"Defense" by David Yarrow

Photographer David Yarrow’s image of elephants, titled “Defense,” will be auctioned off at the Tusk and African Community and Conservation Foundation fundraiser event in Aspen on Wednesday. 


The African Community and Conservation Foundation and Tusk are teaming up again to host the second annual Karibu Africa fundraising event in Aspen. 

Taking place on Wednesday from 5:30-8 p.m. at the Aspen Meadows, the fundraiser will support ACCF’s and Tusk’s joint education, anti-poaching and wildlife conservation programs throughout eastern and southern Africa.

The evening will be an après-ski cocktail reception and feature a live auction with artworks donated by photographer David Yarrow — who is an ambassador for both organizations — and a piece by United Kingdom-based wildlife artist, Hannah Shergold. 

“​​This is the fourth time that the two organizations have come together,” said Tusk Founder and CEO Charlie Mayhew. “And we held a joint event last year in Aspen at the Caribou Club, which was a huge success, and that has really sort of prompted us to want to come back and do something similar again this year.”

Tusk was established in 1990 at the height of the poaching crisis, Mayhew said, during which he saw around 100,000 elephants being slaughtered a year for the ivory trade. That was really the stimulus for Mayhew founding Tusk, he said, noting that although the charity’s name is synonymous with elephants or other tusk animals, the remit for Tusk is incredibly broad. 

“We cover the full spectrum of Africa's wildlife and its habitats, and without the habitats, there is no wildlife, so we support everything from marine projects, turtle projects, to guerrilla projects — it's very, very varied,” Mayhew said. “But always at the heart of our philosophy towards conservation has been the recognition that we will only succeed if the communities that live alongside wildlife can benefit and derive tangible benefits, whether it be in terms of job security, education, health care — just generally seeing conservation as a means to improve their livelihoods.” 

For over three decades, the UK-based charity has pioneered numerous community-led programs in Africa, with the majority of its projects taking shape outside of national parks to help preserve Africa’s “natural heritage,” Mayhew said. 

Mayhew mentioned how Prince William adopted Tusk in 2005 as one of his two first charities. He said the Prince of Wales has since been a very proactive patron and supporter of the organization’s work. 

Under his royal patronage, Tusk has raised over $130 million for conservation and community livelihood programs and has increased vital protection for over 70 million hectares of land and more than 40 threatened species across the African continent. 

Mayhew explained that while much of Tusk’s focus over the years has been on tackling the illegal wildlife trade and poaching, the charity has been trying in more recent years to address and reduce incidences of human-wildlife conflict — which is something that’s increased immensely, due to Africa’s growing population and the pandemic’s devastating economic impact on the continent, Mayhew said. 

“It was particularly devastating for the conservation and the Safari-tourism world, because travel just dried up,” he said. “And so much of the conservation efforts we collectively support are underpinned by the revenue that comes from overseas tourists traveling to Africa.”

Amid these challenges, Tusk forged a partnership with the United States-based organization, ACCF. Founded in 2018 by American conservationist Paul Tudor Jones, ACCF is a gateway platform connecting people from all over the world with the strategic and sustainable community and conservation programs underway in Africa. 

ACCF works with nonprofit funds and trusts, of which are carrying out impactful projects related to these conservation initiatives, and assists them via raising awareness and funding.

ACCF currently backs funds and trusts in areas of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Rwanda, and the organization is also hands-on in helping its partners, like Tusk, carry out their various projects, said Brady Forseth, CEO of ACCF. 

An initiative that both Forseth and Mayhew discussed was their launch, at the onset of the pandemic, of the Wildlife Ranger Challenge — which invited wildlife rangers across the  continent to participate in a half-marathon event. The event has gone on to raise around $16 million over the last three years, Mayhew said, supporting over 9,000 rangers in keeping them on the frontline and employed. 

In spite of the pandemic and its challenges, Mayhew said he’s seen a significant increase in fundraising for Tusk and other like-minded charities. He attributes this to people’s newfound appreciation for the natural world and its preservation, having endured the lockdowns and tribulations of COVID-19. 

“I think the pandemic in many ways has really helped to elevate, in all of our minds, the value of the natural world,” Mayhew said. “I think there was sort of a craving to reconnect with nature, and there’s been a greater appreciation for the vital need to preserve the natural world.” 

Through the ACCF-Tusk partnership, the organizations will together continue to amplify their impact of conservation, raise awareness and spearhead community-led projects on the ground across Africa. 

And it’s this on-the-ground work that’s notable. 

Pete Mattson, ACCF’s vice president, said that this collaboration is not about ACCF or Tusk deciding what’s going to happen and what’s best for these communities over in Africa. He said it’s about the people on the ground leading the projects and doing the work. 

“It's all about community-led projects,” Mattson said. “It really is the people on the ground that help interface and create those relationships not only with the communities, but the government and those other partners to make sure that everyone's really buying into it and that the needs are being met.”

Mattson, Mayhew and Forseth all expressed how they hope attendees of Wednesday’s event understand their partnership’s impact and are inspired by the work actually happening on the ground. 

“I hope they’re inspired by the frontline workers who are doing this — the hard work in Africa,” Mattson said. “And that's everything from the community projects to the anti-poaching units to the people who are doing the conservation.”

David Yarrow, who is an ambassador for both ACCF and Tusk, also made a nod to the organizations’ hands-on approach. The photographer will be attending the event in Aspen on Wednesday, as will Heavyweight Champion Boxer Evander Holyfield — who is also an ACCF ambassador and a board member. 

“I'm not a big fan of what I call cappuccino conservationists, and what I mean by cappuccino conservationists are people that have never been to Africa and stomp away on their keyboards in Starbucks, getting all indignant about this thing and the next thing but they never really spend any time on the ground,” Yarrow said. “But these [ACCF and Tusk] people are proper people. They get their hands dirty.” 

Though Aspen is a relatively newer community for Tusk and ACCF over the last couple of years, the executives noted how they feel that their joint mission and work resonates with the Aspen community and they’re eager and grateful to be fostering new partnerships with organizations, like the Aspen Institute.

“Aspen has always had a reputation for being very [pro] the environment and conservation,” Mayhew said. “And what we saw last year was how our message really resonated with Aspenites, so it's a great place for us to come and do an event like this.”

The Karibu Africa fundraiser begins at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday in The McNulty Room at Aspen Meadows Resort. A single event ticket is $500. For more information or to purchase a ticket, visit this link.

Jacqueline Reynolds is an arts & entertainment reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at jacqueline@aspendailynews.com.