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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

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Dalton Zoo boss David Gill autobiography extract 3

“THE whole idea of my project was for it to be ultimately run by the Indonesian people. Our senior person on the team, Muhammad Yunus, is an Indonesian university graduate.

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“He has made great strides himself to court favour with the likes of the Director of Conservation as well as local universities. With our project being seen as a local concern, it is far easier to be granted permits and the like, the UK is merely the country funding the project. Other than when I go out there myself, it is completely local and self-sufficient.

“It is far easier to ingratiate yourself when you are willing and wanting to work out in the field with the people who are running the project.

“I spend days at various camps learning about the people and even their families. I always seek to leave the hotel as quickly as possible. The hotel is just a base and really it is going to cost money to sit around indulging myself.

The other thing I insisted upon, which is generally much different to how previous people were dealing with the projects, was to not use the project fund to pay for my expenses, I did that myself.

“I saw all too often that zoo money, from various places around the world, was being used for hotels, drinks and meals – which was just such a waste and not remotely what that money should have been for.

“I once had an argument with a representative from a zoo in Europe, because I saw him claiming travel and hotel expenses from a project’s conservation budget.

“I wrote to the project to say: ‘You shouldn’t be doing that. If you are that keen to run a project you should be doing that for the love of it or your zoo or your employer should be paying for it as their contribution to your project, not out of people’s hard earned gift to you.’

“I refused to join in with the project because I thought that was wrong. When people give money to help an animal they want to help that animal. They don’t want to pay for a flight or a nice hotel or meal for the zoo representative. People contribute hoping their money will be used for protection, or cameras, something in the field that will benefit the animal concerned.

“The kinds of activities that donations can provide might be something such as remote cameras, which can be used in the field. Our tiger team was the first in the world to use remote cameras. The team perfected the process to the point where they then began to teach everyone else how to use them.

“In 1996 we became the first group to capture a tiger by camera trap. We were the first people to photograph wild Sumatran rhinos. We were the first people ever to film a live video of a wild Sumatran tiger.

“We were the first people to video moving film of a wild Sumatran rhino.

“We have become notorious for achieving a lot of ‘firsts’ within the animal and conservation world.

“All of this is helped by sponsorship. The Trust I created ended up pledging over a million pounds. Without that money the tiger could no doubt have become extinct – or at least very close to it.’’

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