Maria Coffey and Dag Goering

Elephant angels: Victoria couple devoted to protecting endangered animals

Elephants and Other Adventures takes place on Wednesday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Young Auditorium at Camosun College

A Victoria couple is aiming big. Their goal: protecting elephants, the world’s largest mammal, from being killed for their tusks.

Dag Goering and Maria Coffey are the husband-wife team behind the adventure travel company Hidden Places and the Elephant Earth Initiative. The couple hosts a multimedia presentation, Elephants and Other Adventures, at Camosun College on Wednesday (March 28).

Through their travels to South East Asia, Africa, and India, Goering (a trained veterinarian and photographer) and Coffey (an author) were inspired to help protect elephants in those regions. Elephants are used as tourist attractions and are too often killed for their ivory, Goering said.

The couple hopes their presentations will raise $6,000 to support an anti-poaching project in a mountainous area of Kenya known as the Kirisia Hills.

Elephant poaching has recently “sky-rocketed” in Kenya, Goering said. The number of elephants found killed with their tusks removed has “dramatically increased” in the past year throughout parts of eastern Africa, including Kenya.

When the couple was in Africa this January, they came upon the Kirisia Hills — a sanctuary for elephants, Goering said. However, the elephants were not safe.

“The surrounding communities around this mountainous area are banding together to prevent poaching and to help preserve the forest and to stop forest fires,” Goering said.

Goering and Coffey have committed to funding the project and its 12 employees for the first year.

“In order to keep places wild, to keep magnificent animals like elephants in this world, we have to pitch in together and work with local people to bring that about,” Goering said.

However, protecting the elephants is only one of their goals. Many of the locals live pastoral lives and rely on the mountains for the survival of their livestock.

“We’re not only protecting elephants and helping with their survival but this area is also hugely important for all the surrounding local people,” Goering explained. “By securing that area we’re also securing their survival and their hugely important water source.”

The multimedia presentation features stories of journeys into the world of elephants, Goering said, and the people they’ve met along the way.

The presentation takes place on Wednesday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Young Building (Gibson Auditorium) at Camosun College, located at 3100 Foul Bay Road.

Admission to the event is by donation.

Due to graphic images, the presentation isn’t suggested viewing for children under the age of 12.

For more information, visit hiddenplaces.net or elephantearth.org.

reporter@vicnews.com

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