Ubuntu Magazine, spring 2022

Page 1

Issue 1 | Spring 2022



A JOURNEY INTO SUSTAINABLE LIVING Sarah Ritzen shares her story

PLAN4COEX Changing people’s perspective on wildlife


Research on elephants in a captive environment


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.



Björn Donnars | Meerkats

Introduction Let’s live Ubuntu.


Angela Boghui Romania and its nature.


Björn Donnars A visit to the stars of meerkat manor.


Christina Tholander Elephant researcher at the African Elephant Research Unit.


Ifigenia Garita Overtourism and sustainable travel.

20-29 Latoya de Jong Malapascua in philippines.


Sarah Ritzen Zero waste sustainable living.


Frank Landman Years of experience in SDGs.


30 Sara Ritzen

I make sure to research where it comes from and the impact it has on animals and the planet.


Christina Tholander | Elephant researcher

“We live in a world where animal habitats become less and less.”

Ron van der A Painted dog conversation.


Silvio Marchini Bridge-builder in humanwildlife coexistence.


Ana Santacruz A naturalist guide in the Amazon forest.


Fernanda Abra Mitigating roadkill.


Silvio Marchini



Ana Santacruz


Your #1 magazine for fair travel

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LET’S LIVE UBUNTU It has been many years since I picked up my first mouse to save it from our cat’s deathly mouth. My parents were in awe, while others around me were disgusted. How could I pick up a mouse?

It is a couple of years later when I’m sailing through Norway, when these thoughts keep coming back. Making an impact - a positive impact - was my goal, I had yet to find out how to achieve it.

That love for nature, without distinguishing small or big animals, was a love that never ceased. I started my studies in Applied Biology, where my interest in whales grew. I soon realised that there was more to these creatures than just sheer beauty, but that they were facing many threats as well. I wanted to do something about that.

Within weeks team members started to gather around me. People with the same vision and with their own strengths and qualities. Within a blink I realised more than I could ever dream of. The website you just visited and the magazine you are reading right now are the first results of this special and fruitful collaboration. Let’s work together, let’s live ‘Ubuntu’ and collaborate on conservation and sustainability! I’m counting on you.

Through my studies I got in contact with the Future for Nature Academy and the Future for Nature Awards. It was a place where I met other conservationists and nature lovers like me. However, they loved to do their research, whereas I never got a good grip on that. I realised I wanted to make a direct and big impact, but research wasn’t going to be my way.

Love, Manon Director Ubuntu Magazine

Instagram @ubuntu.magazine.official Website www.ubuntumagazine.com



Meerkat in the desert of Botswana.


DONNARS It’s a special life, to be a veterinarian and wildlife photographer while working all over the globe. But, being able to combine that with community based conservation definitely gives you some great experiences in life. Björn Donnars from the Netherlands has made this scenario his real life. One of the projects he visited displays a beautiful balance between wildlife photography and community based conservation.

A visit to the stars of meerkat manor. Meerkats. Who doesn’t know these cute but fierce creatures that stand straight up while looking for predators. You might know them from Animal Planet or perhaps you have seen the series Meerkat Manor. It’s hard to imagine that these animals can be seen in real life, yet today it is easier than ever. The reason why you can see these animals in the wild is due to a phenomenon called habituation. It’s a process where animals get used to human presence without being disturbed. You might recognise it from the gorillas and chimpanzees of Central- and East-Africa. But, before we tell you the whole story of seeing these incredible animals let’s just explain something about the animals first.



“Where humans can be in the presence of the meerkats.” LET’S GET TO KNOW THEM Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are mammals and are part of the mongoose family. A family of small predators living in Africa, Asia and Southern Europe. Meerkats are lightgrey to yellowish brown of color and have poorly defined bands on their back. The animal is about 30 (24-32) centimeters tall from head to tail and females are usually bigger than males. They weigh less than 1 kilogram. Meerkats live in groups with a strong bond, which can grow up to 30 individuals. The group consists of multiple families and their young. Females are dominant over the males and only the more dominant couples within the group mate. All individuals help with raising the pups, especially the meerkats lower in rank. It’s a clearly defined structure. The home range of a single group is usually about 5 km2 and includes multiple burrows which can be 50-100 meters long. Meerkats can and will be very vigilant when they come across another group of meerkats which can lead to heavy injuries and even death. Mostly pups die from clan fights. Meerkats are omnivorous, but live primarily on an insectivore diet, eating mainly beetles and moths. They do also feed on small amphibians, lizards and are known to eat scorpions. However, when there is no “meat” around they can also live on seeds and roots. Meerkats are very vulnerable when foraging, so there are always some meerkats on the look-out. They look for higher grounds and make themselves tall by standing straight up.


When danger is spotted, an alarm call will be used. It’s a well developed system, with different calls for different types of danger. MEERKATS IN BOTSWANA Traveling around the world doesn’t mean I can see the Meerkats everywhere. They can only be found in the deserts and semi-deserts of Southern Africa and live within the borders of just five countries. They can be found in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South-Africa. The population of meerkats is stable and the IUCN classifies meerkats as least concern. Nevertheless, finding meerkats in the wild during a game drive can be very tricky and difficult. Usually when you do find them on a game drive, they will flee as soon as possible. This makes it almost impossible to see and adore them. Luckily, there is an animal friendly alternative. In Gweta, Botswana, you can go on an excursion to find meerkats. Here, they do not flee at the presence of people, because of habituation. Don’t confuse this with animals that have been fed or trained to be near people. What they did is the following: one person would be present within range of the meerkats. It starts with being far away, so the meerkats can get used to the smell of people. Step by step that one person comes closer to the meerkat family. It is a process that can take months or even years, but eventually it leads you to a situation like the one in Gweta, where humans can be in the presence of the meerkats, without them fleeing.

Meerkats in the desert of Botswana.

Meerkats are part of the mongoose family. A family of small predators living in Africa, Asia and Southern Europe.

MAKGADIKGADI PANS The meerkats near Gweta live in the Makgadikgadi Pan National Park and a visit to these large salt pan is included in the meerkat excursion. The excursion to see the meerkats costs around 120$ per person. A good price considering how much effort has been made to make the meerkats feel comfortable. You will leave early in the morning at around 5 o’clock. The ride to the meerkats is about 2 hours, and if you’re lucky you encounter other wildlife during this ride (this is subject to the time of the year). When you get to the meerkats you get about 30 minutes to spend with these incredible animals. You can get very close to them and take awesome shots of their natural behavior. They are all out on the hunt, looking for the big fat beetles or if they (and you) are very lucky they might find a scorpion. That way you can see them handle a highly venomous creature.

Having a continuous watch is their defense system for the many birds of prey and different foxes around..


As you’ll notice soon enough, some of the animals have a watch shift. They are on the look-out, because meerkats are quite low in the food chain. Having a continuous watch is their defense system for the many birds of prey and different foxes around. The guide will tell you to lay down and if you are lucky (again no animals are pushed, so I wasn’t lucky) the meerkats will use you as their lookout spot. You are much higher than the surrounding, so you are perfect for the job. After being fascinated for about thirty minutes, your time is over and a lovely breakfast has been set-up by your guide. During breakfast you can see the meerkats from a distance and you will see that they don’t come begging for food at all. After that, you will continue the excursion and you will visit the famous Makgadikgadi salt pans, which at its largest is as wide as Portugal. Depending on the time of year you will see a massive white flat area, where you can see the curvature of the earth. Or you will see a massive lake, filled with flamingos and pelicans. If you want to go on this excursion, it is easiest to stay at Planet Baobab, an accommodation with campsites and some small huts. Here you can book the excursion and once you get back (at around noon) you can relax around the pool. Gweta was the first place where they offered this excursion, but you can find them in more places now. You can also visit Naankuse, a wildlife rehabilitation centre close to the international airport of Windhoek, Namibia. The excursion as far as the meerkat interaction is the same as in Gweta, only difference is that these meerkats (or their parents and grandparents) were once rescued as orphans and later on released on their property. Naankuse also offers many other activities and all profits go to the Naankuse foundation, helping wild animals, but also the local San people.

“There are other ways to encounter wildlife.” SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AFRICA Sustainable tourism is very important. Especially when it comes to wildlife involved tourism. Around the globe, and also in Africa, a lot of wildlife tourism isn’t managed sustainably and ethically. Looking at Africa, examples of this are elephant rides, and photographic opportunities with cats such as cheetahs and lions. The lion cub industry is big and cub petting brings in a lot of money. It’s part of the bigger ‘canned lion hunt’. Once these cubs grow old, they will be shot by tourists. Luckily there are many projects with a positive impact, with many great examples all across Africa. This example of meerkats is sustainable and ethical, with no animals harmed or fed. It creates awareness about a beautiful species and most importantly it creates an income for locals. Additionally, this revenue stream creates urgency and awareness for them, which keeps them from fighting against nature. Other great examples in Botswana are the many community owned reserves. Here, many jobs in hotels, restaurants, guiding etc. are created which indirectly help with wildlife conservation. It’s the reason why community based conservation is diverse.

Instagram @wildlife.reizen Website www.wildlifereizen.com


*As Björn describes, these examples of elephant rides and the awful industry of the canned lion hunts are exactly what we are against here at Ubuntu. The example of visiting meerkats, where only habituation has taken place, is a great way to show that there are other ways to encounter wildlife. Both in Africa and beyond its borders.


OVERTOURISM AND SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL Ifigenia Garita of Osa Wild shares her thoughts.

Ifigenia Garita is a tropical biologist, conservationist, and naturalist guide from Costa Rica. She’s the founder of Osa Wild, a tour operator that supports the local community through tourism. Apart from organizing tours, she volunteers for Escuna, a non-profit organization that helps youngsters develop. Ifigenia strongly believes it’s important to help people in the first place, and that by offering them opportunities, they will realize how beautiful nature is and that it needs to be preserved. We asked her a few questions about the tours she’s organizing and the impact of overtourism in Costa Rica.



WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO STUDY TROPICAL BIOLOGY? Since I was a kid, I’ve always felt best in nature, but I was also inspired by my mom, who was also a tropical biologist and specialized in entomology. Thanks to her and what she has taught me, I became a person that’s connected to both humans and nature. My mom was also the president of the NGO that I run now, so I have really been following in her footsteps. IS OVERTOURISM SOMETHING YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT? Yes, that’s something I’m very afraid of, overtourism is a big problem in certain areas of Costa Rica. I have also seen the benefits of tourism, though; it distributes money to so many people - from drivers and guides to hotel and restaurant owners! Sadly, I see how places have changed because of tourism too. For example, swamps, where there used to be lots of birds, were drained to build hotels.

“Visit locally-owned restaurants and hotels.” HOW CAN WE COMBAT OVERTOURISM? Visiting places that are less touristy helps, but unfortunately, it doesn’t solve the problem. I think the government of Costa Rica needs a policy that keeps the development of an area limited. What we can do is try to empower and educate local people so that they have more opportunities. Some of the best things you can do is to visit locally-owned restaurants and hotels, stay at homestays, and book tours through operators that are based on community-based tourism. This way, your money will benefit local people instead of big foreign hotel chains, for example.








ECOLODGES IN THE AREA La Leona Ecolodge www.laleonaecolodge.com Bosque del Cabo www.bosquedelcabo.com La Parios www.laparios.com Danta Lodge www.dantalodge.com El Remanso www.elremanso.com



CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT COSTA RICA AND THE OSA PENINSULA? Costa Rica is a very special place. Since 1949, the country doesn’t have an army anymore, and most of the projects that continue from the abolishment of the army are related to educational programs. That’s something I really admire about this country! The place where I work as a guide is called the Osa Peninsula. It’s located close to Panama, in the Southwest of Costa Rica, and National Geographic named it the second most biodiverse place on the planet (right after the Amazon). One-third of

the Osa Peninsula is covered by the Corcovado National Park, which was created in 1975 after a group of biologists convinced the government that this area should be protected. It was the last remaining humid rainforest on the Pacific Slope of Central America, and at the time, our neighboring countries were cutting it down for cattle and agriculture. Thanks to these biologists, though, that’s something that didn’t happen in Costa Rica. You can see tapirs, macaws, whales, monkeys, dolphins, turtles, etc. in Corcovado National Park, and there’s also a wide variety of endemic species of birds, reptiles, and amphibians here.

OSA WILD Osa Wild offers tours that connect people with nature and promotes ecotourism.

Instagram @osawild Website www.osawild.travel

“The best way to make people thrive and succeed is by supporting their projects.” WHAT TYPE OF TOURS DO YOU ORGANIZE? Osa Wild offers tours that connect people with nature and promotes ecotourism. The tours we offer contribute directly to the local economy, and they ensure the wellbeing of the environment as well. The Intense Jungle Trek, for example, is our most popular tour, and you will stay in a place owned by an ex-poacher on this trek. Thanks to people’s efforts, this man got to see how people love nature, and because of this, he and his community have changed completely!

WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER 1 TIP TO ALL OF US TO TRAVEL MORE SUSTAINABLY? Try to be a researcher before traveling. Make sure you have the right information and be conscious about where your money goes to. Support local businesses and buy from local people - the best way to make people thrive and succeed is by supporting their projects, especially after such a bad time for tourism. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN WE’RE VISITING THE JUNGLE? Don’t invade the animals’ space and be quiet. It’s also important not to bring anything home from the jungle. I see people who collect stones or sand, for example, but those things are needed in the jungle, so it’s important to leave them where they are.


“I make sure to research where it comes from and the impact it has on animals and the planet. The packaging of my shampoo bar, for example, is made of sugarcane, which is sustainably made and easy to recycle.“



SARAH RITZEN’S JOURNEY INTO ZERO WASTE AND SUSTAINABLE LIVING Sarah Ritzen is a Human Design Expert who’s been passionate about sustainability from a young age. Now 27, she became a vegetarian when she was only 11 and has been eating mostly vegan for the last couple of years. During her teenage years, Sarah started learning more and more about sustainability and the environment, and the more she learned about it, the more passionate she became. At the beginning of her journey, Sarah was mainly focused on zero waste, but soon, her interest pivoted to the overall impact we humans have on the environment. She explains: “Many people don’t know that an organically grown cucumber that’s wrapped in plastic, for example, is still better for the environment than a non-organically grown cucumber without packaging. When you look at the entire process, organically grown products are more sustainable, even when they’re wrapped in plastic.” This insight completely changed Sarah’s perception of sustainability. Of course, buying organically grown products and turning off the tap while brushing your teeth is great, but Sarah wanted to do more: “I started buying as little new things as possible and stopped buying things I don’t really need. Whenever I do need to buy something new, I make sure to research where it comes from and the impact it has on animals and the planet. The packaging of my shampoo bar, for example, is made of sugarcane, which is sustainably made and easy to recycle. The shampoo bar itself has no chemicals - I always make sure to check the ingredients as well.”

Sarah doesn’t own a car either, and she has solar panels and a hot water pump at home, which are both very sustainable. When it comes to using bleach, she has a nice alternative too that she learned from her father: “I use baking soda combined with vinegar. On the contrary to bleach, which goes into the sewer and then into the earth when you flush it down the toilet, baking soda and vinegar don’t have a negative impact on the planet and work too. These are cheap, natural products without any chemicals – so it’s a win-win situation!” Living sustainably is not always easy, though, and there are quite some challenges Sarah has to face. “I find it quite difficult to speak out my preferences to people who are not that close to me. My in-laws, for example, know I don’t eat meat, but they don’t know I am vegan, which is challenging when it comes to cheese and eggs. Besides this, one of the things I struggle with the most is taking the plane. I refused to fly for many years because of the impact it has on the environment, but I have become a little less strict about it now. Although I fly as little as possible, I allow myself to take the plane every once in a while. I do pay for my CO2 compensation, make sure to stay at the destination as long as I can, and use the bike, train or bus once I arrive.” FEELING INSPIRED BY SARAH’S STORY? HERE ARE SOME OF HER BEST TIPS The best tips I can give is to eat less meat and animal products, but also to buy less new stuff. If you can buy something second hand, do it - that’s way better for the environment. SARAH’S BOOK RECOMMENDATION -The Hidden Impact by Babette Porcelijn

SARAH RITZEN Human Design Expert Instagram @sarahritzen




Romania is a country of extremes: when it comes to economic data, the country is pretty much at the end of all statistics in the European Union. However, when it comes to environmental statistics, Romania is on top of all lists: it has the largest surface of virgin forests, the biggest populations of large carnivores, the highest biodiversity and the largest unfragmented forests left in the Union.


Right now there are over 6 million hectares of forests.


Romania, as no other country in the European Union, has a high importance for conservation and a potential for a green economic development. Right now there are over 6 million hectares of forests, out of which a significant portion is still virgin; large, unfragmented mountain areas with no settlements except in the surrounding foothills and mountains of stunning beauty, surrounded by natural forests. Untamed rivers, who‘s dynamic still shape the valleys are surrounded by bears, wolves, lynx and over 3,700 plant species, many of them endemic to the region. In times of human overpopulation, climate change, and a biodiversity crisis, these natural assets become a treasure, which most other countries in Europe have lost. Yet, instead of using this potential and developing Romania into the greenest country of Europe and thus setting a benchmark in modern development, these resources are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC) has a huge vision: to create a new, world-class wilderness reserve in the Southern Romanian Carpathians for the benefit of biodiversity and local communities. CARPATHIA’s specific activities are those to which wildlife rangers contribute or perform directly: interventions in human-wildlife conflicts, collection of samples for genetic analysis, participation in some actions related to the reintroduction of bison, and others. But how do you do that? HOW TO START A PROJECT ON THIS SCALE? In the past 10 years, the project has purchased over 20,000 hectares of forests and alpine meadows in the South-eastern Carpathians, which we now fully protect. The Romanian Carpathians provide a home to the most diverse mix of wildlife – over 3,500 animal species are thriving here, many of which are strictly protected by European law. With

few exceptions (bison, beaver), the entire mammal fauna is still present in viable numbers, including the large carnivores - wolf, bear and lynx. In respect to birds, only vultures and black grouse are missing from the original species. Unfortunately, these forests and alpine meadows aren’t the same as they used to be anymore. After the fall of communism, numbers of large mammals have suffered from overhunting and poaching, and disturbance through logging and livestock farming activities. In Romania, wildlife management and hunting rights are not linked to land ownership, but administered by the state and auctioned off to the national or private hunting associations. In order to effectively protect wildlife in the general area of land acquisitions, FCC has founded its own hunter’s association and managed to lease the hunting rights for the core area of the project in the upper Dimbovita Valley. Together with the adjacent National Park Piatra Craiului, this translates into an area of 36,000 hectares of hunting free zone – an important refuge for predators and prey alike. By taking over the hunting area, we have also challenged the traditional wildlife monitoring system, which is normally conducted by the hunters themselves and naturally prone to mistakes and even falsification with the goal to obtain higher quotas. To get a good and reliable estimate on the current population sizes of key species, we have started to use genetic analysis of scat and hair samples, and use of camera traps, together with traditional sign surveys (ground snowtracking, den counts). Due to our efforts, we could prove that chamois numbers have dramatically decreased in the entire Papusa Mountain. Consequently, the Ministry has put a moratorium on chamois hunting until the population recovers.


Romania and its nature.


BISONS In addition to protecting what is present, FCC is also committed to bring back what has been lost: the European bison should soon be part of the native fauna again. In the Fagaras Mountains, first efforts have been made to achieve this. In May 2020 eight bison were reintroduced in the area. A missing link in the trophic chain was finally back again. Right now, 28 bison are roaming free in the wild. Yet, FCC’s efforts will continue until they reach 75-100 individuals. Even though this sounds fairly easy, it’s important to know that a thorough strategy was and is being used for this purpose. First of all, the 100 individuals that we’re striving for are needed for a feasible reintroduction, so they can survive and multiply. Which until now has been successful, as the first bison calf born in the wild has already been seen. Besides that, the new individuals should be separated into three areas (with a minimum of 30 individuals in each area). Bison can move and migrate between these areas, facilitating over time the meeting of individuals from the three groups. That’s important because the bison brought in are from different origins: Great Britain, Sweden and Vanatori Neamt (another area in Romania). The reintroduction of the bison is not only a matter of repairing the environmental mistakes of the past, or a case of modern biodiversity conservation, but is also an excellent example of how nature conservation can help local communities thrive and develop. They play a significant role in local tourism based on natural observation. Consequently, in order to support the development of tourism in the area, we plan to build a series of visitor centres for tourists who want to know the story of the bison, especially those from the Fagaras Mountains. Also, from a natural point of view, as the number of bison stabilises, biodiversity will benefit directly: the meadows will be maintained by grazing bison and forests will acquire a better natural structure, at the same time benefiting the deer.


The most skilled engineer of nature, the beaver, has returned home after more than 100 years.


RETURN OF THE BEAVER Besides the reintroduction of the bison, another animal has returned to the Fagaras Mountains. The most skilled engineer of nature, the beaver, has returned home after more than 100 years. It took two years of scientific and socio-economic studies and thousands of hours spent in the field. The beaver families will return through an extensive programme which reintroduces this charismatic species. Over the next three years, approximately 90 beavers will be reintroduced. Reintroduction is a great deal in creating the ultimate environment here in the Southern area of Romania. However, many big carnivores already living in the area propose a great danger and threat to local communities. FCC is therefore also involved in monitoring the animals who roam wild and free here, with the aim of establishing long-term policies to protect species and reduce human-wildlife conflicts. MONITORING SPECIES Two of the species that have been monitored and researched the past year, are bears and European lynx (Lynx lynx). In a pilot area in the Southern Carpathians, a first scientific, quantitative monitoring programme has been completed successfully for the latter of these two species. Monitoring was done with the help of 152 camera traps with motion sensors, after which 23 adult lynx and nine kittens were seen. The aim of this method was not only monitoring the lynx, but also creating a model for monitoring wildlife at a national level. Alongside that, Conservation Carpathia has been working on the first genetic study in Romania, with the result of identifying bears over an area of 120.000 ha (1.200 square km). The efforts of this quantitative assessment will be useful in the future for responsible management of the bears in Romania. For example, the data from this research can be used to manage human-bear conflicts. During bear attacks in households, we collect evidence in order to find out which specific

animal has caused the conflict or the damage. After thorough research, the magnitude of the problem is better known and action can be taken accordingly. Preventative measures have to be taken to reduce the human-bear conflicts in the future. Thus, since mid-2019, 41 electric fences were installed free of charge. The main result until now was the lack of incidents on these premises. Also, 45 shepherd dogs were offered free of charge to the shepherds from the Fagaras Mountains area and a private farm was created to offer cows and sheep in exchange for the damages caused by carnivores. Even though many efforts have been made, the intervention teams had to capture and relocate one bear and eliminate three bears that endangered people’s and livestocks’ lives. A WILDLIFE BOARD The research and preventative measures with our bears has been of great effect. However, we also realise that the local communes should have an equal vote in the actual regulations of how to approach human-wildlife conflicts. In this regard we have founded a Voluntary Regional Committee for the Prevention and Management of Wildlife Conflicts in 2020 with the role of identifying existing problems, their causes and proposing and prioritising solutions in a transparent manner for preventing and mitigating human-large carnivore conflicts. Among the members of the Committee are designated representatives of local authorities, farmers, forest rangers and environmental authorities, the FCC and hunters. Thus, together, we aim to reduce human-wildlife conflicts for the benefit of humans, as well as for the benefit of large protected carnivore species.

Instagram @conservation_carpathia Website www.carpathia.org



THOLANDER Elephant researcher at the African Elephant Research Unit (AERU) Christina Tholander is a Danish elephant researcher at the African Elephant Research Unit (AERU) at Knysna Elephant Park, South Africa. Though her primary focus is in the lab, she also has a role as a volunteer coordinator. She studied biochemistry at university and has always loved elephants. We asked her a few questions about her role at AERU, the volunteer program, and her favorite animal.



“Our main focus is doing research on the welfare of elephants in a captive environment. It’s important to note that this is not in a zoolike environment, though.”

Herd of elephants during a sunset walk.


“We live in a world where animal habitats become less and less.”


WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DOES AERU DO? Our main focus is doing research on the welfare of elephants in a captive environment. It’s important to note that this is not in a zoo-like environment, though. Knysna Elephant Park is a huge, fenced area that is more like a reserve. It’s also a tourist destination, so most of the research we do is from this aspect. One of my personal main tasks at the lab is collecting dung samples for physiological analysis (laughs).

WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ELEPHANT RESEARCHER? It wasn’t planned, it was a matter of following your dreams, and when the opportunity presented itself, I didn’t hesitate at all. I joined the research unit of Knysna Elephant Park as a volunteer in 2016, and towards the end of my stay, I was offered a position, so I accepted it and never looked back. Initially, I planned to stay for 3 years, but I’m now in my 6th year, and I’m not going anywhere!

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO DO RESEARCH ON CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS? We live in a world where animal habitats become less and less. It’s estimated that by 2100, the population in Africa alone will have doubled - but where are these people going to live? Obviously, the land will be taken from wildlife reserves, and there will be less and less of them. It’s quite controversial, but in my opinion, we have created this problem, and we need to take responsibility and find a solution. That’s why there is a need for an establishment like the Knysna Elephant Park.

There has been a lot of research on classical zoos and wild herds in nature, but not in a facility like the one we have here. It teaches us a lot about the elephants’ welfare, and the more research we do, the more we learn about the language these animals speak. We then report our findings to the park’s management and suggest changes for the benefit of the elephants.

Christina and Sally the elephant.



CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM AT AERU? As a volunteer, we get you involved in everything! No day is the same, and there are always unpredictable things happening around here. We offer two programs; the Walking With Giants Program, which requires volunteers to stay for at least 3 weeks, and the 1-week Everything Elephant Program, for volunteers that can’t stay for a longer time. The first week of the Walking With Giants Program is an introduction and training. You need to learn how to identify the elephants, for example. During the second week, you get familiarized with the program and starting from the third week, you will really start to enjoy it.

We have two studies that we do every day, where the volunteers get to partake in: herd activity (what are the elephants doing?) and the nearest neighbor (who’s friends with whom?). But volunteers also get to help with other, temporary, studies. We’re currently doing a study on audio enrichment; we play different types of music for the elephants, and try to see which one is their favorite. Right now, they really seem to enjoy classical music. (laughs).

“Right now, they really seem to enjoy classical music.”

Elephant herd at the Plettenberg Game Reserve.

“South Africa has the reputation of being a very violent place, but I don’t agree with this.” HAVE THERE BEEN CHANGES IN THE PARK THANKS TO YOUR RESEARCH? Yes! For example, years ago elephant riding was part of the tourist experience at Knysna Elephant Park. We told the park this should not be done, so they stopped offering it. Another example is that the park had built a big stable for the elephants, and they first thought each elephant would want


its own pen. After researching this, we suggested that the elephants would benefit more from one big stable, without individual pens. The park listened to us and changed this as well. THERE’S A DISCUSSION GOING ON ABOUT WHETHER VOLUNTEERING IS GOOD OR NOT. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON THIS MATTER? I think it has to do with finding the right place. Unfortunately, there are a lot of projects out there that have become money-making machines.

Instagram @aeru_elephants Ecologde nearby www.aeru.co.za

SOUTH AFRICA As a volunteer traveler, you have to be careful not to end up with one of these. The best advice I can give is to search for a particular place on social media and to look for people who have volunteered here. Ask them about their experience! If you’ve never done it, I would highly recommend volunteer travel, just to see if it’s something you can benefit from. It gives back to you, but it also benefits the local community of the place you visit. WE OFTEN HEAR STORIES ABOUT ELEPHANTS BEING POACHED FOR IVORY, HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH THAT? Luckily, elephant poaching isn’t a problem in South Africa, but it is in Zimbabwe and Namibia. Rhino

poaching, on the other hand, is a problem here. Just a few weeks ago, we lost 18 rhinos in one week. The pandemic hasn’t helped either because people starve, and they would do anything for money. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA? It’s not dangerous down here! (laughs) South Africa has the reputation of being a very violent place, but I don’t agree with this. It’s true that you have to be precautious and that there are certain places you better avoid, but it’s the same for any country. As long as you’re vigilant, South Africa is a safe country to visit.

CHRISTINA AT AERU As a volunteer, we get you involved in everything! No day is the same, and there are always unpredictable things happening around here.



ECOLODGES IN THE AREA Teniqua Treetops www.teniquatreetops.co.za Plett Forest Cabins www.plettforestcabins.co.za Kuthumba www.kuthumba.co.za Wild Spirit Lodge www.wildspiritlodge.co.za



IN PHILIPPINES 3 years ago I left the rat race of life to travel the world. It all started in the Netherlands, but since a while I’ve been living in the Philippines. It’s a place where many beautiful things can be discovered every single day. My name is Latoya and I’m excited to tell you more about one of my recent discoveries.



The island of Malapascua, Philippines.


UNLOCK NEW ADVENTURES AND DISCOVER THE DEEPEST WATERS However, as I said my most recent discovery had nothing to do with walking or smoothies, but everything with the underwater world. Malapascua is a renowned island for snorkeling and scuba diving, so that’s what I did. You must wonder, why is this island so famous for diving? It’s by far the best place in the world where you can encounter the famous Thresher sharks. The Thresher sharks, also called Fox Sharks, are separated into three species. The smallest species is the Pelagic Thresher shark, which is about three meters long. Famous for their beautiful long tail, they also know how to use it.

They whip it to strike prey from the shoals as a way of hunting. Especially in the Visayan Sea, the Pelagic Thresher sharks are often seen. But, there is a catch. What makes it adventurous is that the sharks live in the deepest waters of the ocean. They only rise during the early mornings, before sunrise. They love to get cleaned daily at their favorite cleaning station. Their cleaning station is Monad Shoal which is a sunken plateau. It is very close to the island of Malapascua. There are plenty of cleaner wrasses from which these sharks get free cleaning services. It’s not only a luxury, but also a necessity to remove parasites and dead tissues from their body.

DIVING ON MALAPASCUA To enjoy a moment with the thresher sharks make sure to have your diving license in level Advanced, as you might have to descend to 30 meters of depth.

“This is by far one of my favorite parts, jumping into the unknown!” HOW ABOUT THE DIVE EXPERIENCE ITSELF, IS IT EVEN WORTH IT? If you are willing to make an extra effort, then yes! For this beautiful experience, your alarm is ringing at 4.00 am. It’s dark outside and we use our flashlights to make sure we are walking in the right direction. Keep an extra eye out for all the sleeping dogs. During this time of the day, they get anxious and start barking. I can tell, it was fun walking to the dive shop. Only a few other divers are waiting for us, so with a small intimate group, we walk towards the beach.

While waiting for the boat to pick us up, I enjoy seeing the beautiful sky. It is completely dark with a lot of twinkling stars and a clear moonshine. We jump on a small boat which brings us to our diving boat. On the boat, the tanks and equipment are already waiting for us. Still with the use of our flashlights, we manage to make ourselves a cup of coffee. With this, we enjoy the traditional Filipino bread, which is typical to eat in the morning. We are enjoying the moment when the sky starts to change in beautiful colors. The sun rises above the horizon and the only thing you hear is the sound of the waves with the wind lifting up my hair. The boat ride itself is a true experience, but that’s not our goal today. In only 30 minutes on the water we reach Monad Shoal. Here, we are instructed to gear up, after which we get a clear briefing on our dive. We are all experienced divers, yet safety always goes first. When the first sun rays hit the water surface, it’s our call to dive it. This is by far one of my favorite parts, jumping into the unknown!


Famous for their beautiful long tail, they also know how to use it. They whip it to strike prey from the shoals as a way of hunting.


SO, ARE YOU READY TO FEEL SOME ADRENALINE KICKING THROUGH YOUR BODY? Even though it is only 5.30 am, the water feels comfortable. Our first stop to see the sharks is at a depth of 24 meters, where the first cleaning station is. The sharks are very shy, and because of this, it’s advisable to kneel at one of the boundaries. Here you wait for the sharks to show their faces. The downside is that you can only stay for a few minutes at this depth due to the consumption of air. Looking into the blue for a few minutes brings excitement. But don’t let the excitement take control as it’s so important to remain calm. During these minutes we don’t see any sharks so we decide to move up to the second cleaning station. There we kneeled for the second time, and luckily we spotted a glimpse of the shark. It was only a glimpse, as he most likely got shy and kicked his fin very hard to move away from us. By the end of the dive, we were more at the shallow waters, where two divers spotted a shark beneath them. Again, during this moment we saw a glimpse of this beautiful creation. This reminds me that the sharks are always there. Yet, they are very shy animals and, like most pelagic fish, they are not huge fans of our bubbles. WHAT DOES NOBODY KNOW? The natural habits of the sharks have changed during the pandemic. It used to be the best time to encounter the shark at 5.30 am. Speaking out of my own experiences this has changed. Around 8.00 am, everyone jumped off the boat again for a second chance. This time manifesting to spot the sharks. We were lucky. While we kneeled on one of the boundaries, a shark seen in the distance came pretty close to us. This shark was not shy to have some quality time!

I’m impressed by the way he moves and breathes and by the look of his eyes. It’s quite a thrill to see these scary-looking predators swim toward you. Before you know it, it’s within a few meters. But as soon as it comes, it also turns his back on us. For some reason, I’m not scared of sharks. I get so excited when I see one that I forget that they are able to kill me. IS THIS EXPERIENCE SUSTAINABLE? Yes, the experience at the moment is completely 100 percent sustainable. Every diver encounters sharks in their natural habitat. This means, there is no feeding or any other attraction methods involved. The divemasters ensure that everyone is following the rules, like staying calm while kneeling down and not getting too close to the sharks. It’s beautiful to see that they take such good care. During this experience, there were only three diving boats, which makes it a unique experience. The divemaster informed us that before the pandemic there could be 30 boats at Monad Shoal. As this is too much for a sustainable coexistence and interaction with the sharks, I hope rules and regulations will be created to keep it the way we experienced it today. HOW TO GET THIS EXPERIENCE? To enjoy a moment with the thresher sharks make sure to have your diving license in level Advanced, as you might have to descend to 30 meters of depth. However, even when you are completely new to scuba diving, you can get certified on Malapascua. On top of this there are many other dive spots to discover and you can do this all year around. The best season is late February till September. During this time there is good visibility and the sea is calm enough to dive into. One of my favorite local dive shops is Malapascua Thresher Divers. Make sure to ask for Jess. He can’t wait to take care of you together with his crew.



“Hidden waterfalls, amazing mountain views and rice terraces are some of the breathtaking sceneries here.”

SUSTAINABLE TRAVELING AROUND MALAPASCUA Even though it is great that Malapascua offers such underwater experiences, it is also very busy at times with travelers. It is important to mention that Malapascua is also the getaway island to more undiscovered places like Carnaza and Kalanggaman Island. On both islands, you can even stay overnight. Kalanggaman has become more known to tourists over the years. It became famous for its long white stretched sandbar. However, my personal favorite is Carnaza Island. It’s a hidden gem. A beautiful turtle-shaped island with surreal rock formations and bays. The island is so small that you will not see any cars and only a handful of scooters. There is no such thing as restaurants, so what you will get is a pure local experience. On top of this, the island is eco-friendly as the electricity comes from solar panels. Do you feel like escaping the tourist sights? Carnaza is the place to be.

ABOUT LATOYA Over the last few years, I have enjoyed over 50 dives at several beautiful dives spots, most of the time in Asia. For me diving is the ultimate feeling of relaxation and peace while being underwater in combination with an exciting search for different kinds of marine species. There are so many kinds of creatures living underwater, but it’s always a matter of a surprise what you will see. For example, you start looking at the beautiful corals to find a nudibranch or even a shrimp. However, when you dive in an attempt to find a shark, it’s a whole new experience. Go find out for yourself!

LATOYA DE JONG Travel and Business Coach Instagram @beyondmyfootsteps





an enormous impression on all of us, his dancing touched our hearts. Sometime later, I found out he got the chance to compete in the SouthAfrican ballet competition. He won gold and got a scholarship at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in New York. This boy with the name Mthuthuzeli is now an example for all the people in townships who believed there was no way out and no future.

COLUMN NR. 1 INTRODUCTION Looking back at my career path, it has never been just one thing. I’ve always developed and challenged myself through every chance I got, even though sometimes that meant I had a busy schedule and I traveled to various places around the world. Only now, when I look back at things, I see that many of my choices belong together and are follow-ups of one another. During my jobs in municipalities and consultancy, I was always involved in international business. I have always been attracted to a broad perspective of the world and how everything feels connected. So, I guess unknowingly, I chose those jobs and additional council positions for a reason. My experiences in Africa, in Langenberg, for example, came from those choices, and I’m very grateful that I can share them with you now. A beautiful and impactful memory I have from my early years there is a visit to a local township called Nkqubela. We walked by a shop that sold engraved glasses. All of them said ‘New York’ and ‘Paris’. The owner knew these are famous places, so he thought it would be great for people to buy those glasses here. When I asked him why he never engraved his own township’s name, he didn’t understand. Why would people want to buy that? He totally forgot the value of his own hometown, and it took some effort to make him realize this. I once visited a beautiful dance group in Zolani Township In South Africa. Those kids were dancing on an old floor and the entrance was just a hole in the wall. The clothes they were wearing were the only clothes they had. One of the dancers made

What I’ve learned in the townships that I visited, is the feeling of Ubuntu. The group helps the individual, and the individual helps the group. In every possible way. However, the word Ubuntu only came to me years later, when Desmond Tutu visited the Netherlands to raise awareness about the Medical Knowledge Institute (MKI). During his prayer, he told us about the ‘we-mindset’, which denotes ‘I am because we are’. That was the moment I knew we needed this mindset, called Ubuntu, in the Netherlands on a macro and microscale. Sometime later, I was invited to a conference on the topic SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). I asked myself: “What can I implement from these goals in my municipality?” I realized I had to get my goals clear and bring focus to my organization if I wanted to get results. Everything just started to come together at that point, and soon I found the analogy with Ubuntu. ‘Local for the world and the world for local.’ As a municipality you can’t achieve it by yourself, so you have to stick together, both with the world around you and with the people in your town. However, I also had to keep in mind that what you do with one SDG, always influences another one. So you have to anticipate what influences each other and act according to that.

“The group helps the individual, and the individual helps the group.”




“About the SDG’s. It’s an United Nations strategic agenda of 17 goals adopted by 193 countries. The intention is to achieve those goals by 2030 to become a more sustainable, social and developed world for everyone in every country.”

In 2018, we were announced as the most promising SDG municipality in the Netherlands, and in 2019 we actually became the most inspiring one in the country. In that directive position, I was able to make an impact on many people in our own municipality, but looking back at all the stages and congresses I was invited to after this award, we also inspired many people around us. I decided to take the leap and start my own business, to further spread the knowledge and experiences about SDGs to institutes, municipalities and other organizations. One important message I always share with my audience is this one: “You can never start with implementing just ‘a couple’ of SDGs in your business. Not even if you have the aim of increasing the number of SDGs over time. As soon as you start, you have to commit to all of them. And most importantly, you have to take a deeper look and create a deeper understanding of the whole chain that you are part of. Only then will you be able to stay clear from unwanted and unexpected negative spinoffs. By doing this, you can make the right impact on a social, economic and sustainable level. We have to realize this balance is necessary because our ecological footprint is getting worse every day and more and more people need to visit food banks every year. But as with everything, it’s easier said than done. That’s why I’m currently working on a new conceptual framework, which also focuses on a deeper layer of global understanding; sentiment. And underneath that: feelings and emotions as a guiding approach to making a true connection in


the world. But as space and time are limited, I’d be happy to share more about that and many more of my experiences with Ubuntu and SDGs in the next edition. UBUNTU’S NOTE: Frank Landman has got years of experience in SDGs and he has personally been involved in many cases of living ‘Ubuntu’. Due to this diversity and thorough knowledge, we invited him to share more of his stories here in Ubuntu Magazine. How can we, and you, as a business owner or as a civilian, participate in creating a better world? When I first met Frank, I assumed that Ubuntu Magazine could include nr. 14 and nr. 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which focus on life on land and life below water. Now, I know better than that. Oh, and after hearing more about his life, I know there is so much more to discover in his stories, and I can’t wait to read more in the next editions. If you have questions that you would like to ask him, let us know through social media.

FRANK LANDMAN Owner Everlast Consultancy



CONVERSATION More commonly known as The African Wild Dog. It’s the mid 90’s and he is sitting in a car in Kenya during a safari. Ron and his wife are finally watching a rhino in the wild. It’s a moment of amazement. Not just because of this animal standing in front of them, but also because of the van in the background. ‘Wild nature’ is what they came for, but they soon realized reality was totally different. I’m talking to Ron van der A, a wildlife enthusiast from the Netherlands. Even though he has a background in banking and investments, Ron is the embodiment of the saying “I wasn’t born in Africa, but Africa was born in me”. During his first safari in Kenya, a lot of things changed for Ron and his wife. I can’t wait to ask more about the journey he took and the position he fulfills now at the Painted Dog Conservation.



“People outside of these communities are not allowed as an employee, as the jobs and payments are very necessary to the locals themselves.”

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT FIRST MOMENT IN KENYA? After my wife and I witnessed the rhino in Kenya, I knew I had to give something back. I started eco-volunteering, something that happened a lot those days in Africa. My first project was based in Swaziland, where I would ‘walk the white rhinos’. After that, I joined Peter Westerveld in building dams. We did this to restrain the water from flowing away. I watched elephants bath, shrubs grow and crocodiles inhabiting small pools. All as a result of our efforts. After that, I was standing at an event, talking about our rhino project. That’s where I met Peter Blindston and Greg Rasmussen from Painted Dogs. I knew then and there that this would be my next project. IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO THAT YOU JOINED THE PAINTED DOGS. HOW DID THAT CHANGE OVER THE YEARS? The first years, we visited the Painted Dogs multiple times. Typically, we didn’t see a single animal that first year. However, in 2001 when my wife joined me on my trip, we finally saw the dogs!


After visiting multiple times, I decided to become more professional in my way of supporting this project. The foundation Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) was established. Right now, PDC has grown to roughly 60 employees, who work there full time. All of them are locals, connected to two local chiefs. People outside of these communities are not allowed as an employee, as the jobs and payments are very necessary to the locals themselves. You can imagine that 60 employees have the total responsibility over 600 people who live in the villages nearby. They are family, friends or neighbors that don’t earn enough themselves. We’re proud to see PDC grow and evolve with the locals so thoroughly involved. Peter and I are the only ‘white men’ involved in the PDC. Even though we don’t usually give ourselves job titles, I now fulfill my role as chairman in the foundation. Peter is the executive director and he has been doing this for over 20 years now. We can’t imagine it otherwise.

A painted dog in Zimbabwe in Hwange National Park.


It is important for us to show local people the beauty and importance of painted dogs in their area. The Bushcamp is our way of educating young children about this topic.


CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE LOCATION OF PDC? We are based in Zimbabwe in Hwange National Park. It’s where the dogs live as well. The history behind this location is based on research that was done here. In the 90’s research showed that the dogs who came outside of Hwange National Park were often found dead. This was the area where they came in conflict with local people. Snares, traffic accidents and shootings were the main cause of these deaths. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes bad luck. Our core value which rose from this research is still the same today. We want to help and conserve the painted dog population, by firstly finding the critical issues on site and then changing this for the better. As some of the critical issues are directly related to ignorance and prejudice from locals about this species, we also have a strong focus on education. WHICH FACILITIES AND SUBTEAMS DO YOU HAVE ON SITE? RESEARCH TEAM Let’s start with the research team! We have both senior and junior trackers, who try to find the dogs daily. We do this by sight (who has seen them and where) and with the use of VHS collars. The past years we attached these collars to some of the dogs, so we can find them via radio telemetry. Our team is trained in finding the dogs this way. As soon as they find them, our trackers take the dogs’ feces and sometimes they ‘dart’ them for blood samples. Both of this will be used in further research, to find out what they ate and if they’re in good health. REHABILITATION CENTER Next we have the rehabilitation center. We use this for temporarily hurt dogs, who have been caught in snares or have hurt themselves in the field. Snares are part of poaching here in the national park, so we see it a lot unfortunately. Besides that, the rehabilitation center is the permanent residence of some of the dogs. They are blind, have only three paws or they are otherwise heavily injured. The only option for survival is keeping them with us.

ANTI-POACHING UNIT Our third team is the anti-poaching unit. Knowing that the snares in the field are waiting for dogs and other wildlife is devastating, so we are proactively working on removing those snares from the field. 16 people and 2 K9-sniffing dogs are working together to find and remove the traps. Though this might sound perfect, it’s important to notice that it hasn’t always been this way. Taking snares or a dead dog home, used to be seen as a sign that said: ‘If you take just a small part of the snare home, there must be a bigger part still out there. The only reason for leaving that behind could be your own involvement in poaching.’ It sounds cruel, but the general thought would be that way. We are happy to have innovated a system in which we reward the anti-poachers for bringing home the caught dogs and the snares. It has truly changed our results. BUSHCAMP One of our most impactful facilities and programs is the Bushcamp. As I said previously, it is important for us to show local people the beauty and importance of painted dogs in their area. The Bushcamp is our way of educating young children about this topic. Four days long, they are fully taken care of. Three meals a day, a proper bed and interesting topics to learn about. Often, it’s the first time these children go to a national park and it’s the first time they actually do a safari. It’s amazing to see that after so many years, many of them come back to work here as rangers, antipoachers or journalists. The Bushcamp has the impact we want it to have. MUSEUM Besides that, we have a museum with an exhibition and we have a global outreach program, in which we help build wells and plant vegetable gardens. Lastly, we support youngsters from local communities with creating responsibility and self development. Without this, they are prone to poach due to boredom. They are very important parts of our program. However, they are smaller projects than the others mentioned.



WHAT PROBLEMS AND ROADBLOCKS DO YOU NOTICE WHILE TRYING TO HELP THE PAINTED DOGS? After many years of trial and error, we are finally at a stage of earning trust from local people and from the chiefs. We are able to track down snares and (wounded) dogs, which enables us to work on a brighter future. But of course, there are also negative aspects to our development and things that we should be very aware of. As much as we would like to solve every problem from our own

perspective, we must stay focused on the dogs. We are still and always in service to them. At the same time, we should keep the local community in our minds. Collaboration with and understanding them is one of the aspects we must never forget. And last but not least, don’t forget that ‘the more research you do, the more insecure your previous research becomes’. Don’t be fooled by the mistakes you made when you didn’t know any better.’

PAINTED DOG CONSERVATION Painted Dog Conservation really focusses on the wellbeing of the dogs, while contributing to the local community.

“I can keep on talking about the multi-faceted beauty of this species and our project, but only one glance here will win you over.”

WHAT’S YOUR LAST ADVICE? Come and see the painted dogs for yourself. I can keep on talking about the multi-faceted beauty of this species and our project, but only one glance here will win you over. I’d be happy to show you what I mean.

Instagram @painted_dog_conservation Website www.painteddog.org





MARCHINI What’s taught in school is usually not how the real world works. Yes, it’s great to have some theoretical knowledge about certain topics, but the real world often contains many more direct and indirect factors that determine the outcome of what you want to do. When talking to Silvio Marchini, who is a bridge-builder in human-wildlife coexistence, we find out that this also applies to the field of conservation. What position do we have as a conservationist when we focus on human-wildlife interactions?


“We expect people to be more tolerant with this neutral approach.” He started out as being a biologist himself. The general thought of ‘I love nature and I want to protect it’ was also at the core of his career. Yet, today his career has been shaped by his experiences in the field and he is the proud owner of Plan4coex. Who is he today and what can he tell us about his perspective in conservation? After graduation Silvio soon found out, just being a conservationist wasn’t enough. The usual approach when being a conservationist is: ‘I did some research, found some results and now I’ll tell the locals how they should deal with wildlife.’ Oftentimes, the emphasis on research and documentation is so big, that the actual emphasis on change gets forgotten. Another problem with this approach is the wrong balance a conservationist gets when he proposes a solution to locals and surrounding people. Suddenly, the conservationist who is supposed to be on two sides of this situation, chooses the side of wildlife. With the aim of mitigating the conflict, it is necessary to be neutral in a conversation. Taking the wildlife’s side will work against you in solving the problem. According to Silvio “We expect people to be more tolerant with this neutral approach”. As a so-called


bridge-building in human-wildlife coexistence, this is exactly his goal with Plan4coex. That brings us to the fact that he is an entrepreneur besides his role as conservationist. During the enlightenment that we can’t choose the wildlife’s side in any given situation, I also realized that we as humans are at the core of the problem but we are also the core of the solution. Often, the local or involved people that I talk to, don’t even know that they are involved in a so-called ‘problem’ or ‘human-wildlife conflict’. That - not even knowing that they are involved in a conflict - is also the reason why he never speaks of conflicts anymore. The meeting of humans with wildlife, with any given result (positive or negative) is simply an interaction. The general term ‘humanwildlife conflict’ is often too focussed on the negative and this can easily be changed. But with this information, how should conservationists act then, when interfering or trying to solve an interaction? It’s quite simple. By changing the terminology used and trying to understand every single stakeholder, the perspective on the situation gets wider and better. As he said before, the solution can be found in ‘change’.


“Change should be introduced in a precipatory way. Conventionally, biologists say “I do ecological research, because I love this specific animal. As I love them, I don’t want them to die and be extinguished.” I, however, would rather say: “I’m a biologist, an expert at jaguars.” And then I would go beyond that. I step outside university and the lab. I will ask society: “What problems do you have with jaguars?” There will certainly be stakeholders who have problems with them. Those are my clients. He works with and for them to resolve the problem. We decide what research needs to be

done, what the intention is and what our end goal ideally should be.” It is clear that is searching for a trans-disciplinarity collaboration. Which program or project should be addressed? What are the steps that need to be taken? And how can we monitor the effects and the changes which are a result of our steps? When we look back at the conservation history, we can now see that we arrived at a third stage. We went from a solely ecological approach, to a combination with social sciences.

SILVIO MARCHINI Bridge-builder in humanwildlife coexistence and proud owner of Plan4coex.

“We should make decisions on what is true.” Today we have arrived to a situation where those disciplines are also combined with an ethical perspective.

It is so common that scientists, ecologists, biologists think ‘I have the truth’, because science is the truth. We should make decisions on ‘what is true’.

It remains the question when something, a project or an approach in human-wildlife coexistence, is ethically right. It takes us back to the more philosophical roots of decision making. You could say “I understand that there is a certain subjectivity of what is right and wrong, but I understand that there is a form of universally right or wrong as well”. The bottom line of all this, is that you should consider that there is a diversity of ethical views. What I consider right and wrong is not right and wrong for everyone.

However, the trend in wildlife conservation is beyond that. Luckily. What ultimately matters is not just the scientific truth. The ultimate decisions will be based on people’s lives and ethical values. “We need other ways to take this into account in a fair way. In Plan4coex we implement this in our daily chores, but we also teach others this way of thinking via our workshops.” Alone there is a lot Silvio can do, but sharing knowledge and making people responsible for their own situations is a better and more efficient tactic.



“It’s about changing the people’s perspective on wildlife.” A workshop starts with the participants identifying the human-wildlife interactions. Then the participants create a map of the system. It’s about identifying the direct and indirect factors that are of interest in this human-wildlife interaction. Once we have that, we know what we can do and what we can develop to influence that interaction positively. And we can improve the interaction altogether. For each of those indirect and direct effects, we want to monitor the results. And that’s the basis for adaptive management. It’s a sideways movement, not lineair. In the last year we have done six of these workshops from jaguars in Iguazu National Park to North Eastern Brazil (semi-desert with jaguars), in the Amazon and in Costa Rica. “I’m looking forward to more diversity. Both in wildlife species and in landscapes of this workshop from Plan4Coex.”, as Silvio emphasizes. The aim of Plan4Coex is to go beyond that one specific species that you want to save. It’s about changing the people’s perspective on wildlife, with whichever species they are dealing with. That also makes it difficult to invite people from abroad to become involved in any of Silvio’s projects. Luckily there are definitely some projects and ecotourism locations in Brazil which he prefers, so we are more than happy to share this intel. The most sustainable project in the Central Amazon is

definitely Mamirauá. This institute for Sustainable Development takes care of research, management and extension programs in the Solimoes region in the Amazon. Alongside this institute you have Uakari Lodge. Silvio is determined that this ecolodge should be your accommodation if you want to have the full sustainable experience in the Amazon. Secondly, the Atlantic Forest cannot be forgotten. With only a 2 to 3-hour drive, it is extremely close to São Paulo City. It’s less focussed on wildlife conservation, yet just as stunning with the high intensity of diverse ecosystems. Don’t forget to visit local people and communities. You are supposed to ‘just watch the animal’ when you’re a wildlife tourist. However, you can add great experiences and benefits during your trip if you go beyond enjoying the wildlife and nature. Take the most out of your stay and indulge yourself in the full cultural experience of Brazil. As a truly inspiring connector, more about Silvio’s work can be seen on his website and heard in his TEDtalk. If you are eager to join his workshop about coexistence with nature, a simple email will do the work, but if you are ready today to dive into this topic, browse to his Facebook group ‘HumanWildlife Coexistence: science & practise’ and join now!


If you want to add a bit of spice to your hiking experience, then you need to visit the province Limburg in the Netherlands. Limburg has a diverse landscape, from steep hills, to green forests. Walk over small gravel roads and discover this tiny but surprising European country.

Photos: Mischa Kemna

AVONTUUR DICHTBIJ Avontuur Dichtbij is a travel organization, founded by two sustainable entrepreneurs.We offer individual and group packages in the Netherlands and Belgium.

DUTCH MOUNTAIN TRAIL Are you ready for a tough hike with spectacular views? In the south of Limburg you can walk the toughest mountain hike in the Netherlands: the Dutch Mountain Trail. This long-distance hike is over 100 km long and spans almost 2000 meters of altitude. The tour is suitable for the experienced and adventurous hiker who is looking for a challenge! We offer this trip as a 6-day and a 7-day trip. The 7-day adventure also includes luggage transport. So put on your hiking boots and walk this amazing trail!

Instagram @avontuurdichtbij Website www.avontuurdichtbij.nl

“You don’t have to travel far for an exciting experience.”


Ana Santacruz, born in Quito, Ecuador, studied ecotourism at university. She now works as a naturalist guide in the Amazon Rainforest, her favorite place in the world. In this interview, she answers a few questions on what her job is like and what ecotourism means to her.



WHY DID YOU BECOME A NATURALIST GUIDE? I love nature and when I was a teenager, I wanted to become a biologist. Here in Ecuador, it’s very hard to find a job in that industry, though, so when I found out that it’s possible to study ecotourism, that’s exactly what I decided to do. Being a naturalist guide is a great way to help with nature conservation. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NATURALIST GUIDE AND A REGULAR GUIDE? Just like regular guides, naturalist guides also help people enjoy the area and see the animals. But what naturalist guides do on top of that is educate people on how to preserve nature so that we can keep enjoying these places.



Lago Agrio, Nueva Loja, Ecuador.

“Seeing animals and how they behave is fascinating!”


WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB AS A NATURALIST GUIDE? The animals! Even when you’ve been working in the same place for a long time, you always see different things and there are always new things to learn as well. Seeing animals and how they behave is fascinating! Apart from that, I love interacting with people as well. You get to know people from all around the world, learn from them, and even make new friends.

Ecuadorians is that we have the best and most diverse part of the Amazon, though! (laughs) We have the low, flat Amazon but also the high Amazon, in the Andes Mountains. Thanks to the difference in altitude and temperatures, we have many indigenous species.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ANIMAL AND WHY? The animals I love watching the most are monkeys, not a specific type, but monkeys in general. I don’t really have a favorite animal, though. It’s hard to pick a single one because I love all animals: birds, mammals, insects - they’re all so interesting!

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ECOTOURISM? Ecotourism is based on three things: ecology, society, and economy. The ecological part focuses on nature conservation, whereas the sociological part strives to include local people, tribes, and indigenous groups. The last part, the economy, is based on tourism. The idea is to make money sustainably and to teach the locals and the people who work in the tourism industry to preserve nature. The profit made from tourism then goes to the locals, the guides, and nature preservation.

CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THE AREA WHERE YOU ARE WORKING AS A GUIDE? The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world. Approximately 60% of it is located in Brazil and just 2% in Ecuador. What we like to say as

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT ECOTOURISM TO YOU? To me, the most significant part is to preserve. Nature is very sensitive and if we destroy it, we won’t be able to live on this planet anymore. We need nature for water, food, oxygen, etc.


ANA ON SUSTAINABLE TOURS “I help people organize sustainable tours around Ecuador. I did this as a freelancer for different companies at first, but soon noticed that there are areas that aren’t covered yet.”

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT An Ocecat 2Spider Monkey Ana with Alpacas Group tour





The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world. Approximately 60% of it is located in Brazil and just 2% in Ecuador.


“In real life, nature is different from what you can see in documentaries, as these often take several months to make.”

NOW LET’S TALK BUSINESS, WHAT TOURS ARE YOU ORGANIZING? I help people organize sustainable tours around Ecuador. I did this as a freelancer for different companies at first, but soon noticed that there are areas that aren’t covered yet. I think these areas have a lot to offer as well, and by offering tours here, we can also support the locals in these places. My type of tours focus on interacting more with locals and nature in a sustainable way. My clients and I organize the tours together so that it fits their interests. I also offer private transportation, as this is the easiest and nicest way to take tourists to specific areas. Ecuador is very small, so we can easily go anywhere in the country. We like to say that, in Ecuador, you can have breakfast at the coast, eat lunch in the Andes, and have dinner in the Amazon!

CAN YOU TELL US WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN WE’RE VISITING THE AMAZON? Don’t put your expectations too high. In real life, nature is different from what you can see in documentaries, as these often take several months to make. If tourists expect to arrive in the Amazon and see a jaguar pass in front of them while monkeys are jumping all around, then people will start to attract animals by placing feeders and catching or taming them. Just be prepared for what the forest is prepared to give you, it might not be like in the documentaries, but you will still see wildlife!

Instagram @ana_tourguide Ecologde nearby www.sachalodge.com


MITIGATING ROADKILL in the most famous tropical forest.

She is 36 years old, lives in Brazil and she is currently working on her post-doc. Fernanda Abra is the absolute expert when talking about road mortality and how to mitigate it to promote wildlife conservation and today she tells us all about it. What is she working on right now? How did she get to this point in her career? And how could we implement the knowledge from her research anywhere else?

“It’s not just the loss of many individuals, but also the negative effect on the tropical ecology.”



CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH BACKGROUND? I started to become interested in road ecology in 2010, when doing an internship. Even though I had a broad interest in different topics - such as fungi and tropical forests - road ecology attracted me the most. I instantly knew I wanted to find out more about this field of conservation. In 2011 I first started my research on how to mitigate the impact of roads on wildlife. That was during my masters. It took me until my PhD before I found out approximately 39.000 wild mammals were killed on roads every year, in the Sao Paulo state of Brazil alone.. It was and still is a shocking fact for me. In my PhD I therefore focused on road mortality in combination with the effects on human safety and economic effects. Now, I’m working as a Postdoc in the Amazon, where I do research as well as implement the knowledge I gathered in previous research I did.

“39.000 wild mammals were killed on roads every year, in the Sao Paulo state of Brazil alone.”


“Without them, we would never be able to start this project.” WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN YOUR POSTDOC? The biggest project I’m currently working on is my project in the Amazon, which is called Reconecta. Here I work with indigenous community WaimiriAtroari on decreasing roadkills on a specific Federal highway, BR-174, that run through their forest and their homelands. It’s evident that our human made highways have a very large impact on wildlife and indigenous people. It’s not just the loss of many individuals, but also the negative

effect on the tropical ecology that highlights the importance of what we are trying to do. The project is still in the beginning phase. It will be separated into three phases in the coming years. In phase 1 we will monitor road mortality in the area. By doing this, we will find out exactly what the threats are for wildlife and how they behave naturally. With this knowledge, we can better adapt our approach for phase 2, where we will install 30 canopy bridges. During this phase, the local community helps us with weaving the materials and connecting the canopies above the roads. We will use two different designs, so we can test which ones work the best. At almost the same time phase 3 starts, because now we need to monitor these canopy bridges. Which animals use them, how frequently, when, etc. This needs to happen for at least 2 years for good results.

BRAZIL HOW ARE THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE INVOLVED IN YOUR PROJECT? They are incredibly important for our research. Without them, we would never be able to start this project. First of all, they are the ones that have been asking for methods and solutions to mitigate roadkill in the first place. The animals that live alongside them, have a special meaning in their life. Some of them are sacred, such as specific types of monkeys. Seeing these animals and species die through roadkill, is heartbreaking for them. The past years, even before we connected with them, they started connecting canopies together for wildlife to use. For many locations this has turned out to be successful. However, some canopies are simply too far away from each other to connect naturally.

That is exactly why we are now building artificial canopy bridges to create these connections between areas. During phase 2 and 3 of our project, we need to work with the indigenous people very closely. We need to learn from them how to weave the materials, to build the canopy bridges the right way. After that, we need to train them how to collect the data from the camera traps. Downloading the data, looking at the videos and defining which animals can be seen is crucial in this part of the research. As locals, they have a ton of knowledge on the species that live there. Even Fernanda, who is Brazilian herself, has never seen many of these species in real life. Indigenous people therefore play a vital role in this project

FERNANDA ABRA Expert when talking about road mortality and how to mitigate it to promote wildlife conservation.



ARE YOU WORKING ALONE OR WITH A TEAM? I never truly work alone, as you need other people to support you both with knowledge as well as with finances to run a project. In the company ViaFauna, which I run with my fellow colleague Paula, we work on several projects across Brazil. This is the place where we implement our knowledge that we gained from our research. As she and I are both working on our postdocs at the same time, it’s always a mixture of projects coming together and a mixture of people that you’re working with.

“I never truly work alone, as you need other people to support you.” For example, in my Amazonian research and project, I am working with two students and a Professor from Federal University of Amazonas. They help me conduct the research, to communicate with the indigenous people and to gather the right data. Alongside that, I’m a postdoc fellow fromthe Center of Conservation and Sustainability, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute from the US and I’m contacting many national and international funds for financial support. Running such a project is often way more complex than simply conducting the research itself.


Living in Brazil - or at least in South America is therefore sometimes a roadblock while researching and helping wildlife.


“Every month we have a different problem to solve.” HOW DO YOU SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE WITH OTHER CONSERVATIONISTS? Future for Nature is a Dutch competition in which conservationists can win a sum of money to develop their research and conservation projects. As I won this competition in 2019, I am now part of the Future for Nature Family. This ‘Family’ is one of their latest projects, in which they connect previous winners with each other, to share knowledge and skills. I’m now connected with Els and José, who work in Suriname and Colombia. This year I will visit them, and they will visit me in the Amazon, to further implement canopy bridges in their countries. It’s a great start to make this happen. In the future I hope to also implement it in other countries, specially tropical areas with high arboreal species diversity. Even though nobody is working on these problems there yet, I’m sure it would be great to further extend our research and project to these countries. WHAT ROADBLOCKS DO YOU ENCOUNTER IN YOUR RESEARCH? There are plenty, way too many to tell actually. People always think that conducting the research itself is causing the greatest roadblocks, but in the end, it is always way more than that. For example: we need many many funds to build the canopy bridges here in the Amazon forest and to pay all the people working on the project. Even though we are currently funded by 7 different parties including the Future for Nature Award - we are still trying to gather more funds. This also comes back when we look at similar research projects in Europe and Northern America. Here, they also work on canopy bridges and similar problems. However, the funds are way bigger and the materials used way more expensive.

Living in Brazil we therefore have to be innovative and creative in how to set up a new project. Especially here in the Amazon, where all the materials are far away and more expensive. The logistics is insane! We always say: “Every month we have a different problem to solve.” Yet somehow it always works out again. Living in Brazil - or at least in South America - is therefore sometimes a roadblock while researching and helping wildlife. However, to me it’s all worth it to put in the time, money and effort. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR FUTURE ECOLOGISTS/CONSERVATIONISTS? Try many different things before you choose a career path. By experimenting with different topics, locations and research fields, you will find out what you really love doing. There will be one thing that you are willing to spend your life on doing. As a conservationist you have to be ready to give your full 100% at any time of the day, so only if you’re completely committed to your project or research, you will be able to make it.

Instagram @nanda_abra Website www.viafauna.com.br



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 Ana Santacruz, Björn Donnars, Fernanda Abra, Latoya de Jong, Angela Boghui, Ifigenia Garita, Christina Tholander, Ron van der A, Frank Landman, Silvio Marchini & Sarah Ritzen. SALES Amy van Loon amy@ubuntumagazine.com PR MANAGER Judith van der Steen Judith@ubuntumagazine.com MARKETING Chiara Holzer WEBDESIGNER & CREATOR Marijn Jansen

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