Born Free USA Global Field Projects
(Taken from the Born Free Foundation’s website.)
David Jay talks to Ofir Drori, founder of the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA). Born Free has supported this project since 2004.
What is your goal in your work with LAGA?
Our goal is bringing about effective wildlife law enforcement. Most of the countries in west and central Africa are yet to apply the wildlife law. We are here to change this,
What is it that motivates you to work with wildlife?
I loved animals from the time I was young, but what motivates me more is all of my African experience. My love for wildlife cannot be separated from my love to this continent’s people. I spent years in the bush, being with wild animals as I trek through the savannahs. Watching a herd of 300 elephants from a tent is inspiring and leaves one with a sense of humility and deep respect to nature.
Why do you consider individual animals to be important?
Future, the first baby chimp I rescued has showed me that beyond preserving a species, each individual animal is a world by itself. Being so inquisitive and expressive, it was difficult to ignore the value of his thoughts and feelings.
What recent achievements are you most proud of?
We are now witnessing the replication of the LAGA model of establishing wildlife law enforcement through fighting corruption. It is beautiful to see that new countries like Congo and the Central African Republic get their first ever wildlife prosecutions, and to see the idea spreading.
What upcoming plans are you most excited about?
We would like to get more replications in Gabon, Nigeria, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Once we have it set we could then start regional enforcement effort where national projects will collaborate with one another to fight wildlife crime the way the big dealers operate — internationally.
How has Born Free’s support been important to you?
Born Free is our most loyal donor. It was one of the first to take the risk and bet on us, where all we had was a lot of passions and some new ideas. But Born Free is for us more than a donor, the dedicated Born Free team keep advising us and guiding us on crucial decisions. I recall the first year of LAGA where I was invited to visit the Born Free office. Having fought my battles in Cameroon with much resistance and very little support or recognition I was welcomed by a family that gave me the feeling I was not alone.
Ten years ago you rescued your first chimpanzee, who you named Future — how is he now?
That was 8 years ago. Future is now in the Sanaga Yong sanctuary with a family of chimps. Hopefully very soon he will be reintegrated into the forest and will be where he belongs — in the wild.