We’re making a difference.
And, as a member, you are too.
Last year we funded 395 projects around the globe and told thousands of stories. Here are some of the things we’ve been doing to inspire, educate, illuminate, and make an impact.
Journalist Bryan Christy and photographer Brent Stirton teamed up for a
searing investigation of the ivory trade. The resulting story, which ran in the October
2012 issue of National Geographic magazine, made waves.
Every year, poachers kill at least 25,000 elephants to feed the demand of ivory collectors and the market for religious objects. The article documented how a single large tusk sold on the Kenyan black market could bring $6,000, enough to support a poacher for ten years. Elephant poaching had declined after a 1989 ban on ivory sales, but in recent years that trend had reversed.
was massive and accelerating.
Since the story was published, however, there is hope that the situation may be turning around. In June 2013, the Philippines became the first non-African country to destroy its ivory stock. The Philippines had played a large role in the ivory smuggling market and in consuming ivory, primarily for religious icons. And in February 2014, the Obama administration announced new restrictions on the ivory trade designed to create “a near complete ban” on the commercial sale of African elephant ivory in the U.S.
Dr. Enric Sala developed a passion for the sea while growing up on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Witnessing the damage that pollution, overfishing, climate change, and industrialization cause to marine ecosystems, Sala dedicated his career to finding ways to restore health and productivity to the ocean.
To help save the last pristine places in the ocean, Sala is leading our Pristine Seas initiative to some of the most remote, uninhabited, and untouched sites on the planet. Beyond shipping lanes and fisheries and far from human civilization, Sala discovered what a healthy reef looks like: crystal-clear water, abundant, multicolored corals, and an amazing abundance of apex predators like sharks.
Using a combination of science, media, and grassroots partnership with local conservation organizations, Sala has succeeded in inspiring national leaders to protect some of these precious, pristine places. Now, he is racing to help establish a series of marine protected areas around the world to save those places that remain in danger.
Imagine the chaotic scene on the ground as any natural disaster or human rights crisis unfolds. Then imagine an online map lit up with crucial information pouring in in real time, reflecting exactly what is happening, what is most urgently needed, and precisely where.
Emerging Explorer Patrick Meier was sitting in his Medford, Massachusetts apartment when the January 2010 earthquake struck Haiti. The Tufts Ph.D. candidate was soon assisting quake victims—without even leaving home.
Opening his laptop, he mobilized hundreds of volunteers to collect data points from tweets, text messages, U.N. reports, and more to build a constantly updated online map. His efforts guided citizens, aid workers, and the U.S. Coast Guard, and experts say the map likely saved hundreds of lives. Meier now maps crises all over the world.
Meier makes his lifesaving breakthroughs available, accessible, and free to humanitarian organizations and volunteers across the globe.
Populations of lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, and other big cats are declining at an alarming rate as a consequence of habitat loss and degradation as well as conflicts with humans. In response, National Geographic, along with filmmakers, conservationists, and Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert, launched the Big Cats Initiative, a comprehensive program to support on-the-ground conservation and education projects.
Big Cats Initiative grantees and volunteers work to make a difference in three major ways:
1. organizing and fielding antipoaching patrols to prevent lion snaring, testing lion carcasses for signs of poison, and medical treatment for snared lions;
2. working to reduce human-wildlife conflict through the building and improving of protective livestock corrals called bomas; and
3. community outreach focusing on conservation education, along with medical care for children and adults.
The Colorado River may have carved out the Grand Canyon, but for much of its course, this once-great waterway is no longer so mighty. Much of the time, the Colorado no longer even reaches the sea. The life-giving water the river brings has sustained generations of people and generations of wildlife in an arid land. But that flow has been over-allocated for the 30 million people who rely on it for drinking and irrigation, and for many of us who consume products that come from the region, in the form of vegetables, milk, and electronics.
We can’t fix the Colorado by bringing water from somewhere else. We need a more sustainable solution. Enter Change the Course, co-created by National Geographic Freshwater Fellow Sandra Postel. For each person who takes the Change the Course pledge to reduce his or her water consumption, Change the Course will restore 1,000 gallons of water to the Colorado River Basin. Corporate partners are donating funds to support restorative work along the Colorado. The team is also working with local conservation groups on the ground.
“When I first went to the Congo, I realized that a hundred years after Joseph Conrad’s
Heart of Darkness, nothing had changed. That enraged me.”
Photographer Marcus Bleasdale has spent the past decade working to bring one issue to the world’s eyes: workers, including children, toiling in brutal conditions in mines overseen by militias in the eastern Congo.
In October 2013 National Geographic magazine published “The Price of Precious,” which featured Bleasdale’s powerful photos of the suffering of people caught in the middle of the violent, illegal grab for minerals like tantalum, tungsten, and gold. These resources are referred to as “conflict minerals” because of the ongoing strife that surrounds the mines.
“The response has been massive,” Bleasdale says. “I’ve been surprised by how many people were not aware of where the minerals in their cell phones and computers and other electronics came from.”
“I’ve also been amazed by the reaction to ’The Moment’ a page in the back of the magazine with a photograph of a child’s funeral at the St. Kizito orphanage in the Congo. As a result of that picture, tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the orphanage have come in, from donors ranging from a media company in L.A. to a law firm in Oslo where I recently spoke. Every cent donated has been spent by the orphanage for the children.”
Recently, companies like Intel and Motorola have pledged to ban the use of conflict minerals in their products.
As important as corals are to marine ecosystems, scientists know very little about these slow-growing life forms because they’re so difficult to reach. Deep-sea ecologist Rhian Waller studied deep-sea corals for ten years through portholes and on video feeds sent from robotic submarines more than 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. A few years ago, some of the same coral species she saw in the deep sea turned up in shallow water in Alaska fjords. The only problem was that Waller didn’t know how to dive, and nearly freezing water wasn’t exactly the easiest place to learn. That didn’t stop this intrepid scientist.
“Within five minutes of being in the water your head and hands are so numb you can’t feel them,” she says.
But now there’s no place she’d rather be. “I instantly thought of all the ecological work that could be done if you could go back to the same spot twice, which is all but impossible in the deep ocean. I’m still wading through the data, but it appears many of these corals reproduce on a significantly longer time scale than we thought, making them—and, by extension, their ecosystem—even more vulnerable to human impact.”
National Geographic’s BioBlitz, conducted every year in partnership with the National Park Service, is a hands-on initiative that captures a snapshot of biodiversity in the parks by documenting animal and plant species during a 24-hour period.
This year’s BioBlitz was in California’s Golden Gate National Parks as part of a ten-year countdown to the centennial of the national parks. Led by more than 320 volunteer scientists from across the country, thousands of amateur explorers, families, and students on school field trips conducted a comprehensive inventory of the plants, insects, mammals, birds, and other species that inhabit several national park sites, including Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods National Monument, the Marin Headlands, the Presidio of San Francisco, Mori Point, and Rancho Corral de Tierra.
About 9,000 people, including more than 2,700 school children, participated. The initial scientific species count was 2,304, with well over 8,600 observations recorded. More than 80 species were new to the parks species list, and at least 15 of the species are listed as threatened.