Is crowdfunding the future of conservation?
When Carole Cerny first came to South Africa in 2012 as a volunteer with GVI to work on a lion monitoring project, little did she know that her life would change irrevocably and discover her future life’s’ work after being exposed first hand to South Africa’s ongoing poaching crisis which is ravaging the last remaining crash of Rhino’s in public and private wildlife parks. To achieve this dream of conservation and protection projects, she enrolled in a one year field guiding course with Bushwise in January 2015 and recently graduated with a FGASA 1 qualification.
“The first six months of the course were led by amazing trainers who taught me way more than I had ever expected about the bush and wildlife. Ethical guiding and a respect for the environment were highlighted in both theoretical and practical training, something which was and is very important for me,” explains Carole. “We covered many aspects during the course, such as ecology, astrology, ethology and tracking aptitudes to give us a holistic understanding and a full awareness of our surrounding.”
After completing her training, Bushwise arranged for Carole to do her placement at LEO, to ensure that she gained the practical experience required to live her dream. LEO, a research program that monitors lions and rhino’s is where she learned “much more” about black (hook-lipped) and white (square-lippe) rhino behavior and how to handle herself in the bush should she ever encounter them on foot. Wanting to further her goal of making a meaningful contribution to conservation and protection projects, she contacted Craig Spencer, head warden of Bulule Nature Reserve (part of the Greater Kruger Park) and founder of the Black Mambas, the first nearly all female anti-poaching unit, to work with him and his team.
Over the course of the past six months, Carole soon realized why Craig’s work has been widely recognized and his passion admired. Hitting the ground running, Carole felt an immediate achievement in her day to day role which is as diverse as the role of rhino conservation itself: from reserve maintenance, animal tracking, animal darting and grass surveying. Now that her six month goal has been achieved, she leaves behind a legacy for the Black Mamba’s after starting a crowdfunding initiative to buy camera traps that monitors rhinos in a less intrusive manner and fits into the existing camera traps and game paths already covering much of Balule.
Carole further explains that the use of camera traps allowed the team to deploy the anti-poaching teams around those “hot spots” which have been identified, in part, by the remote cameras which are monitored around the clock by the team at Balule. While the idea of crowdfunding to mobilise charity and education projects around the world isn’t new, this kind of fundraising project is for many South African projects and is similar to the Asian Elephant conservation documentary that found 152 backers and raised US$10, 710 in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society or project to preserve the Azores Bullfinch project which raised US$13,535 with 426 backers for conservation fieldwork in the eastern mountains of the island of Sāo Miguel in the Azores (Portugal).
To date her campaign has raised a respectable US$2,480 of the US$6,420 goal to purchase the estimated additional twenty-five camera traps plus a supply of batteries needed to operate the campaign. The camera traps, whose batteries have about a month use are used for the monitoring of endangered species, sweeping for snares, collecting as much data as possible and educating surrounding communities of Balule and the Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Units.