision for ‘The Art of Survival’ – using art for wildlife conservation.

Since the competition began in 2007, it has attracted more than 10,000 entries and raised more than £1.2m to fund DSWF’s vital work to fight wildlife crime, protect endangered species and engage with communities on the ground across Africa and Asia.

Competition entry costs £25 per artwork, with a concessionary rate of £10 for DSWF members and for entry in the Human Impact category. Entry is open until Monday 18 February 2019. For more details on all the categories, how to enter and full terms and conditions, visit our Wildlife Artist of the Year pages.

DSWF Team Working For Wildlife at CITES

Yesterday was a long day at CITES with elephants on the agenda in the evening session – a first for a CITES Standing Committee, which has had to schedule late night sessions in order to get through the packed agenda.

CITES 2018 Russia DSWF Team
Team DSWF at CITES in Sochi, Russia.

The DSWF team was supporting documents referencing the closure of domestic ivory markets and the creation of guidelines on stockpile management and destruction. Today (Thurs) promises to be another full day as the capture and trade of live animals takes the forefront of elephant discussions.

Under CITES protocol, Appendix II animals can be traded to “appropriate and acceptable destinations” from populations in South Africa, Zimbabwe Botswana and Namibia. Proposals submitted by countries from the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) state that the only “appropriate and acceptable destination” for live wild elephants are in conservation programmes within their own natural habitat.

Media reports since the last Conference of the Parties held in Johannesburg in 2016 have emphasised the inhumane capture techniques and conditions of elephants which have been caught from wild herds to be used in the live trade.

DSWF strongly supports the shared views of many African Elephant Range States who question whether the live capture of elephants can be of any benefit to conservation.

Find out more about DSWF’s position on the trade of endangered species here.

Chimpanzee Rescue in Guinea

An abandoned chimpanzee has been brought to safety in Guinea, after a lengthy rescue mission funded by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

Our project partners Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) received reports of the adult male living in the Gouela area of Lola Prefecture. It seemed he was used to humans and was coming into conflict with local people – a local woman complained she had been bitten by the chimp and the community was threatening to kill the animal unless action was taken.

After consulting local authorities, it was confirmed that the chimp was an ex-captive chimpanzee and not behaving like a wild primate. It was therefore decided that his presence in the area was a danger to local people and a recovery mission was launched.

Chimp Rescued by CCC in Guinea
Gouéla the chimpanzee rescued by CCC in Guinea

The chimpanzee was reported to be between the villages of Bourata and Gouela and the CCC team set off on their rescue operation. After a journey of more than 24 hours on rough roads, which took its toll on the team’s vehicle, they finally located the chimp in the middle of the road that leads to the border. He was easily darted and put in a transport cage.

Unfortunately the journey back to base was a long one – the team’s vehicle broke down and the whole rescue mission took three days.

The rescued chimpanzee was named “Gouéla” after the village where he was found. He is the second adult chimpanzee that CCC has received in a year; a female was rescued last July near Kissidougou in similar conditions.

“Gouéla arrived at CCC in apparent good health and shows appropriate behaviour when the other chimpanzees vocalize,” said Matthieu Laurans, CCC Programmes Director.

“He will stay in quarantine for the next three months before possibly being integrated with the other chimpanzees. The management of these individuals is very complicated and requires very expensive long-term captivity infrastructures.

“Fortunately we’ve built a complex this year for non-releasable chimpanzees, that can house several adult chimpanzees. Gouéla will probably spend some time there before we are able to assess if he could be integrated into a social group.”

In the last six years more than 14,000 chimpanzees have been lost to the illegal wildlife trade. One chimp is poached every four hours to satisfy consumer demand and these animals are now on the road to extinction.

The rescue of Gouéla by the DSWF funded CCC was made possible by your generous support of our work to protect these intelligent and sensitive creatures.

Thank you for helping us help chimps – our closest living relatives. Find out more about our position on the international trade in chimps here.


DSWF Team at CITES in Russia

It’s an important day for the DSWF team, attending the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) conference in Russia, as elephants take a prominent position on the agenda.

On the second day of the 70th Standing Committee in Sochi, our team will be closely following three key topics relevant to the long-term survival of African elephant populations, which are due to be brought to the floor for debate.

A collaborative DSWF team is attending the 70th Standing Committee of CITES in Sochi, Russia.

Firstly, following a report from a US environmental legal institute, the team will be supporting the observations in the report that the closure of one domestic ivory market can lead to the leakage of ivory markets from one location to another. Indirect consequences of isolated domestic ivory bans have the potential for generating new and growing markets in neighbouring countries. DSWF therefore wishes to see parties call for the closure of all domestic ivory markets globally.

Secondly, the team will be closely following an update report on poaching trends and the illegal trade.  Notable comments relating to country specific updates include the EU and Japan, which conclude that their domestic ivory markets do not contribute to the illegal killing of elephants. DSWF however stand firmly by our belief that there is no denying the link between the poaching of elephants and the existence of legal ivory markets.

Finally and following a joint financial commitment by DSWF and other NGO colleagues made last year at the same forum, combined with years of active support, we encourage parties to ensure the convention carries out on its commitment to the creation of  comprehensive guidelines on the management and destruction on ivory stocks and stockpiles.

DSWF’s species policy work is a hugely important and growing part of our work. Find out more and see how you can get involved here.

Wild Golf Day to Save Endangered Animals!

A wild golf day in aid of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation has raised an amazing £5,800 for the Shalford-based charity and its work protecting endangered species such as elephants, tigers, rhinos and pangolins.

Eleven teams teed off in the fun competition at Cranleigh Golf and Country Club – some of them sporting wild animal tails for the occasion! The event is now in its third year and is becoming a firm fixture in the charity golfing calendar.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation's Golf Day fancy dress winners.
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s Golf Day fancy dress winners.

The teams were treated to a delicious brunch, followed by a round of golf, refreshments at the halfway house including beer kindly donated by Hogs Back Brewery and a sumptuous two course dinner back at the cosy beamed club house.

“Our wonderful teams enjoyed a fantastic sunny day in the beautiful surroundings of the Cranleigh club – we were very lucky with the weather,” said Susie Baxter, Head of Fundraising for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF).

The winners of this year’s competition were Surrey solicitors Barlow Robbins, who picked up the winner’s cup and were presented with David Shepherd wildlife prints.

DSWF's Golf Day 2018 team photo.
DSWF’s Golf Day 2018 team photo.

“A huge thank-you to all of the players who took part and of course to our generous sponsors and donors who so kindly supported the event. The funds raised will support our vital work fighting wildlife crime, protecting endangered species and engaging with local communities,” added Susie.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation works across Africa and Asia helping to protect endangered species and their wild habitats, raising awareness about the importance of protecting local wildlife among communities, as well as fighting wildlife crime, such as poaching, on the frontline.

Wildlife crime is reaching critical levels in many regions – more than 50 African elephants are lost to ivory poachers EVERY day, over a million pangolins have been traded over the last decade and tigers are gradually being hunted to extinction, with only around 3,500 left in the wild.

Plans are already afoot for next year’s event – if you’d like be the first to hear about our Golf Day in 2019 or to find out more about sponsorship and advertising opportunities, please contact DSWF’s Emily Summers at or call 01483 272323.

Thank you to our sponsors – Bramley Motor Cars, Hogs Back Brewery, Planned 2 Perfection and Pro Drive. 


Thank you to all of our wonderful prize donors – Barnett Hill Hotel, Between the Lines, Chobham Golf Club, COOK, Cranleigh Golf and Country Club, Duroc Media, Experience Days, The Grantley Arms Wonersh,  Harbour Hotels, Hoebridge Golf Club, Queenwood Golf Club, Red Hot Yoga, Silent Pool Distillers, Top Golf, Wild at Heart Florists and Woking Golf Club. 


Global Art Hunt for David Shepherd Originals

‘New Network Honouring a Wildlife Art Heritage’

A major new worldwide search has been launched, to track down hundreds of original artworks by world famous wildlife artist David Shepherd – one year after his death.

It’s believed his paintings have ended up all over the world and now owners of originals by the renowned conservationist and painter are invited to join an exclusive new art network called the ‘David Shepherd Originals Circle’.

The art hunt is being coordinated by the charity founded by the artist – the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF). The owners’ Circle will allow lovers of David’s art to honour his incredible art heritage, by sharing memories and recording their original artworks in a new catalogue. An interactive map is also being built, to showcase the global reach of the artist’s work.

David Shepherd Originals Circle

David Shepherd CBE FRSA (1931-2017) was a hugely talented and prolific artist who lived and breathed the ‘art of survival’. He was best known for his stunning paintings of endangered wildlife, such as elephants and tigers. His originals depicting steam trains and vintage aeroplanes are also highly sought after by collectors.

David’s daughter Melanie Shepherd, who is Chair of DSWF’s Trustees, said it was very important for the artist’s family that his unique legacy of wonderful art and vital wildlife conservation continued following his death.

DSWF Chair of Trustees, Melanie Shepherd with father David Shepherd“My father was a remarkable and very charming man, with charisma as huge as his talent. He seemed to make a lasting impression on whomever he met, as he travelled the world painting and spreading his conservation message,” she said.

“We would love to collect stories, anecdotes and tall tales about his adventures, so that memories of his amazing life of art and wildlife can live on.

“We hope that people who treasure my father’s original artworks will come forward and join our new owners’ family Circle, to share their stories and experiences with us. It would also be wonderful to build up a picture of where in the world his hundreds of prized artworks have ended up.”

Plans are afoot to organise special events and art exhibitions for Circle members – to share and celebrate David’s love of art and wildlife. Members will also be offered exclusive opportunities to buy and sell David Shepherd originals.

Christopher Oliver, a property  executive from Surrey, treasures three beautiful wildlife paintings, which he commissioned personally from the artist over 10 years ago.

David Shepherd Originals Owner Christopher Oliver

 “I have one painting which is a Highland scene with a stag and it still takes my breath away every time I see it,” he said. “I feel honoured to own David Shepherd originals and I would love to pass them onto my sons. David was a wonderful artist and we must celebrate that.

“But he was also one of the great conservationists of his generation – he was an icon and there was nobody on this planet who was more passionate about wildlife than him. We need to keep banging the drum, to continue spreading his conservation message.”

David Shepherd started his career as an aviation artist and owed a great deal to the armed services, which commissioned paintings that took him all over the world. The RAF flew him to Kenya in 1960, which proved a turning point in his career when they commissioned his very first wildlife painting – a rhino on a runway – and he never looked back.

It was at this time that he became a conservationist overnight when he came across 255 dead zebra at a poisoned waterhole in Tanzania. Throughout his career David tried to do all he could to repay the enormous debt he felt he owed to the elephants, tigers and other animals that gave him so much success as an artist.

David Shepherd painting - Credit Peter O'Brien

In 1984 he established the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation to channel his own conservation efforts and to fund vital enforcement and community projects that continue to make a real difference to wildlife survival. To date, through his tireless efforts, and thanks to the generosity of the foundation’s dedicated supporters, including artists from around the world, over £9 million has been given away directly in grants to key conservation projects in Africa and Asia.

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s CEO Karen Botha said all at DSWF were passionate about continuing David’s vision – the Art of Survival: to fight wildlife crime, protect endangered species and engage with communities on the ground, inspiring people to care for wildlife and wild places.

“Wildlife crime such as poaching of elephants, rhinos and tigers has reached critical levels and it’s more important now than ever before to act to save these endangered animals,” said Karen.

“It’s a year since we lost David, our inspirational founder, and we are determined to capture the spirit of his amazing energy and talent and use it as a force for good. It would be wonderful to develop a worldwide fellowship of David Shepherd art lovers, to continue raising awareness of his mission to protect the wildlife he loved so much.” 

His daughter Melanie added: “We need to encourage wildlife enthusiasts, artists and art collectors around the world to join us in the fight against wildlife crime – with hundreds of Dad’s beloved jumbos still being slaughtered every week, we have to do everything we can to continue his legacy to fight for their survival for future generations.”

If you own an original David Shepherd painting or sketch and would like to join the ‘David Shepherd Originals Circle’ to share your stories of this remarkable man and catalogue your artwork, you can register here

One Year On…

David Shepherd - One Year On - In Memory

It’s a year since we lost our much-loved and inspirational founder David Shepherd. Today we remember his charisma, his huge talent and his passion for wildlife.

David worked tirelessly to give something back to the animals that helped him achieve such success as an artist. He set up his wildlife foundation over 30 years ago and since then DSWF has invested more than £9m in conservation projects across Africa and Asia.

David Shepherd - One Year On - In Memory

All of us here at DSWF are determined to honour David’s memory by continuing his tireless mission to give endangered species a future on our planet.

The world has lost a giant, but we have gained a unique inheritance of incredible wildlife art and commitment to conservation.

We hope you will join us in remembering this great man and pledging to play your part in helping to fulfil his legacy.

David Shepherd CBE FRSA (1931 – 2017)

“You can never build another tiger, but you can always build another Taj Mahal…”

 David Shepherd - One Year On - In Memory

Painted Wolves: A Wild Dog’s Life

Painted dogs are a much overlooked species, yet they are one of the most persecuted. Few people even know they exist, let alone know of the threats they face as one of our planet’s most highly endangered hunters.

DSWF supports Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) in Zimbabwe, which is working to protect these fascinating creatures and educate local communities about their plight.

Now Peter Blinston, Executive Director of PDC, has joined forces with top wildlife photographer Nicholas Dyer to publish a stunning coffee table book, packed with breath-taking images and wonderful tales about painted dogs – also known as painted wolves or African wild dogs.

Six years in the making, ‘Painted Wolves: A Wild Dog’s Life’ is the most comprehensive book on the species ever produced and all profits will support their conservation.

DSWF is proud to support the publication of this unique book – the world needs to know about painted dogs!

The beautiful video below gives viewers a taste of some of the eye-catching imagery and special moments captured in the book and includes a commentary by Nicholas Dyer himself.

You can find out more, support the conservation campaign and buy a copy of this beautiful book of photographs and stories here.

Let’s spread the word and help protect these intelligent and playful creatures! Discover more about painted dogs and our work to protect them.


Nearly £10,000 in the Race Against Extinction – Thank you!

Black rhino - Namibia - Save Rhinos

Thank you to everyone who helped us raise nearly £10,000 in our Race Against Extinction!

With your generous donations, we helped to fund Rhino 911, a rapid response helicopter unit who provide lifesaving solutions to wounded rhinos in South Africa. In just a few months, the Rhino 911 team completed countless missions, including rescuing two rhino orphans, treating eight rhinos with bullet wounds, numerous investigations of crime scenes where rhinos were poached and the successful arrest of one poacher.

Helicopter crew - First response to injured rhinos - Rhino911 - South Africa - Save Rhinos

Meanwhile our ground-based partners, Save The Rhino Trust in Namibia were able to deploy teams of trackers to patrol the Kunene region, where the last remaining stronghold population of black rhinos face extinction. They responded to poaching incidents by undertaking security operations, including fitting transmitters and satellite collars, as well as taking DNA samples from the rhinos. DSWF was able to provide training support, ranger rations, field gear and logistical support to enable the rhino ranger teams to effectively monitor and protect the rhinos in their natural habitat.

Rhino calf rescued - South Africa - save rhinos

In Assam, India, DSWF has been able to provided equipment and welfare support to wildlife rangers and forest staff as well as fund undercover investigations which uncover poaching syndicates to ensure the protection of rhinos.

None of this would have been possible without your fantastic support.

We would like to say a big DSWF ‘Thank You’ to all who donated in the Race Against Extinction.

Help us continue the fight…

We still have so much work to do to try to save this beautiful species from extinction.

If you feel able to do more, then please let us know if you would like to make a regular monthly gift by visiting or calling 01483 272323.

What you can do


£10 could provide a day’s worth of food for a Rhino Ranger

£50 could fund vital training for new anti-poaching Rhino Rangers

£100 could buy a GPS tracking device for monitoring and protection teams

£500 could provide vital flying time for emergency helicopter units responding to poaching incidents

Make a donation


Adopt a rhino today!

Orphan Elephant Finally Given a Name!

For two months it was touch and go for number 43, the youngest orphan at Zambia’s Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP). But happily the little elephant has finally turned a corner and been given a name – Lufutuko.

The baby elephant arrived at the DSWF funded Game Rangers International (GRI) elephant nursery in Lilayi after an emergency operation to rescue her from a farmer’s field, where she was found wandering alone. Initially known as number 43 – she was the 43rd elephant helped by GRI’s EOP in the last 10 years – she wasn’t officially named until keepers were confident the vulnerable orphan would survive.

Orphan elephant number 43 gets a name.
Image credit: Game Rangers International

GRI EOP’s Lauren Cawley said: “After a challenging start to life, little 43 has started to overcome her trauma and health issues. She survived the toughest of times, successfully battling a blood parasite and learning to live without the protection of her mother and natal herd.

“We believed she deserved a name that reflected her fight, so she was named Lufutuko, which means ‘survivor’ in the local language of Tonga.”

The rescue of Lufutuko involved transporting the little elephant almost 500km, from Livingstone to the safety of the nursery stables in Lusaka – in just 12 hours. The operation included a two-hour flight and an hour-long road trip to the Elephant Nursery.

It’s believed Lufutuko – or Tuko – may have been left behind by her herd, which had been spotted earlier that the week passing through a field by staff at Livingstone Fish Farm.

“She was assumed to have been away from her mother for a very short period of time at point of rescue, but experience tells us that it may well have been longer than first thought,” said Lauren.

“But Tuko continues to improve and is now enjoying her life at Lilayi Elephant Nursery. She runs into the boma at lunchtimes, excited for her milk bottle, and heads to the boma pool for a nice dip in the mud bath with her surrogate siblings.

“Although Tuko’s confidence is increasing by the day, she still turns to the keepers for comfort, even nudging them until they offer her a hand to suckle on!”

Orphan elephant has a new name.
Image Credit: Game Rangers International

Your donations have helped fund the dedicated care for Tuko and her fellow orphan elephants at the nursery. She now has a long road ahead, and with your help, together we can continue to support her on her long journey through rehabilitation towards release back into the wild.

DSWF established the Elephant Orphanage Project in 2008 with the aim of rescuing, rehabilitating and returning to the wild orphaned elephants like Tuko – which are so often the innocent victims of wildlife crime. The project, now run by GRI with support from DSWF, gives rescued elephants the possibility of one day living in a wild herd.

Once weaned, the young elephants are relocated to GRI EOP’s release facility at Kafue National Park, one of the largest parks in Africa, where they begin the re-wilding process, taking long and regular walks into the bush and browsing in the safety of the outer boma. Here that they come into contact with the wild herds that they will one day hopefully rejoin.

Every year more than 20,000 African elephants are slaughtered by poachers for their ivory and the orphans sadly just keep coming.

DSWF’s aim is to provide safety for the young elephants to grow and gain strength but also to ensure that the wild spaces they return to are protected.

Please help us protect vulnerable orphans like Tuko and continue our fight against wildlife crime by donating here.

You can also help support our work by ‘adopting’ an elephant – adoption packs include a beautiful mounted elephant print by Mandy Shepherd or Julie Rhodes, an adoption certificate, a photograph, a factsheet. Adopt your elephant now!

Thank you!