Month: December 2015

Because Christmas is coming, again (From Janet)

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur

There are do-gooders, and then, there are do-gooders. Whether you are the former, or the latter, the majority of people feel that if they do just one charitable thing during the Holiday season that maybe they normally don’t do at any other time of year, that their obligation is done for the year, until next year.

How sad for them. How sad for those living lives of misery the other 364 days a year.

Being kind, compassionate, giving, aware, responsible and conscientious, is a way of life.  Doing the right thing, EVERY time, is a choice. A conscious decision made with someone else’s very best interest at heart. And it doesn’t matter if that someone else is a four-legged, or two-legged, living being.

What matters is that, if the ONLY thing that motivates you to be charitable is the Holiday season,
then you should live as if every day is the Holiday season.

Giving of yourself, extending yourself is a gift; it’s a blessing – it’s a privilege. If you are able-bodied, you can give of yourself. And with that, the possibilities are endless. Endless.

If you think you are too tired, too busy, too broke, too depressed, too lazy – welcome to the world of being alive. We all feel “too something” at one time or another.  If you’re up to your eyeballs in “too something” be thankful that you are. It means you’re living. It means you have choices you can make. It means you can do something to change your part of the world. It means that you can do something to change the world for someone else.

So many animals have so little freedom. Their lives aren’t their own. Their choices, lives and destinies are decided for them, based on who owns them, who captures them, who abuses them, and who neglects them.

The Holiday season is no different for these animals, than any other miserable day.  And for many animals, the Holiday season is tragically even worse.

It’s a poor excuse for someone to think that the only time of year that they need help make a difference is during the Holiday season. There is something wrong with society if the push to increase charitable acts only comes at Christmas time and at the end of year.

We can ALL make a difference EVERY DAY, in some way.  And, we should. We are ALL obligated to make the world a better place for ALL living beings.

Does everyone feel and think this way? Nope. Should we? Yep.

Be a 365 do-gooder, and encourage others to do the same.

And if you cannot bring yourself to be 365, then start NOW, planning for the next Holiday season. Because Christmas is coming, again.

Happy Holidays,

Animal Advocacy Founder signature Janet Bovitz Sandefur

Animal Advocacy logo Janet Bovitz Sandefur

Continue Reading

Guest Blogger, Grace Yoxon (


IUCN recently updated their Red List for otters and the shocking news is that out of the 13 species of otter worldwide, 12 are declining in number. In fact the only species which is classified as “Stable” is the North American river otter.

Very little work has been done on otters in Africa as the focus is always on high profile species such as elephant and lion. Of course we all want to conserve these important animals, but otters are simply overlooked and even some biologists in Tanzania have confessed that they didn’t even know they existed in Africa.

Back in 1998, the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group recognised that otters in Africa should be a priority and in 2004, they emphasised that there was a great need to establish a network of people working on the species. However, until now nothing had been done. The International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) therefore decided we should hold a training workshop, as we have done in Asia before, where there is a similar lack of otter workers. This workshop was the first Pan-African event of this kind. Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare

On July 20th – 25th 2015, 30 people from 10 sub-Saharan African countries met in Tanzania. They came from Benin, The Gambia, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania and had various backgrounds – people already working with otters through research or community work, park rangers, ecologists and those working in associated fields, such as wetland protection. The workshop was held at the College of Wildlife Management, Mweka, which is responsible for training most African park rangers and we hope they will now include otters in their curriculum to expand awareness.

There are three otter species in sub-Saharan Africa:

The spotted-necked otter is fairly widely distributed in sub-Saharan countries, from Senegal to Ethiopia and down to South Africa, but their detailed distribution is not fully understood: Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare

The African clawless otter has the widest distribution of all the African otters although it is mostly absent in the Congo basin: Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare

The Congo clawless otter has a very patchy distribution in the Congo Basin and little is known about its ecology and biology.  Most of what we do know about their behaviour has been learnt through the care and rearing of orphaned cubs in DRC: Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare

All three species are listed in the IUCN Red List and in 2015 they were upgraded to “Near Threatened” from “Least Concern”.  However, this still creates a false impression that populations have recovered while there are strong reasons to suspect numbers continue to decline, largely due to increasing human population.  In fact the actual reassessment process highlighted the lack of modern information and that a lot of the data is over 25 years old.  Just think how things have changed in our world since then.  So the aim of the workshop was to train more people in field techniques, public awareness programmes, law enforcement and general conservation issues.

There are many global issues affecting our wildlife today – habitat loss, pollution, climate change and all the problems associated with poverty.  In addition, otters also face conflict with fishermen who see them as a problem because they take fish and damage nets – these are expensive losses to a poor family reliant on fishing as a livelihood.  

In some areas otters are hunted for fur and traditional medicines.  Some of these beliefs are a part of ancient tribal culture so it is difficult to change attitudes, but by working within the community it is possible to show that such practices are no longer acceptable.

However, the main problem is lack of awareness which leads to a lack of available funding for research, education and conservation.  Some work has started in Ethiopia, Benin and Malawi and the African Otter Outreach Project is working on Rubundo Island National Park in Tanzania.  A Facebook page has now been set up for people to post photographs of otters and their signs, linked to a confidential form for more detailed location information.  

And new data is already being received.  In 2005, possible spotted-necked otter spraint (droppings) was found at Lake Manyara, Tanzania, but their existence has now been confirmed by a sighting.  They have also been seen at Lake Kivu in Rwanda, and otter signs have been found at Liparamba Game Reserve, Tanzania.

In the long term we need to collaborate with others working in areas such as wetlands to develop more awareness programmes using the best communication methods, such as posters, TV or radio, meetings, etc.  We need to work with the community to identify alternative livelihoods to encourage people not to kill otters.  In The Gambia fishermen have been encouraged to turn to oyster culture which does not bring them into competition with otters.  But a real problem area will be the traditional use of otters and working with community leaders will be key to this.

But the highlight of the workshop had to be meeting Rita Chapman, Delphin, and Sico from DRC.  Back in 2010 IOSF received an email about a one-week old Congo clawless cub which had been found after its mother was killed by a hunter.  The cub was taken to Rita, a missionary, as she was known to care for various wild orphans – some of you will already have seen her photo in a previous Guest Blog.  To be honest, when she arrived no-one expected this tiny animal to survive but Mazu (Swahili for “noisy”) grew into a strong healthy adult and returned to the wild.  Throughout Mazu’s care, Rita was assisted by two local Congolese men, Delphin and Sico, and in fact they were sole carers in her last months before she returned to the wild, as Rita and her husband, Glen, were in USA for a sabbatical year. Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare

In 2012, another cub, Kamiya, arrived and the Kikongo Otter Sanctuary was formed.  Rita and Glen were still away so Delphin and Sico took in this new otter and began the process of rearing her ready for release – she too returned to the wild. Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare

There was so much interest in these animals from the local people that they rapidly became “celebrities” and indeed ambassadors for all otters.  Even government ministers visited!

Since then, the Kikongo Otter Sanctuary has continued working with the community and Delphin told us how he had been a hunter from the age of about 17 but following his experience with the otters he no longer hunts.  When asked by his friends why he told them “I am seeing that our animals are starting to disappear and you should also stop killing animals because in a few years we will have nothing left.”  He is now beginning to see a change in his friends too.  Sico used to be a fisherman and has found an otter caught in a fish trap.  Now he has fish ponds and plants fruit trees.  These two men are not scientists but they are totally devoted to conservation not just of otters but all wildlife.  They are a true inspiration in the way they work with their own community to help them to understand the impact they are having on their own area and its wildlife.

And just two short weeks after their return to Kikongo another cub arrived.  Delphin and Sico decided to name the new cub “Mweka”, after the college, as they felt that they had learned so much at the workshop – isn’t that wonderful. Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare

The experience of these two local men really inspired everyone at the workshop.  Neither of them are trained scientists or conservationists but through caring for these individual animals they have had a profound effect on their local community and throughout DRC.  They helped people to realise that all you need to achieve something is to care – and to act.  And this is what this Guest Blog site is about.  It is about people who care to JUST DO SOMETHING.

Thanks to all the attendees: Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare
The workshop was funded by: Anderson-Rogers Foundation, Animal Defence Trust, Columbus Zoo, The Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, Sacramento Zoo, and private donors.

For more information on International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF), please go to or contact me at

Find IOSF on Facebook!  Find IOSF on Twitter!

– Grace Yoxon

All copyright IOSF

Animal Advocacy Guest Blogger Thank You Janet Bovitz Sandefur

Continue Reading

Give of Yourself (From Janet)

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur

If you advocate for animals, chances are your e-mail and regular mail boxes are full of requests to “save a life” by donating money.

Like everything else, requests to donate money ebb and flow depending on what’s trending, the time of year and what is needed.

Money IS a very necessary means to an end when it comes to funding for animal based support systems.

But (BUT), money isn’t everything.

To donate literally means to give.

Think about that.

It doesn’t matter that your checkbook balance will not allow you to send money on behalf of an animal in need.   It’s a shame that so many feel that the only way they are TRULY making a difference is to send money, because they are closing the door on other opportunities to help and support.

Here’s a simple and surefire way to donate:  You can give of yourself.
Every person has something of themselves that they can give to make a difference in the life of an animal in need.

Of course, excuses are easy to come by if you don’t want to donate, period. So whether or not you have the money to write that check then becomes moot.  But, oh, how wonderful if you WANT to donate but you just can’t financially. Because that opens up so many other imaginative and creative ways to give of yourself instead.

If you’re reading this Blog, chances are you are familiar with our website and all the ways we encourage people to save or better the life of an animal in need.  Poke around our site, and you’ll come across some good ideas to be a great supporter of animals, no matter what your resources are.

It doesn’t take any science at all to dream up ways you can donate yourself to help out and support. All it takes is a willing YOU. Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare

What are you doing this holiday season, and every day, to save or better a life? Do it, talk about it, lead by example, and encourage others to JUST DO SOMETHING.

Tell us about it, and we’ll share it.

Every effort, every giving of yourself, helps to make a difference in the lives of an animal in need; and they NEED all the help they can get.

Be a champion for those that can’t speak for, or defend themselves…donate yourself – today.

Animal Advocacy Founder signature Janet Bovitz Sandefur



Animal Advocacy logo Janet Bovitz Sandefur



Continue Reading
Translate »