The first class of Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL) graduated successfully in December 2006, completing the first two-year EWCL course. Over the program, the twenty EWCL participants met four times – twice for week-long training courses at the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida, and twice in Washington, D.C. In addition to core training topics taught over the four sessions by specialists in the leadership and conservation fields, participants were treated to special guest lecturers. Networking opportunities were provided during Washington D.C. sessions, bringing together current leaders in the wildlife conservation community. Additional opportunities for networking and mentoring were made possible by numerous one-on-one mentoring sessions with EWCL Board of Directors members.
In addition to the training sessions, participants spent the two year program designing and implementing a concrete conservation project. The EWCL class chose the mutual goal of helping imperiled bears of Southeast Asia and, after extensive research on the topic, launched the following campaigns: (1) Raising money to help researchers survey sun bear populations in Indonesia and create a sun bear education center in Malaysia, while simultaneously launching a sun bear awareness campaign in the United States; (2) Partnering with the World Society for the Protection of Animals to survey U.S.-based traditional medicine practitioners on acceptable alternatives to bear bile use; (3) Working with Conservation International to draft a report on the status, trends and impact of bear bile farming on wild bear populations; and (4) Creating sun bear and sloth bear multi-disciplinary education and conservation materials to be distributed by partners in India and Cambodia. Successes from these projects included partnerships with over twenty groups, raising nearly $45,000 in cash for bear conservation, leveraging an equal amount in in-kind contributions, distributing more than 50,000 quality conservation education materials in Southeast Asia, writing two in-depth white papers, presenting papers at multiple professional conferences, and publishing an article on bear conservation in a widely distributed conservation magazine.