Interview With Dr. Hayley Adams Founder of The Silent Heroes Foundation

By Jodi Truglio — July 25, 2016


image“As a veterinarian, we are naturally animal advocates, as it is our duty to protect the welfare and well-being of the animals we serve,” said Dr. Hayley Adams.

Growing up as a shy child Dr.Adams loved being in the presence of animals and nature. Her love for animals and wanting to make a difference is what inspired her to become a veterinarian that specializes in veterinary public health and wildlife disease.

Recently, Global Looking Glass had the pleasure to ask Dr. Adams a few questions about the amazing work she is doing

How did you get into animal activism?

I grew up with a love of animals, and was a shy child, so I felt more comfortable in the presence of animals, and in nature. I believe from an early age I held an inherent understanding that, as humans, we have a responsibility to care for those who cannot speak for themselves. As a veterinarian, we are naturally animal advocates, as it is our duty to protect the welfare and well-being of the animals we serve. Through my years spent working with animals and studying their behavior, I understand just how similar our behavioral profiles are–animals share many of the same emotions as humans do. They can suffer the same pain and emotional traumas that humans can. But they do not have a voice.

Can you tell me about your organization the Silent Heroes imageFoundation?

Silent Heroes Foundation is a 501c3 with a mission of enhancing One Health, and protecting Africa’s iconic wildlife through innovative conservation. Silent Heroes Foundation (SHF) believes in the One Health philosophy, that is to say humans and animals are intricately connected to their environment. This is most especially true in the developing world. With One Health in mind, SHF is committed to enhancing both animal and human health in Africa, as well as to aid in the protection and conservation of its wildlife and endangered species. This is achieved through the distribution of crucial supplies to veterinarians & conservationists in Africa, through the provision of equipment and training to park rangers and conservationists in Africa’s parks & preserves, and through research and education on the prevention of disease transmission between domestic animals, wildlife, and humans.

What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve faced working in the animal non-profit space?

Creating a steady funding stream is always a challenge. Prioritizing initiatives with limited resources is another; there are millions of animals in Africa that need our help, but we can only work with a small number. Thus we must allocate our resources to make the biggest impact possible with limited funding.

You are helping to open an elephant orphanage in Africa. Can you tell us about your work there and when it will open?

Tanzania boasts one of Africa’s highest free-ranging elephant populations; sadly it also suffers from the highest levels of elephant poaching across the continent. Currently the rate of elephant poaching in Africa exceeds the natural birth rate of free-ranging elephants, leaving populations unsustainable. With this in mind, it is necessary to take measures that ensure the future of Tanzania’s elephants, including the rescue, rehabilitation, and eventual release of orphans from the poaching crisis. The African Wildlife Trust’s Ivory Orphans Project will rescue, rehabilitate, and reintegrate young elephants orphaned in Tanzania due to the illegal wildlife trade. Rescuing these Ivory Orphans will serve to mitigate the effects of illegal elephant poaching, while raising awareness of the severity and immediacy of what is now an elephant population crisis.

Maintaining Tanzania’s historical policy of not intervening with free-ranging wildlife, the project will target elephants that are already the victims of human interference, e.g. the orphans of illegally slaughtered elephants. Additionally, the veterinary team will treat and release free-ranging adults who are injured due to poaching attempts. During anti-poaching missions, orphaned calves are regularly observed either dead or dying after their mothers have been slaughtered, the living victims of illegal poaching. The Ivory Orphans project will address the survival of these orphans with the mission to successfully reintegrate them back into wild elephant populations.

When these animals are rescued there are critical nutritional, emotional, and medical needs to address, and the expertise of a veterinarian specialized in wildlife health is of crucial importance to the survival of orphans. The most critical period for orphans is the 72 hour window after rescue. Orphans are dehydrated, malnourished, and traumatized, and often don’t survive due to the combination of these factors. Early medical intervention and supportive care is key to the success of a rescue and subsequent transport to their new home. The orphanage is scheduled to open later this year.

imageWhy is it so difficult to stop the ivory trade?

Ivory is sought after in Chinese culture, for ornamental purposes. Traditionally it was considered to be a gift or possession of the wealthy, however in today’s modern economy, China’s growing wealthy middle class has caused a dramatic surge in the demand for ivory. There is a wide misconception among the Chinese that ivory can be ‘harvested’ from live elephants, i.e. that no elephants are killed in order to satisfy the demand. With China being one of the world powerhouses both politically, economically, and with a population of nearly one and a half billion people, it isn’t difficult to see the imbalance in supply versus demand. Stopping a centuries old cultural practice will be difficult, if not impossible, especially if we are to achieve this before elephants are gone from the planet entirely.

With so many countries banning ivory, what countries are still importing it?

Primarily China & the US. The US is working on a near-complete ban on ivory, and many measures have already been implemented.

Can you name a moment in your career that you are most proud of?

Last year I received the distinguished alumni award from my alma mater, for a veterinarian in an alternative career pathway, and it meant a lot to me to be recognized by my peers. I have always forged my own path in my profession, so to be honored for that was a real treat!

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned?

Always use your heart and your passion as your compass. A charity can be small but do mighty things. We are never ‘too small’ to make an impact. Big funds and technology don’t always translate in the developing world, so it is important to work with local people and prioritize their needs, concerns, and issues according to their own cultural context; no one species exists in isolation, thus we must work in a multi-disciplinary fashion if we are to save wildlife–we must safeguard the people and environments around said wildlife as well.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned working with elephants? Working with rhinos?

Sadly, it is that they can both suffer tremendous emotional traumas as a result of the experiences they have gone through at the hands of humans. They can develop post-traumatic stress disorder when witnessing their mothers being killed, and we are just beginning to understand the best ways to care for them and help them to heal.

What’s up next for The Silent Heroes?

This year we are focusing on our work in Tanzania to reduce human-elephant conflict, and to save orphan elephants. We are also working on zoonotic disease prevention and ecohealth research in Uganda. I am busy mentoring veterinary students and teaching them conservation medicine, and oversee a variety of directed research projects throughout Africa. We are working towards assisting communities in Africa to become more self-sustaining, so that they in turn protect their resources, rather than live in conflict with them.


Courtesy Image: The Silent Heroes Foundation

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