Mara Elephant Project noticed that an “organization” named Safeguard Elephants was using MEP photos and wording on their social media channels to raise funds to protect elephants. After doing some simple investigative work online, it became very evident that the website Safeguard Elephants had set up, had an operational “donate” page, and not much else.
A recent Instagram post where they feature a MEP elephant collaring operation while soliciting donations for their organization.
As a small boots-on-the-ground operation, MEP takes extremely seriously our supporters time, effort and fundraising efforts for our organization. Every single dollar that is donated to MEP goes directly to the frontlines of protecting elephants to conserve the greater Mara ecosystem. So, when someone is scamming people that support organizations like MEP for their own personal gain, we knew we needed to take action.
MEP’s head of intelligence posing as a donor contacted Safeguard Elephants to inquire about meeting face-to-face in Nairobi. They not only emailed us an annual report that they had taken directly from Elephants for Africa, an organization based in Botswana, they also agreed to a meeting in Nairobi. On June 28, C.E.O. Marc Goss, posing as that donor met with a woman claiming to be a receptionist with the organization all while the Kenya Wildlife Service and Nairobi Police waited to move in. After a 20-minute meeting in which Marc was able to get her associates’ name, the police moved in to arrest her. Later, the police were also able to track down her associate and arrest him. Both were booked and charged.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to estimate just how many fraudulent donations they collected all in the name of elephant protection, but we can at least say now, that they have been shut down and will no longer be operating this scam in Kenya. Other organizations affected included the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust and many more, we’re sure. See below the Instagram post they took from Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. What would be extremely helpful is to make sure to report Safeguard Elephant’s Instagam and Facebook page as “fraudulent”. Simply search for their name on Instagram @safeguardelephants and click the three dots in the upper righthand corner of your screen. Then, click “report” and “it’s spam.” If enough people do this, Instagram will hopefully take their feed down. Facebook is similar, simply search for their organization’s name and hit the three dots that appear under the profile picture and click “report.”When you are thinking about donating to an organization there are some simple steps you can take to ensure it is legitimate. On any legitimate NGO’s website, all of the pages should be working and have recently updated content. Additionally, they should list the name of staff and board members, have security language on the donate page along with annual reports posted. If you are ever feeling suspicious about the validity of a charity, please email their contact email and ask for an annual report and/or their most recent financials. Transparency should always be a part of an NGO’s agenda because asking for the public to support your organizations means there must be trust and bogus organizations like Safeguard Elephants prey on the trust between a donor and an NGO and they should be held accountable for that.
Mara Elephant Project takes our donors support very seriously. Ensuring that our donors have a safe and secure way to support our organization is our first priority. We value the support we receive from the public and the support provided to the many organizations working to protect wildlife across the globe. We will not tolerate organizations like this using our donor’s trust illegally and potentially undermining the critical work that we and other conservation organizations are engaged in to protect elephants and biodiversity around the globe. Please be aware that scams such as Safeguard Elephants are out there and follow the simple steps above, before donating to ensure that frauds like Safeguard Elephants are brought to justice and your generous support is used for the purposes which you intended.