What good is having wildlife protection laws if the government and police don't enforce them? Taking cues from our personal heroes Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall is animal conservation hero Ofir Drori from Tel Aviv.
Based in Africa for nearly a decade, Drori is directing the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA for short) in Cameroon. Known by locals as the "Man in Black" Drori, through a network of spies, is making sure the police and government are putting animal traffickers and poachers where they belong – in jail.
The World Wildlife Federation, he says, has a presence in Cameroon but rife with corruption, they can't stop the locals from hunting bushmeat or illegally exporting goods such as ivory.
Through LAGA, Drori is hoping to create a "paradigm shift" in animal conservation and protection in Africa. "LAGA was born out of criticism against the failure of conservation and the realities of the foreign aid business in general," he said in an interview with us reporting for ISRAEL21c.
Some 3,000 gorillas, 4,000 chimps and about 4,000 elephants are killed each year in Cameroon, says Drori. And before Drori's organization came into being about 4 years ago no one in Central or West Africa had been prosecuted for trafficking or poaching animals.
LAGA was founded in Israel by Drori and other Israeli conservation colleagues including the editor of the Israeli Geographical magazine, and the manager of the Safari, a safari park near Tel Aviv.
The organization is a small and lean team with just 10 team members. Their mission is to protect endangered species, such as gorillas, elephants, chimps and lions. They have been successful, they report, with a few people being arrested every month.
Looking at Goodall, who devoted a part of her life to saving chimps in Tanzania, Drori says, "Jane Goodall was predicting the start of ape extinction within 15 years. This brought me to Cameroon to write about this crisis. Searching for the heroes fighting to change this forecast, I found a larger problem instead."
LAGA seeks a volunteer who has experience with Africa, dangerous missions and who can commit to volunteering for a year. See LAGA for more.
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