Women Helping Wildlife Around the World

“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.” ~ Jane Goodall

Amazing women like Jane Goodall have been helping animals for years. They have been raising awareness about endangered species, developing sustainable solutions to bring back species on the brink of extinction, studying animal behavior to further protect them, and helping bring about positive change.

Below is information on three amazing, award winning wildlife conservationists.

1) Jane Goodall – Chimpanzees

Internationally recognized expert on chimpanzees, 77-year-old Jane Goodall is an icon for animal conservation. Goodall has been studying the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, East Africa and advocating for their protection for more than 45 years.

When Goodall set out to study chimpanzees, all she had was a strong sense of determination and a desire for adventure. One of Goodall’s early accomplishments was the discovery of tool-making among chimpanzees. She was able to achieve this by being patient, and gaining their trust enough to get close enough to observe them. It was a feat achieved by no other scientist at the time. When her mentor Louis Leakey first heard about her discovery, he sent her a telegram: “Now we must redefine tool, redefine man, or accept chimpanzees as human.”

Dr. Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute 35 years ago to support the Gombe research and protect chimpanzees and their habitats. The institute is recognized for its innovative and community-based conservation programs throughout Africa. The institute’s Roots & Shoots program currently has more than 8,000 youth groups in 120 countries and encourages youngsters to partake in environmental conservation.

Dr. Goodall also used her knowledge of chimps to improve the conditions of lab chimpanzees and those in zoos. As a United Nations Messenger of Peace, she continues to tour the world educating the public and raising awareness about chimpanzees.

2) Laurie Marker – Cheetahs

Dr. Laurie Marker has worked with cheetahs since 1974 and is the Founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) headquartered in Namibia, Africa. Marker started the Fund in 1990 after having spent 16 years developing the most successful captive cheetah-breeding program in North America at Oregon’s Wildlife Safari.

Determined to study the world’s fastest land animals in their natural habitat and set up a permanent Conservation Research Centre for them, Marker set out to Namibia, which is the last large stronghold of the endangered species. Cheetahs are endangered because of habitat loss and coming into conflict with livestock farming.

CCF’s mission is to release captive born cheetahs into the wild, develop a conservancy for cheetahs on Namibia’s livestock farmlands in cooperation with the farmers and local communities and to improve the cheetah habitats by clearing invasive bush that leads way to restoring Namibian savannah. CCF has also developed a Cheetah Museum and visitor and education centers.

One of the most successful non-lethal predator control programs at CCF is the Livestock Guarding DogProgram, which uses Anatolian Shepherds and Kangal dogs to protect livestock from cheetahs. The dogs are raised with the herd so that they bond with the animals and assume the role of protectors. The fight or flight instinct in cheetahs causes them to stay away from farmlands.

3) Sangduen “Lek” Chailert – Elephants

Dr. Sangduen “Lek” Chailert grew up in a small hill tribe village in Thailand.

Her love of elephants started when her grandfather got a baby elephant to help him with farming chores. While working with trekking companies after college, Lek discovered the abuse and neglect that many domestic Asian elephantsendure. Retired elephants (from logging) were made to beg on the streets for food. Later on, they are sent to tourist camps to provide entertainment and rides.

Lek decided to take things into her own hands, and began advocating for better treatment of the elephants. In 1995, Lek set up the Elephant Nature Foundation, which advocates and acts on behalf of the rights of Asian elephants in Thailand. Within the foundation, the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) operates as a sanctuary and rehabilitation center providing a natural environment and allowing formerly abused and retired elephants to simple be elephants.

The elephants roam freely and work for no one. In addition to rescuing elephants, Elephant Nature Foundation also provides emergency healthcare to elephants in remote villages throughout Thailand through a program called Jumbo Express.

Elephant Nature Foundation’s recent endeavor is the Surin Project, set up in the Surin province, east of Bangkok.

The Surin Project helps mahouts in rural communities with elderly elephants through sustainable volunteer tourism. Volunteers will help with building shelters, digging irrigation canals, planting elephant food and helping elephants get off their chains and live natural lives by leading them on a long walk each morning.

Published on NBC Petside on March 23, 2012

Published by Lavanya

Lavanya Sunkara is a writer, animal lover, and globetrotter based in New York City. She has written for The New York Times, Fodor’s, Architectural Digest, Shermans Travel, The Dodo, and many more in a career spanning eight years. She covers travel, eco-lifestyle, culture, pets, and wildlife conservation.

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