By: Alexis De La Rosa
When asked his life mission, Ron “The Zoo Guy” Magill’s response often silences the room: “To remind people that we did not inherit the earth from our parents. We are borrowing it from our children.”
Magill has dedicated his life to teaching the public about the importance of wildlife and working to make sure conservation efforts around the globe have all they need to ensure future generations may one day enjoy some of the magnificent species that populate this earth.
“When people realize their grandkids may not get to see a polar bear or an eagle, it really makes them think about how important these conservation efforts really are,” says Magill.
The Ron Magill Conservation Endowment has provided support for national and international wildlife conservation projects. Magill has raised more than $1.5 million in support for the endowment, which has championed conservation efforts from Peru to South Africa, scholarships for future conservationists at his alma mater and an annual contest for South Florida high school students interested in the environment.
Among the animal conservation groups that has benefited from the endowment is Cheetah Outreach, which is dedicated to educating people in South Africa about the species and advocating for their survival.
When contacted by Cheetah Outreach founder Annie Beckhelling, she opened his eyes to the largest and most surprising obstacle standing in the way of cheetah survival: farmers.
According to Cheetah Outreach, the region of Africa populated by cheetahs depends almost entirely on livestock. Therefore, the farmers are constantly on the lookout for cheetahs on the prowl.
After some brainstorming, Beckhelling came up with the perfect idea to end the hostile war taking place between farmers and cheetahs.
“Cheetahs are cowards,” said Magill, “so Annie came up with the idea of using shepherd dogs to scare them off, and it worked.”
The Ron Magill Conservation Endowment sponsored the breeding of Anatolian shepherd dogs for each of the farms most vulnerable to cheetah attacks. Within a couple of months, the number of cheetah attacks had nearly fallen, and the farmers couldn’t be more in love with their newest pets.
According to Magill, working with future conservationists like those at the University of Florida and current organizations like the Cheetah Outreach program is what he sees as his legacy.
“This is what it’s all about folks. Giving back to the planet which has given us so much.”