Books & Autographs

Russell E. Train & the World Wildlife Fund

NEW YORK, NY -- Russell E. Train is best known as the founder and first vice president, later chairman emeritus of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and served as only the second administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But his journey started a few years before, on his first safari with his wife Aileen. In 1956, only two years married, the Trains embarked on an African safari, and it changed the course of their lives. They spent six weeks in Kenya, engaging in sport while falling in love with the natural beauty of the country. Two years later they returned, this time to the Lake Tana region and the forests near Mount Kenya, to find the wildlife greatly depleted since their last visit. Russ and Aileen recount these two journeys in The Train Safari 1956 (Lot 376) and Back to Africa 1958 (Lot 375), two extremely rare, privately printed publications which were distributed to friends at Christmas. In the first, we learn that they had long wanted to go on safari, and when the opportunity arose they took it. The work describes their preparations for the journey (including what they packed, which vaccines they received, how they obtained their licenses, etc.), observations of their new surroundings (including their lodging, their meals, and the locals), and of course, their hunting adventures.

The introduction to the second safari book stresses the importance of conservation: “On our second safari in the summer of 1958, it was obvious to us that the game situation had deteriorated seriously during the two years that had elapsed since our earlier visit. Areas which had abounded in wildlife were now devoid of game. Certain species, lion and rhino in particular, were in critical circumstances… The need is desperate to act now before this magnificent heritage which belongs to all the world is lost forever.”  A year later in 1959, Train founded the Wildlife Leadership Foundation with the goal of establishing effective wildlife parks and reserves. He then founded the African Wildlife Foundation in 1961 with the aim of assisting Africans in developing the ability to manage their own wildlife resources. When the World Wildlife Fund was formed in Washington, DC in 1961, Train was the founding vice president, and after his stints at the EPA and other environmental agencies, Train returned to WWF and served as president of the World Wildlife Fund-U.S. from 1978 to 1985 and as its chairman from 1985 to 1994. It was under Train’s leadership that the focus of the World Wildlife Fund-US expanded beyond species-related conservation projects to include the protection of habitat by establishing national parks and nature reserves. During his tenure, WWF also developed innovative financial mechanisms, including the use of Third World debt reduction, and beginning in the 1980s, WWF converted portions of national debts into conservation funding via debt-for-nature swaps.

Late in life, Train decided to publish all of his journals from 1950 until 2006 in four volumes, in an edition of seven copies only. One of these sets is offered here (Lot 374), and is accompanied by a facsimile letter that Train wrote to his children. He writes, “For the record, I have had seven copies of the four volumes made - one each for our children, one for Aileen and myself, one for the Smithsonian to join my Africana collection and one for the Library of Congress, together with my other papers.” In addition to his travels in Africa, these volumes include chapters on a trip to Acapulco (1950); a trip to USSR, Japan, and China; Canadian duck hunting (1977); Ronald Reagan’s presidential inauguration and trips to India & Nepal, Jackson Hole, Bora Bora, England and Scotland (1981); and many more.

These three books trace Russell and Aileen Train’s journey from safari novices to a powerful force for conservation in Africa and beyond. The two safari titles show Russ and Aileen in their early days on their first two visits to Africa, and reflect on the rapid decline of wildlife and habitat that happened in only two years. Train’s Journals span a lifetime of safari, travel, and conservation efforts, and tell the story of a truly remarkable man in his own words. Taken together, they form an important group that would be the cornerstone of any collection with a focus on Africa, conservation, or the history of the World Wildlife Fund.

-- Megan Scauri / Rare Books, Autographs & Maps Department

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