November 25th, 2007
Dear Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project, dear kalahari-meerkats.com visitors,
The launch of the Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project programme on 23rd November was a success, it’s now time to welcome our new Friends, and say “Thank you” to the people who were involved in making it a success. Within the first day, we could send out Friends packages to 23 new Friends, and some of them have already visited the Friends burrow. Welcome to all of you, and a special welcome to Missing_Tosca, java954 and yllohc who were the first three Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project. I hope you like the contents of the Friends package, and the information in the Burrow – there’s more to come soon!
The number of questions about the meerkats that the Kalahari Meerkat Project has seen in the past year was overwhelming, and questions even reached me via my personal pangolin.li website when I was nothing but an ex-Earthwatcher. Subsequently becoming the webmaster of the Kalahari Meerkat Project was one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences. What amazed me most, however, was the openness of the KMP towards the public. Having a background in biology research myself, I know it is very uncommon for research projects to be willing to share their data with an outside audience, and even a non-scientific one. I was surprised that Tim Clutton-Brock, Marta Manser, Tom Flower, Rob Suthcliffe, Dave Bell, Sarah Hodge, Helene Brettschneider and other KMP people didn’t just give me access to life history data of all the KMP meerkats and many other data, information or memories concerning the project, but that they even assigned research volunteers to take meerkat pictures or compile monthly life history reports – which form the basis of some of the most visited sites on friends.kalahari-meerkats.com today. I believe that many of us non-researchers are very grateful for this glimpse into the daily lives of the KMP meerkats, but also for the in-depth scientific knowledge that can easily be accessed via the website. All this was only possible because of this openness of the KMP team, and I want to thank them from my heart.
Digging through all these life history data has been immensely rewarding for me – but it would have been a pity to not make it available to a broader audience. It was in early 2007 when we started thinking about a “sponsor the KMP research” project, and the requests for donation possibilities we received in the past months has led us to found the Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project society – I still have to get used to the idea of being President of the FKMP! The model of this non-profit organisation is simple: people can now support the KMP meerkat research (and specifically young researchers who have a harder time getting funds for their projects) by becoming Friends, and Friends get in-depth meerkat information in return.
Making the FKMP become reality required a lot of work, and I am very glad for the support I got from Pronker and Lil’Earthwoman in suggesting, reviewing, cross-checking the information – it would be nowhere near what it is now without you two, and I’m glad to have you in the FKMP team! Helperkat generously supported us on the legal aspects of this venture – many thanks to her for the detailed clarifications and inputs. Last but not least I would like to thank my partner JJ, who not only had a part in defining the strategy of the FKMP together with Tim and Marta, but also had to share me with my iMac for countless hours in the past months.
The feedback about the Friends packages we got from the first Friends was very positive – it seems it’s now our turn to overwhelm you with this full load of meerkat info! I’m very much looking forward to seeing our Friends burrow grow – but above all I’m looking forward to the moment we can post here about the first Friends Grant given to a young researcher, so that he or she can help the world to better understand meerkats.
Thank you all, and best wishes,
President of the FKMP society