Animals Lebanon was started by a group of young, passionate and determined individuals wanting to make Lebanon a better place for animals. They believed that improving their welfare is a necessary and admirable goal in itself and recognized that when the welfare of animals improves great things can happen for the country. Animals Lebanon is the only animal welfare group working in Lebanon and is also now the most recognized animal welfare organization in the Middle East. The organization has been awarded for the breadth and impact of its work – joining international conventions, fighting the trafficking of endangered species, closing zoos and circuses, rescuing thousands of animals, and responding to tens of thousands of requests for help every year. The group also drafted the Animal Protection and Welfare Law that came into full force in 2017, protecting all animals now and for years to come.
In March 2020, Thailand shut its doors to tourism in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. An action that forced over 3,500 elephants “employed” in the industry into 24-hour leg and neck chains and certain starvation. Now, almost 15 months later, the surviving elephants are near total starvation, still in leg chains and another day closer to death.
245 tourist elephant “camps” existed in Thailand in 2020, providing rides and circus style demeaning performances with captive elephants. While there has been a massive, ongoing international campaign by animal welfare groups to phase out these exploitative activities, the abrupt, long-term loss of tourist revenue has left camp operators and elephant owners as abandoned as the animals themselves.
Save Elephant Foundation, with the financial support of Trunks Up, courageously stepped up with an emergency food purchasing and distribution campaign to help support 223 camps, aiding 1,826 elephants and 1,600 elephant keepers. Without any assistance from the Thai Government, their resources were depleted within months.
In 2021 The Last Animals Foundation enthusiastically supported Save Elephant Foundation/TrunksUp with a grant to help Thailand’s starving elephants during the covid-19 pandemic.
During the making of The Last Animals documentary film, 14 children lost their fathers due to an ambush by poachers on rangers and supporting DRC military in Garamba National Park. In that time of grief, the decision was made to establish The Last Animals Foundation; we made a commitment to give back to Garamba’s rangers and families in honor of their noble sacrifice and service. The foundation helped to build a new education and community center to benefit the community. “Camp Dungu” is named after the river that runs through Garamba National Park. For every dollar raised by The Last Animals Foundation was matched by the European Union.
The Last Animals song composed by Emmanuel Jal is a tribute to the last Northern Whites rhinos on the planet. ‘Hold My Soul’ is a chant about shame and peace. Proceeds from the songs will be used to help the children and families of fallen rangers. Emmanuel Jal is a Sudanese Canadian actor, hip-hop musician and peace activist who was forced to to be a child soldier by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) before he was even a teenager.
Rebecca Hardin earned an AB degree in Brown University’s Modern Culture and Media program then an MPhil and PhD in anthropology at Yale. She has taught at the Sorbonne, The National Museum of Natural History in Paris, and at McGill University in Montreal where she retains collaborations with the Center for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives (CICADA). She teaches at the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan where she directs collaborations on www.learngala.com, an open access platform for integrating multimodal digital media, narrative, data visualization and translation of learning modules about sustainability.
Her early field work in the Central African Republic emerged from three years in the Peace Corps, first as a beekeeper in zones bordering northern Cameroon and Chad. She was then an ecotourism design and management specialist who supported—and was supported by–antipoaching guards, interpretive guides and their families at the Dzanga Sangha Dense Forest Reserve bordering Cameroon and Congo Brazzaville. Current collaborations in Africa include sites in South Africa, Kenya, and Gabon, focusing on classroom and field or organizational educational innovation as it links to monitoring and protection of water quality, and of wildlife populations in biodiverse ecosystems.
Kate Brooks is an international photojournalist and filmmaker who chronicled conflict and human rights issues for many years before turning her lens to conservation. Her photographs have been extensively published in TIME, Newsweek, Smithsonian and The New Yorker and exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. In 2010 Brooks’ love for filmmaking was sparked while working as a cinematographer on the documentary The Boxing Girls of Kabul. Her introspective collection of essays and photographs, In the Light of Darkness: A Photographer’s Journey After 9/11, was selected as one of the best photography books of 2011. In 2012-13, she was a Knight Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. There she researched the global wildlife trafficking crisis before embarking on directing her first film The Last Animals. The documentary premiered at Tribeca Film Festival on Earth Day 2017 and was awarded a Disruptor Award. The film was widely recognized for its ability to disrupt the status quo on policy and change hearts and minds, later winning a Panda Award at Wildscreen in consideration with Blue Planet II. Brooks’ drive and passion for conservation comes from the fundamental belief that time is running out and that we are at a critical moment in natural history. From her perspective “despite of all the human destruction on the planet, there is still a natural order and it is necessary for us to do everything we can to protect that while we can”. The Last Animals was distributed through National Geographic, Hulu, Netflix and Discovery Plus. Most recently she Executive Produced Tigre Gente, a documentary about jaguar trafficking.
Farwiza Farhan “Wiza” is a passionate forest conservationist working with local communities to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia. She co-founded and currently serves as the chairperson of Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh Foundation (Yayasan HAkA), a grassroots organisation working to push for better protection of the Leuser Ecosystem through policy and advocacy, community empowerment, as well as habitat protection. She is concurrently writing her PhD dissertation at the Center for International Development Issues Nijmegen, or CIDIN in the Netherlands on political economy of natural resources management in Aceh, Indonesia. Frequently invited to speak, from the UN General Assembly in New York to The Elders in South Africa and Women Deliver in Vancouver, her key note presentations reflect her experience, commitment and passion while connecting the challenges of Sumatra and Aceh to wider global issues and resources.
“Farwiza Farhan is spearheading efforts to protect the Leuser Ecosystem. Her aim is to shift the balance of power to local level, and support people to defend this incredible ecosystem.” –Sir David Attenborough.
Davida Heller was promoted to Director and Head of Sustainability Strategy at Citi in 2022. Prior to that she was Senior Vice President on the Sustainability & ESG team at Citi. Her work centers on the development and execution of Citi’s environmental and social initiatives including the implementation of Citi’s Sustainable Progress Strategy and leads on Citi’s environmental finance goal initiatives. Davida works closely with internal and external stakeholders to build company-wide awareness of sustainability, ESG and climate change-related trends, opportunities and risks.
Prior to joining Citi, Davida was Head of Member Engagement at The Climate Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to driving action to create a ‘net-zero’ emission global economy, where she worked with Fortune 500 companies on greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives. At The Earth Institute at Columbia University, she managed corporate relations and oversaw professional development for the institute’s sustainability-related education programs. Before dedicated her professional life to sustainability, Davida worked in consulting and feature film development and production in Hollywood.
Ken Close is the CEO of The Quincy Group and a specialist in U.S.-Saudi business and foreign relations. Ken brings over three decades of investment banking, private equity, international business development and government relations experience in the MENA region to the firm.
Mr. Close comes from a long line of educators, missionaries, diplomats, and businessmen who have served in the Arab Middle East since the mid-nineteenth century. He is the fourth generation of his family born in Lebanon and the fifth generation to have lived, studied, and worked in the Middle East. He enjoys broad and deep relationships there in part as a result of his family’s unique history in the region.
Ken graduated magna cum laude from Duke University with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Public Policy.
Jason Mier has proudly served as the Executive Director of Animals Lebanon since the organizations founding in 2008. Animals Lebanon is now the most recognized animal welfare organization in Lebanon and the Middle East. Animals Lebanon drafted the National Animal Protection and Welfare Law that came into full force in 2017 and successfully campaigned for Lebanon to become a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
During his tenor, Jason led an eight-year court battle in Lebanon setting legal precedent that animals have both physical and mental welfare, as well as intrinsic rights and interests, that come before the claims of an owner. The charity has been awarded for the breadth and impact of its work – joining international conventions, fighting the trafficking of endangered species, closing zoos and circuses, rescuing thousands of animals, and responding to tens of thousands of requests for help every year.
Prior to joining Animals Lebanon, Jason worked for ten years throughout Africa, the Middle East and Europe focusing on the rescue and care of chimpanzees and investigating the global trafficking of great apes.