Issue 2 | Summer 2022
YOUR GUIDE FOR FAIR TRAVEL
SADHANA FOREST Introducing people to a sustainable lifestyle
GABRIEL MASSOCATO Raising awareness on the Giant Armadillo
MOHSEN REZAIEATAGHOLIPOUR Talks about the real face of the Persian Gulf
WIETSE & SEA RANGERS On their mission to protect the ocean
Ubuntu Magazine transforms the travel market toward sustainability by sharing fairly. Our aim is to create awareness around the beauty of the world, by putting a spotlight on the conservationists working day and night to conserve our surroundings. Only with thorough research and sharing knowledge, we can assure ourselves of a bright, biodiverse future. With Ubuntu we broaden our perspective in living together with nature, instead of alongside it.
Emerge yourself in the articles and become inspired.
4x4 Electric | A road trip
Introduction Let’s live Ubuntu.
The Green stamp Donate to wildlife for free.
Grabriel Massocato Raising awareness on the Giant Armadillo.
4x4 Electric A road trip from The Netherlands to South Africa by electric car.
Sadhana Forest Introducing people to a sustainable lifestyle.
Mohsen Rezaie-Atagholipour Talks about the real face of the Persian Gulf.
Frank Landman A new moral compass.
Wietse & Sea Rangers On their mission to protect the ocean.
The Green Stamp Carmen tells us more about the projects The Green Stamp supports and how you can donate for free.
Sadhana Forest | Growing Forests
“If you want to protect wildlife, you must know how to protect it first.”
Kayleigh Ranzijn A public ranger at Staatsbosbeheer in the Netherlands.
Internet Of Elephants Groundbreaking tools for consumer engagement with wildlife.
Frank Zanderink Talks about Stichting Rugvin.
Wietse & Sea Rangers
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LET’S LIVE UBUNTU I’m sitting at a round dinner table. Surrounded by Future for Nature Award winners and leaders from the world of conservation. I feel somewhat misplaced at this workshop ‘Leadership for a better world’. What can I - a privileged white woman from a western country - do in this world where real action is needed so urgently? I start thinking about what I can bring to the table today in the name of Ubuntu Magazine. But more so, I start to listen. Next to me is Hana Raza, one of the 2017 award winners. With her roots and her conservation project in Iraq, her life cannot be compared with mine. I start to realize that even though I have traveled a bit, my understanding of for example Iraq and Iraqi civilians is close to nonexistent. But without any blame, the calm and understanding Hana takes me into her world, with stories and anecdotes, to tell about her daily life and the fears she does and doesn’t have. The next day, I listen to a speech by Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission. According to him, we should put just as much emphasis on the biodiversity crisis as we do on the climate crisis. We need to pull all
the strings to make conservation happen. If too many components of any ecosystem go extinct, the future doesn’t look bright for us. It’s at that point, when Frans Timmermans talks about his worries and Hana’s hopeful story echoes through my head, that I realize; we can all take part and take a stand in this biodiversity crisis. Whether it is through building a platform, through donating to a project or through active involvement in conservation. Together we can make this work. In several stories of this second edition, we will zoom in on all the opportunities that you have as an individual in this biodiversity crisis. Gautam Shah will take you into his world of IT and Wietse van der Werf will shine his light on his business; Sea Rangers. Both men had nothing to do with wildlife conservation at first, but now they are heros in the field of conservation. It’s all about inspiration. You can be next! Love, Manon Instagram @ubuntu.magazine.official Website www.ubuntumagazine.com 7
The Green Stamp labelled ecological wildlife projects
DONATE TO WILDLIFE FOR FREE WITH
THE GREEN STAMP
After their trip to South America in 2019, Carmen Castricum and her partner Marijn Jansen came home filled with new insights. Marijn has always had a fascination for wildlife, so during their travels, the couple often visited wildlife projects. One of these projects would inspire them to found The Green Stamp, an online platform that creates awareness around ethical wildlife projects and allows you to donate to charity projects for free. In this interview, Carmen explains how The Green Stamp was born and tells us more about the projects it supports and how you can donate for free.
“We create brand awareness around wildlife projects.” CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE GREEN STAMP AND THE PROJECT IN BOLIVIA THAT INSPIRED YOU TO FOUND IT? The thing we found so inspiring about the project in Bolivia is that a part of the fee we paid to visit it was donated to educate the local population on the effects of deforestation. On top of that, the money was also used to teach the locals which animal-friendly measures they can take to prevent jaguars from attacking their cattle. It often happens that when a jaguar attacks someone’s cattle, the animal gets shot as some sort of compensation. We really loved the idea that we counteracted this by paying that entry fee. With this in mind, we decided to create a platform that supports wildlife projects that donate to charity. All published wildlife projects on The Green Stamp follow three guidelines: they all donate to charity, they all work ethically towards wildlife and they all work as sustainably as possible. With the platform, we create awareness around these projects while showing other travelers which projects are ethical. We also built a free donation program on our website to financially support the published projects. With The Green Stamp, we create brand awareness around wildlife projects and collect donations for them at the same time.
HOW DOES DONATING FOR FREE WITH THE GREEN STAMP WORK? The program that we installed on our website works through affiliate marketing. People can order whatever they need through the links to the web shops that are featured on our website. We will then receive a commission and donate 50% of that commission to the project they selected. It’s good to know that by ordering something through these links, you will pay the same price as you normally would, so that’s how you can donate money for free! Besides these free donations, it’s also possible to donate the traditional way. HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE THAT THE PROJECTS YOU SUPPORT ARE ETHICAL? We research the project thoroughly and interview them about their ethical and ecological standpoints. Besides that, we also make a financial audit to make sure they make the donations they say they do. This is not always easy, though, because in other continents most paperwork is handwritten. In the future, we’ll start working with mystery guests who plan to travel to a certain country, too. They will visit a project as a tourist and check how ethical and ecological it is. This way, we will be able to obtain information anonymously, and it’s better for the planet as well because we won’t have to fly to those places ourselves. YOU HEADED TO AFRICA TO VISIT SOME OF THE PROJECTS YOU SUPPORT RECENTLY. WHICH PROJECTS DID YOU VISIT THERE? Yes, we went to Kenya and Uganda in April to visit two of our partners. We visited Kenlink Tours and Travel in Uganda and Loita Hills Basecamp in Kenya.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT KENLINK TOURS AND TRAVEL? Kenlink Tours and Travel is an agency offering sustainable safaris in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and DRC Congo. They donate 30% of their profit to the local school and offer tour guide training as well. So by booking a tour with Kenlink, you contribute to a better future for the local children by supporting their education and thereby helping them learn about the importance of wildlife. During our trip, we went on a 5-day safari with Kenlink and visited the school they donate to. It was an unforgettable experience and the people there welcomed us with open arms! WHAT ABOUT LOITA HILLS BASECAMP, WHAT MAKES THEM SPECIAL? This project is run by a Dutch woman and a Kenyan (Masaai) man. It’s a glamping area located at the foot of the Loita Hills in the Mara region of Kenya. You can base yourself there while doing activities in the surroundings. The Masaai Mara, for example, is just a 1-hour drive from here, but you can also go on bush walks or visit local villages. Something great that Loita Hills Basecamp did is that they have built a well that operates on solar panels. The tribes who live in the area can use this well on one condition: they have to remove the fences that they built around their territory. The reason for this is that there are so many fences in the area that wildlife can’t pass anymore, or they often end up stuck in these fences. With your stay at Loita Hills Basecamp, they donate 10% of what you pay to the Back to Nature Projects.
By booking a tour with Kenlink, you contribute to a better future for the local children by supporting their education and thereby helping them learn about the importance of wildlife.
YOU VISITED THE MASAAI MARA WHILE YOU WERE STAYING THERE, HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE? It was nice to see the Masaai Mara, but it was somewhat disappointing at the same time. We had a great time at Loita Hills Basecamp because it was such an authentic experience. When we visited the Masaai Mara, we missed the authenticity. It was very crowded and there were many buses in the park. What shocked us is that some of these buses didn’t respect wildlife. They go off-road to get closer to the animals to please tourists, but end up chasing the animals away. Many people have a wonderful experience at the Masaai Mara, but it wasn’t for us. However, we absolutely loved visiting Amboseli National Park! Here, the roads are very well traced, and it’s nearly impossible to go off-road. Thanks to this, the animals can roam around more freely without being chased away WHAT’S YOUR BEST TIP TO TRAVEL MORE SUSTAINABLY? Always check TripAdvisor before visiting a project and look at the bad reviews too. If people have had negative experiences concerning ecological or ethical matters, this is where you’ll find them. It also works in the opposite way; if you visited a project that didn’t meet your expectations, don’t be afraid to leave a bad review too. You can warn other travelers this way.
Instagram @thegreenstampofficial Facebook @thegreenstampofficial Website www.thegreenstamp.com
NOT TO DO’S When visiting wildlife.
BULL FIGHTING Bulls are often weakened on purpose and they never escape alive.
OSTRICH RIDING Ostriches are actually not built to take the weight of a human being. Their bone structure will weaken over time, as they continually put up with this weight.
DIVING WITH WHITE SHARKS Oftentimes these sharks are fed/given fish, so they approach the cage more closely. This is not their natural feeding behaviour.
WALK WITH OR PET LIONS Cubs are deliberately separated from their mother for tourism. First they are used for petting them, then you can walk with them and once they grow older they are often used for canned hunting.
ELEPHANT RIDING The elephant is mainly seen as a money machine. A lot of violence is used to get the elephant under control.
LUWAK COFFEE Luwak coffee is coffee where Luwak feces is used in the coffee. These civets are being held captive on the farms where coffee is harvested.
PICKING UP STARFISH Never touch or remove a starfish from the water, as this could lead to them suffocating.
VISIT A CROCODILE FARM The crocodiles live in overcrowded pits and are very stressed. The conditions are so unsanitary that they regularly suffer from infections.
Gabriel Massocato in the rainforests of Pantanal, Brasil.
MASSOCATO With a total length of 150 centimeters, they are about the size of a child. It makes them the biggest armadillos around and they can be found in Brazil, for example. Gabriel Massocato has spent the past 10 years researching the Giant Armadillo in the dense rainforests of the Pantanal and other Brazilian biomes. Unknown to many, yet extremely important to the survival of the forest and the humans dependent on it.
Armadillos are the size of a child. That makes them the biggest armadillos around. Discover more about Gabriels work and this amazing species, throughout this article.
“If we can save the Giant Armadillo, both humans and nature will thrive along with them.” It is 2010 when the French researcher Arno discovers and publishes the first sighting of a Giant Armadillo in the Pantanal. For Gabriel, who was born in the country and who had been interested in this species for a while now, this was the information that he needed. The Giant Armadillo was the one species that he had never seen before, so he reached out and asked to join his project. Firstly, he joined as a volunteer. A wonderful year full of experiences and wildlife encounters followed. As the project had just started out, he was part of the first team and the first research attempts on this species. Once the research started, it didn’t take long for them to find proper funding. The Houston Zoo wanted to help by funding another full-time employee, alongside Arno. Driven as he was, the funding went to Gabriel. His conservation career with the Giant Armadillo could continue. Ever since, the research has been expanding. From monitoring the species to educating stakeholders, schoolchildren, and visitors. All with the aim of showing people that the Giant Armadillo is an important ambassador for biodiversity conservation. If we can save the Giant Armadillo, both humans and nature will thrive along with them. But to create the awareness that they need, research needs to be done. That’s why Gabriel is constantly monitoring the individuals in the area.
Since they started in 2011, 36 Giant Armadillos have been captured and tagged with transmitters. It has given them an enormous amount of data to work with. Alongside that, areas have been covered with camera traps, to discover more about their behavior and about their habitat. Now they know that their home range is about 25 square kilometers, that they reach adulthood at about 7 or 8 years old, and that they only give birth to one youngster at a time in their burrows. That burrow is exactly where biodiversity engineering comes in as a side effect. The burrows, where the armadillo sleeps, rests, and gives birth, are later on used by many other species. Up until now, camera traps have recorded over 70 different species making use of either the burrows or the freshly thrown sand in front of it. That pile of fresh sand is no surprise, by the way, knowing that the armadillo has claws that can grow up to 20 centimeters in length. This information about the species is the core from which we can protect them. And protection is a necessary thing, knowing that they are constantly threatened by habitat loss through deforestation, wildfire because of the drought, and unethical buying and use of plots of land in the Pantanal. As a result, fragmentation is getting worse and worse. In combination with the fact that the armadillos have a relatively big home range, the future of a Giant Armadillo does not look so bright.
Since 2011, 36 Giant Armadillos have been tagged with transmitters.
Protection of the Giant Armadillo is a necessary thing, knowing that they are constantly threatened by habitat loss through deforestation, wildfire because of the drought, and unethical buying and use of plots of land in the Pantanal.
Luckily, Gabriel and his team are working hard on changing that future perspective. The current biggest threat, fragmentation, will be solved with one of their more recent funding. By becoming the Future for Nature award winner of 2022, their newest project of creating corridors between areas of land can be implemented. Cooperating with farmers, eucalypt plantations and citizens can reestablish connected areas of land, through which the Giant Armadillo can forage and move. If it’s up to Gabriel, we need to start celebrating the Giant Armadillo, so that we can protect them and every other species living in their home range.
With funding, the Giant Armadillo project can reach many goals. They have proven that in their prior years. One of the examples comes from the fact that Giant Armadillos have been destroying beehives from local beekeepers. Through a collaboration between Gabriel’s team and the beekeepers, a solution has been found. Nowadays, beehives are hung higher, so that the armadillos can’t reach the beehives anymore. Therefore, there is no more ‘human-wildlife conflict’, but rather a coexistence between both parties. In return, beekeepers doing this get a ‘Giant Armadillo approved honey’-mark, which can be used for higher revenue. It’s one step into a better future for all of them.
ICAS Using camera traps to gather data on the Giant Armadillo.
“No more ‘humanwildlife conflict’, but rather a coexistence between both parties.”
Even though the Pantanal might not be around the corner for you, there are plenty of options for people to visit, or to help, with the Giant Armadillo Project. The team cannot guarantee you a sighting of a Giant Armadillo - as there are so few of them and they are nocturnal as well - but they are more than happy to show you around the area, teach you about their research and perhaps even take you to one of the camera traps to gather some data.
Besides funding new projects and addressing different problems, Gabriel’s focus now lies in expanding their research and monitoring work. From the Pantanal - their first research location - they have been expanding to multiple biomes, including the Cerrado. Diversifying to multiple locations will increase their data and their knowledge about the species. In the end, this will definitely help with saving them.
“Use your expertise or hobby to raise awareness on the Giant Armadillo.” Even if you stay at home, there are multiple options to help. Wherever you are, it helps to share your knowledge about Giant Armadillos. Introduce the people you know to this wonderful species and I am sure they will be amazed. You can even put your own expertise or hobby to use. Imagine being an artist, creating something beautiful about this armadillo to raise awareness. Or use your journalistic background and ability to put stories to words, to spread the message. The options are endless and therefore, anyone can help with conservation. If you want to know more about Gabriel, his work and the Giant Armadillo, there is so much to be found online. Take a look at the Icas Conservation website or social media channels right here:
Instagram @projetotatucanastra Website www.icasconservation.org.br
ELECTRIC A road trip from The Netherlands to South Africa by electric car
It started out as a crazy thought when Renske Cox and Maarten van Pel from the Netherlands wondered what it would be like if they could charge their electric car with solar panels to be more flexible, travel longer distances, and reach more remote places. Fast-forward a few months and a truck-load of research later, and the couple is now planning their first long-distance trip with an electric car. Their plan is to drive from the Netherlands to South Africa and back while visiting sustainable projects on the way.
“While traveling, we started noticing the impact of global warming on the climate.” We asked Renske a few questions about their lifestyle, their trip, and what it’s like to travel by electric car. WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO LIVE A MORE SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE? We both love nature and travel a lot. However, while traveling, we started noticing the impact of global warming on the climate. When we were in Iceland, for example, people told us how they could see that the glaciers became smaller and smaller each year. Then, when we visited Namibia, we saw that people were struggling because of the drought. There was something like this going on in nearly every country we visited, and that’s when we started asking ourselves if there was something we could do about it. This is how we discovered that there’s actually a lot we can do, and it felt great to start implementing these things in our daily lives. Some of the changes we made were to buy seasonal food, eat less meat, buy zero-waste products and, of course, drive an electric car.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA TO GO ON A ROAD TRIP FROM THE NETHERLANDS TO SOUTH AFRICA WITH AN ELECTRIC CAR? While traveling around Europe in an electric car, we asked ourselves the question: what if we could charge our car with solar panels? This way, we’d be far more flexible, and we wouldn’t be restricted to locations with charging stations. It actually started out as a crazy idea, but the more we started thinking about it, the more we realized that it might actually be possible. We decided to research the possibilities and concluded that our idea was in fact possible! We’re going to start our trip in November 2022, however, before leaving for Africa, we’re going to test our equipment in the Netherlands. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THE ROUTE THAT YOU’RE GOING TO FOLLOW? We’re not planning too much in advance because we think it’s important to keep an eye on the travel advisories of our destinations. At the moment, our idea is to drive from the Netherlands to Spain and to take a boat to Morocco from there. From Morocco, we will drive to South Africa along the west coast, then head back home along the east coast.
WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF YOUR ROAD TRIP? We want to inspire people to live and travel more sustainably by offering responsible (travel) tips and sharing our experiences. On top of that, we want to share stories of other inspiring people and projects we visit along the way. By doing this, we also want to prove that it’s possible to travel long distances with a regular electric family car. We’re also partnering up with an organization and students that will help us measure what it’s like to drive an electric car in different circumstances. They want to provide more research. For example, - we know headwind has a negative impact on the range, but how big is this impact, and what’s the impact of crosswind? CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR CAR? Initially, our idea was to go with an electric jeep but as these are very expensive, we started looking into more affordable cars that fit more people’s budgets. We ended up buying a regular electric car, which we equipped with a rooftop tent. We also removed the back seats and are currently researching how to fit both our luggage and the solar panels in the car. When it comes to these solar panels, we’re going to test out a new technique, which is pretty exciting! The goal is to charge the car directly through the solar panels. We’re planning to bring around 60 m² of thin panels on the trip. This should allow us to drive about 150 km for every 4 hours of charging.
YOUR PLAN IS TO VISIT AND PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS ALONG THE WAY. HOW WILL YOU CHOOSE THESE PROJECTS? True, we want to interview projects to give them more exposure and share their learnings. Our idea is to create vlogs, articles, and maybe even podcasts. I have to admit that it’s quite a challenge to find the right projects. While there are many innovative projects out there, we want to make sure the projects we feature truly are focussed on sustainability. That’s why we have a critical eye and do a lot of research about them in advance. We were able to find some cool projects we can’t wait to visit, though! One of these is Ridecake, an initiative that uses electric motorbikes for antipoaching efforts. As electric bikes are quiet, it gives an extra advantage in the chase. We’ll keep our eyes open for other projects on the road, as we’re not planning too much in advance. FINALLY, WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER 1 SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL TIP? Be creative with the methods of transportation that you choose. It may be tempting to fly but you can also travel by train, which is far more sustainable.
Do you want to follow 4x4electric’s sustainable travel adventures? Check out their channels via the links below.
Website www.4x4electric.com YouTube 4x4electric Instagram @4x4electric
Growing forests and introducing people to a sustainable lifestyle.
Sadhana forest was founded in 2003 when Yorit and Aviram Rozin took the initiative to re-create the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest in India by planting trees. When you visit Sadhana Forest today, it’s hard to imagine that just 20 years ago, it was a piece of arid land. The area has been transformed into a lush green forest full of animals. Over the years, Sadhana Forest grew into a community focused on introducing people to a different way of living – one that is sustainable and in line with nature. The initiative now has projects in India, Haiti, and Kenya, and they’re planning on starting one in Namibia as well. We spoke to Aviram, who told us more about Sadhana Forest and what a day of volunteering in the forest looks like.
“Our goal was to recreate the indigenous Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest that used to be here.” CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT SADHANA FOREST? Sadhana Forest focuses on the sustainability of the bioregion while looking at the larger picture as well. We strive to create more social sustainability and less self-sustainability, and work closely with and for local people. At the same time, we’re trying to be relevant to everyone’s needs. In Haiti, for example, we grow food forests on a piece of land that was dry before. We want to support the local people here so that they have enough food. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA TO START THIS COMMUNITY? We actually didn’t intend to start a community, we just wanted to live on a piece of land and plant trees. So when Auroville (in India) gave us this piece of land to manage, that’s exactly what we did. Our goal was to recreate the indigenous Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest that used to be here. When people saw that we were planting trees, they started coming and saying that they wanted to volunteer. Then more and more people heard about it and wanted to help too, and that’s how Sadhana Forest was born. It all happened very naturally, we just lived our lives and let it flow . HOW DO WATER CONSERVATION AND REFORESTATION WORK? You have to do water conservation first, and then there will be greenery. The idea is to distribute
water evenly on the land, as that’s what brings in vegetation. When you start controlling the runoff of water in this area, forests will grow, even if you don’t plant trees. Water standing on the surface will attract mammals and birds that bring seeds with them. As the surface of the soil will be moist, this moisture will enable these seeds to grow. What we found out that I didn’t know is that birds and other animals prefer areas that have been naturally generated, not the ones that we planted. There’s less wildlife in the areas where we planted trees ourselves compared to where we just did the water conservation. You can almost say the animals came, created the forest for themselves, and now live in their ideal environment. They know how to create the forest better than we will ever know. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SEE RESULTS WITH WATER CONSERVATION? It took about 5 or 6 years to start seeing results. Although it looks like nothing is happening during the first years, there are processes happening that are invisible to the human eye, and then, suddenly, you can see a lot of growth!
Tree planting in Sadhana Forest, India.
We try not to let anything go to waste. Every drop of water counts. Our handwashing stations are designed to use a minimal amount of water.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE IN WHICH COUNTRIES TO START A NEW SADHANA FOREST PROJECT? So far, it all happened unplanned. We started a Sadhana Forest in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010 because a friend of mine sent me a message saying Haiti really needs help. Then in Haiti, I met a woman who worked in Kenya, and she told me that from what she had seen of Sadhana Forest in Haiti, she thought it would fit well in Kenya too. So then we went to Kenya and that’s how Sadhana Forest Kenya was born in 2014. We’re a small organization with little funding, so we can’t really plan expansions, we need to wait for the right opportunities. There are so many communities that need our help. Even if we had hundreds of millions of dollars, we wouldn’t be able to answer the needs of all the communities in the world that live in arid places and are severely malnourished. We have to wait for the funding and the community to come together. When both of these align, we can start a new project.
“We look at the problems in the specific area.” IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SADHANA FOREST PROJECTS IN THE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES? Yes, we look at the problems in the specific area, then decide what to focus on. In Haiti and Kenya, for example, food is a problem, so we grow a lot of food on trees in food forests. In India, food is not that much of a problem, not for us and not for the local community, so here we concentrate on water conservation.
“The people who stay with us for a long time become part of the family.” WHAT DOES A DAY OF VOLUNTEERING LOOK LIKE IN SADHANA FOREST? In Auroville, we wake up around 5:30 am and at 6:00 am, we go to the first seva, which is a Sanskrit term for “service”. The first seva lasts until breakfast, which is around 9:00 am, and it mainly consists of planting and watering trees, taking water conservation measures, and other tasks like that. Then, between breakfast and lunch, there’s a second seva. This one is dedicated to internal
activities like maintaining the kitchen, construction work if something needs to be constructed, etc. The afternoon consists of cooking and cleaning shifts but if someone is not on a shift, then they’re free to explore the area, read, meditate or do whatever they feel like doing. People can volunteer for a minimum of 4 days but we really need long-term volunteers – people who stay with us for a couple of years or even a lifetime. We need their help to spread the message that there’s no need to despair, and that there’s a lot we can do to make the world a better place. You don’t need to know anything. All you need is goodwill and with that, we will teach you how to be very effective in reducing global warming. The people who stay with us for a long time become part of the family and they get a lot of support from us. They get free accommodation, free food, and a small monthly stipend. We really want to support their needs.
IF OUR READERS WOULD LIKE TO VOLUNTEER, WHERE CAN THEY APPLY? You can email us - we have space for everyone! The moment someone contacts us, we send them an email with all the information they need so that they know exactly what to expect. This is important because we have a very specific lifestyle which includes veganism, no drugs, and no alcohol on and outside our campus. WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER ONE TIP TO BE MORE SUSTAINABLE? Be vegan - that’s my number one tip. Vegan food is available all over the world, and being vegan has a huge positive impact on the planet. It’s definitely the most effective thing you can do.
However, there are a lot of things you can do in addition to being vegan. To buy consciously is one example. People often think they can’t do anything about climate change, but one of the biggest tools they have to change the environment is their credit cards. Every single day, people make so many decisions with their credit cards that are critical for the environment. Very few people go to the supermarket thinking: “I am going to buy the most compassionate food. The most compassionate food towards the planet, towards the people who grow it, towards the people who bring it to the supermarket, and towards the people who work in the supermarket.” You can check all of these things and become aware of them.
SADHANA FOREST Do you love Aviram’s tip as much as we do, and would you like to learn more about Sadhana Forest (maybe even volunteer)? Check out their channels below.
Instagram @sadhanaforest Facebook @sadhanaforest Website www.sadhanaforest.org
MARINE WILDLIFE in the Persian Gulf
Marine biologist Mohsen Rezaie-Atagholipour has been fascinated by the ocean and its inhabitants ever since childhood. Before studying marine biology at university, he already devoured book after book on the subject. His passion for the Persian Gulf started soon after he moved to a coastal town at the sea to study marine biology.
THE PERSIAN GULF
When Mohsen finished his studies, he started working for the Environmental Agency of Qeshm Island, which is the largest island in the Persian Gulf. After 15 years working with marine wildlife in the Persian Gulf as a student, teacher, govermental employee, and freelance consultant, in 2018 he decided to found QECI (Qeshm Environmental Conservation Institute), a marine conservancy based on Qeshm Island in Iran. In the media, the Persian Gulf is often portrayed as a conflict area, famous for its huge oil and gas resources. However, in this interview, Mohsen takes us beyond these conflicts and tells us more about the real face of the Persian Gulf.
THE PERSIAN GULF
THE WORK THAT YOU DO FOCUSES ON THE PERSIAN GULF. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THIS REGION? The Persian Gulf is a very young sea and it’s also the warmest one on the planet - the water here gets 36 °C to 38 °C during summer, which is very hot. But it’s also a unique place when it comes to salinity, dissolved oxygen, and acidification. Most parts of the Persian Gulf have a salinity level of 40%, which is 5% higher than the average. A huge seasonal hypoxic area with an area of 50,000 km2 has been recently discovered on the Iranian side of the Persian Gulf starting from the late summer to mid-autumn. Levels of dissolved oxygen in these hypoxic waters are below 2 ml/L.
But scientists were shocked by the pH values recorded in these hypoxic, which were as low as what is predicted for ocean acidification in 2100. Nonetheless, the sea is alive, not as biodiverse as other tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, but the biotope has adapted to living in such an extreme environment. Therefore, like a magic crystal ball, the Persian Gulf can show us the destination of marine biodiversity under the global warming scenario.
“With 36 °C to 38 °C during summer, it’s the warmest sea on the planet.”
Gheshm Island in Iran.
THE PERSIAN GOLF
“The biggest threats are the shark fin trade and the trade of rays.” Do you want to know how marine communities will respond if global warming keeps continuing, come here and see how they have already responded to the climate-changed realm of the Persian Gulf. The sea, therefore, is like a living laboratory to study the effects of global warming on marine wildlife, and I think it is the most spectacular fact about the Persian Gulf. IN 2018, YOU FOUNDED QECI, WHAT DOES THIS INSTITUTE DO? QECI stands for Qeshm Environmental Conservation Institute, and our mission is to protect marine wildlife in the Persian Gulf. We do a lot of research, develop science-based solutions and raise public awareness around the Persian Gulf. While doing this, we also work closely with universities, local communities, and the government. SHARKS AND RAYS ARE ON TOP OF QECI’S PRIORITIES. WHAT’S THE BIGGEST THREAT TO THESE ANIMALS? The biggest threats are the shark fin trade and the trade of rays. A huge number of these animals get caught and exported to other countries. This is a big problem because of their reproductive strategies. These animals only produce low numbers of offspring, so they’re very vulnerable to overexploitation. The northwestern Indian Ocean, including the Persian Gulf, are home to more than 150 species of sharks, rays, and chimaeras, which comprises more than 15% of all known chondrichthyan species.
Moreover, half of these species in the region are classified as threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. On top of that, sharks, rays, and other fish get stuck in fishing nets too. ON THE QECI WEBSITE, YOU WROTE: “THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT OF THIS YOUNG SEA IS NOW PUSHED INTO ITS LAST STRONGHOLD.’’ DO YOU THINK THAT THERE’S STILL ENOUGH TIME TO SAVE THE PERSIAN GULF? We still have enough time, but the problem is that it seems like we don’t have the will. The Persian Gulf is famous for its oil and gas resources, but there’s no will to protect this habitat. There are also a lot of conflicts between the countries surrounding the gulf. Marine wildlife, however, doesn’t care about man-made boundaries, and sharks, for example, often migrate between the Iranian and Arabian waters. So in order to protect the species in this habitat, the countries around the Persian Gulf need to work together. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of willingness here. So although we do have enough time, time is not enough to protect marine wildlife. We have to be willing to work together, too, and the first step is to make people aware of this.
THE PERSIAN GOLF
“If you want to protect wildlife, you must know how to protect it first.” WHAT EFFORTS DO YOU MAKE TO PROTECT THE BIODIVERSITY IN THE PERSIAN GULF? We believe in research – if you want to protect wildlife, you must know how to protect it first. We don’t know a lot about the marine wildlife living in the Persian Gulf, so we do a lot of research on that. The second step is to develop science-based solutions and present them to the government and local communities so that they can be launched. One of the things we are going to do is to modify fishing nets to make them more sustainable. Apart from this, we also try to raise public awareness and educate the younger generations on the subject. HOW DO YOU EDUCATE THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE PERSIAN GULF? This may be surprising, but a big part of the local communities doesn’t need to be educated about the environment. Last year, we talked to more than 700 fishermen about marine wildlife and most of them have a lot of ecological knowledge and are aware of many scientific facts. For
example, when I asked them if they knew why we need to protect sharks, an 80-year-old fisherman responded that sharks are predators and eat smaller fish, these smaller fish also eat other fish and that’s how everything is connected. The older generations have a lot of knowledge, but the problem is that the younger generations have been disconnecting from nature. They have a different way of living which involves smartphones with GPS systems, boats with an engine, and nylon fishing nets. You don’t need much knowledge or experience to use these items, so there are a lot of inexperienced fishers that take advantage of the marine resources without knowing enough about the environment. That’s why the younger generations are the ones that should be educated, and what we teach them is what we’ve learned from their grandfathers. Apart from that, we also want to educate people who live further away from the sea. They should be aware that every shrimp they buy at the supermarket has an impact on marine wildlife.
THE PERSIAN GOLF
WHAT SHOULD WE, AS ECO-TOURISTS, BE AWARE OF IF WE WANT TO VISIT THE PERSIAN GULF? I do encourage people to come and see the beautiful marine wildlife in the Persian Gulf, but this should be done sustainably. We should focus on ecotourism instead of mass tourism or luxury tourism. The Persian Gulf is a fascinating area for nature lovers from all over the world, but people should behave very gently when they come here. For example, paddleboarding and kayaking in the calm environment of the mangrove forests are silent activities that you can do that don’t hurt the environment but give you the chance to enjoy watching the birds and aquatics of these very productive and biodiverse marine ecosystems.. Another example would be responsible scuba diving to visit the life below the waves. I love that famous hiking quote that says “Take only photos, leave only footprints”. It’s exactly the same for the ocean, every activity we do in the ocean should have a minimum impact on the environment. WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER ONE TIP TO TRAVEL MORE SUSTAINABLY? Reduce disposable plastics, these are very dangerous for the ocean. I think plastic is actually the main threat to the ocean, so traveling with a minimum amount of plastic is my top tip. Check out QECI’s website if you want to learn more about Mohsen, the Persian Gulf, and its beautiful wildlife.
LANDMAN A NEW MORAL COMPASS. How do you make decisions? Most of us don’t even think about it. Literally. Our subconscious mind takes over most of the time as soon as you are faced with a problem. When we do think about it consciously, some of us make choices based on feelings and others do it based on their rational thoughts. Likewise, some of us have a narrow approach, where others try and look for all the perspectives possible. Thinking and making decisions is done differently in all parts of the world. It’s how we are raised and how society works. In this piece, I would like to introduce you to certain international ideas on how to approach decision-making. The first example of this is Kate Ransworth. She argues that we need to change our choices in our economy to more conscious ones. She developed The Donut Theory, in which she states that we need to make choices for our economy within our limits of social and ecological development. If we don’t do this and we keep putting economic development first, the consequence will be an ever growing footprint and more poverty worldwide. Another interesting integral theory is ‘Dragon Dreaming’. Dragon Dreaming is a participative, holistic, and highly structured method to realize creative, collaborative, and sustainable projects. It is based upon the principles of personal and group empowerment, win-win, consensus and commitment. It was designed in Australia by Vivienne Elanta and John Croft, with wisdom
from the Aboriginals and other indigenous people as a baseline. They linked this way of thinking and living to Western actions. In this way, a project process was created in which there is as much room for managing and monitoring as there is for visualizing and celebrating. From Kinyarwanda (the language spoken in Rwanda), there is the word ‘Ubumuntu’, which means “to be human.” To genuinely care about others, to be generous and kind, to show empathy, to be sympathetic to the plight of others, and to recognize the humanity of others. An inspiring and hopeful concept for a country that has suffered much pain from the Genocide in 1994. It focuses on the other and not on yourself. Based on the South African concept of Ubuntu (I am because we are), “Lekgotla” is an interesting approach to decision-making. Lekgotla is a public assembly, community council or traditional court of a village in Botswana. It is run by the village chief or village leader. Decisions of the community are always made by consensus . No one is allowed to interrupt another while expressing their opinion. This is applied to all kinds of different issues. But, as far as I’m concerned, we even need to take a step further than the concepts above. We should not only look at the balance between different subjects or people’s input and emotions, but we should become aware of our own perspective when we make a decision.
“We should become aware of our own perspective when we make a decision.”
Nowadays we are told decisions should be taken primarily rationally. We are even working on getting computers to make decisions for us. But if we look at the world and the problems that exist in the social and ecological field, we need a new assessment framework: a new moral compass that guides us to good decision-making.That new moral compass requires more than just cognitive and artificial intelligence with a piece of preprogrammed morality. To many of us it is unknown that we actually possess six different ways of intelligence. That makes sense, because nowadays we only use some of them. In the time of the first humans we mainly needed ecological intelligence, because we needed food from nature to survive, we needed to understand nature and be one with nature. We also needed physical intelligence to stay strong to hunt and catch bushmeat. You had to understand your body because doctors did not exist yet. We noticed that we needed social skills to live with others as well, so we developed emotional intelligence. When we started asking ourselves more questions about how the world worked and we had trouble answering them, we started looking for spiritual intelligence, a handhold from the unknown. Slowly but surely we started to understand things because we started to understand the world more and technology developed that helped us do that. In this way we developed our cognitive intelligence. In the meantime we have drifted away from our ecological, physical, emotional and spiritual intelligences and we do not see the value of these intelligences enough to take them into account in our process of decision-making. We are relying on our cognitive intelligence, with the result that we are now striving for prosperity instead of wellbeing. So, I think we need a new moral compass that will help us strike a better balance in the use of our different intelligences.
Yet there are plenty of wonderful examples we can learn from when it comes to applying multiple intelligences. I once visited an indigenous Indian tribe in the Amazon forest of Peru. After a major flood due to climate change, most of the bushmeat had been killed. The indigenous people deliberately waited several years before hunting until the ‘level’ bushmeat was back to normal. They understand that they must strive for sustainable consumption and also respect nature. Another example is a trip I took in Vietnam and on one of the islands there I met a man who worked in the hotel where I was staying. Despite the fact that he worked 7 days a week in the hotel and evenings in a restaurant and only had 5 days off a year, he wanted to show me around the island on his scooter for a day, sacrificing one of his scarce free days. He wanted nothing for it and stated that from his Buddhist attitude, if he makes someone else happy, he himself becomes happy. A consideration that was not made purely on cognitive grounds. Once in South Africa I paid a visit to a white woman who told me about the black population and how criminal they are and that she had been robbed. When I left I was shocked and thought I had spoken to a racist. In South Africa there is a lot of criminal behavior among the black population. Later I realized that she is not a racist, but just very scared. In addition, you should not label the black population as criminals, but understand that they are also afraid whether they can gather enough food every day. So the problem is not racism or criminal behavior but the underlying problem of inequality in South Africa. If you had only addressed this cognitively and left out the emotional side you would be making wrong choices in finding the solution. This is not to say that it is easy to make decisions from multiple intelligences, but it is necessary. A good example is the idea of building a new highway from Lake Victoria to Mombasa in Kenya. This would allow the fish caught in the lake to be transported much faster to the port city and make much more money for the poor people in Kenya. However, the herds of
wildebeest, as well as zebra and gazelle, migrate through the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya and back again. On the route are a number of obstacles such as the famous Mara River in Kenya. A major highway would cause this migration to be disrupted, which would mean an immense decrease in the number of wildebeests, resulting in a decrease in lions and other wildlife that use the wildebeests and gazelles as food. People in Europe, in particular, thought this was a bad idea because of the tourism surrounding this wildebeest migration. The President of Kenya stated: you Western rich people are worried about a nice wildlife picture, while in Kenya people are starving to death. The key point is that you have to weigh multiple sentiments carefully. But how do you get a better balance in applying your intelligence? The sustainable development goals can guide us through that process. Linking the SDG’s to various intelligences, gives us insights into the contribution of the SDGs and the parent Ps (people, planet, profit, prosperity, peace). However, if we really want to see results, we need more than a technocratic approach. Sustainable solutions for whichever problem we face, come from the combination of intelligences. The results? A new balance in economic, social and ecological preservations and a better development of humanity and the world. What I hope is that you can start to rediscover all of your intelligences. Listen to your gut feeling more often and sharpen your eyes and ears to find more ways to approach any obstacle or problem you face.
FRANK LANDMAN Owner Everlast Consultancy
VANDER WERF AND THE SEA RANGERS How would you describe a conservationist? Would it be someone with a biology or a master’s degree? Or do you see a conservationist as someone who works in a natural environment for days and nights in a row? As a Dutch Engineer, Wietse van der Werf had none of those characteristics, yet he is truly a conservationist. The same goes for Cultural Anthropologist Sophie Hankinson and Graphic Designer Dan Benham. As the founder of Sea Rangers, Wietse works together with his team - amongst them Sophie and Dan - to save the ocean. It’s a complex collaboration between numerous parties, but the Sea Rangers make it work!
“Sometimes all you need is a new perspective to get started.” For Wietse, his background has everything to do with where he stands today. As an engineer in the maritime sector, his knowledge of boat life and marine research was growing day by day. The real mind shift from being an engineer, to working in conservation, came during another job, where he was an undercover investigator on boats. Standing shoulder to shoulder with coastguards and fisheries inspectors, it soon dawned on him that there were so many rules on paper about how the ocean should be protected.
However, there were not enough people to tackle the people trespassing those rules. Besides that, he realized that the highest rates of unemployment were seen in the coastal regions and harbor areas, right where they needed the people to protect their backyards - the ocean. The high rates of unemployment could be explained, due to the lack of shipbuilding in recent years. However, he was sure this could be turned around with a new approach in the sector. One day, he read about the great depression. Roosevelt mobilized 3 million men, under the coordination of the army, to establish national parks, tackle wildfire, and more. It was an example that immediately spoke to Wietse.
In times of despair, Roosevelt realized a situation in which nature was restored and people were given jobs and hope for a better future. Could he find the answers to our future in our history? As an engineer, Wietse was used to the fact that he had a different perspective on conservation than the people in the field did. Because of this, he had a broader view, which enabled him to connect the dots. The interdisciplinarity between all that he knew allowed him to think about the solution to the problems he registered.
With his everlasting love for nature and his diverse experience in the maritime sector, he started to write down his ideas. Rangers on a boat could be the eyes and the ears needed to tackle problems at sea. At the same time, he could mobilize people from coastal regions and provide them with new, impactful jobs. This is how Sea Rangers was born.
PART OF THE SEA RANGERS TEAM Wietse, the founder of Sea Rangers. Left: Cultural Anthropologist Sophie Hankinson Right: Graphic Designer Dan Benham.
Even before the first launch of Sea Rangers took place, Wietse won the Future for Nature Award. That was back in 2016. The award - which consisted of money - wasn’t enough, so he went to several investors. He knew that he received a good amount of money to start with, but it wasn’t enough to realize his plans. However, the founder of North Face stepped in and doubled his award money. That’s how Wietse could eventually get started. With a roaring start and many successful years, Sea Rangers has proven to be useful, efficient, and cost-effective with their work. To learn how the company runs nowadays, I talk to Sophie Hankinson. As a Cultural Anthropologist with a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development, her background is not directly linked to marine conservation. Nevertheless, Sophie acquired a spot on the team through the bootcamp. Each year, everyone under the age of 30 is invited to sign up for the bootcamp. First, a cognitive test has to be done online. If you get through, a selection day with physical tests will be done. Still in the running? Then an 8-day mental and physical bootcamp under the surveillance of veterans will show your true character. Here, the questions ‘How do you hold up when things get tough?’ and ‘How do you respond when you have to work together in a team?’ will be answered. After that, only a small selection of participants is left from the group. They are invited to join the boat and to experience the real life of a sea ranger. For Sophie, this meant experiencing sea sickness firsthand. “Do I still want to do this?” Sophie kept asking herself. “They haven’t hired me yet and the others are also very good candidates, so I would understand it if getting seasick would be a reason not to hire me.” Even though these thoughts went through her head, she continued
the trajectory. Thanks to the promising words of the captain: “You’ll get used to it”, she decided not to quit. For Wietse and his crew, it took a little while to decide who would get the job offer, but Sophie was thrilled when they chose her. As a result, Sophie now works in one of the teams. The captain, two senior rangers, and four first years are on the boat together for two entire weeks. They work hard, but according to Sophie, the physical aspect is not as bad as it was during the bootcamp. Most of all, it’s very interesting and a lot of fun. The projects at sea vary each and every time. Mostly, they are the ‘eyes and ears out at sea’. Both Wietse and Sophie use this phrase when they explain what they do. In collaboration with other organizations from the Netherlands, they keep an eye out for what happens. For example, they monitor shipwrecks in the North Sea. Even though they can’t and don’t dive in the water themselves, they check if divers behave how they should behave and if they don’t take anything from the shipwrecks. Another one of their projects is based more on biodiversity and nature conservation. In collaboration with Project Seagrass from the UK, they will restore seagrass meadows in the North Sea. In the past years, Project Seagrass has been studying their seagrasses and they have been breeding them in their nurseries. Sea Rangers has the workforce to implement whatever they want at sea, so the connection was made easily. But before being able to do that, numerous things have to happen.
First of all, they start with mapping the seafloor, to see where the meadows can be effective. Secondly, they need to know where they can create nurseries from which they can harvest the seeds. Then, they decide where to start planting for active restoration. As soon as those steps have been taken, measurements and gathering carbon intake data can be started. It’s good to know that increasing carbon intake by planting more and more - can be damaging to the environment. It is therefore not a good idea to simply start creating meadows. A lot of factors are included in that process. One of the other reasons to create meadows is to tackle coastal erosion. If you take that into account, it is logical that we are also looking for different types of restoration in the future, such as coral restoration and oyster bed restoration. Every type will address a new problem or goal at sea, which accumulates into a better-conserved ocean area. Once again, Wietse starts talking about Sea Rangers as an organization. The best definition of them is probably a conservation organization, but with a social approach. Their way of activating coastal residents into young employees and conservationists creates a healthy atmosphere where growth is always on top of mind. And, you don’t need to be a conservationist to work in conservation. It’s rather a mix of traits and qualities that you can use anywhere and everywhere, such as project management, working well in a team, and communication professionally, that’s what conservation organizations are looking for nowadays.
If anyone knows that to be true, it must be Dan Benham. As a relatively new employee, Dan still has some vivid memories of his first acquaintance with Wietse. He spent a full day in the Netherlands, visiting several locations to get to know the business. As a graphic designer, Dan did not have explicit experience with wildlife or nature conservation. However, he did have a very clear image of what he wanted to achieve with his work. In his years as a graphic designer, working for NGOs had increasingly gained his attention. Making a positive impact on businesses that worked for a better world, made his creativity spin. This felt like everything he should be doing. Both Wietse and Dan enthusiastically agreed on collaborating. And I guess that defines the story of Wietse, Sophie, and Dan. All three of them play such a significant role in the Sea Ranger organization. They have their own background - none of them in biology or marine conservation - which is of great importance to what they do in their jobs nowadays. Just like them, you can start your career in conservation at any point, too. Just shift your perspective and take a leap! If you don’t take action, nothing will happen. Wietse is a supporter of an active and assertive approach. Plus, he is always looking for good assets for the Sea Rangers. If you feel this is your calling as well, you can send him a message.
Website www.nl.searangers.org Instagram @searangersorg
The team of Sea Rangers.
K AYLEIGH RANZIJN Staatsbosbeheer
As a public ranger in the Netherlands, the 27 year old Kayleigh Ranzijn works in nature all the time. Even though the Netherlands might not be known for its abundant wildlife and lush scenery, there are numerous species to discover. In this article we ask her about her work experiences and the Dutch ‘Big 5’.
WHY DID YOU START WORKING AT ‘STAATSBOSBEHEER’ AND WHAT DO YOU LIKE SO MUCH ABOUT IT? CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT STAATSBOSBEHEER DOES? Let’s start with what we do at Staatsbosbeheer. We maintain and protect 273.000 hectares of nature in the Netherlands. This flora and fauna is used for educational purposes as well as recreational purposes. The reason why we do this is to protect the nature that we have left. We need
to make people aware of how unique, beautiful and necessary our surroundings are. My own reason to work with Staatsbosbeheer as a public ranger is my love for nature. I want to create an awareness and feeling of responsibility within the people I work with. I like to bring across my enthusiasm, so that they feel more connected to nature as well. In the end, I hope this connection makes them advocates for nature.
The Wild Boar in their natural habitat.
Fun fact: Deer can run up to 48 km per hour to escape.
“We want to watch them from a safe distance, so that they feel at home in the place we call their habitat.” WHICH ANIMALS BELONG TO THE DUTCH BIG 5? The Dutch Big 5 consists of a roe deer, a red deer, the wild boar, the common seal and the beaver. WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES THESE ANIMALS SO SPECIAL? Staatsbosbeheer, the organization that I work for - set out a quest for the top 5 relatively big and most impressive animals of the Netherlands. That was in 2011, when we named them after the wellknown African ‘Big 5’. As we set it out as a quest, we got the best and most representative Big 5 that we could have, chosen by Dutch citizens. WHAT CAN WE DO TO SEE THE BIG 5 AND HOW SHOULD WE BEHAVE? Well, first of all it is important to not get too close to the animals. We want to watch them from a safe distance, so that they feel at home in the place we call their habitat. We don’t want to disturb any animals in the wild, nor do we want to destroy the area in which they roam free. Talking about that, you can even protect their habitats by learning about them. Book an excursion, ask a ranger for advice, inform a specialist or ta.
WE HAVE SEEN FOR EXAMPLE WOLVES COMING BACK TO THE NETHERLANDS. WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS FOR THE COMING YEARS? DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE MORE ANIMALS COMING BACK TO OUR COUNTRY? Dutch nature is becoming more robust by the day which is a good sign. However, our nature might need a hand sometime to thrive. The animals that come back to our nature - like wolves - encounter many roadblocks during their travels here. As you might know, the wolf has become more and more common in the Netherlands. Even though we acknowledge this, we haven’t added it to our list of the Big 5 yet. We don’t encourage people to start looking for this predator in the wild. To bring back otters to our natural systems, we even transported them from other European countries, so that they don’t encounter these roadblocks and difficult passages. CAN THESE ANIMALS LIVE IN A COUNTRY WITH SO MANY BUILDINGS AND INFRASTRUCTURE? Yes, they can. Often we enclose areas especially for these animals, so that roadkill etc. are less of a threat. But as you can imagine, sometimes they spread in a natural way which brings them to the edges of their habitat. So it is possible, but we do like to keep it in check so that humans and wildlife both have their safe spaces.
The Beaver. With powerful jaws and strong teeth, they fell trees in order to build homes and dams.
WHERE WOULD YOU ADVISE US TO GO TO WATCH THE BIG 5? To spot red deer, I would say the Veluwe and the Oostvaardersplassen (in Flevoland) are your best shot. In comparison to the red deer, roe deer are quite small, so you have to keep a close watch to see one. Though, if you know how to spot them, there are plenty of areas and forests where you will see them. Spotting the wild boar is a little harder, because their populations are kept small in the Netherlands due to their potentiality to destroy things. Therefore, we have special areas designated for them, like National Park de Meinweg in the province Limburg and the Veluwe. The beaver can’t be seen very easily. This water loving creature does leave traces that are easy to find. You can see beaver lodges in the water. The best place to spot either these traces or the beaver himself, is The Biesbosch. They even organize true beaver safaris here. Last but not least, the seal. In the Netherlands there are two species: the harbour seal and the grey seal. Seal centre Pieterburen is a great location to learn more about these species and it is a great location to start your search for seals. Ecomare on the island Texel is also a great location to spot them. Thirdly, Grevelingen, which lies between the provinces Zuid-Holland and Zeeland, offers a wonderful area to spot seals. Staatsbosbeheer organizes excursions and safaris to introduce people to the Big Five of the Netherlands. If you are interested or if you plan on visiting the Netherlands soon, take a look at the website. IF WE GO OUT, LOOKING FOR THE BIG 5, WHAT SHOULD WE KEEP IN MIND? You can start with the natural areas and national parks mentioned above. Keep a distance, stay on the designated pathways or waterways, don’t go into natural parks after sunset and don’t forget your binoculars. One of the best shots for multiple animals from the Big 5 is the Veluwe. During dawn
you might see roe deer, red deer and wild boars. OUR AIM IS TO INSPIRE OUR READERS TO BE CONSCIOUS ABOUT NATURE AND TO RESPECT OUR SURROUNDINGS. WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON HOW WE SHOULD BEHAVE WITH WILD ANIMALS? Stay calm, that is the first and foremost thing to do. Stay at the right distance, so that they can do their thing freely. You don’t have to play hide and seek with them, but it definitely helps to use a wildlife screen, behind which you sit and watch. WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER 1 SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL TIP? In Europe we have the Interrail pass, which takes you everywhere by train. For just 200 euros you can spend a month in Europe, while leaving only a small footprint (compared to other ways of traveling). Besides that, I follow some people on Instagram who inspire me to live sustainably. Examples are @aniekmoonen and @irisgoesgreen, but for your foreign readers it might be difficult as these people speak Dutch. I’m sure there are many more inspirational and international accounts that you can follow as well. If there are any Dutch followers though, I highly advise the traineeship from IVN Nature education. Together with this community of like minded people, you take a different perspective on nature conservation and other quests within sustainability. I CAN IMAGINE PEOPLE WANT TO STAY IN NATURE, AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE TO WILDLIFE. DO YOU HAVE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PEOPLE TO STAY IN NATURE IN THE NETHERLANDS? Staatsbosbeheer and other nature organizations like Natuurmonumenten have nature camping sites, where visitors can experience nature from close-up. You can click on this link for more information.
INTERNET OF ELEPHANTS Gautam Shah “It’s a privilege to watch and encounter many different animal species around the world. Just imagine you are getting pushed over by mountain gorillas, having a chimpanzee shaking your knee, or sitting with a bear and her cub while they feed, in Kamchatka, Russia.” For the IT expert Gautam Shah, these types of encounters were his way of exploring the world. All the money he earned and the holidays he saved, were directly changed for trips across the world. At one point, though, his mindset shifted. He realized that seeing wildlife and having such inspiring encounters should not just be for the wealthy or the privileged. Everyone should be able to experience things alike. And so he decided to transfer his skills in IT to a totally different field of expertise: nature conservation.
“Even though these fields were completely new to me, I felt like I had a role to play.” GAUTAM, CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE SWITCH THAT YOU MADE? WHAT GOT YOU TO THE POINT OF CHANGING CAREERS? There are a number of things that made me realize that I wanted to change something. One of the things that I was doubting about was my current job. Day after day I was working on micro challenges. They were quite difficult, which kept me occupied and happy. However, the macro challenges that were attached - basically the greater goals that I was working on for the business - were not of any interest to me. I wanted to change that, so that everything I would be doing would have a positive impact on the world.
were completely new to me, I felt like I had a role to play. It dawned on me at that point that I didn’t have to pursue a career in biology or zoology to actually get a job in that field. THAT SOUNDS INSPIRING, BUT I CAN IMAGINE IT’S STILL A GREAT LEAP INTO THE UNKNOWN. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED? To get started, I attended the THNK School, the Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership. It’s like a design school for business people, and a business school for design people. You don’t exactly have to be an entrepreneur to apply, but you will be working on a new business model or plan of your choice.
Secondly, I had already been traveling to many places. Due to that, I knew a lot about nature and wildlife, but I had no clue about nature conservation. I was eager to learn more about it. That was also the point at which I thought to myself; do I want to become a complete beginner in a new career, or am I going to put into practice my own knowledge in this new field?
During my attendance, we had to visit the school four times in six months, for a week at a time. During these weeks, you set up a business plan, while continuously reframing your ideas. That’s how I got the idea of the Internet of Elephants. During the week it solidified and I knew I had to get it done.
Thirdly, I had been working up to making more impact in my own job already. So that played a significant role in making the career switch. In my previous job, I already asked for the non-profit practices, which sent me to Kenya. I was doing IT work there in the field of education, health, youth economics and more. Even though these fields
As you have a group of people around you, all with different backgrounds, everything comes together in the THNK School. One of the women from my group was a game designer, so she was very involved in the first stages of Internet of Elephants as well. From that point on, we further developed and built the business.
CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING MORE ABOUT THE BUSINESS, WHAT IT ENTAILS, AND WHICH PROJECTS YOU RUN? We exist for the purpose of creating stronger bonds between humans and wildlife. We do it through digitally oriented applications. Not just games, but also different forms of implementation, like the metaverse. Besides that, we have a second common thread. In everything we do, scientific data is used. The reason why we only use scientific data is simple. We found out that a lot of scientific data is gathered, such as GPS tracking and photo identification, but barely anyone ever sees it. The only purpose for all that data is the scientific research that it belongs to. By using this data where individuals are often tracked, we can create a story. That gives us the opportunity to say “Hey, here is Fio the Orangutan”, instead of “Hey, here is an Orangutan.” Making a connection with identified individuals is always easier than it is with a group of animals or an unidentified individual. Besides doing everything digitally and with scientific data, we also have the goal to partner up with already operating organizations. This creates easy opportunities to show our work to the public eye and it increases our reach instantly. WHICH GAME OR APPLICATION IS YOUR OWN FAVORITE? I’m probably most proud of ‘wildeverse’. It’s an augmented reality game with content from Borneo and Congo. It puts you in the position of a researcher, but you can experience it from your own house. You will be looking for feces, tracks and real-life animals. At the moment of telling you this, I wish we could make it better and expand it.
But, I do think it was technically advanced at the time of launching. WITH THE INTERNET OF ELEPHANTS, YOU BECAME A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC FELLOW AND GRANTEE. HOW HAS THAT AFFECTED YOUR JOURNEY OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP? Let me first tell you that I applied for the grant without asking for any financing. I was just very eager to join their network of grantees and other fellows. After I did become a Grantee and received the money, the network was the first thing I thought of. For example: if I now want to meet a penguin researcher, someone is either in my network, or there is a connection with someone from my network. Besides that, becoming a fellow and grantee has given Internet of Elephants instant credibility. It helps when you talk to conservation organizations or investors. If National Geographic has trust in what you do, it gives off a signal that they can too. I wouldn’t say it opens doors, but it sure helps when doors are already open. Thirdly, it helps us to grow our business. As I said before, we will never become as big as National Geographic themselves, they do incredible work. But, as we are now part of them, opportunities arise to collaborate, both with them and with partnering organizations.
“We create groundbreaking tools for consumer engagement with wildlife.”
BUKA, A LOWLAND GORILLA, AND ONE OF THE SUBJECTS OF THE GAME WILDEVERSE.
GAUTAM AND HIS COLLEAGUE RAFF RESEARCHING FOR WILDEVERSE IN NOUABALÉ NDOKI NATIONAL PARK IN THE REPUBLIC OF CONGO.
AS YOU MENTIONED BEFORE, YOUR GOAL HAS SHIFTED FROM CREATING GAMES TO WORKING WITH ONLINE APPLICATIONS. WE ALSO SHORTLY MENTIONED THE METAVERSE. CAN YOU TELL OUR READERS A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THIS NEW WORLD AND HOW YOU THINK IT WILL BENEFIT OUR CONNECTION TO WILDLIFE AND THE NATURAL WORLD? Well, this connects perfectly to your previous question, about collaborating instead of constantly creating new things ourselves. The metaverse is and will be the online location where we will meet, work and spend most of our time if we are to believe all the projections of the future. However, nature is not at all (truly) represented in this online world. So, we have started to think about this and we realized that nature should be represented in a real way as well, instead of in a dystopian way. So that’s our reasoning behind working in the metaverse. If we can portray real nature in the metaverse, just like we see it outside, we can once again strengthen our relationship to our surroundings. If you want to know more about the Metaverse, you can read one of our recent articles here: www.ssir.org/articles WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE EVERYONE TO KNOW? I think it’s important to say that I don’t want to tell you how your relationship with nature should be, or how your perspective about nature should be. I don’t think that is our role at Internet of Elephants, nor is it my personal role. I do think we can create opportunities for you to find out yourself what your relationship to nature is. For me, it changed my life to spend time with an Orangutan, and I would love for you to experience moments like these yourself. So if I could arrange that, I would. Creating the games is the second-best option for now. So go explore yourself and just experience!
Instagram @ioelephants Website www.internetofelephants.com
FRANK ZANDERINK AND STICHTING RUGVIN
In the summer of 2002, the seeds of Stichting Rugvin were sown. During one of his trips to the Scottish Moray Firth, Frank Zanderink gets inspired to work with whales and dolphins in the Netherlands. Would research in Dutch waters be feasible? To find out, he visits professor Ruben Huele and students Nynke Osinga and Bas Beekmans from Leiden University. His thoughts are correct and soon after, a monitoring program of cetaceans at ferries in the North Sea becomes their first focus. In collaboration with Stena Line - who transport people between Hook of Holland and Harwich - they start their research under the name of Stichting Rugvin. Just a couple of years later, they evolved into an official foundation. Frank Zanderink, founder of the foundation, shares one of his stories with us.
After the North Sea, our research expanded. Firstly, we heard of harbor porpoises in the Eastern Scheldt. We decided to go out by boat, where we did indeed hear and see harbor porpoises. It took some attempts, but we ended up counting up to 37 individuals. As they were living in a semiclosed-off estuary, multiple questions arose. Why would they stay here? Do they have enough food to forage for? And do they have preferred places in this area? A series of studies was the result, with the development of Studio Porpoise as the icing on the cake. People at shore can now hear the porpoises in real-time. This is a great example of The Rugvin Foundations’ mission. We are a transparent, constructively cooperative yet critical organisation that conducts research on whales’ distribution, numbers and habitat. The protection of the species and their habitat is central to this. Through several channels, we communicate about our knowledge. We believe that gained knowledge is only relevant if it is shared with society, so that it can lead to greater awareness and behavioural change in people with regard to treating nature with respect.
TRAVELING THROUGH AFRICA
The great interest and passion for whales regularly takes the volunteers of Rugvin across borders. In 2019, a journey to South Africa took place to build a collaborative network of whale researchers and whale safari companies. Our aim? To create an immersive and intensive excursion that teaches the people joining everything about the importance of whales in the ocean. ‘Have a whale of a time!’ At Miller’s Point on the Cape Peninsula in SouthAfrica, the wind howls between our tents, the canvas flaps permanently and the rain beats in strong gusts. I hear my name being called out in the storm: “Frank, Frank! Is everything alright?”
“Yes,” I answer, “all is well”. I imagined my first night here to be slightly different. But still, we are lucky to be high and dry in our 4x4 roof tent. The next morning it cleared up, and the wind found its peace. “Coffee”, I say to myself. I climb down the ladder, look over the bay with a satisfied smile, and start thinking about what we need for breakfast. A moment later, I hear the zipper of Tamara’s tent open, followed by a cry of excitement! A blow, a whale! And yes, right in front of us in False Bay, we see several blows from various humpback whales. They may be miles away, but this is what we came for. We are at the beginning of our exploration, which we will undertake along roughly the entire South African coast. We want to visit as many whale safari companies and research institutes as possible to get a good idea of what there is to do here in the field of whales. The ten organizations we will visit are well spread out along the coast, starting in Cape Town, then going through Hermanus, Knysna and Port Elizabeth to St Lucia in the northeast. Besides visiting whale safari companies and whale researchers, we also want to go out on the water as much as possible to see whales and dolphins. We are in the right season; the humpback whales and southern right whales have already arrived here to mate and calve, after they fed themselves in the Antarctic. Our first real stop is in Hermanus, the whale capital of South Africa. And rightly so, it turns out later. The first day here, we can’t get on the water yet; the ocean is too rough. No worries! There is always a lot of beauty to discover on land, as well, in South Africa. At Miller’s Point we enjoy the African penguins, antelopes, and zebras. And in the Fijnbos area of the Waterfall nature reserve there are plenty of sugar birds and sun birds (honey suckers).
“A newborn Southern right whale easily weights about 1.000 kg.” The first full day on the water with Southern ight Charters, we immediately see three species of whales. Fantastic. The first species, the Bryde’s whale, even appears so close to the boat that our zoom lens is almost too big. And to our great pleasure, we immediately see calves near the humpback whales. These are still relatively small, and the smallest calf can only be a few days old. Skipper Ashley says he has never seen such a young animal. (Besides being relatively small, the calves also look a lot lighter than their mothers). The southern right whales don’t have (small) calves yet. However, small? A newborn Southern right whale easily weighs about 1,000 kg, which does provide unique pictures. The animals regularly appear two by two off the sloping coast of the hinterland. Ashley and Dave of Southern Right Charters tip us to try our luck at “Koppie Alleen” area in De Hoop Nature reserve. And so there we go. Via a beautiful road, along which we see Cape vultures, baboons, cranes, ibises and geese, we arrive in a beautiful dune area. De Hoop already offers enough animal and plant species to spend weeks and discover everything, but we only want one thing. We want to see the southern right whales. Hundreds of them can gather just off the coast in this area. We wonder why we have never heard of this before. Between several elands (antelopes) and mountain zebras, we arrive at the last row of dunes on the Indian Ocean and park the car. Not a single other person can be seen. Are we at the right spot?
Yes, of course, just look at the signs! ‘Have a whale of a time’ and ‘Koppie Alleen’! Once we arrive at the viewpoint, we are not disappointed. We see whales blowing everywhere, along with fins and tails coming out of the water.. What a place! “There must be at least 15 here by now!”, I shout. Koppie Alleen is one of the prime locations for Southern right whales along the South African coast. The animals stay in the shallow water so close to the coast, because here, the calves are less at risk from sharks. It is a pity, but also understandable that you cannot go on the water here. That is why we continue our journey and follow Dave’s second advice, to cross the Breede river with the ferry at Malgas. We arrive in Knysna, one of the three parts of the Garden Route National Park, halfway to Port Elizabeth. We really want to get out on the water here, and we will. Under the guidance of Captain Stephan of Ocean Odyssey, we drive with the necessary helmsman ship between the rocks of the “the Heads”, out of the Knysna estuary and into the Indian Ocean. Here, Stephan quickly points out the first dolphins of our trip. These are humpback dolphins (Sousa plumbea), a very special and rare species. They can only be found off the ZA coast. On their backs, these dolphins have a hump, after which they are named. These are dolphins of shallow waters and the surf, where they feel safe and hunt for fish. It is not easy to take pictures of these dolphins. They swim zigzagging underwater, so you really don’t know where they will come up again.
Southern right whales.
Addo Elephant National Park had a lot to offer, especially elephants, but also the entire Big Five.
We can’t and shouldn’t really get any closer to the animals, either, because of the danger of getting stuck and chasing the animals. Meanwhile, the albatrosses and great skuas skim above our heads. And right there in front of us! Isn’t that a blow? Yes, there is a humpback whale above the surface. And then another one! Humpback dolphins and humpback whales - what an abundance. In the afternoon we go for a second drive on the water. Now there is a considerable swell further out at sea, and now and then it seems as if we are lower on the boat than the whales in the ocean. We must look up to see the swimming whales. Before we hit the water to look for bottlenose dolphins and other cetaceans in Algoa Bay, we make a stopover in Addo Elephant National Park. We do this because it is too wild at sea. That is not a punishment, though. Addo has a lot to offer, especially elephants, but also the entire Big Five, hyenas, and mountain zebras. What can I say? The park is home to the Big Ten: In addition to the lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhinoceros on land, in the marine part, in Algoa Bay, you can also see whales, dolphins, fur seals, penguins and sharks. And that’s exactly what we’re going to see later. With the crew of Stampede Cruises, we see this whole list, which starts when skipper Juandre shouts “I see something big”. A humpback whale jumps out of the water right in front of us. Splash! However, that was a one-off. After the jump, we don’t see the animal again. Here in Algoa bay, Many African penguins breed on the island of St. Croix and bottlenose dolphins swim around every corner. With some luck, you can also see large groups of common dolphins (Dephinus delphis) here. They are often close to the coast when the sardines they hunt are also close to the coast. This happens during the socalled sardine run, the annual migration of these fish off the coast of South Africa to Mozambique.
We continue our journey and after a route through the interior of KwaZulu Natal, we arrive in Durban. With skipper Bennie, we discover what the ocean offers at the cliffs of The Bluff. While enjoying a “Durban Bunny Chow” (Indian stuffed bread) we see humpback whales jumping out of the water from the Whale watch restaurant. ‘There hasn’t been a single place by the sea on this trip where we have not seen humpback whales!’ From Durban, the drive to St. Lucia is short. This town is sandwiched between the beautiful and very wild natural parks of iSimangaliso, Hluhuwe/ iMfolozi and the Indian Ocean. There is so much to see here that you could stay here for months. In the middle of the friendly looking town, we are warmly welcomed by Riette at the office of Advantage tours. She takes the time to chat with us and offers a “Hippo and Croc cruise” on the estuary and a trip on one of their boats on the ocean. St. Lucia is a really lovely town. It has excellent restaurants,bars, shops and a fruit market on the main street. There are no fences or bars around the gardens and houses, although you would expect them from the many warning signs for the hippos roaming around at night! We never encountered a hippo on our evening walks from the campground to the town, but hundreds on the cruise. The next day is an experience we will never forget. We gathered with some others in front of the entrance of the office. Here, we are asked to take a seat in a covered wagon that is pulled by a tractor and drives us to the beach. Arriving here, we walk to the boat that lies somewhat obliquely on the beach. Once all aboard, Arne, the skipper, explains that we will get wet as we sail through the surf. A long steel beam is placed between the tractor and the boat and then, the boat is pushed into the water.
“No one was able to take a picture, but this image will stay in our minds forever.” Once clear of the bottom, Arne gives full throttle, and we spray through the surf into the ocean. The seawater is indeed splashing in all directions, and I am glad that the camera is watertight. This special way of entering the water is due to the sand blockade that was created in the former exit of the estuary. There is now no longer a connection between the fresh water and the ocean, and there is therefore no longer a harbor from which you can enter the ocean.
After this spectacular start, we all focus on the water surface, looking for whales! Here too, we expect at least humpback whales. And it doesn’t last long. One swims in front of us, and we see two more between the ship and the mainland. We quietly follow the humpback whale that is nearby. With the necessary experience, you will know and see at some point when a whale is going to dive. We have the camera’s stand by. But you can’t anticipate the right spot when they jump out of the water. After one humpback dove deep into the ocean, we were mesmerised. A movement in the corner of our eye catches our attention, when two humpback whales jump out of the water at the same time. We just saw them fall back into the water. No one was able to take a picture, but it didn’t matter. This image will stay in our minds forever.
SOUTH AFRICA However, the show is not over yet. Tamara hears the skipper shout, “Manta ray!” and less than 5 seconds later, “Hammerhead!”. I see the manta, but I just have to believe the skipper about the hammerhead. Where was it then? It was right behind the manta ray. I had to laugh about it. What an experience. Then I hear Arne shout again: “Hold on! Cameras in your bag!”. At high speed we drive through the surf again, back on the beach, where we come to a stop with a jerk. Wow! We had a whale of a time! With “All for Nature travel”, we offer the first half of this trip as a 16-day whale watching excursion in South Africa. The journey will go from Cape Town to Addo NP and Port Elisabeth. Part of the raised money will go to local nature conservation projects.
WHALE POO AMBASSADORS
Besides enjoying whales and dolphins visually, Stichting Rugvin actively contributes to conservation. One of their latest projects is called Whale Poo Ambassadors. After reading articles on the effect of these marine engineers on the climate and biodiversity, we are also astonished that little or no research is being done in Europe. Whale droppings, the whale pump, carbon storage and more are so important for the marine environment and we believe more people should know about it. That’s why we created the Whale Poo Ambassadors and our own ‘seamulation’ (simulation). On www.whalepooseamulation.com you can learn about whales, phytoplankton and climate. It’s worth checking out!
Website www.rugvin.nl E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Book recommendation ‘Whale’ by Joe Roman
DIRECTOR Manon Verijdt DESIGN Arina van Londen Suzanne Lek
ILLUSTRATOR Emma Ritzen EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT Carmen Castricum Laura Meyers Amy van Loon
CONTRIBUTED TO THIS EDITION Carmen Castricum, Kayleigh Ranzijn, Gautam Shah, Mohsen Rezaie-Atagholipour, Frank Zanderink, Wietse van der Werf, Renske Cox, Aviram Rozin, Gabriel Massocato, Frank Landman, Sophie Hankinson & Dan Benham SALES Amy van Loon email@example.com PR MANAGER Judith van der Steen Judith@ubuntumagazine.com MARKETING Chiara Holzer WEBDESIGNER & CREATOR Marijn Jansen
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ISSUE 2 | SUMMER 2022