Geraldine earns her EIA stripes at Tiger Time night

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Geraldine Dammen and I am a vertically challenged, albeit driven, Indonesian girl who recently joined the EIA crew in September 2011.

Geraldine and Janet at EIA's stall

My first few weeks as a Fundraising Officer at EIA have gone by in a flash. With so much to do and an endless amount to learn, I felt pretty much like a headless chicken, making mistakes here and there, running around in the office brimming with confidence and looking completely lost! Imagine that! However, before she left, my predecessor Sophia Cheng made my transition easier when she passed on her wisdom and advice – indeed, she was my Yoda. After a while, I started to get into the swing of things, carrying out tasks faster, and got past the stage where I felt thrown in at the deep end.

Recently, I was asked to help with the preparation work for the Tiger Time event A World Without Tigers?, at the Royal Geographical Society on October 7. The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation had invited EIA to talk at the event in order to raise awareness of the precarious plight of wild tigers. The next thing I knew, armed with several boxes of EIA leaflets, reports, briefing documents, posters and a large banner, I was hopping in a taxi with Debbie and Janet, headed straight for the RGS. Upon arrival, we were allocated two tables where all our EIA goodies were spread out for guests to help themselves. Meanwhile, Debbie was quietly gathering her thoughts for her upcoming speech while participating in a protracted battle with the auditorium’s movie player.

About an hour later, guests started to seep into the building and within a matter of a few minutes we were chuffed to find that one of our allocated tables had been cleared! Once all the guests were seated, Mark Carwardine opened the event with a light-hearted, entertaining introduction and read out a tongue-in-cheek poem on the subject of none other than David Shepherd himself.

Debbie Banks, left, and Victoria Molchanova take questions from the audience

After David gave a brief speech, Victoria Molchanova, the Projects Co-ordinator for the Phoenix Fund in Russia, took the stand. The Phoenix Fund is an organisation of just six people who are committed to, amongst other things, protecting the wild Amur tigers by educating locals on how to co-exist peacefully. For such a small team to have such a great responsibility, and to have had one of the best track records in increasing a tiger population, is a true inspiration.

Next up, EIA’s Head of Tigers Campaign Debbie Banks took the spotlight. Debbie played a seven-minute introductory film showing EIA’s investigative work into the illegal trade in tiger skins and exposing tiger farms, which received a large round of applause from the audience. She then went on to do what she does best, namely inspire others to save the world’s remaining wild tigers, while a slide show of powerful images played behind her; one image in particular which showed tigers imprisoned in a tiger farm made the audience gasp in unison, and another showed a cage full of bloodied tiger skins which provoked a very strong reaction.

Both Victoria and Debbie then participated in a Q&A session where they were asked challenging questions on a variety of topics from the enthused crowd. For example, one attendee asked how climate change would affect tiger populations; another quizzed the two as to whether poaching or habitat destruction would be the major factor in the potential future decline of wild tigers.

In total, the event lasted just over three hours, finishing at 10pm by which point we were all exhausted. The experience for me was amazing. I met and spoke to a lot of very passionate and interesting people, most of whom showed keen interest in EIA’s work, which proves the event was fruitful!

I shall end by saying that while I feel far more competent working at EIA now, I realise that I have a long way to go before I have the level of knowledge and experience demonstrated by my colleagues. The tireless effort and dedication that these guys put into their work is nothing short of admirable. Because of this, I have quickly developed the utmost respect for what they do and what they strive to achieve.

Geraldine Dammen
Fundraising Officer