Phone: 612-624-5551
unews@umn.edu
24-hr number: 612-293-0831

Advanced Search

Feature

Wayne and Carol Pletcher with daughter Meggan in Tanzania.

Wayne and Carol Pletcher with Meggan Craft in front of Craft's house in Tanzania, where a Cape buffalo once held off a pack of lions for 12 hours.

Into Africa

Big rewards for donors who go the extra mile... er, several thousand miles

By Steve Anderson

From M, winter 2007

As a doctoral candidate researching carnivores on the Serengeti Plains, Meggan Craft endures day-long drives for groceries, limited use of electricity, and close encounters with wild animals. Once, a pack of lions cornered a water buffalo outside her front door. The battle raged for 12 hours.

"Meggan's life is unique, and she likes it very much," says Wayne Pletcher, who along with his wife, Carol, Ph.D. '79, funds a fellowship that helps to enable Craft's research. The Pletchers are in good position to comment: They got an up-close view of Craft's research project this past summer when they visited Craft in Tanzania.

Collar ID The idea for the Africa visit was sparked when the three met at a dinner to connect fellowship recipients and donors. Four months later the Pletchers were off, with some unusual items in tow. Some of Craft's equipment had been under repair, and Wayne and Carol agreed to pack the animal collars and tracking devices in their luggage. A note saying "University of Minnesota Wild Animal Tracking Equipment" was enough to pass airport inspections.

"We believe that these students have the ability to make a difference, so we'd like to keep up on their accomplishments," says Wayne Pletcher.

In Tanzania, Wayne and Carol spent an afternoon of their two-week adventure bouncing around in a beat up Land Rover with Craft as they followed a collared jackal. "If you're in the national park with a guide you have to stay on the road, but if you're with a researcher you can go off-road," recalls Carol. One focus of Craft's research is to track whether rabies in dogs has reached wild carnivores.

'A royal treat' The Pletchers returned from Africa with a wealth of memories and a vow: to also connect with another recipient of their fellowship, who conducted research in New Guinea. "We believe that these students have the ability to make a difference, so we'd like to keep up on their accomplishments," explains Wayne. "Yes, funding a fellowship is significant. But it's even more important to understand what it's making possible."

"Any donor who chooses to get to know their recipient is in for a royal treat," adds Carol. "Why would you let it pass?"