Lindbergh Foundation Partners with the Patty Wagstaff Kenya Wildlife Service
Imagine Africa without elephants. That could happen, soon, if poaching goes unchecked. More than 25,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2007 alone, mostly to feed the insatiable appetite of ivory markets in the Far East. But aviation is rising to this challenge, and is making an important contribution to the survival of the gentle giants. Patty Wagstaff is helping to make this possible.
For the past six years, Patty Wagstaff, one of the most decorated and skilled pilots flying today, has spent her winter “off season” in Africa conducting flight-training for anti-poaching patrol park wardens from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Air patrols are the single most effective deterrent to illegal poaching and the single most effective means of catching those who refuse to be deterred. With a fleet of eight patrol airplanes, (the Piper Super Cub, Aviat Husky, and Cessna 180, plus one Cessna Caravan and a Bell 206 helicopter) the 11 KWS patrol pilots and a handful of volunteers watch over nearly 60,000 square miles of elephant habitat. Under Patty’s instruction, the accident rate of the patrol pilots has declined by more than 50%, and elephant populations in Kenya have increased by more than 25% since the program began in 2000.
Patty Wagstaff with KWS pilots
“Working with the Kenya Wildlife Service Air Wing has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” said Patty Wagstaff. “Their excellent pilots appreciate the need for recurrent and aerobatic training and believe, as I do, that aerobatic lessons make all pilots more skillful, more confident and safer aviators, and gives them better tools to be able to combat elephant and rhino poaching in Kenya.”
At the EAA AirVenture Airshow in Oshkosh, Wisc., Lindbergh Foundation President Knox Bridges announced its new partnership with Patty Wagstaff / Kenya Wildlife Service Africa Project. “The work Patty is doing is in perfect harmony with the Foundation’s mission of balancing technology and the environment,” said Bridges. “Anti-poaching pilots need to fly low, slow and with precision, so who better to teach them those techniques than Patty Wagstaff.”
The Lindbergh Foundation will serve as the financial trustee for any donations made to the Patty Wagstaff/Kenya Wildlife Service project. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to the Lindbergh Foundation at 2150 Third Avenue North, Suite 310, Anoka, MN 55303, or made on-line at www.lindberghfoundation.org. Donors should make sure to designate their support of the Patty Wagstaff/KWS project on their checks.
“Partnering with the Lindbergh Foundation is such a perfect fit for this program because the mission is essentially the same,” Wagstaff said. “The Kenya Wildlife Service uses the technology of airplanes to help save elephant populations from poaching, which helps keep the planet in balance.”
The Lindbergh Foundation is keenly aware of the problem of elephant poaching. In fact, with support from the Cherbec Advancement Foundation, the Foundation funded a Lindbergh Grant project in 2007 dedicated to the reduction of poaching of forest elephants in Gabon using acoustics, which may prove better than aerial surveys in this case due to the dense forest cover. Dr. Peter Wrege of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is conducting the study, which should be concluded later this year.
Pilot Training in 2009 is Enhanced by John and Martha King
Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Another pilot safety and proficiency training program is planned in early 2009 at the request of Mr. Julius Kipng’etich, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service and is supported by Interpol – the International Criminal Police Organization, which has donated a patrol airplane and will provide funding. In addition, John and Martha King, co-chairmen of King Schools, Inc., and Lindbergh Foundation directors, are volunteering to conduct classes in aviation risk management during the training program. Ms. Wagstaff will lead the flight safety and proficiency segments, and the Kings will teach new concepts of risk management. “The Kenya Wildlife Service is struggling against long odds to preserve wildlife species that otherwise might be lost to the wild forever,” said John King. “Martha and I are delighted to support the pilots of Kenya Wildlife Service. Avoiding aircraft accidents is critically important to the continuation of their incredibly valuable program. We hope we can help them install a process and pass along insights that their pilots will find useful in managing the inherent risks of their unique flying environment.”
Charles Lindbergh considered his many visits to Africa, including Kenya, to be among the great experiences of his life. It was while Lindbergh was in Africa that he realized that if he had to choose, he would rather have birds than airplanes.
In 1964, Charles Lindbergh wrote an article for Readers’ Digest entitled, “Is Civilization Progress?” in which he wrote: “In the jungles of Africa, I became more aware of the basic miracle of life. … Lying under an acacia tree with the sounds of dawn around me, I realized more clearly facts that man should never overlook: that the construction of an airplane … is simple when compared to the evolutionary achievement of a bird; that airplanes depend upon an advanced civilization; and that where civilization is most advanced, few birds exist. I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.
“I think Mr. Lindbergh would be very pleased with this partnership because Patty’s work in Africa epitomizes his belief that if we can balance our hunger for technological progress with the wisdom we find in nature, we can have both,” said Bridges.
Patty Wagstaff flies one of the most thrilling, low-level aerobatic routines in the world. She is a six-time member of the US Aerobatic Team and has won medals in Olympic-level international aerobatic competitions. She is the first woman to win the title of US National Aerobatic champion and one of the few people to win it three times.
The Lindbergh Foundation is a public 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, based in Anoka, Minnesota, which supports great innovations that foster the environment for a planet in balance. The Lindbergh Foundation also values individual initiative and accomplishments. Its programs are devoted to supporting, honoring, and educating individuals, through three major programs: the annual honorary Lindbergh Award, presented to individuals for significant contributions toward applying technological solutions to improve our environment in their work; the Lindbergh Grants program, which provides grants in amounts up to $10,580 (the cost of building the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927) for research or education projects that will make important contributions to the technology/environment balance; and a variety of educational events and publications centered on the balance theme.