For many years, IPPL has worked to locate overseas organizations doing great work below the radar of large funding sources and invited them to apply for financial support to our Small Grants Program. Many of the groups to which IPPL provided seed money when they were brand-new and struggling have grown into large, successful organizations.
Bridges for colobus monkeys
One of the earliest of IPPL’s grants went to the newly-formed Kenyan conservation group that called itself Wakuluzu/Friends of the Colobus Trust, which was founded in 1997. Alarmed by the number of deaths of colobus monkeys caused by speeding drivers on the road along the Diani Beach resort area, a plan was made to build rope bridges across the highway with the hope that, instead of crossing the highway on foot, monkeys would cross the road by using the bridges.
In 1998, Wakuluzu founder Paula Kahumbu was a star speaker at IPPL’s biennial conference. Paula has gone on to great things and is now campaigning to save elephants and other Kenyan wildlife.
The Colobus Trust has expanded and now goes by the name of Colobus Conservation. The colo-bridge maintenance work continues, and the group now has a hospital and is involved in the care of sick and injured animals and has an education program.
The Last Great Ape
Another group which IPPL helped early on is Ofir Drori’s The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), founded in 2002. Ofir, an Israeli national, decided to he wanted to stop the trafficking of Africa’s wild animals and took off for the continent, eventually settling in Cameroon. When he arrived, no wildlife traffickers had even been prosecuted. I remember getting a call from him one day. He was extremely upset because he had no money and thought he would have to leave for home within days. Could IPPL help? From the start I’d been fascinated by Ofir because IPPL has worked on wildlife trafficking and law enforcement issues since we were founded in 1973.
We decided to send some money to Ofir, but he had no bank account in Cameroon. We had to use Western Union. They said we’d need the name and address of a post office in Yaounde, Cameroon, where Ofir could go to collect his money. We’d also need to choose a password that Ofir would have to provide before he could pick up the money! I chose “hylobates,” the scientific name for “gibbon.” Ofir got his money and did not have to return to Israel.
Since that time, he has gone on to wonderful accomplishments and written a book called “The Last Great Ape” about his early days in Africa. In 2012, Ofir won the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which he received from the hands of IPPL’s great friend Prince Philip. Due to traffic problems he arrived late at Buckingham Palace, so his mother received the award for him!
We nearly lost Ofir in December 2013 when he was attacked and severely injured by a Nile crocodile. Fortunately, he recovered and has continued to do his important work.
LAGA’s program has been replicated in Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, Togo, Guinea, and the Central African Republic. LAGA now receives major financial support from foundations. Ofir spoke at IPPL’s 2012 conference and was interviewed by Lydia Pontius on the IPPL grounds.
Kalaweit for gibbons
Aurelien Brule (Chanee) is a young Frenchman who has been obsessed with gibbons since he was a schoolboy. He travelled to Asia and ended up in Indonesia, where he planned to start a gibbon sanctuary. When IPPL learned about him, we contacted him and invited him to apply for a small grant. We had a shock when we saw his financials. Kalaweit had survived on $37,000 in the previous year. Since that time, IPPL has provided regular help to Kalaweit. Kalaweit now runs a radio station heard all over Borneo. The station carries pop music interspersed with conservation messages. Kalaweit also established a rescue center for siamangs on the island of Sumatra.
Chanee was a speaker at IPPL’s 2004 conference. Louis Ng wrote a comment afterwards, saying,
I most enjoyed Chanee’s talk. He doesn’t have any scientific training prior to opening Kalaweit but he had presented so many ideas, which have worked well. These ideas were never mentioned in my biology textbooks….
IPPL also started funding another newly-formed organization in Indonesia, KSBK, which later changed its name to ProFauna. KSBK was founded in 1994. With IPPL’s support, they started investigating Indonesia’s bird markets, which sold more wildlife than just birds—including primates.
KSBK has also sponsored creative demonstrations such as blocking the road along which a government minister was travelling to demand legal protection for the Javan langur. The plea was well received. Our late member David Rand thought so highly of ProFauna that he left money for us to help more projects.
Rosek Nursahid and Yana Qomariana of ProFauna came to Summerville and spoke to attendees at IPPL’s 2000 conference, and IPPL sponsored the attendance of Yana and Dedi Kurniawan at the 2000 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species held in Gigiri, Kenya.
IPPL is proud of our unique Small Grants Program. These modest but timely financial awards are of great help to the animals and a wonderful investment in primate protection. We are now working hard to select our 2014 end-of-year grant recipients.