There is simply no way this type of project could be pulled off without a solid team containing a diverse array of skills both in collecting sound scientific data and in creating compelling media.
We have four people heading out into the field and one amazing biologist working with a team in Seattle to utilize our data. In order to succeed our field team has to be able to survive in the jungle, produce high quality media, do legitimate scientific work and – possibly most important – to leverage our media and data to create real change and protect elephants.
National Geographic Adventurer of the year in 2007 and now 4-time National Geographic grantee, Trip has spend plenty of time in the field. It is projects like this that combine hard science, compelling visual documentation and legitimate conservation outcomes that he specializes in. ‚ÄúElephants are beautiful creatures, with amazingly human-like behavior and a crucial roll in the ecosystem around them. They are such important seed dispersers, it is said that the Congo jungle without elephants would be like Manhattan without automobiles. I don‚Äôt want to see that change happen in my lifetime.‚Äù Trip has lead successful expeditions to remote locations around the world including Papua New Guinea, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Joe is also a National Geographic grantee, a biologist by training but a wildlife photographer by profession. He specializes in remote imaging, setting out cameras for weeks or even months to get the perfect image. In his words: “This expedition is absolutely fascinating to me because it is two-fold. We are addressing both the demand and the supply of elephant ivory, leveraging sound science with compelling media. We collect scat that helps identify poaching hot spots and limits supply, then we photograph and film our experience with these incredible creatures, educating and inspiring our own culture to curb demand for ivory.”
First off, Andy can carry a backpack a long way. That’s going to be important when we’ve been trudging through the jungle for weeks with backpacks full of elephant poop. That said, it’s in the media realm that Andy’s true skills shine.
Trip, Andy and Kyle have worked together on video projects accepted to a long list of film festivals, winning a number of awards. He’s a great camera-person and has lots of experience getting in – and out – of very difficult situations, a must for this protect.
“The fact that elephants in the Democratic Republic of Congo are quickly on their way to extinction is not widely known, nor is their greater role in the critically important forest ecosystem in which they thrive. I‚Äôm excited to have an opportunity to address not only the supply through collecting important data, but also the demand by telling the animals‚Äô story.‚Äù
Kyle is also tough as nails and an amazing writer. He’s written for Adventure Magazine, Outside Magazine, and the Smithsonian covering expeditions like this all over the world. He’ll be using his writing skills to publish articles and news pieces far and wide raising awareness to the plight of elephants and the rapid rate at which they are being killed for ivory. “Expeditions are a mixed bag. Sometimes, things suck. The easiest thing to do is just keep your head up and go to work,” Kyle says. “Plus, for better or worse, the suffering seems to make them more memorable.”
Dr. Wasser is the true backbone of this project. A pioneering conservation biologist with a history of working with the National Geographic Society, he has revolutionized the study of wildlife forensics. It was Wasser as the director of the conservation biology department at the University of Washington that developed the model for tracking seized elephant ivory back to it‚Äôs source. It was also Dr. Wasser who approached Trip Jennings, at that time fresh off the plane from his first expedition to the Congo, and asked if he would be interested in going back to collect elephant DNA.