THOMAS KAPLAN: From a historical standpoint, so much of America's wealth is predicated on the fact that we have the world's reserve currency. It allows us to be profligate and irresponsible in a way that we otherwise couldn't accomplish.
Gold has nowhere else to go but up. The macros are what will ultimately determine whether gold stays within a $3,000 to $5,000 range or potentially multiplies from there.
Leg two to was this correction that we've been experiencing, which to my eyes was forming this declining wedge. I do this now because it's so funny to watch most. I remember telling you this, now, I said when it breaks out, it can come back one more time to test it. Now, the beautiful part about it is that it formed this and then the subsequent pattern has turned into a saucer. Do you need to take time? I think Dan just had a [indiscernible].
RAOUL PAL: Today we have a very special interview for you all. Dan Tapiero recently sat down with Dr. Thomas Kaplan. Tom is amongst the preeminent, if not the preeminent, billionaire gold investors in the world. Indeed, he has one of the best track records ever assembled in the natural resource space, having founded or bought early stage Apex Silver in the 1990s, as well as Leor Energy and African Platinum in the 2000s. He is now the chairman of NOVAGOLD Resources, which he believes is an even better investment than his previous three hits.
In addition to his natural resource brilliance, Tom not only founded Panthera Corporation, the largest conservation efforts to save the world's big cat, but he also is considered one of the globe's most vital art collectors, as well as the largest private owner of Rembrandt in the world. It's a hell of a biography and that barely scratches the surface of Tom's achievements. He truly is an amazing man and he rarely ever does any media. This is a really exclusive look inside the mind of one of the best CEOs and most fascinating people in the investing world.
DAN TAPIERO: Hi, everybody. I'm Dan Tapiero, co-founder of Gold Bullion International and founder of DTAP Capital. Today, I'm here with an old friend, I think a very special guest for Real Vision, Tom Kaplan. Tom is the chairman of the Electrum Group. He's also chairman of NOVAGOLD. I would say that of any person that I know, Tom really is the living embodiment of the Renaissance man. Tom has distinguished himself in many different areas and one of the most interesting and one of the I would like to start with is his passion for conservation and the conservation of the big cats. Tom, I'd like you to start to talk about Panthera.
THOMAS KAPLAN: Panthera was created in 2006 by my wife Daphne and myself and the late Alan Rabinowitz, who I would say was the brother that I never had. In fact, I think it's fair to say that we both felt that way about each other. In many ways, we came to fulfill each other's lives and passion in an unusual way.
When I was a boy, I wanted to become what essentially Alan Rabinowitz became; a big cat, biologist and wildlife conservationist. Around the age of eight or nine, I discovered a genuine aptitude for history. It was that which I pursued all the way through my education. If anything, the application of history has been the greatest relative advantage that I've had in my business and in my philanthropy.
Because I understood the nature of cycles, I was able to make a very good living in the mining industry and in the energy sector. That allowed me to go back to my first love. I'd always said that if I had the good fortune to make a fortune, I would go back and retrace my steps and support those who really did have a genuine aptitude for science and for being able to apply science in the interests of environmental preservation.
When I met Alan, I realized that in many ways, my mission was being fulfilled by being able to leverage the wealth that I had created through investing and creating companies and enabling those great conservationists to go out and save the species I loved. That's how Panthera was created and over the course of the next decade, we became the leading NGO, non-government organization, in big cat conservation, getting to the point where National Geographic described us as the most comprehensive effort in big cat conservation ever. The US government said, if Panthera can't save the cats, then nobody can.
DAN TAPIERO: When was that?
THOMAS KAPLAN: That was several years ago, and we've taken that mission extremely seriously. We're the only organization dedicated to the conservation of all the wildcats from the smallest through to the Amor tiger. It's something which I would say of all my passions that you referenced, this one is the closest to my heart. I genuinely believe that the greatest psychic gratification that someone can have is to prevent the species from blinking out in their lifetimes.
I know that we've had that effect. We've been able to move the needle in tigers, jaguars, snow leopards, leopards, lions, and this means everything to me. I want to know that we've made a difference in leaving the planet itself in better condition than the way that we found it, which is extremely rare because after all, the human being is a parasite. We take from our host, we don't give anything back to it. Usually, the most that we can imagine doing is to do as little harm as possible.
DAN TAPIERO: What was the specific inspiration for the big cats as opposed to other species that are endangered?
THOMAS KAPLAN: No doubt, when I was child, the primary impulse was the appreciation of their beauty, their majesty, their elegance. There's a reason why big cats and small cats, by small, I mean the small wild cats have such an impact on people. They immediately create empathy when someone looks at them, and this is extremely important because we've done studies which have shown that in most countries, certainly in the Western world, of the top 12 terrestrial animals, seven or eight of those that immediately create the most immediate sense of empathy are indeed the cats.
What does this allow us to do? Well, if you're an environmentalist, if you're interested in wildlife conservation, it allows you to leverage the iconic nature of the cats to be able to provide a hook on which those who really want to engage in conservation can hang their hats. Not only because of the beauty, not only because that refinement is clearly something that transcends race, class, gender, creed, but also because from a biological standpoint, it's the ideal creature with which to be able to affect landscape wide conservation.
We call cats the umbrella species. Almost always within their landscape. The big cats are what you would call the charismatic megafauna, or the umbrella species, or the apex predator. If you think of the ecosystem as a pyramid with the apex predator at the top, and then all the way down to the ground and the landscape itself, then what you find is that the big cats require two essential ingredients in which to thrive, land in which to roam and protein.
If an ecosystem, by definition, can support a thriving population of big cats, it's a healthy ecosystem, because it provides an entire food chain. If you want to save critical habitats, critical ecosystems, landscapes, the best way to do is to focus on the cats. From a practical standpoint, from a pragmatic standpoint, the cats have a tremendous function in wildlife conservation. We know that there are vast landscapes around the world that exists today because of the work that we've done to ensure that the cats have an ecosystem that can sustain them.
DAN TAPIERO: I know you've worked on the Jaguar Corridor, could you talk a little bit about that? Let people know what you've done there.
THOMAS KAPLAN: The Jaguar Corridor was conceived of and implemented by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, our partner in creating Panthera. It is far and away the most ambitious carnivore conservation program ever undertaken. The mission is almost breathtaking in its scope, in its ambition, it's to create or to identify a genetic corridor all the way through the jaguar's range, from the Sonora in Mexico, all the way down through Central America into South America into Ghana and the north and ultimately, reaching northern Argentina.
Something that's extraordinary about the jaguar is that from Mexico to Argentina, it's the same genetics. There are no subspecies along the way, which means that the populations haven't become isolated. That presents us with a tremendous opportunity and the basic principle of the Corridor is that having identified this genetic pathway. We work with governments who sign on to implementing their development plans in a way that's consistent with enabling the jaguar to pass because by definition, there are jaguars crossing the Panama Canal, hence, they're not genetically isolated and creating subspecies. The program itself is a really beautiful example of applied science and applying rigorous science to conservation.
DAN TAPIERO: I know that the-- I think I was reading somewhere that the tigers are the ones that right now are the most threatened. What is the thought as to maybe creating a corridor for the tigers? Is that something that Panthera is focusing on? What is being done specifically?
THOMAS KAPLAN: The concept of corridors and tiger conservation because those populations have become so isolated is very hard to implement. You can have corridors in relatively small areas. The idea behind the Jaguar Corridor, for example, we could no longer implement in tigers. On a relative basis, tigers are in triage.
It's more along the lines of what we would call a stronghold strategy, which is fine those are areas where you have that critical mass of land, of prey density and protect them as strongholds so that within those areas, the tigers are secure. It's this work that Panthera and its partners are affecting throughout the tigers range, but we're not able to play offense with tigers in the same way as we can do that with jaguars. Jaguars still allow us to be in a position to think forward and to be proactive in a way that with tigers, it's just much more difficult.
DAN TAPIERO: Is there a specific project that, I don't want to say is your favorite, but is there one that you could tell the audience about that moved you to a certain degree more than the others?
THOMAS KAPLAN: I became very keen, obviously, on the Jaguar Corridor, because it meshed with my own temperament, which is a big landscape, take advantage of momentum and be able to apply strategies more akin to blitzkrieg than to trench warfare.
DAN TAPIERO: What does that mean, exactly?
THOMAS KAPLAN: What it means is that in the case of the jaguar, because we can work with governments to be proactive, and save landscapes that still exist, and are not yet the patchwork quilt that would more characterize the tigers landscape, it allows us to be bold, in a way that with tigers, it's harder. The difference between being able to capture a flag through the Jaguar Corridor and to hold a fortress in tigers forever, for example, it's different mentality, we have to do both.
Our attitude has always been whatever it takes, different cats have different challenges. They're very, very, very dissimilar in many respects. One intermediate case, for example, which we began, called Project Leonardo, which Leonardo means the courage of a lion, also happens to be my older boy's first name. Project Leonardo was meant to try to replicate the Jaguar Corridor in Africa.
Unfortunately, we found that whereas there are a few places where they could implement that, in fact, it's a hybrid. There are now strongholds for lions in much the same way as is happening for tigers. The only difference is because anyone who goes on a safari, and any photographer who wants to take pictures of a lion can see them.
They're gregarious. They allow themselves to be seen. They travel in numbers, you can spot them during the day. Everyone goes and sees lions, or reports back that they've seen lions and they make the assumption that the lion is in good shape, whereas in reality the lion is going the way of the tiger. The lion is going the way of the elephant.
I gave an interview over the summer when the live action version of The Lion King came out and we pointed out that lion populations have fallen by 50% since the 1990s when The Lion King, the animated version, originally came out. There, we are applying some of the Corridor techniques, but usually more and more within a landscape so not quite a stronghold, beyond the stronghold, but it's a struggle. It's a struggle with lions.
DAN TAPIERO: Would you say that's the biggest hurdle you think you face just within the organization's goals for the future? It's lions, tigers, but is there a bigger hurdle that you feel you face?
THOMAS KAPLAN: In some respects, the biggest hurdle that we face, but I do sense that that's beginning to change, is that we've really needed more great scientists like Alan Rabinowitz.
DAN TAPIERO: Who passed away recently, yeah.
THOMAS KAPLAN: Exactly, but who left behind a cohort of dozens of people who were inspired by him and received training from him or through his tutelage. In terms of the conservationists themselves, the people in the field, they're wonderful. Very early on, we were thinking about the future. I'm a big believer in that old adage, if you're going out in search of Moby Dick, take the tartar sauce. In other words, plan for victory.
We created padres of wildlife conservationist on the grounds that if we build it, they will come. It's taken longer to be able to put together the coalition of philanthropists that I would hope to have seen. I felt that soon after we created Panthera, the iconic nature of the cats, as well as seeing someone step up with very large ambitions and very large willingness to give resources would inspire people to our banner very quickly. It's taken more time we have now Indian collaborators, Chinese, we will have more Americans who are joining us.
Very importantly, we found that one of the greatest sources of passion for big cat conservation, and it's absolutely sincere, has emerged from the Arab Gulf and beginning with my strategic partner, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, and now having been joined by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prince Badr, the Culture Minister and the governor of Al-Ula, with the blessing of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Selman, the leopard now has a champion. That funding is going to be used not only to reintroduce one of the subspecies of leopards into Saudi Arabia, Arabian leopard, but also to advance leopard conservation globally.
The leopard has the widest range of all the big cats but it's also the most persecuted of the big cats. Ironically, despite the fact that we all know that leopard is one of the most ubiquitous features in the fashion world, people don't know that it's becoming endangered and in certain cases, critically endangered. We embrace the fact that people were leopard. We think that that's a very, very good sign. Nobody wears real leopard and to the extent that we do find, in parts of Africa, for example, where people are wearing real leopard, we created a program, which really is very dear to my heart, called Furs for Life, in which having identified that there was a strong decline in leopard populations in southern Africa and tracing that to the rise of a church.
In the tribal context in South Africa, we worked with the tribal leaders to replace or to otherwise preempt their followers wearing leopard capes and replace them with capes that we designed, had made in China and brought in. That program, in and of itself, has saved thousands of leopards arguably. It's saved more big cats than any other big cat conservation program for any species at any time. When you look at things like this, and you talk about the challenges, sure, we know that in many ways, we're behind the eight ball.
Then again, as we like to say nature needs wins and when you get down, sometimes when it appears like it's going to be too hard in certain places, then you have a win and you're reminded that you can play offense. You're reminded that you can make an enormous difference.
DAN TAPIERO: That's a very creative response.
THOMAS KAPLAN: Well, I created our team in South Africa. It's now run by actually the first of the awardees of our educational grant, [indiscernible], who's our leopard expert and who just returned from Saudi Arabia with our CEO, Fred Launay. We are implementing what we hope will be the gold standard in captive breeding and reintroduction.
DAN TAPIERO: You have other interests in conservation as well. I know at your alma mater, Oxford, you've funded a project. Could you tell us about that?
THOMAS KAPLAN: Again, on the principle that if you're going to go all in, assume that you will have success. The reason I say that is because managing success can often be a lot harder than managing decline, managing growth is harder than managing atrophy. Less depressing, perhaps more exhilarating.
DAN TAPIERO: Nothing to do.
THOMAS KAPLAN: When you grow, it's like an army. When it breaks through the front, you have to make sure that your logistics are well attended. Otherwise, you become too far ahead of your supplies, which are awkward moments. In that same spirit, believing that we would have an impact on the cats, and believing that one day we would be where we are today, operating in 50 countries with 100 partnerships, we endowed the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, the Wild CRU at Oxford University in order to be able to create the largest and