Aspen’s WildiZe, in their own words
ASPEN – When Eli Weiss first set foot in Africa, on safari in 1993, things would never be the same for the Aspen resident – or for the wildlife and people of Sub-Sahara Africa.
In fact, Weiss – a graphic artist and wildlife/nature photographer – would go on to create the WildiZe Foundation in 2001. Since then, the Aspen-based nonprofit has implemented more than 70 programs that impact “the conservation of Africa’s wildlife, human communities and the ways of life for more than 250,000 people and counting.”
Currently, projects are under way in Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and Botswana, and include wildlife conservation, environmental education, disease study and community development.
And, on May 26 in Africa, Weiss will be recognized by the Kenya Wildlife Service for WildiZe’s conservation work in Tsavo North and West National parks; she will also present results from the organization’s lion conservation initiative.
In honor of these events and the organization’s 10th anniversary, Weiss and WildiZe deputy director Eric Vozick, share in their own words what the foundation has meant to Africa, as well as to Aspen.
Aspen Times: How should Aspenites feel connected to the work you do, considering it is halfway around the globe?
Eli Weiss: Everyone anywhere is concerned with our world events. What happens to Africa is going to affect what happens in the U.S. and elsewhere. Just about everyone also is concerned about our environment, wildlife and sustainability.
Eric Vozick: As with most things, the world has shrunk and we can see events across the globe instantly and in-depth. This is both a blessing and a curse. As Eli mentions, the issues being faced in Africa are being faced here as well and can be easily identified by Aspen citizens.
AT: What are some of those issues?
EW: Aspenites can feel very connected to Africa as we face similar issues – sustainable development, wildlife habitats, and where people and wildlife meet at that crossing point of conflict and enjoyment.
EV: As we all strive to address such large-scale phenomena as global warming, we can help show real world impacts in Africa as well as innovative potential solutions that might not be visible here in Aspen and the U.S., helping to broaden long-term solutions.
AT: Of the work WildiZe does, what do you believe has the most impact – globally and locally?
EV: It is hard to pinpoint one such project as we have impact across multiple areas of interest, including but not limited to: veterinary research finding a strain of TB that is being spread from human waste to mongoose and then back to human communities; working to minimize lion/livestock conflicts helping to restore lion populations while also providing an economic buffer for pastoralists to survive; educating local communities on the importance of nature and how they can build a life around supporting the environment; providing regional solutions to water, waste, education and sustainable food production so as to allow wildlife to roam a little more freely, the human communities to grow and survive and future generations have a thriving community to grow in.
EW: Connecting people to active and accessible conservation efforts, and the knowing that at any moment, at any time, we can make a difference – in our personal lives and in the lives of someone we may not yet know. With each small step or action we as individuals take, we create ripple effects that resound far outside our personal life and neighborhood/ community to affect those physically far away from us, but just next door in terms of similar issues we face.
AT: Can you expand on that point?
EW: In Aspen, it’s bear. In Africa, it may be different animals, but the issues are the same – how do we live side by side in existence with wildlife that may be at odds with our human needs.
AT: So much of what WildiZe does goes way beyond the borders of Africa, right?
EW: ‘No Wild No Life.’ Conservation is about people working together, when we provide security for wildlife, we are providing security for ourselves and our continued existence and diversity of life on our planet – both locally and globally. Think global, act local.
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