Elephants for peace in war-torn Mali

Hi SoA supporters,

I recently returned from Mali, where Spirit of America donated equipment to the wildlife rangers who protect Mali’s endangered desert elephant herd and the communities within the herd’s grazing area. This project is important for two reasons:

  1. It addresses a serious environmental problem by helping save one of two remaining herds of desert elephants in the world.
  2. Just as importantly, it’s helping mitigate critical security issues in the region by strengthening the connection between the Malian government and communities ravaged by conflict.

Learn more about the project here.

A baby desert elephant and its mother rest in the Gourma Region of Mali. Without additional protection, this herd could be extinct within 5 years

A baby desert elephant and its mother rest in the Gourma Region of Mali. Without additional protection, this herd could be extinct within 5 years

A US Army Civil Affairs team identified the rangers, known as Gardes Forestiers, as critical to improving security in the region, protecting both the elephant herd and local communities from poachers and the extremist groups who fund their activities through this illicit activity. However, they lacked the basic gear to help them do their important work. Reacting to this need, SoA donated rucksacks, camelbaks, GPS devices, solar chargers, headlamps, binoculars, and digital cameras.

A representative of the Gardes Forestiers stands with a representative of the Malian Ministry of Environment, the US Deputy Chief of Mission, and me

A representative of the Gardes Forestiers stands with a representative of the Malian Ministry of Environment, the US Deputy Chief of Mission, and me

This project is already paying dividends on the ground, both in terms of improving the rangers’ ability to safeguard the endangered herd and in strengthening their relationships with the local community. As the Chief of the Rangers told me, this equipment, “further operationalized [the] men on the ground.” Multiple Malian media sources reported on the program, and you can read my blog here.

Local media sources reported on Spirit of America’s project in Mali.

Local media sources reported on Spirit of America’s project in Mali.

I am an Army veteran who has served around the world, including Iraq. So for me this was a unique opportunity help those Soldiers who still wear the uniform protect an endangered species and confront an extremist threat. Thanks for your support in this important work!

Best,

Chris VanJohnson
Africa Project Manager

Chris is a US Army veteran having served as an Armor officer with a deployment to Baghdad in 2008-09 and then as a Special Operations Civil Affairs Officer with multiple deployments to Nepal in 2011-12.

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Suite 700
Arlington, VA 22201

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No endorsement of Spirit of America by the US Department of Defense, Department of State, or US personnel is intended or implied.

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