The Madagascar Whale Shark Project has launched a Patreon page to raise funds from supporters in return for what it describes as exclusive content covering its staff and activities.
The model, already adopted by a number of other conservation organisations, offers devotees more privileged levels of access the more they pay.
The project’s founder, conservation biologist Stella Diamant, reckons her initiative will allow scientists and conservationists as well as general ocean-lovers to benefit from the knowledge she and her team have accumulated over the past six years.
Diamant saw her first whale shark off the island of Nosy Be in 2014, at a time when she says no work had been undertaken to establish population size, trends or how the mantas connected with other regional groups.
Her project, set up with regional tourism operators in 2016, has since identified more than 400 individual whale sharks, published several peer-reviewed studies, implemented a code of conduct and initiated a local education programme.
‘Hard to find the truth’
“When I set up the Madagascar Whale Shark Project, I learnt how to set up a conservation not-for-profit simply by doing it,” she says. “I felt there was a stark lack of information about the realities of working in the conservation sector and running a successful organisation.
“Lots of charities are happy to talk about their successes. But when it comes to the challenges, delays and frustrations, it’s often hard to find the truth about what it’s really like.”
“That’s why I invest my time to empower other conservationists, particularly women and younger generations, to set up their own projects and share actionable advice. I also want to help people realise that you don’t have to be a marine biologist to make a difference. Marine conservation NGOs need lots of other skills: from marketing and photography to finance and project management.”
There are four subscription levels to the Patreon: Shallow (3 euros per month), Mid-water (8 euros), Deep (15 euros, including monthly hour-long chats with leading conservation experts) and Abyss (150 euros, including early access to trips and volunteering opportunities, one-to-one time with Diamant and the chance to name whale sharks). Find out more on Patreon.