GWC Celebrates Its Best of 2020, Despite a Challenging Year
This year has been unlike any other in our lifetimes. As we all adjusted to a new normal around the world, for many of us nature became a new kind of lifeline, giving us a respite from our Zoom calls, providing moments of relief from the monotony of being stuck indoors, and reminding us of our profound connection to our wild world.
But it wasn’t just a notable year because of the pandemic or because it has marked the start of what we hope is a ‘great reset.’ Thanks to your support, we are ending 2020 on a celebratory note, reflecting on the moments of light that our work, alongside that of our partners, brought to this otherwise dark year:
Rapid RESCUE for Critical Ecosystems and Vulnerable Communities
We recently partnered with the European Union and Leonardo DiCaprio to launch the $42 million Rapid RESCUE initiative to respond to imminent threats to critical ecosystems and the communities that depend on them. A second joint initiative will safeguard Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the most biodiverse protected area on the African continent.
Speaking of Virunga, your generous support of the Virunga Fund helped the park’s African Elephant herd increase from 120 to 700. Through sheer force, the elephants are transforming some areas back to true grassland savanna, allowing the return of grazers and other wildlife species that have been absent from the park for the last two decades.
United for Amazonia
Thanks to the support of more than 35,000 donors who stepped up to help after the Amazon forest fires last year, we are working with 36 partner organizations on 41 projects to improve the conservation of almost 100 million acres of Amazonia.
A Homecoming for Devils
We are proud to have partnered with Aussie Ark, WildArk, and actors Elsa Pataky and Chris Hemsworth to release 26 Tasmanian Devils into the wild of Australia this year after a 3,000-year absence from the devils’ historical home. Their return to the wild marks not only renew hope for this species, but as an apex predator, the devils will help restore the natural balance to Australia as they essentially engineer the ecosystem.
On World Ranger Day, we took action to improve the working conditions and professional capacity of the brave individuals who serve as protected area rangers. The “new deal” from the recently launched Universal Ranger Support Alliance (URSA) will address the needs and priorities identified by rangers from more than 70 countries to help support them in their important jobs of protecting 30% of the planet, while also bringing accountability to the ranger workforce through professionalization. This month we launched an #ArtforWildlifeRangers Photo Sale on Artsy, offering prints from 22 renowned photographers to support rangers on the ground – all proceeds will be matched by the Sheinberg Relief Fund to double your impact!
This summer, when we learned that the government of Cameroon had approved a logging concession that would have destroyed Ebo Forest, the ancestral home to more than 40 local communities and home to highly threatened gorillas, chimpanzees, and red colobus monkeys, you heeded our call to help. Your voices helped convince President Paul Biya to suspend the logging concession from Ebo Forest. Similarly, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, your voice helped complement the actions of activists on the ground, ultimately persuading the Federation of BiH to stop providing subsidies for small hydropower projects, which threaten local communities and wildlife that depend on the freshwater systems.
Keeping the Greenest Country on Earth Green
In Suriname, the “Greenest Country on Earth,” we worked with partner organization Green Growth Suriname and the national government to completely revamp their environmental legislation, laying the groundwork for protection of more than 18 million acres of primary forest in the far south of the country—in close partnership with the Trio indigenous people living there.
Lost Species Found!
2020 saw the rediscovery of two of our top 25 most wanted species! In August we helped announce the rediscovery of the Somali Sengi, a type of elephant shrew unseen in 50 years, in Djibouti. And in November we announced the rediscovery of the mesmerizing Voeltzkow’s Chameleon in Madagascar, bringing our total rediscoveries to six out of our top 25!
Campaign to #ENDTHETRADE
In April we co-launched a coalition to end the commercial trade of wild terrestrial animals to prevent the future spread of zoonotic disease that can result in the kind of pandemic we’ve experienced this year. The accompanying Declaration to End the Tradehas been endorsed by more than 370 organizations, and more than 80,000 of you signed the petition to #ENDTHETRADE.
A Kakī Comeback
In August we supported the release of 104 juvenile Kakī, or Black Stilt—the world’s rarest wading bird— into the wild in the South Island’s Mackenzie Basin as part of the New Zealand Department of Conservation’s ongoing Kakī Recovery Programme. In 2020, the adult Kakī population increased by 30% from 2019 to a total of 169 adults, in part thanks to a new aviary and brooder room funded by GWC through the generous support of the Sheth Sangreal Foundation. It was the population’s most significant increase since the recovery program began more than 40 years ago.