One thing that distinguishes the Tang Prize from other awards is that, in addition to the prize money of 40 million NTD, there is also a research grant of 10 million NTD at the winners’ disposal, allowing them to realize their dreams of making the world a better place. One of the happy stories we want to share here is about Kenya’s Milgis Trust, the recipient and executor of the Tang Prize grant declared by the inaugural laureate in Sustainable Development, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who allocated 5 million NTD to be used for the protection of wildlife, ecology and cultural assets in the country’s Matthews Range. As a response to the conservation efforts of the Trust, herds of elephants, once almost driven to extinction, have remerged to traverse the habitat again.
There was a time when African elephants could roam freely in the wilderness, but then they became the target of ruthless poachers who kill these grand creatures for their ivory tusks, often sold as pricey commodities in black markets. To our great delight, the financial aid from Dr. Brundtland has helped buck the trend of the over-poaching of wild elephants by enabling the Milgis Trust to form groups of rangers patrolling the protected area which spans over 6000 square km. Adding to this endeavor are running projects to educate people about the elephants’ impact on the entire ecosystem, as well as promoting camel safaris to create more job opportunities for the locals.
According to the Trust’s March report, recently the habitat has been plagued by frequent drought periods and mountain fires. The lack of water and the leeward slops made it nearly impossible to put out the fires. However, there is still good news to cheer us up. Elephants are nature’s diviners of water, and their reappearance in the area means they also started to dig holes for water with their trunks, from which other animals and mankind as well have greatly benefited, especially in dry seasons when the water table tends to be very low. “We are making great progress with the elephants, now coming out onto the luggas to drink in the middle of the day, sometimes when there’s lots of people watering their livestock!” Helen Douglas-Dufresne, the Trust’s honorary warden, happily informed us. Luggas are seasonal rivers that criss-cross Kenya. Apart from elephants and human beings, many other animals, such as lions, wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas also rely on luggas to quench their thirst, and a sustainable ecosystem in Kenya is a harbinger of a future when people and wildlife can finally live in perfect harmony with each other.
“The Foundation always spares no effort in fulfilling the laureate’s wishes,” said Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern, CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation. That is why in 2015, Dr. Chern and other representative from the Foundation travelled half the globe to Nairobi, visited the remote region of the Milgis Lugga, and signed with the Trust a Memorandum of Agreement to support the sustainable development of the area. Everyone has a vision he or she wants to fulfill. Therefore, the Foundation provides our laureates with a research grant to help them make a difference in the world, which in turn will testify to the philosophy the Tang Prize embodies. Dr. Chern also pointed out that Milgis Trust has launched a new website. “It is a cyperspace for people who want to learn more about bio-ecology, and the positive result achieved through the collaboration between the Trust and the Foundation.
For more information about the conservation work initiated by the Milgis Trust, please visit their website at https://www.milgistrust.com/