Paul Gardiner has long been passionate about conservation. The son of conservation pioneer Adrian Gardiner, Paul is currently Global Marketing Director of the Mantis Group, which has partnered with Chōsen Experiences for this week’s South Africa Experience.
Paul, together with Dr Andrew Muir, CEO of the Wilderness Foundation Africa, talked to Experience attendees about the importance of conservation and discussed how we can all do our bit to protect and save our wildlife and natural resources.
“There’s never been a better time to take action,” says Paul. “We are losing our wildlife at an alarming rate and if we don’t do something now, there will literally be nothing left for the next generation.”
Paul equates being in the wilderness to medicine, saying that it heals the mind, body and soul. “If you live in a big city there are very few places you can escape to, but if you come out to a place like South Africa, for instance, and go on a safari drive where you get to observe animals like rhinos, lions and elephants, you will immediately notice a difference in how you feel. It is truly a healing experience, which is why we must protect these precious creatures.”
There are many ways we can support our local environment while conserving and maintaining our natural resources. One way, says Paul, is to support groups that are committed to conservation. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the Wilderness Foundation Africa, The Tusk Trust and African Parks are just three of many that are doing excellent work on the ground. Earlier this year, the Mantis Group, in partnership with Accor Hotels, created Conservation Community Fund Africa, a non-profit organization that raises money for these very important NGOs.
Another way is to support tourism in countries like South Africa, whose wildlife and reserves are big visitor draws. By travelling to these places you are helping preserve the natural attractions that make the sites popular.
The third – and probably simplest – way to do your part for conservation, says Paul, is to talk about it. “The more people know about the urgency to protect our wildlife and natural environment the better. There are so many social media platforms you can go on to spread this message. By getting more people talking about it you increase awareness of the issue.”
A few years ago, for example, the Wilderness Foundation Africa hosted Vietnamese-Australian pop star Thanh Bui in South Africa, where they exposed him to the underworld of poaching and talked to him about the demand in East Asia for rhino horns. Paul says that East Asian cultures have used rhino horns for centuries so there was a need to be culturally sensitive, but at the same time, they had to drive home the message that the practice was no longer sustainable: “We lose about three rhinos a day. At that rate, they will be extinct before we know it.”
When Thanh Bui returned to Vietnam he went to schools and other venues, where he educated locals about the problems associated with rhino poaching. Pretty soon it was something that many Vietnamese were talking about. Although it was a straightforward strategy, it was effective at helping shed light on a serious matter, says Paul.
“You have to create as much noise about conservation as possible and take the opportunity to educate others, otherwise we will lose our wildlife for good. We cannot allow more extinctions to occur on our watch.”