Elephant Cooperation holds second annual Gala in Orange County

For the last two years, Orange County residents have shown incredible support for saving African elephants by attending two events: the first annual Elephant Cooperation Gala held at the Resort at Pelican Hill in 2017, and the second annual event at Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach October.

At this year’s gala, attendees were treated to a performance by Kristine Mirelle from X Factor and a talk by Frank Pope of Save the Elephants: an organization dedicated to sustaining elephant populations and preserving their habitats. Julian and Aleen Movsesian were honored for their philanthropy and the evening was again hosted by local philanthropist and real estate mogul, George Argyros, Jr. As of the printing of this article, the total funds raised at this year’s event were not tallied but the organization hopes to meet or surpass last year’s impressive total of $900,000.

Scott Struthers, a well-known San Clemente businessman and co-founder of Sonance, a world leader in residential audio, founded Elephant Cooperation two years ago with a mission to stop the extinction of the African elephant before it is too late. His passion for elephants and other wildlife runs deep. As the son of a biologist, he was blessed with the opportunity to visit Africa as a teenager with his father and was in awe of the animals he encountered.

Struthers was eager to share his magical experience with his own daughter when she was old enough, and they embarked on a trip to Africa when she turned 15. What he witnessed as they traveled around broke his heart—an obvious decline in the elephant population since his visit with his father that left devastation in its wake.

“We are facing an uphill battle, that is certain,” said Struthers. “I believe that along with individuals, corporations need to take on a bigger role in financing all of the efforts to help end poaching if we are going to save the species. To that end, we are spotlighting projects in Africa that are truly making a difference.” 

Elephants are being poached at an alarming rate and could go extinct during our lifetimes—an elephant dies every 15 minutes, a sobering statistic. Money generated from killing these animals for their ivory tusks often helps support terrorist organizations. These magnificent creatures are often murdered in front of their young, who then suffer extreme trauma. Elephants mourn their fallen family members in a very ritualistic way—the pain runs as deep as the family bonds they form. When a calf is born, it is raised and protected by the entire matriarchal herd that consists of 8-100 elephants. They are extremely intelligent and display signs of grief, joy, and anger.

And it’s not just elephants who suffer from poaching. The collateral damage to other species is equally devastating: from warthogs and impalas to antelope and vultures, almost all other species are entrapped by indiscriminate snares or poisoned by poachers. And of course, rhinos are also poached for their horns.

Recognizing the urgency of the issue, Struthers decided to take on the problem by using a holistic approach of backing and promoting existing projects in Africa that protect elephants on the frontlines and support the surrounding communities. Struthers realized poaching is a complex issue with the human/elephant conflict being a contributing factor. By empowering impoverished African villages and bringing wildlife education to the forefront, the hearts and minds of people living among the elephants can be changed in a way that benefits the animals as well.

Elephant Cooperation provides villagers with resources and tools needed to improve livelihoods and harsh economic conditions. The organization’s comprehensive approach provides funds to rangers on the ground, drone surveillance operations and backing for anti-poverty and educational initiatives, which raises awareness around the plight of elephants among the public.

Elephant Cooperation also focuses on engaging American business leaders and philanthropists in this effort. Though Africa seems like a world away, the extinction of the African elephant would be an immeasurable loss for humankind, which is why the organization takes entrepreneurs and business people to Africa to witness its portfolio projects in action. In turn, these individuals then use their passion for the cause to help garner support and funds in the United States. Local communities and businesses around the world can make a difference

The immense problem of poaching requires comprehensive, long-term solutions and the willingness to see those solutions through. Organizations like Elephant Cooperation are working to shine a light on extraordinary projects with that goal in mind. The killing of these beautiful creatures can be stopped if everyone commits to making it happen.