ElephantRescue.net was started by Philip Hathaway, who has authored several books, seven of which are still in print. He was a rifle expert in the military and after his honorable discharge from the army, he attended Oklahoma City University and the University of Kent in Cantebury, After completing his studies, he circled the globe twice overa period of two years. He holds a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree in the Social Sciences. One of the highlights of his round-the-world trip, was when he met Princess Diana. After he returned from his trip, he took up writing books for a living. Philip also runs another company called Talent Journaling. Philip's real name is John Mauldin, but he uses Philip Hathaway as his nom de plume.
On the Charity Navigator website ElephantRescue.net state the following:
"Our goals are clearly described in THE PLAN TO SAVE AFRICAN ELEPHANTS by Phillip Hathaway. This is nine pages in length and, consequently, is too large for this box. So we cordially invite you to visit us at ElephantRescue. Net to read to this timely paper. It is also suggested that interested parties read my letter to the Ambassador to Botswana describing LIVING OASIS. And, we are presently engaged in the rescue of a large herd, which will be one of the larger, but certainly not the largest, rescues of African Elephants. Information about this rescue can be read in the NEWS section of ElephantRescue. Net."
When one goes onto the website of Elephant Rescue to view the plan, there is a photo of the cover of the plan, but to read the plan one has to first donate to the organisation. Why does one have to pay to find out what their plan is?
On the ElephantRescue.net website Philip Hathaway outlined what his "Living Oasis" plan aimed to achieve:
"This is why we are launching Living Oasis - a system in which we drill water wells, excavate large ponds and fill them with life-giving water."
The word "launching" is used in the paragraph describing the Living Oasis project. So this is in some sort of planning phase still, and one therefore would assume no "large ponds" with "life-giving water" have been constructed. There are also no photos of any of this work being carried out in Botswana.
On the Charity Navigator website ElephantRescue.net state the following:
"We have created awareness among thousands of interested parties through television interviews, magazine interviews, newspaper interviews, social media, radio spots, the publication of three scholarly papers and fund raisers. We have also established rapport at high levels within the Republic of Botswana, home to the world's last big herd. Presently, we have created a plan to rescue a large herd of elephants who will be shot by hunters unless they are moved. This has required several months of intense work and negotiation; yet we believe we shall win this battle and save them all."
When one searches the internet for the television interviews, magazine interviews, radio spots and scholary papers, there are only one or two articles and one television interview about Philip Hathaway and ElephantRescue.net. The television interview was unrelated to his elephant rescue plans, and was only about the destruction of the habitat of bald eagles in his home town. Where is all this media coverage that he mentions on the Charity Navigator website?
When one searches for articles on ElephantRescue.net the only article that comes up is one that was published in February 2016 on the website www.tulsapeople.com, and in the article Phillip Hathaway says the following:
"Hathaway, who is ElephantRescue.net's sole staff member, says the organization has raised a little more than $2,000. However, saving a species could cost tens of millions of dollars and could take decades."
If ElephantRescue.net only has one staff member and only managed to raise $2,000, then how do they plan to achieve all the goals they claaim they want to achieve?
The first mention of the hundred elephants that needed to be saved was on a petition that Phillip Hathaway put up on the website www.change.org. On the petition page there is a link to a fundraiser asking for donations to help with the rescue mission. The fundraising appeal has a target of $150,000, and only reached a total of $1,940. On the petition page there is also a warning at the top of the page that states the following:
"Change.org has received flags that the facts in this petition may be contested. You should consider researching this issue before signing."
The petition wording mentions that the overseer of the Atherstone Nature Reserve in South Africa is Johan Kruger, but this is not correct, he is the Deputy Director of Biodiversity for the Limpopo’s Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET). Phillip Hathaway also mentions that a culling permit had already been issued, but this is not true, there is an overcrowding problem on the reserve, but no culling permit has been approved. The petition also mentions another member of the board, Dr Wouter van Hoven, who Phillip Hathaway says was their expert who was advising them. Dr Wouter van Hoven was on the board of ElephantRescue.net, but resigned from the board not too long after the petition went up.
When one of the EarthBleed team members contacted Don Pinnock, a well-respected journalist in South Africa, he raised concerns over the information on the petition and other claims made by ElephantRescue.net regarding their achievements when it came to rescuing elephants. Don Pinnock then published an article on the website Conservation Ation Trust on 28 August 2017, which raised concerns about ElephantRescue.net and their claims regarding the threats to these elephants. ElephantRescue.net did not react to the article, and instead of removing the petition and abandoning the mission to rescue the elephants, they simply altered the facts originally published on the petition and started a new campaign to save 100 elephants from being shot by hunters.
In a video published on YouTube on 10 June 2018 by the founder of ElephantRescue.net, Phillip Hathaway says that he was trying to save 100 elephants from being shot by hunters. He goes on to say that a culling permit has already been approved to kill them. He also says that it is unlikely that they will kill the babies and that they will probably "die from a broken heart". Phillip then says that he has found a suitable home for the elephants at an undisclosed location where hunting is strictly outlawed. To move the first fifty elephants he says he will need $150,000, which works out to be $3,000 per elephant.
There are a few things that Phillip says that do not make sense, firstly when a herd of elephants is culled they kill the entire herd and not just the adults, so the babies would also be killed and would not be left to die from "broken hearts". He also says the elephants would be shot by hunters, and uses the fact that a "powerful hunting organisations with big money" were trying to sabotage his plan to justify the reason he would not reveal the location that they were going to be sent to. When a herd of elephants are culled they are not shot by trophy hunters, but by a team of experts, so why would a hunting organisation be a threat to his plan to save these elephants?
Phillip Hathaway started a petition in 2017 to save an elephant named "Can", one of the only surviving forest elephants bred in captivity, from a life of misery at the Abidjan Zoo in West Africa. The petition managed to get over 200,000 signatures, and to help "Can", there was also an appeal for funding to raise the $90,000 needed to move the elephant to Botswana. The fundraiser did not reach its objective, and only managed to raise $20,428 of the total amount needed for the rescue operation.
The Abdjan Zoo was contacted and we were sent the following response from Ingo Schmidinger, who had the following to say about the elephant: "My name is Ingo Schmidinger. As an elephant keeper I have been actively involved in supporting the husbandry and welfare situation of Can in Abidjan. Approximately two years ago I was contacted by Phillip Hathaway. He asked me a lot of questions related to Can´s current situation. He was also talking about “releasing” her (even if it had to take place in Botswana, he told me). I told him that Botswana, in this case, wouldn´t make sense. After some further emails he just kept on collecting money via change.org."
The other issue which makes the plan to rescue "Can" questionable is the fact that Phillip Hathaway mentioned moving her to Botswama, which is an unsuitable environment for a forest-dwelling elephant. An organisation that claims to be wanting to help save elephants should at least know what kind of environment is suitable for a forest dwelling elephant.
On a post that was published on 10 October 2018 on the ElephantRescue.net website, Phillip Hathaway mentions that Botswana's new president, Mokgweetsi, had not changed the nation's position of defending elephants and other wildlife species from the onslaught of poachers. He goes on to say that his trusted sources within the Botswana government have informed him that the accusations that the government is not winning the battle against the poachers, is "pure rhetoric".
In the same post, Phillip Hathaway also says that "it was alleged that 87 elephants were killed because the anti-poaching teams were disarmed". He also says that the carcasses of the elephants in question had died of natural causes and over a period of two years. The information regarding the suspected cause of the deaths of those elephants was based on an intensive aerial survey which was conducted by Mike Chase who heads up the organisation Elephants Without Borders. Phillip then goes on to say how these false allegations have been an affront to the famed members of the Botswana Defense Force, and that it had wrongly questioned the integrity of President Masisi.
In a newsletter sent out by Phillip Hathaway on 13 December 2018, he mentions how he had an hour-long talk with Botswana's ambassador in the US, His Excellency, David Newman. Phillip claims that the two of them had agreed that Phillip would prepare an alternative plan to hunting. The plan he put down in a document which he put up on ElephantRescue.net's website on 14 November 2018.
The question one must ask, given the fact that Phillip Hathaway has not achieved much when it comes to saving elephants if one looks at his organisation's history, is why is the ambassador using him as an advisor on such a complex issue? Surely there are better candidates the ambassador could consult with to determine the best resolution for the people in Botswana when it comes to deciding how to deal with managing their elephant population?
Phillip Hathaway also runs another organisation which is called "Zoos Are For The Birds". It is a subsidary of his ElephantRescue.net organisation, and donations to this organisation go into his ElephantRescue.net account. The aim of this organisation, according to Phillip Hathaway, is the transformation of zoos into wild bird sanctuaries, as well as to advocate the freeing of imprisoned animals in these zoos. There is no mention of any projects which the organisation has successfully completed, and there is no mention of what he would do with the animals he would free from these zoos once he had completed the conversion of the zoo into a wild bird sanctuary. Like his other project, ElephantRescue.net, he seems to do a lot of talking about what he hopes to achieve, but seems to fail when it comes to the execution of his plans.