1. Marlon, the AMES Foundation is committed to the sustainable protection of wildlife in Africa. Where does your fascination for the animals there come from and what makes them particularly worthy of protection?
My fascination has been with all animals since childhood. No species is more worthy of protection than another. At the age of seven, I was in Africa for the first time and really experienced animals in the wild. That left its mark on me. At that time, I always wanted to become a veterinarian, which (obviously) changed at some point. But the fascination for animals remained. My father living in South Africa also means that my connection to this part of the world has never wavered.
Animals are generally worth protecting for me. The habitats of tigers in Asia or polar bears at the North Pole should also be protected, but I have less contact with these animals. My passion is the animals in Africa and that is why we started AMES there.
2. How can you imagine the measures in Africa in concrete terms? Who can help on site and what are the Guardians' tasks?
Well, what has to happen on the ground? The answer seems relatively easy at first: We need to get as much land under control as possible in order to provide sufficient habitat for protected species. Poachers continue to be the main threat, along with habitat loss - and we need to provide protection from these pressing issues.
We have three pillars that guide our work in South Africa: operational, technological, and legislative. Operationally, it's about the day-to-day work on the ground. We have trained a six-man anti-poaching unit that guards our rhinos day and night, and we are training additional rangers in an educational facility. We also create jobs for the local people. A total of 16 employees work for AMES in South Africa. In addition, we have built an orphanage for animals, which is enormously important. When the parents of a young animal are poached, the young animals usually die as well, as they are often not yet able to survive on their own.
We also want to get influential local decision-makers and entrepreneurs on board. Our community, which will consist of 100 entrepreneurs from Europe by the end of the year, represents a highly interesting contact group. Through this gateway, we will also try to raise awareness of animal welfare among local decision-makers and thus increase our impact.
Our Guardians support AMES with an annual contribution of at least 3,000 euros over a period of five to ten years. However, the average donation is significantly higher. This proves that our Guardians really believe in AMES.
3. Who are your addressees as supporters and what do they have to bring to the table to fit your project?
The addressees are first and foremost people who think similarly and for whom life has been quite good. When I founded the AMES Foundation 2020, I first approached my own network to recruit entrepreneurs, investors, and partners. This community now has a great deal of appeal of its own.
However, it is important to me that it is absolutely not a networking event, even though people can and should of course enjoy exchanging ideas around the campfire in the evening. All those who want to participate must also be wholeheartedly involved and be able to identify with our mission.
4. Founded in 2020, the AMES Foundation is still quite young. What has already been achieved and what is currently being worked on?
We have already been able to achieve quite a bit in such a short time. For example, the AMES Foundation is a recognized foundation in Germany, which is also controlled by the tax office. This is an absolute sign of quality for us and shows that we mean business. In addition, we are constantly developing the AMES community: from just under 80 Guardians at present, we will grow to at least 100 before the end of this year. In addition, we have already succeeded in taking control of 1,600 hectares of land for our first reserve and establishing an on-site training facility.
5. The AMES Foundation also has an impact on the lives of local people. How does AMES support them in creating a livelihood and what added value does it provide?
We currently already employ 16 people from South Africa in our reserve. In other words, we focus on animals, but in doing so we create jobs and prospects for the community. In addition, we teach people in the surrounding villages the basics of beekeeping, for example. These newly created livelihoods also help in the fight against poaching. The local people should see us as an ally, which leads us to the hope that they might also provide us with information from time to time when poaching is being discussed somewhere. Because poaching is never a spontaneous action. It is always planned, and the fight against poaching starts with cooperation with the local people.
6. The sustainability of the measures involved is also important to you. How do you ensure that what you build will last for years and decades to come?
From the very beginning, I wanted to spread the organization's development over several shoulders. We now have a broad team in the background, six more pairs of shoulders, so to speak. In addition, we train people on site ourselves, and we also want to qualify our rangers for higher tasks.
In the long run, however, we have to leave the donation base behind. The project must be self-supporting. Income from tourism will certainly be one pillar. Others are also in the works.
7. There are examples elsewhere of making poaching unattractive through tourism and thus opening up a new source of income for the population. Is this an approach in which you believe, and are there already efforts being made in this regard?
We will certainly use tourism as a source of income for our reserve. There is already a lodge there that can be booked by a group of up to ten people. But we would also like to open up other reserves. And there, too, we want to develop programs where tourists can enjoy actual experiences. We are also focusing on education and ecology. We are currently setting up different modules for this. As of now, I fly to South Africa about five times a year and take smaller groups on the trip with me. This has been very well received and shows once again that the Guardians involved with us really care about the cause. By the end of the year, five more trips will have taken place and a total of almost 50 people will have visited the first AMES reserve.