Ambassador: J. Mark Fowler
Explorer, Wildlife Spokesperson & Filmmaker
TERRA THRIVE Solution:
As a wildlife spokesperson, filmmaker and explorer, Mark Fowler is passionate about education and conservation—and has a bit of an addiction to adventure. He’s also got a gift for storytelling, much like his father, Jim Fowler of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom fame. Having been born into a more extreme version of ‘traveling the world’ Mark knows from a first-hand perspective how to prepare for the unexpected, especially on safari.
TERRA has partnered with Mark to craft a custom THRIVE solution: the Mark Fowler Expeditionary Safari Pack. In designing the pack with the TERRA team, Mark emphasized the survival requirements specific to the environment. Included are tools to promote heat endurance, extra collapsible water purification canteens, non-lethal defense from large animals as well as energy, shelter, emergency first aid components and much more.
Q & A with Mark
What’s this about elephants liking lemonade?
That was one of those life-changing events. Growing up with "Jungle Jim" Fowler as our father, my sister and I were lucky to have experiences in wildlife and nature that not many people are able to have. It’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about sharing adventures and inspiring people to get outdoors and preserve not only native wildlife but focus on international wildlife.
We were out in Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, right on the Zambezi River, which is this incredibly wild place. I was in about fifth grade and we were filming a Wild Kingdom episode about elephants. They were walking around the tented area, straddling the fronts of our tents and eating seedpods. You really felt part of the elephant herd. One day my dad decided to make lemonade out of some leftover lemons under the canopy attached to the tent. He then went off to do some filming, so Mom, Carrie and I went into the tent to have a lazy afternoon napping. All of a sudden the entire front of the tent lifted up and we lifted off the ground. It turns out there was an elephant that had decided lemonade smelled good… went in there to grab some lemons and in getting his head out, his tusks caught the tent. We were dangling half off the ground in the bottom of the tent. Dad returned right at that moment, grabbed the nearest machete and cut the back of the tent open. We all sort of rolled out to safety—while all of the Brit guides laughed at us. The way I look at it, it was one of those moments that make life much richer. So… you can see why I include a backup tent and knife in my Safari Pack.
Can rhinos and warthogs be friends?
Not too many years ago, we were in South Africa at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, where they were protecting rhinos. They had an African anti-poaching guard stationed with each one of the rhinos, and they brought me over to see an orphaned baby, named Omni, whose parents had been poached. It turns out the baby rhino had made friends with a warthog, named Digby... They’d been together from a very early age when they were closer to the same size. So, they thought they were the same type of animal and they would wrestle and tackle and play with each other. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, these two orphans that had become best friends. It surprised and really inspired me. Lewa has gone on to become a bastion for preservation.
You recently traveled to South Africa to focus on the protection and preservation of African lions and uncovered a horrendous black market in full swing. With corruption at this level, what advice do you have for the conservation-minded in choosing a safari?
One of my goals is to promote mission-driven safaris. Safaris need to have a purpose, going someplace and looking through binoculars doesn’t really help the animals. There is a lot of corruption to avoid, such as fake volunteerism, where you think you’re saving the animal but you’re really not. I travel to the places and vet the people myself, get to know the organization and make sure they are what they’re representing themselves to be. An amazing organization I’ve been working with is called Care for Wild Africa. It’s a Rhino sanctuary. Because of the poaching crisis in Kruger National Park, we lose three rhinos a day, unfortunately. There’s only 17 or 18,000 rhino left so we could lose them in 5 to 10 years. This place has teamed up with SANParks (South African National Parks) and as soon as they find out an adult rhino is poached they come and take any orphans in a helicopter to Care for Wild Africa. They immediately start bringing them back to health, if they’ve been injured by the poacher, and the cool thing is, thanks to some donors and people I’ve been working with, they’ve now built a 350-hectare, larger enclosure where the orphaned rhinos are growing up. They’re able to recuperate and breed and start their lives with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild once the poaching crisis subsides.
I’m also asked to put conservation coalitions together, vetting the nonprofits that deserve to be supported. That’s one of the ways I am working with donors for instance, on my own and through Grace Farms Foundation. We are also working to break up the rhino poaching cartels. The key is that the poachers are very poor and the warlords can always find more of them. It’s the organized crime that needs to be stopped. So we’re partnering with law enforcement to build cases against the corrupt syndicates that run the poaching.
Endangered species work is core to me as a wildlife spokesperson, growing up, traveling to Africa and being exposed to the most amazing animals on earth. It’s my personal mission and I do that as Director of the Nature Initiative and as Wildlife Ambassador at Grace Farms Foundation, through my work with TERRA, through Wild Life Productions and as Chair of the Wildlife and Conservation Committee at the Explorers Club. It’s a life long mission to help these animals. Magnificent animals like lions, tigers, elephants and cheetah; to me, they’re important symbols. Here’s the truth, if we can’t save some of the most beautiful animals on Earth then we’re not going to care enough to save the animals right in our back yard.
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