The Paradise International Foundation is a nonprofit organization that focuses on protecting prestigious lands and waters around the world. Led by co-chairmen Jack Ma, Pony Ma, and executive chairman Shen Guojun, Paradise commits to conserving and preserving important ecosystems on earth with a charitable intention, in a scientific approach all guided by business support. It’s with the intention of protecting key habitats that Paradise’s mission and objectives align with Mara Elephant Project’s approach of collaring, monitoring and collecting data on key elephant candidates in the Mara ecosystem in order to protect this iconic species and the greater Mara ecosystem.
Paradise has awarded MEP a $65,000 grant to support the protection of two elephants, Hugo and Hangzhou, over a three-year period. Hugo is MEP’s longest tracked bull elephant who was originally collared in September 2012 and re-collared in September 2015. He was originally collared in response to the poaching crisis in 2012 since he was an older bull elephant (estimated at 47-years-old) with large tusks and can often be found in the company of Fred and Kegol. His continued protection is not only vital for his safety, but also for the collection of long-term tracking data MEP uses to map the ecosystem. Hangzhou is a female elephant with a similar estimated age to Hugo and was originally collared in July 2017. She and her herd of 14 elephants reside in a high human-elephant conflict area of the ecosystem and collaring her has allowed MEP to set up additional geo-fences around farmland thus protecting those communities. Hangzhou has also been an important elephant to track because she is a transboundary elephant, meaning she moves in between the Mara and Serengeti, Tanzania, and tracking which path she takes is very important for MEP.
Collared elephant Hugo.
In addition to Paradise supporting the protection of two elephants, they are also providing funds for the running costs of an additional vehicle used for the rapid response unit to mitigate human-elephant conflict. This vehicle will be used for not only response to human-elephant conflict, but also for anti-poaching patrols and elephant monitoring.
“Africa is an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage in terms of wildlife conservation. Protecting the keynote species in Africa is the common responsibilities and duty for all humans. In addition to protecting the wildlife, we also need to help local communities. Through collaborating with the organizations that focus on conservation issues such as MEP, the Paradise Foundation, together with Alibaba Foundation, wish to bring more Chinese public attention to African conservation. Although we just join the protection of Africa, we hope to provide more effective support for the work.” Vice President and Chief Scientist of the Paradise Foundation Dezhi Wang
Paradise’s support of MEP is a great first step for a new generation of Chinese that is focused on conservation. China, at one time, was the leading market for illegal wildlife trade and urged by domestic and international environmental organizations, the State Council announced that a complete ban would be imposed on the commercial sales and procession of ivory, starting in December 2017. A recent study done by the University of York shows that the number of poached elephants has dropped by over half which they link directly to China’s declining demand for illegal ivory, a good sign.
Another good sign is Jack Ma and Pony Ma’s commitment to shutting down the illegal trade that is occurring on their e-commerce platforms Alibaba and Tencent. Alibaba has strengthened its standardized management of wildlife trade on its websites in accordance with international regulations. Tencent emphasizes the conservation of wildlife and ecological resources as crucial, relying on its internet security capability to help crack down on illegal wildlife trade online and wielding its platform-based strengths to promote public awareness and education.
One such conservation education initiative that Paradise through Alibaba is promoting within China is using video games. Taobao Mobile Game has created a game on the Taobao Mobile App, named “wildlife partners.” Every user can choose one of three animals to protect: a polar bear, finless porpoise or an elephant. The game then provides several situations that are good for the planet; for example, reducing waste or chasing away poachers. Then, the user clicks the screen to do this task to solve the situation to get points and when the points reach a certain level, the user can choose to exchange a real fund through Taobao Mobile for the protection of this animal, money that will directly benefit conservation. During the game, the user will also get statistics about the animal and reports on how many users are protecting elephants.
Collared elephant Hangzhou.
These are all good steps toward raising public awareness, educating about conservation and shutting down illicit trade of wildlife products in China; however, we must note, neither organization releases their relevant data on the volume of wildlife-related products found on their platforms similar to other online platforms policies around the globe. Though not perfect, nothing in conservation rarely is, and Paradise’s commitment to funding organizations like MEP that are actively combatting the poaching of elephants in the Maasai Mara, is an action that speaks to the future of Chinese investment in conservation.