LEBO x Ron Magill Conservation Endowment

By: Ron Magill

I am extremely honored and privileged to partner with internationally acclaimed artist LEBO to help produce a limited edition series of pieces that combine my photography with his art! LEBO’s work has been featured in countless galleries and exhibitions around the world and can be seen in a wide variety of places ranging from the hull of a cruise ship to the private collections of celebrities and sports stars.

He has generously agreed to donate 50% of the proceeds from the sales of these pieces to the “Ron Magill Conservation Endowment” at the Zoo Miami Foundation! This endowment is the thing I am most proud of in my entire career and will provide funding to support conservation of animals in the wild places where they naturally exist in perpetuity! Here is a wonderful opportunity to own some fun and beautiful art while helping to support wildlife conservation!

Mundo Salvaje con Ron Magill

By: Ron Magill

As many of you know, one of the reasons I do what I do today is because as a young boy, I watched a show called, “Wild Kingdom.” As many of you also know, I come from strong Hispanic roots with a Cuban father and a mother of Colombian descent.

I have always wanted to see a show in Spanish that would follow the messaging of programs like “Planet Earth” and the “Life Of” series that were specifically produced for an Hispanic audience instead of dubbing programs with English speaking presenters.

Though I have been been offered to host shows in the past, they were always sensationalized productions focused on animals being “mean and dangerous” in the genre of “When Animals Attack!” I personally detest these shows that instead of inspiring you to be fascinated with the beauty of nature, scare you into thinking that everything is out to kill you and always turned down those offers.Well, finally, the non-profit Hispanic educational cable network, HITN out of New York, offered me the opportunity to host a series that would do exactly what I wanted it to do! I agreed, and it is with great pride that I formally announce that my new show, “Mundo Salvaje con Ron Magill” which basically translates to “Wild Kingdom with Ron Magill,” will make its official national cable launch on October 1st!!!HITN has secured some of the best natural history footage from the BBC, Discovery, and National Geographic to put together incredible packages that will once again inspire us to admire and respect nature rather than vilify it!I am beyond flattered to host this show of which we have already shot 10 episodes! Below is your first look at the open! I hope you will like it!

 

Harpy Eagle Project Sparks Change in Panama

By: Amy Taintor

The harpy eagle soars above the forests of Central and South America and stands at a whopping 3 feet tall. This massive bird is one of the largest and strongest birds in all of the Americas.

But during a visit to Panama in 2002, Ron Magill saw two of these magnificent birds being kept in a cage too small.

“I saw these two beautiful birds in horrible captivity and knew I needed to do something,” Magill said.

This is how the Harpy Eagle Project was born.

The existence of the harpy eagle has an extremely important role in conserving tropical rainforests due to their unique ability to protect other species, thus giving them the nickname “umbrella species.” Having no natural predators, the most threatening causes to their survival are habitat loss and hunting.

Magill set to work raising money and awareness of the issue. He persuaded executives from Sony, American Airlines and Visa to contribute to the cause.

The result was the top-notch Harpy Eagle Center at Summit Zoo and Gardens in Panama City, Panama. Since its opening, the attraction has drawn tens of thousands of visitors each year, increasing local tourism and funding for the project.

But that wasn’t enough for Magill. He contacted the president of Panama and suggested that perhaps the country would like to make the harpy eagle its national bird. It is now is depicted on the Panamanian coat of arms.

That’s not the only place the bird of prey can be seen.

Magill suggested that there be a nationwide contest for school children. They could create their artistic renditions of the new national bird and the winner would be featured on the postage stamp. Unable to choose one winner, four different children’s drawings of harpy eagles now grace Panamanian mail.

In 2013, Magill, in collaboration with Zoo Miami, transported the first harpy eagle to hatch in captivity to the facility he’d helped create a decade earlier. Her name: Panama. He accompanied the bird on her trip.

“You would have thought I had just gotten off the plane with Kim Kardashian or something,” Magill said. “The people were so excited about the arrival of this harpy eagle.”

Magill says it goes to show the impact one person can make. You don’t have to be part of a big company, he says. If you are creative, you can create your own movement.

SoC Students to Create Campaign for Ron Magill Conservation Endowment

Public Relations Campaigns, STC 436, is the capstone class for all University of Miami School of Communication public relations majors. The class works as a small firm, developing multifaceted campaigns for real-world clients. Previous clients include the John Offerdahl Gridiron Grill-Off, DJ Irie Foundation Weekend, and Herbert Wellness Center 20th Anniversary.

This year, 27 students and Heidi Carr, lecturer in the Department of Strategic Communication, are collaborating with the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment Fund to help collect $400,000 in donations to reach Ron Magill’s goal of $2 million before he retires in 5 years. Students of the class are working throughout the semester to craft an integrated, engaging campaign geared toward garnering enduring support.

“This is the class our public relations students have been building up to their entire college careers,” said Carr. “It’s where they take the skills they’ve learned in design and marketing classes, in writing and research classes, even [student organizations like] PREP and PRSSA, and create something stunning for our client.”

Magill is an internationally acclaimed wildlife expert and photographer. He has appeared on numerous local, national, and international programs, including National Geographic ExplorerGood Morning America, TODAY, and Sabado Gigante. Through his award-winning photography, Magill has been featured in publications and galleries across the globe, including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. During his 37-year career with Zoo Miami, Magill has become a highly recognized figure in South Florida. Today, he serves as the zoo’s communications director and a Nikon Ambassador.

Alongside his numerous professional achievements, Magill is wildly passionate about conservation and education.

“We need to get back to the type of programming and education that inspires you to care about wildlife and go outside to learn more about it,” said Magill. “It’s magical, man! That stuff is magical! It’s better than any movie you’ll ever go to.”

The Ron Magill Conservation Endowment Fund has raised nearly $1.6 million toward ensuring support for international conservation projects in perpetuity. The fund’s key projects include the sponsorship of Anatolian Shepard dogs in South Africa, and Harpy eagle conservation efforts in Panama.

Students taking part in STC 436 assisted Magill with his popular Sex and the Animals presentation at Zoo Miami which aims to reveal similarities between humans and wildlife during intimate moments. Students helped with the event’s day-of operations, as well as enjoyed Magill’s jaw-dropping lecture. Aside from a lovely evening, the event presented a fantastic opportunity for primary research. All Sex and the Animals proceeds go to the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment Fund.

The class’ enthusiasm and Magill’s passion for conservation promise to bring an extraordinary campaign. Earth’s wildlife will surely be grateful for it.

Providing a Safe Haven for Sloth Bears and Elephants in India

By: Solana Faerman & Valentina Belizzi

For generations, the Kalander people of India made their living begging while they forced the sloth bears they kept on 4-foot ropes to dance for the paying customer.

“We were quite horrified by what we saw,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, one of the founders of Wildlife SOS, a non-profit conservation organization that works to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife in distress while preserving India’s natural heritage.

With the Kalanders, Wildlife SOS would be breaking a cycle that went back hundreds of years.

After killing the mothers and stealing the cubs, the Kalanders would smash the animals’ teeth with metal rods, castrate the males, pierce their muzzles with red hot pokers, deprive them of food to keep them small, and put them on 4-foot ropes. These bears, which usually live to 30 years, were dead before they were 5.

The workers at Wildlife SOS started by teaching the women skills, like embroidery, so they could use to make a little money of their own. They arranged for the children, who were completely illiterate, to go to school. They found jobs for the men, such as driving tuk tuks and working at shops.

Within a short time, the family income had doubled, then tripled. It got to the point where the Kalander families didn’t need to beg for coins while holding onto their dancing bears.

That’s when Wildlife SOS asked the Kalanders to surrender their bears so the animals could be rehabilitated.  Because the Kalendar adults are illiterate and unable to sign their name, the contracts were made with tongue impressions.

Within nine years, 628 sloth bears entered the Agra Bear Rescue Facility. Each of the animals needed three or four surgeries; such as root canals or surgery repairing the damage done when the pokers were driven through their muzzles. Once the bears were physical healthy, the SOS workers set to work teaching them basic bear skills, like climbing.

“We taught bears how to be bears,” said Satyanarayan.

Wildlife SOS is one of the pet projects of the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment. “Kartick [Satyanarayan] and Geeta [Seshamani] are the most amazing dedicated people I have ever worked with,’’ said Magill.

The endowment gave Wildlife SOS $10,000, which will help support medical facilities for the animals, and will pay for a zookeeper from Zoo Miami to go over to India once a year to work with Wildlife SOS.

In addition to the sloth bears, Wildlife SOS also is heavily involved in elephant rehabilitation.

Afraid of the massive creatures, many people in the villages would chase the elephants. Once caught, the animals were imprisoned in small cages which didn’t allow them any movement, not even to turn around. Some of the rescued animals had been sold off to traveling zoos, where they were tortured or treated poorly.

But elephants, being smart creatures, quickly sensed when the Wildlife SOS workers arrived that their lives were about to change. When released from their cages, the elephants at first took tentative steps, almost as though they were afraid to walk. But within minutes they were trotting through the refuge.

Most of the elephants needed medical care on their feet. After gaining their trust, the volunteers trained (with the use of treats) the elephants to gently lift and stick out their feet for cleaning. But perhaps it was the volunteers who were trained. Now the elephants stick out their feet whether they need care or not, and are rewarded with treats.

“We ended up having to check their feet 100 times because they kept giving us their feet,” said Satyanarayan.

But the work Wildlife SOS does is continuous. It is still combating poaching in India, and would like to build its own facility where it could rehabilitate 50 more elephants rescued from circuses.

UF Scholarship Winner Works With Guyanese Natives Studying Jaguars

By: Amanda L’Hussier

It is one thing to study a foreign rainforest on your own, but imagine teaching the people who live there how to share it with jaguars.

That’s what happened to Matt Hallett, the 2015 scholarship winner of the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment University of Florida scholarship.

Hallett was in his first of year collecting data in Guyana when he received the grant.

“I was very stressed and nervous about funding… it could make or break my project,” Hallett said. “That is when I received the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment scholarship. This was a critical time in my research.”

The men he’d been working with were farmers, hunters and fisherman who depended on the food they gathered themselves to survive. Working with Hallett collecting research didn’t give them the time they needed to be collecting food for their families. But with the grant, Hallett was able to hire them for their work.

He trained and employed about 100 indigenous Guyanese; many of them still work with him but others have taken their skills into new jobs.

In Guyana, Hallett was researching large mammals; especially jaguars. He focused his research on understanding what drove the abundance and distribution of jaguars. He asked questions like “How are they spread out in space? Why are they where they are? How many can live in one area?

Guyana is full of natural savannah and forest areas. Jaguars are usually associated with tropical rain forests but they can also live in desserts, swamps and open grass.

Hallett, who earned his bachelor’s at the College of Charleston, his master’s at Miami University (Ohio) and his doctorate at the University of Florida, was researching how jaguars use the savannah habitats versus tropical forests.

 

 

 

His project worked across a very large area, about 20,000 square kilometers, making for camouflage traps at over 400 sites across about 15 different indigenous communities, five ranches and two protected areas.

Hallett and his Guyanese team called themselves the Rupununi Wildlife Research Unit.”

“Now I am getting ready to start a position with the Jacksonville Zoo, specifically working on a program in Guyana,” said Hallett. “The funds from the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment made a tremendous impact on my own research, as well as the people of the Rupununi Region of Guyana.”

To learn more about RWRU, go to Facebook (‘Rupununi Wildlife Research Unit’ – https://www.facebook.com/rwru2015/), Instagram (rupununiwildlife), Twitter (@RupWildlife), and YouTube (Rupununi Wildlife).

Magill’s “Backyard” Focus Aims to Protect Florida’s Everglades

By: Taylor Karp

For Ron Magill, a South Florida resident, nothing seems to hit closer to home than the preservation of the Florida Everglades.

“The greatest threat to wildlife is not hunting or poaching as much as it is habitat loss and habitat destruction,” said Magill. “And until people understand that, we’re not going to be able to save these animals.”

Through the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment, Magill has been able to provide support to Dr. Jerry Lonez, chief scientist at Florida Audubon, to further researching spoonbills and wading birds, and the rise and fall of their populations in Florida’s wetlands. With this donation, Lonez had been able to expand upon his studies of the water quality in the Everglades, specifically the effects of salinization and saltwater intrusion into freshwater ecosystems.

The Everglades Science Center is currently studying the flow of freshwater into Florida Bay and the impacts that the diversion of water has had throughout the Everglades ecosystem. Experiments conducted by the center show that changes in freshwater flow are linked to the decrease in plant life sustainability in the area and the loss of small fish.

Magill said the threat of saltwater intrusion is detrimental to the preservation of many of the Everglades’ native species, and through the support given by the endowment, Lonez has been able to conduct more nest surveys of native birds and other animals that are affected by saltwater intrusion.

Experiments conducted by Lonez have been able to link the diversion of freshwater flow into vital parts of the area to the decrease in plant and fish life. These are vital parts to the Everglades ecosystem, providing prominent food sources for higher predators.

In addition, after he was made aware of a need for body cameras for law enforcements officers in an effort to crack down on illegal poaching, Magill presented the Everglades National Park with a $7,500 check.

For the future?

As a board member for Florida Audubon, Magill is able to get information about where help from the endowment can have effective and lasting conservation efforts.

“Florida Audubon is really a great barometer for the science of the Everglades,” Magill said. “They do a great job of not only conducting the research and finding the data, but using that data to involve legislators in Tallahassee to change the laws, and ensure preservation of this beautiful land.”

 

Eco-Hero Award Takes Young Scientists on Trip of a Lifetime

By: Carly Huffman

One of Ron Magill’s biggest goals as an animal conservationist is to educate and empower the next generation to prioritize conservation. As he famously says, “we did not inherit the Earth from our parents; we are borrowing it from our children.”

As a part of Magill’s efforts to excite students about conservation, he has teamed up with WPLG-Local 10 to create the Eco Hero Award, which offers the opportunity for one South Florida high school student to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that will further excite them about the environment and animal conservation, all while being documented by Kristi Krueger and her team from Local 10. Their incredible footage is turned into award-winning 30-minute documentaries aired on Local 10.

Winners have gone to Machu Picchu, the Canadian Rockies – and next year Antarctica will be added to that list.

Below are some incredible glimpses of past Eco Hero Award winners.

Peru (2013):

Kelsey Peeples, then a 14-year-old at South Miami Middle School, was chosen the winner of the 2013 Eco Hero Award. Kelsey beat out more than 400 local students and received more than 51,000 votes as a finalist for the award.

Kelsey spent an entire summer tracking the effects of cloud cover on solar radiation using NASA-donated equipment. Her and classmate Daniel Crair’s findings were compiled and published in Harvard’s Journal of Emerging Investigators, which publishes middle and high school student’s scientific work.

Her prize trip? A 5-day adventure exploring the Peruvian rainforest and UNESCO World Heritage site, Machu Picchu. They hiked deep into the muddy jungle of the Andes Mountains and learned about the ancient Inca empire. Deep in the jungle, they visited a conservation center for the endangered spectacled bear.

 

Canadian Rockies (2015):

Ron Magill, Kristi Krueger and the WPLg crew announced the winner of the 2015 Eco Hero Award in the middle of José Martí MAST Academy’s Earth Day celebration.  Justine Padron, then a 13-year-old, participates in an annual clean-up of Biscayne Bay and is a proud leader of her school’s Green Club.

“When it comes to protecting nature, our neighbors to the north are leading the world,” said Krueger. That’s why the 2015 Eco Hero won a trip to the wild Canadian Rockies. They explored the rugged terrain and saw glaciers, lakes, mountains and of course, some incredible wildlife. The crew even spotted a grizzly bear on the side of the road!

Antarctica (2017):

The 2017 winner of the Eco Hero Award was high school freshman Bela Perdomo, of Miami Beach. The environmental conservation project that won her a trip to Antarctica is called Cleaner Bottoms. Bela is aiming to protect the marine ecosystem by creating a non-toxic, chemical-free alternative to the paint currently used on the bottom of boats to prevent barnacle growth.

In January of 2018, Bela, Ron Magill, Kristi Krueger and the Channel 10 team set off on the adventure of a lifetime. They flew to Punta Arenas, Chile, the base from which they would attempt to fly into King George Island off the north coast of Antarctica, weather permitting. Punta Arenas is located in the Patagonia region, on the Straits of Magellan, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Everyone was excited to see not just a few, but hundreds of penguins up close in their natural habitat, ‘because they don’t have a natural fear of humans yet,’ Magill points out, ‘so this is a wonderful experience to go into a place and be accepted as if you’re part of the natural landscape.’

The crew was outfitted with gear to bear the frigid temperatures. The current summer temperature was a mere minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather was monitored closely by the expedition leaders. Eventually the group was cleared for takeoff for the 1 hour and 20-minute flight to King George Island. Unfortunately, with just 20 minutes left of the flight, heavy clouds set in, visibility became minimal, and they were forced to turn around and head back for Punta Arenas. The expedition allowed for the possibility to depart two more days after the scheduled departure if the first one is grounded. However, the expedition was officially cancelled because of extreme weather moving in guaranteed for the next week.

While that was a disappointment at the time, the expedition team has arranged for Bela and the Eco Hero team to head back in January 2019.

Antarctica, here they come!

Animals Helping Animals: The Cheetah Outreach Story

By: Kemble Mountcastle

Did you know cheetahs can reach their top speed of 70 mph in just three seconds?

While this speed is impressive, unfortunately another element of speed is catching up to the cheetah: its low survival rate.

At the turn of the 20th Century, there were approximately 100,000 cheetahs living throughout Africa and parts of Asia as well. Now, there are just over 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild.

Cheetah preservation and conservation are one of its most notable causes. Donations support the Cheetah Outreach Program in South Africa. Deon Cilliers is the Manager of the Livestock Guarding Dog Program for Cheetah Outreach in South Africa.

The dogs used for this particular training are Turkish Anatolian Shepherd dogs. Once properly and fully trained, a select number of dogs are placed on South African farms, depending on the farm’s need. Their purpose is to guard livestock in an effort to reduce conflict between farmers and predators in South Africa.  

This program does not cause any harm to cheetahs. While the dogs are trained to guard livestock and farmers, they do not harm the cheetahs or damage their population rates. In fact, the Cheetah Outreach Program hand-rears cubs from cheetah breeding facilities in South Africa and raises them to be ambassadors of the species.

Despite popular belief, cheetah population is in danger just as much as the local livestock. There are only about an estimated 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild today. Despite being the fastest animals on the planet, cheetahs may not be fast enough to escape endangerment without the help of humans, which is where Ron Magill and the Cheetah Outreach program come in.

“Working with these cheetahs has been a huge goal of mine,” says Magill. “I’m so amazed by their majestic beauty and their undeniable power. Every child should be able to see a cheetah in the wild and that is exactly why I do what I do.”

Ron & Cheetah in South Africa

 

The Cheetah Outreach Program is a great organization striving to help cheetahs grow and thrive in their natural habitat. This program is a strong component of the endowment’s overall educational mission, and helps to develop a better understanding of cheetahs. Since the founding of the organization in 1997, creating awareness through environmental education and partnering with other wildlife conservation organizations has helped save the lives of many cheetahs in the African wild.

Magill has gotten to see quite the transformations of not only the growth of the program, but also of the dogs who get trained for their duties there.

“You’re probably wondering, how can dogs and cheetahs be beneficial for each other without killing each other?” This program is unique in the way they train their special dogs. These dogs are being bred and raised to help protect farms and livestock from becoming prey or hunted down by cheetahs in South Africa. It is simple: animals helping animals, with a little help from humans.

“While working for the Cheetah Outreach program, I’ve seen these dogs just as little puppies. Cute as heck, as you’d imagine. They grow to be such mature and majestic animals, much like the cheetah, also. But the amount of capability and smarts these dogs have are so impressive, I think they’re smarter than me.”

 

The Story of the Endowment

By: Alexis De La Rosa

When asked his life mission, Ron “The Zoo Guy” Magill’s response often silences the room: “To remind people that we did not inherit the earth from our parents. We are borrowing it from our children.”

Magill has dedicated his life to teaching the public about the importance of wildlife and working to make sure conservation efforts around the globe have all they need to ensure future generations may one day enjoy some of the magnificent species that populate this earth.

“When people realize their grandkids may not get to see a polar bear or an eagle, it really makes them think about how important these conservation efforts really are,” says Magill.

The Ron Magill Conservation Endowment has provided support for national and international wildlife conservation projects. Magill has raised more than $1.5 million in support for the endowment, which has championed conservation efforts from Peru to South Africa, scholarships for future conservationists at his alma mater and an annual contest for South Florida high school students interested in the environment.

Among the animal conservation groups that has benefited from the endowment is Cheetah Outreach, which is dedicated to educating people in South Africa about the species and advocating for their survival.

When contacted by Cheetah Outreach founder Annie Beckhelling, she opened his eyes to the largest and most surprising obstacle standing in the way of cheetah survival: farmers.

According to Cheetah Outreach, the region of Africa populated by cheetahs depends almost entirely on livestock. Therefore, the farmers are constantly on the lookout for cheetahs on the prowl.

After some brainstorming, Beckhelling came up with the perfect idea to end the hostile war taking place between farmers and cheetahs.

“Cheetahs are cowards,” said Magill, “so Annie came up with the idea of using shepherd dogs to scare them off, and it worked.”

The Ron Magill Conservation Endowment sponsored the breeding of Anatolian shepherd dogs for each of the farms most vulnerable to cheetah attacks. Within a couple of months, the number of cheetah attacks had nearly fallen, and the farmers couldn’t be more in love with their newest pets.

According to Magill, working with future conservationists like those at the University of Florida and current organizations like the Cheetah Outreach program is what he sees as his legacy.

“This is what it’s all about folks. Giving back to the planet which has given us so much.”