The Mission & History of the Mzuri Wildlife Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Mzuri Wildlife Foundation (MWF) is responsible for nearly $5 million in grants allocated to assist worldwide wildlife conservation. The MWF is a non-profit, tax exempt public foundation qualified under Internal Revenue Service Code 501(c)(3), making all contributions to the MWF tax deductible.
The MWF’s founders, directors and officers were and are hunters who have collectively stalked almost every game species on the Earth. The name Mzuri is Swahili, pronounced “umm-`zuree,” for “good.”
The Foundation was established by members of the Mzuri Safari Club, which was formed in 1958 by a small group of safari enthusiasts. The club’s purpose was the promotion of fellowship, sportsmanship and the sharing of safari experiences between its members and their guests.
Within little more than a decade, the club’s membership reached 100 and was closed. Soon thereafter, the club’s members realized that collectively they could make a difference for wildlife. Dedicated members put their talent, time and their own money together to create and endow the Mzuri Safari Foundation, the predecessor to today’s MWF.
It was decided from the beginning – making it the only organization of its kind – that there would be NO SALARIED EMPLOYEES. This would allow the maximum of funds raised to go directly into wildlife needs. An advisory board of knowledgeable wildlife experts was also named to review and recommend action on proposals for grants.
The MWF immediately began building an international reputation. Biennial conferences at Lake Tahoe, Reno and San Francisco attracted supporters from show business, politics, professional hunting, conservation and even royalty. Among scores of people attending conferences and assisting the MWF’s work were the late Bing Crosby, Phil Harris, President Ronald Reagan, President Gerald Ford, former Attorney General William Saxbe, U.S. Senators Barry Goldwater and Ted Stevens, Representative Bob Sikes, the Eighth Duke of Wellington (Arthur Valerian Wellesley), Lord Patrick Lichfield, Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, Marlin Perkins, astronaut Wally Shirra, Joy Adamson, Jacques Piccard, Ian Player and many more.
The MWF recruited the world’s leading wildlife artists to display their work at each conference and to donate a painting or sculpture for auction: Response was overwhelming, and the displays became the most spectacular showing of wildlife artwork ever assembled under one roof. A percentage of all art sales made during the conference were donated to the MWF, and contributed pieces were sold at daily auctions.
Also contributed for auction were all-expense-paid domestic and foreign hunting and fishing safaris, collector’s firearms, sporting guns, vacation trips, mounted game, trophies and hides, hunting and fishing gear, antiques, fine wines, rare books, wildlife jewelry, outdoor apparel and equipment, and many other related items. Top speakers were featured at the conferences, hunting and wildlife films are shown and there are commercial displays, lunches, dinners and other events.
Grant proposals are now thoroughly investigated, analyzed and values appraised before final consideration. The review process involves the Board of Trustees, the Grants Committee, and often an authoritative source in the geographic location – generally the fish and game or wildlife authority – to positively assure the vital need and projected result. Although the procedures are accomplished by non-paid volunteers, the system guarantees complete accountability and performance as proposed.
There have been many statements about the hunter’s desire to only support projects that afford him or her hunting privileges. Not true, as the analysis of the programs and projects the MWF has supported will attest. The wildlife protections MWF supports benefit all species of native plants and animals in the region. Whether the project’s goal is the eradication of non-indigenous plants, or stopping poaching in its tracks, the MWF’s money is targeted towards conserving resources.
There are indelible visions left in the soul of the sportsman: The flight that arrives over the blind in the brilliant red sunrise; the scampering flag of a whitetail deer; the dog-like bark and retreating hoofs of the bush buck; the bugling elk silhouetted in a reddish-blue patina at sunset. There are impressions of the great outdoor cathedral that motivate an unspoken oath dedicated to preservation.
The MWF’s grants have gone to varied needs, and are not dedicated to increasing the number of species available for hunters to pursue. Rather, the MWF understands that healthy habitat supports both flora and fauna, and that once it is lost, it is almost always lost forever.
The MWF today focuses its grants on “grass roots” projects where local dedication to a conservation cause can be strengthened with MWF dollars. Past projects have included: assisting in the purchase and delivery of a helicopter to game officials in Zambia to assist their anti-poaching efforts; funding raptor research and habitat conservation through the Raptor Research foundation in South Dakota; contributing to the effort to increase the range land for Tule Elk in the Owens Valley; contributing to the effort to stop poaching in the Serengeti National Park; working with the Friedkin Foundation in Tanzania to encourage the area’s population to understand the value of preserving the remaining wild habitat; participating in a joint project with the Big Horn Foundation to preserve California’s desert Bighorn Sheep and their habitat; working with the Nature Conservancy to save vital nesting areas from development; and continuous support of Cal-Tip, California’s anti-poaching network working with California Fish & Game.
Although funds are tighter today than they have been in the past, the MWF still actively supports worthy projects. To apply for funding for your projects, please view our grants requirements and application.
In 2015 the organization realized that in order to grow the organization and encourage a new generation of hunters, shooters and supporters, an Executive Director would need to be secured. It was determined that David Bundesen, CFRE fulfilled all the requirements after serving over 17 years with the NRA. He started in January 2015 and is excited about taking the Mzuri Wildlife Foundation to the next level and reinforce the great legacy of this organization for the next generation.