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Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Charlie Mayhew MBE

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers. It’s where the Shapers of Business join the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues. I am Elliot Moss and I am very pleased to say my guest today is Charlie Mayhew, Co-founder and CEO of Tusk, the wildlife conservation charity. With a passion for motor racing in his youth, a self-described complete petrolhead, Charlie had planned to study Engineering at University, however, an uncle who lived in Kenya and South Africa inspired, as Charlie says, “romantic tales of the wide-open spaces and big cities which sparked my imagination.” After visiting South Africa in 1979 during a gap year, he grew to love Africa and wanted to make a meaningful contribution to conservation. In 1985 after a stint as a marine insurance broker, Charlie set up and led the Young Europe Africa Expedition, a team of 33 travelling overland from London to Cape Town through the Sahara and the Congo and undertaking in Kenya a series of conservation and community projects film for a Channel 4 documentary. In 1990 he Co-founded the charity Tusk Trust and as part of the stimulus for doing so, he co-produced the feature film Lost in Africa, a drama that sought to highlight the ivory trade. Under Mayhew’s stewardship, Tusk now partners with organisations in Africa to protect over forty endangered species and their habitats, reducing human wildlife conflict and promoting environmental education, and his Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge is an active patron. As Charlie says, “Life’s too short to pursue a career that doesn’t bring you some happiness and satisfaction. I feel fortunate that I stumbled upon a path that has enriched my life considerably.” We’ll be talking to Charlie in a few minutes about all of this and we’ve also got brilliant music from Donald Bird, Cannonball Adderley, Alex Malheiros and more. That is today’s Jazz Shapers. Here’s Archie Bell and The Drells with Tighten Up.

That’s put a smile on my face and I’ve been moving; I hope you have too. Archie Bell and The Drells with Tighten Up. Charlie Mayhew is my Business Shaper, he is Co-founder and CEO of Tusk and I’ve just given him a wonderful intro so, here he is, right now. It’s lovely to see you.

Charlie Mayhew
Oh, thank you very much, I am very flattered to be asked.

Elliot Moss
Tell me about this passion and where it came from and I know there’s the trip that happened but one doesn’t just fall in love at first sight, does one? I mean, were there thoughts around what your life would pan out to be when you were much younger?

Charlie Mayhew
Well, before I had even gone onto the continent of Africa, as you mentioned in the introduction, I had an aunt and uncle who lived out there and we didn’t see them very often but when they came back to the home country, there were these wonderful tales that they always used to tell which really captured my imagination and that combined with films like Born Free and there was a wonderful TV series when I was a kid called Daktari that was all based in Africa and so when I had the opportunity to travel having left school, to me, Africa was the only place I had to go and so that’s what set me on that path but when I first went to South Africa, towards the tail end of the apartheid era, my initial arrival on the continent had nothing to do with wildlife or conservation, I was actually selling Bic biros and stationery around the industrial estates of Johannesburg so, I was basically a travelling salesman but that allowed me the opportunity to travel out into the bush areas and places like the Kruger National Park so that was the first teaser for me to get into Africa.

Elliot Moss
Before I go into the passion and then the policy that you’ve been involved in and your beliefs and how you’ve acted on your beliefs, I am just interested around your commercial experience in life, you just alluded to the fact you sold biros and you’ve done other things, I mentioned the semi-careers that you almost did. What has that given you, that commercial platform, before we get into running a charity?

Charlie Mayhew
I actually think it has been incredibly helpful for me to have had this sort of semi-commercial life. I was a financial adviser for a number of years, I have been a DJ, I ran a party organising business, you know, I’ve done sort of various things. There was a time, I was also an insurance broker working in Lloyds of London market and having that time in the City of London has actually proved to be incredibly helpful as I have set to sort of build the charity up and to use the network of contacts that I developed during those years working in the City as being invaluable as Tusk has grown.

Elliot Moss
But I imagine you weren’t miserable. You look like quite a jolly person. I imagine you quite enjoyed that world even if you kind of thought ‘I am not going to be in this world forever’. I mean, is that right? Because you, sometimes people make distress purchases, don’t they? They move from one world to another. It doesn’t strike me that that’s what you’ve done.

Charlie Mayhew
I like to think that I’m a people person and as a broker in the Lloyds market, it’s a marketplace, you are brokering, you are constantly having to deal with people and likewise, when I was a DJ, it was all about entertaining people and so, I love people and that is ultimately the basis of the work that I do now in terms of fundraising, is trying to persuade people to contribute to the work that we do in Africa.

Elliot Moss
I think you should choose the next song because you are a DJ, and it’s Charlie Mayhew who is my Business Shaper. There it is. Here’s a piece of paper, you can just read there. Let’s see what your silky skills look like, Charlie.

Charlie Mayhew
Alright. So, coming up is Donald Byrd, Stepping Into Tomorrow.

Elliot Moss
That was Donald Byrd with Stepping Into Tomorrow, who was introduced by my Business Shaper before and that’s Charlie Mayhew and he is CEO and Co-founder of Tusk. Moving from the commercial world into the charity world, I always aliken it in my own mind to politicians who have beliefs, proper ideology. I imagine you have developed a strong set of beliefs which now underpin the work. Have those evolved over the years? Were they there from 1990? Where’s it gone?

Charlie Mayhew
Absolutely. Definitely evolved over time. You know, when I set up Tusk in 1990, it was really set up as a hobby because I had fallen in love with the continent of Africa and I was concerned, at that time it was the height of the really the elephant poaching crisis, we were losing something like 100,000 elephants a year to poachers. So, I was sort of shocked like everybody else so, setting up Tusk was really my way of wanting to give something back but I wasn’t knowledgeable at that time, my beliefs and my understanding of conservation has evolved over the last thirty years and I think it probably got stronger and stronger.

Elliot Moss
When you set up a charity, what are the things you need to think about? I mean, there’s the Charity Commission bit, the practical governance stuff where you have to be compliant. What else goes into it because I imagine it’s pretty similar to setting up a business?

Charlie Mayhew
Well, for me it was essential that we were going to make sure that we were going to maximise the funds that we raised getting directly into the field so for the first five years of the charity’s life, we didn’t have any paid staff and it rode off the back of my own business. The trouble was, when I used to come into the office, I’d sort of have some sort of financial paperwork and business on the left hand side of my desk and there would be African conservation on the right hand side of my desk and I was always drawn towards what I felt was the more interesting, more exciting part of my life which was Africa so, it actually started to become quite a drain on my business but so for the first five years, we had no formal administration as such but it was clear that the charity was beginning to get some momentum and so we then took on a director who took it to the next stage but all the time it was really like trying to build up a strong network of supporters who believed in what we were doing. You know, we were in many ways a niche player, you know, we were a minnow compared with the WWFs of the world but we felt strongly that we had a role to play that we were able to go out and look and identify, you know, some of the sort of innovative, new conservationists that were getting under way and were able to invest in them and really take their story forward and try and build up their work and really communicate it to the outside world.

Elliot Moss
And just help me understand, in those early years, the kinds of things that you started to do, the kinds of things that we would then look and go ‘Okay, they were the people that were helping resolve that issue or stopping that happening’.

Charlie Mayhew
I am pleased to say that some of those early investments that we made, have gone on to become real flagship conservation projects, not just for Africa but actually indeed some globally, and one of the best examples I can give of that is the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy which is now pretty well known and is really a shining beacon of success in terms of the conservation of, well first the rhino, the black rhino in particular in northern Kenya, but also it provides a sanctuary to the Grevy’s zebra which is for those people who don’t know, is unlike the common zebra, it has a thin stripe, a pinstripe coat, and there are only sort of 2,000 of them left in the world today but Lewa has probably the largest population within it’s midst but, Lewa is interesting because it was the first time that I really understood, or started to understand, the need to engage with communities living around areas that were rich in biodiversity and wildlife and that the long-term future of that wildlife was really going to be reliant on the success in engaging those communities so that they could see and derive real benefits from the protection of those rhinos at Lewa and the other wildlife.

Elliot Moss
And actually, Lewa is one of the big charities that Mishcon de Reya supports. Stay with me for much more from my guest, Charlie Mayhew, he’s coming back in a couple of minutes but first we are going to hear from the formerly mentioned, Mishcon de Reya and one of their partners who is going to be talking about some advice for your business.

You can hear all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed hear this very programme again by asking Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you can hear many of the recent programmes, or if you pop Jazz Shapers into iTunes or your preferred podcast platform, you can revel in the full archive, and there are apparently, I believe my numbers are right, almost 400 Charlie Mayhews waiting to be listened. But back to today, it is Charlie Mayhew, he is the Co-founder and CEO of Tusk, the wildlife conservation charity. In 1990, Charlie, our awareness here sitting in the UK was average around conservation issues, there was no Extinction Rebellion, there was no sense of the Green Movement, it was beginning or it was kind of strange people that were vegans as well, and again veganism was another thing that wasn’t really rearing its head at all, we find ourselves in incredibly different place where there is mainstream acceptance that we have problems as a group of humans. How different is it for you raising money in the context of such high awareness, has it fundamentally made your job easier?

Charlie Mayhew
You are absolutely right, the awareness levels are much, much higher, particularly amongst the younger generation. In that sense, I think it has made our life easier for people to understand the messaging that we are putting out there but we are living in extraordinary times and it’s changed so much over the thirty years that I have been running the charity that I think there is finally a realisation that we are getting to a tipping point, both in terms of climate change, loss of biodiversity, loss of you know some of the world’s most iconic species, and we have to really now galvanise not only public support but obviously Government support and we have to somehow get far greater sense of urgency and priority into protecting this planet and we have abused it for far too long, you know, my generation, my parents’ generation, I don’t think we were as aware as we should have been but now we are so we have to move and we can fix this but we’ve got a very short window of time.

Elliot Moss
Does it make you angry or upset because, you know, people in business deal with business problems and their business problems are ‘I am not selling enough biros’ back to you and the biro salesmen. Your issue is a bit more serious, ‘I want to save the planet, I want to ensure biodiversity is protected because that underpins the ecology of a place, the environment in general, I’ve got animals who are being poached and so on’. There must be times when it just breaks you.

Charlie Mayhew
I’ve always said that to be a conservationist, you’ve got to be an optimist and that’s certainly the case for me but I think one of the challenges we have is that we live as humans now in this incredibly fast moving world and with so many challenges that face us on a day-to-day basis and that when we here in the UK or you know, in the western world start to talk about the challenges faced by Africa and its people and its wildlife and its natural heritage, it sometimes feels very far removed from the everyday problems that, you know, we might be experiencing within our own environment and so from the conservationist perspective, we are competing, not only for funds and everything else, but we are competing for mind space with everything else, you know, if you’ve got a relative who’s sadly, you know, contracted cancer and, you know, that takes up your time and that becomes your priority, you know, somehow I go back to making the point that we have to elevate the urgency and the priority that we give to protecting the natural world, as Sir David Attenborough said not long ago that every breath of air we take and every mouthful of food that we eat, is dependent on the natural world, we have to look after it, it’s not a luxury, it’s a must have.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my Business Shaper here, it’s Charlie Mayhew MBE, I should have mentioned as well, been there for quite a while. He’s the Co-founder of Tusk and making some incredibly important points about, indeed, our planet. Time for some music right now, it’s Cannonball Adderley with The Sticks.

There’s lots of uplifting music here on Jazz FM, it’s Jazz Shapers on a Saturday morning, that was Cannonball Adderley with The Sticks and I’m with Charlie Mayhew, we’ve been talking about Tusk, conservation and the environment as well. In terms of the policy work that you’ve moved into, and I say moved into but most recently around the ivory trade and actually affecting legislation and looking at the legal structure to effect change. Just tell me a little bit about why that seemed to be a way of resolving, or part resolving, the issue. Was it because it was the last resort or was it because it was a way of garnering what, as you referred to before not just communities who are local to specific areas where there are endangered species, but Government.

Charlie Mayhew
Well when you look at the illegal wildlife trade, which is worth something like $20 billion a year, there are two issues: one, it’s driven by international organised crime, by and large, but it’s also reacting to the demand from, predominantly the Far East, to products like ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales, and so in order to reduce the demand it is absolutely necessary to legislate and to get Governments to legislate to control this because in some cultures it’s so deeply engrained that unless you legislate, it’s not going to have an impact and from Tusk’s perspective, we are not a political organisation by any stretch of the imagination but because we are very fortunate in having a Royal patron in the Duke of Cambridge who has been very vocal on this issue in trying to reduce the illegal wildlife trade and eradicate it, that we as an organisation have provided him inevitably with the platforms to speak out on and therefore have wanted to make sure that we provide all the support we can to make that work and I was lucky enough to go to China with him and he had an extraordinary meeting with President Xi which, you know, Prince William is far too modest to even suggest this but I am quite convinced that he had considerable influence in getting China to introduce a domestic ivory ban at the beginning of last year and that is really remarkable because three or four years ago, any conservationist have been asked that we get China to change its mind on this, you would have said no hope but it’s happened. Closer to home, we’ve been very much working with Government to introduce the Ivory Act here and I am glad to say that that has been passed although there are still challenges to that Act that have been brought forward by the antiques trade but the reality is that the world has moved on, we don’t need ivory and I am sorry, you know, it is far more important that a species that’s been around on this planet probably longer than man, should continue to exist and we cannot be participants in driving a market for ivory and then be wagging our finger at the Far East and say ‘Thou shalt not trade in ivory’ if we are still trading ivory in this country so I am very pleased that the Government have acted on this.

Elliot Moss
I saw a little bit of steel just then, Charlie, a slight change of tone in the sense that this is serious and you’ve focussed a lot of time on doing this. What did it feel like when both China signed up and then the UK have signed up and various countries around the world have signed up to stopping the ivory trade, just in terms of an emotional reaction from you?

Charlie Mayhew
Yeah, I know, it was, I mean it obviously it was a big team effort, a lot of conservation organisations, you know, have been calling for this and we all worked together very effectively as a collaborative group and, you know, fortunately we, you know, the Government did respond and initially it was under Owen Paterson that picked up the baton and it got passed on and then Michael Gove has finished it off and put through the Act and so, yeah, I was a great day when that was put through.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with my guest today, that’s Charlie Mayhew just in case you haven’t been paying attention, plus we will be playing a track from Alex Malheiros. That’s coming up in just a moment, don’t go anywhere.

That was Alex Malheiros with Papaia, apparently. Charlie Mayhew is with me, just for a few more minutes and we’ve been talking about the amazing work Tusk has done. I can see it now, Charlie, the side of the desk, one side was the business you were running with financial advice and things and the other side was the African conservationist world and every time I imagine you just veered slightly to the right and sort of the other thing just disappeared. Here we are 30 years later, you mentioned the recent success, legislatively, around the ivory trade, we hear about the environment, we hear about climate, we hear about sustainability, biodiversity, so many things which are colliding now. For you, what’s the one big area where this all coalesces that you are going to have to focus on?

Charlie Mayhew
Absolutely. So, the illegal wildlife trade has sort of grabbed the headlines if you like over a number of years but, seriously, the biggest train coming down the track is loss of habitat, that’s our biggest single challenge and it’s not only a challenge for conservationists, I think it’s a challenge in terms of climate change as well. If you look at the rapid expansion of the human population, particularly in Africa, its population is set to double from 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion in the next thirty years by 2050. The impact on land and space, not only for species, but just for all biodiversity is a serious worry because actually, when we talk about climate change and the need to reduce our carbon footprint, nature has got a number of solutions to this but if we also continue to eradicate and remove and destroy not only forests but open savannah and wild wilderness areas, that is also a contributor to reducing the planet’s ability to take up the carbon and so, you know, its all about space.

Elliot Moss
So, what’s the answer? I mean, there will be, as you said, you just outlined an exponential increase in the population of just one continent in the world within the next thirty years or so. What does one do? Is this just a question of do you just balance? Is this more, I mean, do we ringfence these beautiful areas of space which provide us with, you know, huge amounts of fresh air and things? What are you going to be doing?

Charlie Mayhew
So, there are some great examples of how, take a country like Kenya, 70% of its wildlife lives outside national parks and that is a pattern that goes across Africa. The future of that wildlife and the future of that wilderness area relies on this interaction with the communities so we, I go back to what I was saying earlier which is we have to make sure that we are introducing initiatives whereby the local communities are benefiting and see tangible financial benefits from preserving the environment in which they exist so that they can co-exist with wildlife and if we can maintain that wild space and where it gets tight, ensure that we maintain corridors so that the large and mega fauna like elephant that need to migrate, need vast landscape to move across, is that if we’ve got interconnecting corridors between the protected areas then we have some hope.

Elliot Moss
It’s been really, really good to talk to you. Good luck. I hope that awareness levels stay high and that people are engaged and, as you said, that balancing act of ensuring that local communities also prosper, that feels like to me that that must be the right way forward. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Charlie Mayhew
Well, I’ve chosen a Rolling Stones track, Midnight Rambler, and the reason for that is that the very first celebrity patron that I got on board with Tusk was Ronnie Wood and he’s become a good friend and a fantastic supporter of the charity over the last thirty years and so I thought it would appropriate to have this sort of bluesy number, Midnight Rambler.

Elliot Moss
That was Midnight Rambler from the Rolling Stones. The song choice of my Business Shaper today, Charlie Meyhew. He talked about the importance of engaging local communities so they understand the benefits to them; he talked about being an eternal optimist and arguably anyone in business let alone someone like Charlie in the world of charity has got to be an eternal optimist and really importantly he talked about elevating the urgency around addressing the natural world and its protection.

You can hear our conversation with Charlie all over again whenever you want to, as a podcast, just search Jazz Shapers or ask your smart speaker to play Jazz Shapers or you can catch this programme again, Monday morning, just before the Business Breakfast at 5.00am. We are back next Saturday from 9.00 with our next Business Shaper, it’s Tim Little, English shoe designer and the owner and creative director of the 146 year old shoe company called Grenson. Up next today after the news at 10.00 it’s Nigel Williams with more music, interviews and live sessions too. That’s it from me and Jazz Shapers. Have a lovely weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more, just search Jazz Shapers and iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Charlie Mayhew MBE is the Co-Founder and CEO of the Tusk Trust – the wildlife conservation charity.

After visiting South Africa in 1979 during a gap year, Charlie grew to love Africa and wanted to make a meaningful contribution to conservation. In 1985 after a stint as a marine insurance broker, he set up and led the Young Europe Africa Expedition, a team of 33 travelling overland from London to Cape Town through the Sahara and the Congo and undertaking in Kenya a series of conservation and community projects film for a Channel 4 documentary.

In 1990 he Co-Founded the charity Tusk Trust, and as part of the stimulus for doing so, he co-produced the feature film ‘Lost in Africa’ – a drama that sought to highlight the ivory trade. Since Co-Founding the Tusk Trust, Charlie has overseen the charity become a highly reputable and efficient UK conservation NGO, with HRH The Duke of Cambridge being the charity’s active Royal Patron since 2005.

He also sits on the Board of the Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust and Community Conservation Fund Africa, and was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty The Queen in recognition of his services to conservation in Africa in 2005.

Follow Charlie on Twitter @MayhewCharlie.

Interview highlights

I love people, and that is ultimately the basis of my work.

I’m a people person.

When I set up Tusk in 1990, it was set up as a hobby because I had fallen in love with the continent of Africa.

Setting up Tusk was my way of wanting to give something back.

My beliefs and my understanding of conservation has evolved over the last thirty years.

We were constantly trying to build up a strong network of supporters who believed in what we were doing. 

Some of those early investments that we made have gone on to become real flagship conservation projects – including the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a shining beacon of success.

Lewa allowed me to really understand the need to engage with communities living in the surrounding areas that were rich in biodiversity and wildlife.

To be a conservationist, you’ve got to be an optimist.

As a conservationist, we are competing not only for funds and everything else, but we are competing for mind space.

Every breath of air we take and every mouthful of food that we eat is dependent on the natural world, so we have to look after it. It’s not a luxury, it’s a must have.

We are very fortunate in having a royal patron in the Duke of Cambridge who has been very vocal on this issue in trying to reduce the illegal wildlife trade and eradicate it.

Our biggest single challenge is the loss of habitat.

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