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The Short Version: It’s a relatively simple concept — fill your life with genuine experiences that make the world a better place and you’ll likely meet others with the same ethics and morals. If wildlife and ecology are your passions, Tusk delivers opportunities to do just that. This UK-based nonprofit’s mission is to advance innovations to protect Africa’s wildlife and natural habitats. Founded in 1990 by CEO Charlie Mayhew, Tusk regularly hosts an array of events (from black-tie galas and art exhibitions to once-in-a-lifetime adventures in Africa) that you can share with a loved one. The aim is to bring greater awareness to Africa’s human-wildlife conflict. Thousands of eco-minded activists are getting involved to help Tusk eradicate illegal wildlife trade and habitat encroachment while connecting with others looking to make a difference.
Based in the small town of Gillingham in the Blackmore Vale area of Dorset, England, Tusk is a small yet dynamic organization that’s been a significant force in the fight for conservation, community development, and environmental programs across Africa. Over the last 40 years, the world’s wildlife population has decreased by more than half, and some of Africa’s most treasured species are on the brink of extinction.
The statistics are staggering. Take the African Elephant, for example. In 1979 there were 1.3 million of the majestic beasts roaming the world. Today, there are approximately 350,000. The same goes for the Black Rhino, which numbered an estimated 65,000 in 1970 and now stand at just 5,000.
“Our mission is to support conservation across Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Mary-Jane Attwood, Tusk’s Media Coordinator. “We’re working to protect wildlife, support communities, and promote education — particularly in rural communities.”
Founded nearly 30 years ago, Tusk was established around the same time Africa was experiencing a poaching crisis.
“Nearly 100,000 elephants were being slaughtered every year, and our founder saw what was going on and wanted to do something,” Mary-Jane said. “Tusk has grown extraordinarily over the past decade. We have a very large voice for such a small organization.”
To help further its cause, Tusk regularly hosts events and develops activities to bring wildlife lovers together. These programs range from black-tie galas to marathons in Kenya’s conservation areas, and they’re meant to attract participants with varied interests. They’re opportunities where eco-minded activists can come together and bond while supporting the organization’s worthy cause.
Through the dedication of its team and volunteer network, Tusk has become a proven ally to conservation efforts in Africa. Having a famous name attached to the cause has only helped propel the nonprofit to international prominence. Since 2005, Prince William has been a powerful advocate for Tusk’s mission and vision as the organization’s Royal Patron.
In a speech to mark Tusk’s 20th anniversary, the prince noted: “The imperative of balancing conservation of wildlife and natural resources with the ever-growing needs of the human race is at the heart of the great challenge facing mankind today.”
Tusk CEO and Founder, Charlie Mayhew, recognizes the prince’s efforts as being immensely helpful to the organization’s fundraising efforts.
“His ability to draw global attention to the plight of the endangered species being decimated by illegal wildlife trade has been warmly welcomed by conservationists across the globe, and we are enormously grateful to him,” Charlie said.
While most of us do not have the celebrity of a prince, the efforts of Tusk’s thousands of donors have helped the organization’s small staff of 11 raise millions of dollars to support programs across Africa.
“We have nine staffers in the UK and two in Kenya,” Mary-Jane said. “We like to say that we punch above our weight. Our main goal is to raise more money than last year, and last year we raised $11 million, with $10 million invested into our programs. For a small organization, that’s very healthy. We couldn’t have done it without the thousands of people who regularly support our mission.”
As a nonprofit that relies on donations, hosting one-of-a-kind events and activities for fundraising helps put Tusk at the forefront of conservation efforts in Africa. One such event is the annual Safaricom Marathon. Renowned as one of the world’s top-10 marathons, this fundraising event offers an unforgettable experience running through Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.
“We encourage individuals, couples, and corporate teams to come out to Kenya to run alongside some of Africa’s most amazing wildlife,” Mary-Jane said. “This heavily protected 61,000-acre conservancy is home to rhino, elephant, big cats, and a vast assortment of plains wildlife, including giraffe and zebras. We find that people come back year after year, which is very exciting.”
Tusk is also part of the popular Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. Participants can opt to run on behalf of Team Tusk at one of the marathons hosted in 30 cities around the world each year. From Montreal to Chicago and Dublin, runners have helped raise a hefty sum for conservation. Other notable events include the Virgin Money London Marathon and Prudential RideLondon cycle race through England’s stunning countryside.
“We’re always busy putting on black-tie events and art exhibitions,” Mary-Jane said. “And, five years ago, we set up The Tusk Conservation Award, which is an exciting new initiative that highlights the unsung heroes who are working in conservation across Africa. The event has brought unsurpassed publicity and a great deal of kudos.”
“The Tusk Awards have been critical to bringing these unknown conservationists to the surface,” she continued. “We have been able to learn about their work and give them a platform as well as link them with similar individuals and groups. It’s created a network that’s made Tusk so successful at garnering worldwide attention in the fight for saving African wildlife from extinction.”
“When someone pledges a monthly donation, they’re not just funding but sustaining our work to help secure a stable future for Africa’s wildlife,” Mary-Jane said. “We like to say that, ‘Together, we are Gamechangers.’”
Tusk’s Gamechanger designation offers a unique way for individuals to feel like they are directly acting as part of the solution. For example, a $20-per-month donation helps build two school desks each month for school children who take part in the conservation education program. For $50 per month, your donation rents a camera trap to survey wild chimpanzees. A donation of $100 per month covers the monthly salary of a wildlife security commander, and $200 per month funds one year of forest protection from illegal logging and hunting.
Gamechanger Liza Connelly summed it up perfectly.
“Time, treasure, and talent — those are the three things we can give to an organization,” she said. “I give what I can, my treasure, because I applaud Tusk’s work to conserve and protect Africa’s amazing animals while providing resources to educate and lift up local communities. This two-for-one approach is effective and empowering.”
While Tusk does not directly enlist volunteers to help with their efforts to fund its 68 active field projects aimed at protecting 43 key species, the organization does partner with other nonprofits to bring together like-minded philanthropists, environmentalists, and wildlife lovers.
“We work with separate entities that come to Tusk for funding,” Mary-Jane said. “It’s an exciting range covering education, communities, and wildlife protection and includes the Lilongwe Wildlife Center in Malawi and Conservation Through Public Health.”
One such project is the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Isiolo District, Kenya, which promotes wildlife and habitat conservation as well as endangered species protection. Another is The Mail Elephant Project, which employs five local staff members to protect elephants in the Gourma region of Mali.