Mike McMillan Nature Fund
Elephants Without Borders is honoured to be the first recipients of the Mike McMillan Nature Fund. Family and friends of Mike McMillan have chosen to honour his incredible life and legacy by donating funds to EWB. Not only was the elephant Mike’s favourite animal, but he also possessed the same focus, passion and dedication to his life and work that are hallmarks of EWB.
In Honour of Michael McMillan (1990 – 2013)
Although born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Mike was brought up and schooled in Cape Town and it was here, in the embrace of Table Mountain, that his love of the outdoors and nature began and blossomed. His keen eye and interest in wildlife was also obvious at an early age and fostered by annual holidays to private game reserves with family and close friends, Mike could name every animal in the ‘Mammals of Southern Africa’ book before he was even three years old. A keen sportsman who excelled at water-polo in particular, he would also spend much of his spare time in pursuit of exhilarating exploits with skateboarding and mountain trail running two of his favourites.
After finishing high school at Bishops with a First Class pass and five distinctions, it was hardly surprising when Mike chose to enrol at Stellenbosch University to study for his Bachelors in Science with Conservation Ecology as the principal focus. Mike graduated with honours in 2012 and earlier this year began field research for his Masters at Phinda Private Game Reserve, researching the population, behavioural and movement dynamics of nyala antelope. It was a project and work he was thrilled to be doing and within a short space of time, Mike made the incredible sand forests of the region he so loved, his new home. It was here at Phinda, under a canopy of blossoming acacias, and with the soothing sounds of a wilderness night in his ears, that Mike so tragically passed away on the 13th July 2013.
Despite his tender age, Mike has left a substantial and lasting legacy. Whether as a son, brother, friend or colleague, his caring and compassionate nature and generous spirit embraced all, and his enthusiasm and commitment to every aspect of life will continue to be an inspiration to everyone that knew him.
His Legacy lives On
Michael’s memory and enthusiasm for wildlife will live on through the wanderings of a young elephant bull, CH76, whom we admirably call “Mike.”
In September, the EWB team was joined by Ian McMillan, as they packed up their gear and headed to the Nogatsaa pans in Chobe National Park in hopes to find the appropriate elephant. This year the concessions neighboring the park have now switched their allocation from hunting to non-consumptive use, which will influence elephants and other wildlife’s movements, especially those that are familiar with using artificial waterholes. As the management plans changeover, it is vital to monitor the elephants and wildlife movements adapting to the changes.
We sat and watched several big bulls sipping the cool waters being pumped into one of the pans, when two much younger bulls waltzed over and pushed their way into the center of the pan. One in particular, completely ignoring the dominant older bulls, splashed about in the mud to cool himself off. Ian instantly knew that he was the right one. He said “that’s him, I can tell by his get-on-with-it confident attitude!”
We were in no rush, so we simply quietly observed the two young bulls climb into the “swimming hole” next to the pumped pan. “Mike” rolled around, completely submersing himself, lavishly enjoying the cool waters in the hot sun. After some time, the young bulls began to wander off and we knew it was time.
The collaring exercise went smooth and quickly, while several bulls watched the team deploy “Mike’s” collar. As he stood up, he hesitated only for a brief moment, checked his new collar, gave a little head-shake and joined his friends into the forest. For now, that was our last glimpse until we revisit him another time. However, we do know where he is going and when!
“Mike” will be tracked via cyberspace and we will share updates of his journey, serving as a wonderful way to inspire people around the world about elephant conservation.
“Mike” will contribute vital information towards our ongoing research on elephant movements in southern Africa. At the same time, this voyage of scientific discovery will serve to contribute new and valuable information towards securing a future for these free roaming lords of the African savannah.
Elephants Without Borders would like to express their gratitude to all the friends and family that share Mike’s love and passion for wildlife and rallied together to show it by supporting the Mike McMillan Nature Fund!
To learn more about EWB: http://www.elephantswithoutborders.org/
If you’d like to support EWB’s projects: http://www.elephantswithoutborders.org/donate.php
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