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Environmental Heroes

Dr. Mike Chase and Kelly Landen

Green Kids Club continues to be inspired by those individuals that have made the environment and animal conservation a priority. With that in mind, we wanted to get to know some of the people that inspire us in our Environmental Heroes spotlight.

Mike Chase, PhD (Director/Founder) and Kelly Landen (Director/Program Manager) lead Elephants Without Borders (EWB) to conserve elephants and natural resources in the Kavango-Zambezi region of southern Africa. Among their many projects are an elephant orphanage, wildlife research, and community education and outreach.

Mike grew up in Botswana and was fascinated by elephants, enough so to earn a doctorate degree focusing on elephant ecology. He leads the research efforts of EWB, constantly in search of meaningful data to positively impact conservation efforts.

Kelly has had a lifelong career dedicated to conservation all over the world. She now leads EWB's operational projects, like environmental education and the elephant orphanage, as well as contributing fieldwork and photography.

All photos provided by EWB.

GKC: What drove you to do this type of work?

  • Mike: My inspiration partly comes from my childhood experiences and observations of nature in Botswana. As a child I accompanied my family on Safaris into the wild places of Botswana to see animals like elephants, lions, giraffe and hippos. From the moment I saw elephants in the bush, I knew I would spend my life working hard to save them. 
  • Kelly: I had always loved animals, was always reading books, watching shows, focusing projects on animals. I was inspired by the wildlife and environmental heroes of that time. I dreamt of working with wildlife in faraway places, hoping that one day my work could make a difference on helping protect animals in the wild. I was driven by those dreams and made choices that step by step led me to where I am now, achieving my dream. 
GKC: What do you like best about your job?
  • Mike: To be truthful, what I am doing is in one way or another the only career I ever imagined doing ever since I was a little kid. It's part of my identity and I love it. I enjoy being outdoors among the elephants. Spending time with elephants, watching them and studying their mysterious behaviors is a rare and true privilege. 
  • Kelly: Very much like Mike, I feel privileged when in the field, especially to be in the presence of wildlife in their own environment. Respectfully, often I feel that the animals are allowing me to share their space and show me glimpses into their natural world. The more I observe and learn, the more I want to protect this fragile, hostile yet resilient world. The animals have become my heroes now. 
GKC: What types of challenges do you encounter?
  • Mike: Elephants face many challenges from climate change, fires, poaching and conflict with people. We are working hard to turn these challenges into opportunity, and give elephants a fighting chance to survive. Elephants are symbols of conservation, if we can’t save the worlds largest land mammal what hope is there for conserving other wildlife species? Elephants are an umbrella species, meaning, if an elephant is doing well, the species around them will be doing well, too. The fight to save the elephants is, in effect, a fight to save an entire ecosystem.
  • Kelly: I think one of the most challenging thing for all conservation is the actions or ignorance of people. Even with good intentions, often people don’t know how their actions are effecting the environment. And, too many believe that the world is here for humans only, without respecting or understanding that the environment, OUR environment all works as a system, together. We need the system to work for all species to survive, including ourselves. If more people clearly understood this, then the challenges would be much less. 
GKC: What advice would you give to aspiring, future environmental heroes?
  • Mike: Follow your heart, be persistent and brave, and be guided by telling the truth.
  • Kelly: Ditto… well said, Mike. I would also add to not let others tell you that you can’t make a difference or put you down trying… because you are the future and you can! 

For more about the dedicated individuals making an impact at Elephants Without Borders, check out their team page.

About the author

Lorielle Peterson

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