Unforgettable Travel Company

To Pie Aerts, photography has never just been about images, but about the story behind the lens. After spending years travelling across the world to the utmost remote corners, Pie produced a stunning coffee table book named Tales of the Road Less Traveled. This book features the Dutch photographers own work, from jungles of Papua New Guinea to monasteries of Nepal, from the markets of Colombo to the colourful waterways of the Okavango Delta. Along the way, Pie was captivated with meeting local people and sharing their stories with a global platform.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, so many of these local communities that Pie had photographed and formed connections with, were suffering. In Africa, the pandemic was an immediate threat to wildlife protection as there was less funding for African rangers and conservation projects to continue. Pie Aerts decided to do something, and started Prints for Wildlife.

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Prints for Wildlife was a month-long fundraiser which took place between July and August 2020. Pie reached out to a network of both acclaimed and emerging photographers who all agreed to donating one of their wildlife photographs.

These 125 photographers were feeling the effects of Covid-19 themselves, as many are self-employed and the lack of international travel limited their freelance jobs. But they looked past this, and become part of the project. Each print was available to buy for $100.

While everyone was sat at home, enduring some sort of lockdown across the country, orders were flooding in. Pie and a team of 60 volunteers were printing, packaging and posting the prints around the world. Within 4 weeks, the campaign reached an incredible $660,000. And 100% of the proceeds went to African Parks.

African Parks manage and protect 19 national parks across 11 countries. They serve some of the most vulnerable communities, and believe that supporting local people with education and employment, is the most effective way of sustaining livelihoods, which in turn will protect the continents incredible wildlife.

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Through the Prints for Wildlife campaign, Pie wanted to prove how much people come together to support these valuable ecosystems. The world came together and supported the campaign, including ourselves. We spoke to Pie about the campaign – the success of 2020 and the opportunity of 2021:

Did you imagine such immediate success for the Prints for Wildlife campaign?

“We were taken back by its success. Minutes before going live at the end of July, myself and Marion Payr sat down and set a target to make $100,000 over the month. In just 24  hours, our target had been met. Luckily, I had a team of incredible volunteers to help with the orders, packing and posting. We were working 24 hours, 7 days a week, but it was all worth it.”

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So many people got on board with the campaign. Was this what you expected?

“I knew that wildlife photographers would be keen to get involved because we feel very passionately about protecting African wildlife. When we were planning the campaign in March, we had over 5,000 applications from photographers who wanted to donate their work. This was very humbling. These were a combination of professional  photographers, who had worked with names such as National Geographic and the BBC, as well as up-and coming photographers from local towns across Africa. This project has exposed local talent which I am excited about.”

“The Prints for Wildlife campaign raised an incredible $660,000 in a month. 100% of the proceeds have been donated to African Parks.”

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Prints for Wildlife was a beacon of hope and positivity during a challenging time. This is a very difficulty question, but what other good things have come from Covid?

“2020 was a difficult year for everyone. I was lucky enough to travel to Kenya and safari across both Amboseli and the Masai Mara National Park in the summer. While I was out here, I was told that local tourism was on the rise. Many of the safari camps had dropped their prices dramatically for local people, which gave them an opportunity to enjoy a safari – something that many would never have been able to afford otherwise. In Amboseli, safari vehicles were filled with local school children who were taken out on a game drive. For many of these kids, it was the first time seeing species of wildlife.”

Prints for Wildlife was so successful. Any plans to do another campaign?

“We do indeed. We are planning another for this Spring. I would be thrilled if we could make another huge donation to African Parks but to everyone who joined us to be part  of the project, supporting local communities and wildlife across Africa during the pandemic, I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

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This article was first published in issue one of the Unforgettable Travel Magazine.