Charity Profile: WILD
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of conservation work in this day and age; extinction rates are estimated to be a thousand times higher due to human activity. Take Mali’s elephants, for example: In 2016 conservation groups announced that the African country’s elephant population—one of only two remaining desert herds in the world—would be decimated in just three years. The year before, 80 Mali elephants were found slaughtered by poachers, their tusks gruesomely removed. But thanks to WILD Foundation’s efforts, things are finally looking up. Spurred into action nearly 15 years ago to combat the deterioration of the elephants’ expansive desert migration route, WILD sought to make the region safe for both elephants and people. Under WILD’s guidance, eight local groups came together for the first time, determined to protect the herd and its habitat. “We’re basically the last line of defense in West Africa for the two remaining herds of desert elephants,” says Amy Lewis, WILD’s vice president of communications and development. This past February marked a major milestone in Mali: The first year with no poaching incidents.
Despite the seemingly all-encompassing nature of WILD Foundation’s Mali Elephant Project, the organization is currently active in 35 other countries around the world, empowering local people and bringing them together with governments to forge interdisciplinary solutions for a sustainable future. “We need to pull together globally to identify and prioritize nature and wilderness at large,” Lewis says. “WILD has been doing that since 1974 with the World Wilderness Congress and all of our other programs that emphasize collaboration and building bridges across sectors in order to create big solutions.”
Initially forged from the friendship between a South African game ranger named Ian Player and his Zulu mentor and colleague, Magqubu Ntombela, WILD has focused its efforts on bringing people together around our collective relationship with nature. The Colorado-based foundation spearheads conservation programs on the ground, like the Mali Elephant Project, as well as programs that expand opportunities and awareness in society about the importance of wilderness and human dependence on it. “Right now we’re working with the Chinese government and Communist Party to help build wilderness into their eco-civilization policy and to help reinforce some of the positive changes that are already happening around banning illegal ivory,” Lewis says.
WILD’s work depends on the willingness of humans to co-exist harmoniously with nature, something Lewis is optimistic about. And she sees the nonprofit’s involvement as a Negroni Week Charity Partner as a step in the right direction. “We’re utterly excited to have the support of the beverage industry,” she says. “To me that is a key indicator that people are realizing that no matter what we’re doing—at work or play—wilderness is the foundation of all of our activities and all of our well-being.”
Story by Emma Mannheimer // Photo by Carlton Ward