The Bateleurs have dedicated their lives to assisting conservationists in the most critical of times.
The Bateleurs was founded in 1998 by a woman with a passion for Africa’s wildlife and nature conservation. Nora Kreher’s vision was to have eyes in the sky – keeping watch over some of our most vulnerable and valuable wildlife. 25 years later the all-volunteer organisation has made a huge impact in the fight against poaching and the loss of Africa’s wildlife, as well as protecting our environment.
Chaired by Avroy Shlain – with directors William de Pinho, Donovan Bailey, Jay van Deventer, Raymond Steyn, Sven Kreher, Dr Judy Mann and Steve McCurrach – The Bateleurs rely on volunteer pilots to do most of the flying. There are 200-plus pilots on standby to assist the conservationists on the ground with coordinated missions – who not only donate their time and expertise, but also contribute to the operating costs of the aircraft.
“The Bateleurs aim to assist conservation with a view from above. Our mission has been to serve all sectors in the environmental space; from the health of our water to finding lost insect species,” says Donavan Bailey. “I flew my first mission in 2005. The Bateleurs has helped me gain an appreciation for aviation and made me fly with a purpose. The people I have met during missions are very inspiring and have kept me humble.”
Jay van Deventer joined The Bateleurs in 2002. “We were necessary when Nora founded our organisation 25 years ago, and we are more necessary today. The threats have grown and we must expand and redouble our efforts to meet these challenges,” he says. “I feel the natural world is filled with magical things patiently waiting for our wits to sharpen. Conservation doesn’t feel like a passion so much as a consequence of recognising what is out there and how fragile and precious it is.”
Steve McCurrach deals with the day-to-day running of the organisation and logistics of flights. “We have a tremendous responsibility: to preserve Africa’s vital heritage,” he says. “As the human footprint expands, so too does the threat towards our environment. We are responsible for handing over a functioning ecosystem, fauna and flora to our following generations.”
A silver anniversary of an organisation such as The Bateleurs is unique, and the result of tremendous effort. “All our efforts over the years have brought us to where we are today – 25 and counting,” says William de Pinho. “From the start, our members and the directors have been committed to the overall objectives and ideas put together by our founder. This strong foundation has ensured our success, and the successes need to be remembered and shared.” William’s wonderful journey started back in 2000. The Bateleurs has taken him halfway around the globe to Alaska, and around our beautiful country, to spread the NPC’s goals and objectives.
The Bateleurs’ flying missions have varied from exposing illegal activities, monitoring proposed developments, tracking animals with telemetry equipment, and conducting surveys of animal populations – at times having as many as 14 microlights in the sky at once, counting elephants in the Maputo Elephant Reserve. They have transported endangered wildlife between conservation areas, and documented vulnerable wetlands adjacent to urban sprawl.
A continuous effort in raising funds for this incredible group is paramount to its » survival. There is no charge to beneficiaries for the missions flown by The Bateleurs. The organisation relies solely on funding to cover its operational costs. Over 25 years, generous donors have provided funding to the value of more than R14 million. In turn, The Bateleurs have delivered environmental services to the value of R41.8 million, after the deduction of all operating costs. Thus giving back 300% of their donors’ funds directly to the environment.
“It’s amazing how a simple idea can grow into something so large. The board is working hard in making sure The Bateleurs are set up for the next 25 years. There is plenty of work to be done in assisting academics, environmentalists and conservationist,” says Donovan – adding that it would be great to see a TV series about their exploits, and an injection of young blood to keep the dream alive.
How can you help?
- If you are a pilot, fly for us.
- If you are involved in conservation, use us.
- If you are a regular citizen who sees some powerful entity doing something dirty or destructive and you don’t feel empowered to stop
them, call us.
- If you can spare any money, make a small donation.