Friends of the Sahara is a group of influential people dedicated to the conservation of the Sahara’s unique natural and cultural heritage. They support SCF in a variety of ways, from providing funding for projects to being ambassadors for SCF’s goals and mission.
Through their love of the desert, their influence and outreach, Friends of the Sahara are playing a vital role in making sure deserts are not overlooked and the wonder of the Sahara’s beauty, culture, nature and fragility are communicated in compelling ways.
Membership in Friends of the Sahara is by invitation and while there is no financial obligation, some members have demonstrated their commitment to SCF and the cause of desert conservation very generously.
Friends of the Sahara currently include:
Karen Sausman, President Emeritus of The Living Desert, has worked in zoological parks and in conservation since 1964. She became the founding director of The Living Desert in 1970, the first park dedicated exclusively to the conservation and interpretation of the world’s great deserts. Karen served two terms on the AZA Board of Directors, chaired the AZA’s Ethics Committee, was a founding board member for ISIS and is a past President of WAZA. Karen is currently the international studbook keeper for Arabian oryx and is a Steering Committee member on the IUCN/SSC/Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.
Jean Claude Gandur is President & CEO of Addax Petroleum Corporation, and Chairman of the Addax & Oryx Group, both oil and gas companies with a strong foothold in Africa and the Middle-East. Mr Gandur’s passion for Africa has been a vital force throughout his life. Having grown up in Egypt, he is familiar with and fascinated by the desert’s unique beauty and its tremendous and unexpected diversity of animal and plant life. In recognition of this, Mr. Gandur and the co-founders of AOG chose in 1987 to name their newly created company after two typical Saharan antelopes.
Iara Lee’s goal in life is to promote social and political awareness, education for action, and action for change. In 2004 she launched the Lee & Gund Foundation, a grant-making body focusing on global solidarity and socio-environmental justice. Iara is an active member of the Council of Advisors board of the National Geographic Society and ICG/ Intl Crisis Group, a conflict prevention and resolution organization. She travels extensively working to make positive change by bringing the economically powerful and the excluded to the bargaining table. Iara became familiar with SCF’s work during a wonderful fieldtrip to Chad in 2005.
Jeremy Swift’s main professional interests lie with nomadic pastoralists in and around the world’s great deserts. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the pastoral Twareg in Mali, and has worked with many pastoralists across Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Central Asia. As researcher and policy adviser, Jeremy works to strengthen pastoral economies, livelihoods and education. He has explored how to ensure they are economically and ecologically sustainable, and on reconciling pastoralism with wildlife and habitat conservation. Jeremy has written several books on the desert, as well as narrating a film on desertification for the BBC.
David Bamberger’s links to Saharan conservation go back many years. He came to Niger to help with Saharan antelopes and in 1998 with his late wife, Margaret, hosted a seminal meeting of antelope specialists, challenging the gathered to unite to save endangered Saharan wildlife in typical no nonsense fashion. The Bamberger’s Selah Ranch is home to an amazing herd of scimitar-homed oryx, animals they generously make available to captive breeding programs. They have won many conservation awards, including the coveted Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Land Steward Award. Their work has been documented on TV and in many newspapers.
Paul Sereno is a world-renowned palaeontologist and teaches at the University of Chicago. He is also a National Geographic Explorer in Residence. Discoverer of dinosaurs on five continents, Paul’s fieldwork began in 1988. In the 1990s his expeditions shifted to the Sahara to unearth Africa’s lost world of dinosaurs, including the 40-foot-long "SuperCroc", the world’s largest crocodile. The author of books and articles in National Geographic and Natural History magazines, Paul has received many awards. Sereno and his wife, Gabrielle Lyon, have founded Project Exploration, a non-profit outreach organization dedicated to bringing discoveries in natural science to the public and providing innovative educational opportunities for city kids.
George Steinmetz is a photographer with over twenty years of work for National Geographic and GEO magazines, among others. He specializes in exploration of remote desert environments and for the past twelve years has been using a motorized para-glider to photograph them. This foot-launched aircraft has allowed him to photograph landscapes that have never been seen from the air before. Winner of numerous international awards for his photography, he was also named Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic’s Adventure magazine. He is the author of two books, African Air and Empty Quarter, and is working on a fifteen-year project to photograph all of the world’s hyper arid regions.
An anthropologist by training, Jeffrey Bonner has over 30 years experience working in museums and zoos. Under his current leadership as the Saint Louis Zoo’s Dana Brown President and CEO, the Zoo’s WildCare Institute was born, with 12 Conservation Centers supporting research and conservation activities across the globe. As part of WildCare’s mission, he has provided SCF with critical start-up resources and allowed the Zoo to serve as an incubator and US base of operations for SCF. Dr. Bonner is the Chair Elect of AZA. He has served on WAZA’s council, chaired the Amphibian Ark, ISIS, and the Madagascar Fauna Group, and continues his service on the IUCN CBSG board.
Larry and Tony Johnson of Safari Enterprises have been providing logistics for domestic and international shipments of zoo animals for more than 35 years. They also own and operate a breeding facility in Boerne, Texas, where they raise many rare and endangered species, including Mhorr gazelle, Cuvier’s gazelle, Arabian Oryx, Lesser Kudu and 22 other species. Through Safari Enterprises, Larry and Tony have participated in several conservation projects with the Sahara Conservation Fund and other organizations. Larry is a board member of both SCF and the Exotic Wildlife Association, and is chairman of EWA’s conservation committee.