Interview with Wild Tomorrow Fund

The following is our interview with Wendy Hapgood and John Steward of the Wild Tomorrow Fund. They are the first charity to receive a 1 ETH donation from Tusker Finance.

Wendy Hapgood & John Steward

Tusker: It’s nice to meet you

John: Yeah, it was such a lovely surprise to get your email.

Tusker: How did you get into crypto?

Wendy: I used to work in foreign currency exchange, then I left that world to study conservation, and we started Wild Tomorrow Fund. So, I was always curious about crypto as an alternative, but not personally involved. Then we met a group called BitGive Foundation, which is like GoFundMe, and allows people to donation to charities using Bitcoin. That pushed us to create our first wallet. Then, since we were crypto-ready, people began to notice us through organizations such a Wildcards. What are your backgrounds and how did you start Tusker Finance?

Tusker: We’re both Software Developers. We’ve been in crypto since 2013, but until now we haven’t tried our hand at making our own project, we’ve just been investors. There was a trend rising with animal themed tokens, starting with Doge. We wanted to take this concept and really focus on the charity aspect, specifically to help an animal that is endangered and in need of our support.

We tried to make the launch as fair as possible. We publicly announced when the coin was going to go live. We ourselves had to buy it on the open market, and many people even purchased it before us.

Unfortunately, with these things you get a lot of speculators that use bots to try to buy up the initial supply. However, now all these people have left the project and it is nicely distributed with no single person owning a large portion.

We also have a very dedicated base of support. We currently have about fifteen team members who work with us daily to bring value to the project, be it by doing the artwork for the NFTs, moderating the community, or creating content.

Wendy: Yes, I have noticed your supports are super enthusiastic and it was really nice to see a lot of tweets and comments around the donation. For us it’s a totally different audience than who we are usually talking to. I think wildlife needs so much help, and it’s really important and exciting to expose as many people as possible to these causes.

We did our first fundraiser with BitGive Foundation for a very specific project. We did a training course for rangers on crime scene forensics so that when they are working to try to catch poachers they can process the crime scene and gather evidence to help reach a conviction. So we had wildlife detectives from the United States come out and help train African rangers. The Bitcoin fundraiser allowed us to buy all the equipment you need for that.

We would love to do another crypto-fundraiser that would allow donators to come on one of our volunteer trips here in South Africa.

Tusker: Yes, cryptocurrency really simplifies the donation process. Firstly, we can avoid the traditional banking hurdles such as making a wire-transfer. Secondly, everything can be done completely transparently. That’s how we actually found your foundation, we were looking for charities with public Ethereum wallets so that everyone could track our activity on the blockchain and we could retain a trustless system.

Wendy: Have you gotten any flack on the environment aspect of NFTs?

Tusker: We actually tried to address that issue by using something called xDai, which is a sidechain of Ethereum. This significantly reduces the environmental impact. It is a layer that sits on top of the Ethereum blockchain, and transactions are very cost-efficient.

John: Is that a trend that you think will become dominant?

Tusker: Well, Ethereum is aiming to address this energy-cost issue hopefully within the coming year or two. In the meantime they plan to rely on these second layer solutions, which should start seeing more use in the coming months.

Wendy: I noticed one of the donations we received from Wildcards had a very large fee. As I understand it the promise of blockchain and crypto is that you are are skipping the middleman, so I was surprised to see that.

Tusker: Yes, basically to maintain a decentralized network they must incentivize the miners who process the transactions by offering a gas fee. If there is a lot of demand, you can offer to pay a higher gas fee to get your transaction processed faster. This can lead to very high gas fees, sometimes over $200 for a single transaction.

Wendy: I remember reading about CryptoKitties back in the day, and how it clogged up the entire Ethereum Network.

Tusker: Yeah, we were there for that, as anxious Ethereum investors.

Wendy: Your donation came at the perfect time. I was just reading about the Beeple NFT that sold for 69 million dollars. We feel so strongly about how much nature needs our help and how beautiful wildlife is, and I had written a post on my personal Facebook saying I wish people knew how far even a million dollars would go in terms of conservation. You could probably save a species with it single handedly, and how amazing is that to be a part of. Whoever bought that for 69 million dollars could make a huge impact on our planet.

I was thinking it would be cool if there was an NFT auction where some portion went to wildlife conservation. That’s what I love about your project. Your world is very different to ours and I love that you are making a bridge between these different worlds.

Tusker: Yes, part of our concept was to take this momentum coming from speculators and day traders and funnel it towards something beneficial. Every time someone trades our token, a portion of that goes to our charity wallet. Once the charity wallet has accumulated 1 ETH, we use it to make a donation.

We’ve actually implement what is called a DAO. It allows for decentralized voting. People can vote with their tokens on which charity we should donate to. Our goal to create a totally trustless charity.

Wendy: Would you ever consider coming to visit some of these projects?

Tusker: Yes, we would love to.

Wendy: Let us know. Travel is a bit weird now, but we are having our first volunteers coming. We have volunteer trips where people can come to the field and experience everything in person. Our first group is coming from Philadelphia in July. We have a trip as well in August and November. We have a team, so it’s me and John here in New York and our intern, Matt. We are also registered as a charity in South Africa, where we have ten rangers that work for us, a reserve manager, a general manager, a project manager, and then we also employ 14 women to help with our restoration work. So, we saved a piece of land and we are restoring it for wildlife, creating a corridor for the elephants.

John: They’ve had access to this land for generations, but it’s only been in the last century that they’ve started to be cut off from it. The savannah elephants, the ones we have in our region, have declined 65% in a decade. I also knew poaching was a problem, but I never realized it was such a major issue today. I think a lot of people don’t know how urgent an issue it is. In South Africa the issue is more about space. As more of their environment is encroached upon by develop, a little bit more of their homes are taken away. Their space is also being fragments which affects their migration path.

A lot of our members came to the project because they were interested in helping the elephants.

It’s a fun way to get involved with charity, it’s more interactive and involves things people are already interested in and interacting with.

Wendy: I love the way that it works, how once you’ve accumulated enough volume you are able to make a donation. That way the more people trade the more money is generated for charity. I actually studied Computer Engineering years ago. That’s how I ended up in electronic finance. John came from the advertising world.

Tusker: So you guys just decided one day to change your life path and pursue charity?

John: Yeah. Back in 2013 I was in advertising and I was getting burnt out. I decided to take a month off and I wanted to volunteer. I didn’t know where I wanted to volunteer, I just knew I wanted to do something with animals. One thing lead to another and I found myself in South Africa, trying to track these endangered species. I was in awe of the people who were doing this full time for almost no money. First of all, I was selling products like whiskey and luxury cars. I was caring about things like, should I buy the new tag or the new omega, and I realized — maybe it’s time to rethink things. Then we met around the same time, and one of the things that attracted us to each other was that Wendy was going through the same thing.

Wendy: I was in FX and literally it was all about money. I was working with high frequency traders as a representative of the big banks, helping these hedge funds trade. I liked the people, but at the end of the day it was really about arbitrage and technology and did not really have much meaning.

We initially started our charity efforts by helping rangers. For example, the rangers that John met, they could not do their patrols because the tires on their vehicle has busted. So, one of the first things we did was provide them funds to fix the vehicle. It was simple things like that. Then we realized we could go back to New York and raise money that would make a huge impact on the lives of these rangers.

We still work with rangers, but our latest project was purchasing and saving this land which was going to be sold to pineapple farmers. We were able to raise the money just in time to purchase the land. It is a very hopeful project, that is what I love about it. Saving the land, restoring the land, bringing in the rangers to patrol, creating new local jobs in conservation, bringing the wildlife back. There were not giraffe or wildebeests or anything like that before we started this project. We wanted to reintroduce species, and here in South Africa you can literally go out and buy a zebra.

Tusker: There are people here in Texas that buy zebras. You’re driving sometimes and you see a zebra.

John: That’s crazy.

Wendy: So, our donors would purchase animals and let them live on the land. They would name them too, which really created a connection. I’ve always thought in terms of tokenizing, instead of a CryptoKitty you could have an actual token that represents are real animal.

Tusker: Yeah, people like to have that sense of ownership. A lot of charities give certificates of adoption, which is perfect for an NFT. Our plan is to release an NFT for each donation. We take a snapshot and everyone who was a part of it will receive one. We sent one to your wallet as well. You just need to claim it. Just wait until gas fees are low.

Wendy: I know you have an artist you worked with for this. We have a digital artist as well that worked with Disney if you ever want to collaborate on future NFTs.

Tusker: Sure, we are always open to collaborations.

John: We have a partner’s page on the website, will you be willing to be added to that.

Tusker: Of course.

John: Wonderful, thanks so much.

Tusker: Yes, so nice to meet you.

John: Hopefully in person one day. You are welcome to come any time.

Wendy: So nice to meet you, thanks for your amazing initiative.

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