By Philip Merritt, vice chair of the Rotarian Action Group for Endangered Species and a member of the Rotary Club of Mabalacat Clark, Pampanga, Philippines
About three years ago, Rotary member John Glassford sent a message to the Rotarians on the Internet (ROTI) Fellowship’s discussion list asking if anyone had any ideas on how we could help stop the poaching of elephants. I responded: “Why don’t we start a Rotarian Action Group (RAG)?”, and from that point forward, it was a long journey to finally get the Rotarian Action Group for Endangered Species (RAGES) recognized by the RI Board in January.
The action group’s purpose is to mobilize Rotary members, spouses, Rotaractors, Interactors, and Rotary alumni to take action to preserve and protect endangered species and the communities that depend on them. The group is working with the Rotary Club of Coolamon, New South Wales, Australia, and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program on an education program to conserve elephants in the Oloimugi Maasai village in Kenya.
In a way, it is not surprising that this came to fruition, as John is a great big bundle of boundless energy, and he doesn’t give up easily. He has been doing a superb job thus far as chairman, and we created a partnership with the most famous animal conservationist in the world, Jane Goodall (as our patron). We also have an amazing list of celebrities and conservationists who have signed on to this effort; many thanks and credit to Duke Ingram and his band, Besureis.
Before it’s too late
Wouldn’t it be terrible if in our lifetime we found ourselves telling our grandchildren and great-grandchildren that we remembered when there were “real” elephants and rhinos running around this planet, and that we could have done something to stop their extinction, but it had been too little, too late?
Sure, there is a valid argument that we should be placing the needs of our own species ahead of those of other animals. But can’t we do both at the same time? I personally would not find much joy in living in a world where we allowed these beautiful animals to go extinct merely because of the greed of a small number of people.
If this is something that matters to you, then please consider the possibility of doing a joint project with RAGES, either at your club or district level. Or join us as a regular member (there are no dues). We think this is important, and we hope you feel the same way. Let’s never reach a point where we have to speak of elephants and rhinos in the past tense.