Give the Gift of Hope to Wildlife this Valentine’s Day

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David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi National Park, Kenya

“The animal kingdom is in critical condition. The affliction isn’t a disease, but rather a crisis of endangerment that threatens to wipe out many of the world’s animal species forever. Ironically, the only species capable of saving these animals is the same one that’s responsible for putting them in danger.”
~ Jeff Corwin 100 Heartbeats: The Race to Save Earth’s Most Endangered Species

It may be hard to admit, but every one of us has played a part in putting the precious animals we share this planet with in peril. The paper we write on, the furniture we use, the homes we live in comes from wood from clear-cut forests, leaving countless animals homeless. The cruises we take leave the oceans polluted and hurt marine life. Circuses perpetuate animal abuse. Tourism industries in many countries rely on the exploitation of wildlife from tigers to baby elephants. Smuggling of exotic animals, and poaching for ivory and rhino horns for supposed “medicinal” purposes are driving the animals to the brink of extinction.

It’s still not too late for us to turn things around. While there are several ways to help wildlife, the easiest is to support organizations that are making a difference to endangered species. For the animal lover in your life, make a donation on their behalf to any of the following organizations around the world.

1. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya – It was wonderful interacting with adorable baby elephants and rhinos during my visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park a few years ago. The reality is that these were orphans and victims of poaching that continues to threaten black rhinoceros and elephant populations in Africa. At the Trust, the keepers raise the orphaned elephants and rhino calves by bottle feeding them and sleeping in their stalls. Once they are rehabilitated, they are re-entered into their communities in Tsavo National park.

2. Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica – Sloths are simply adorable with their ‘smiley’ little faces and furry bodies. They may be slow, but are quick to draw attention. The sloth sanctuary in Limon, Costa Rica began twenty years ago with a sick and starving baby sloth. Owner Judy Arroyo cared for this baby, named Buttercup, and raised her to adulthood. Today, the sanctuary cares for more than 150 sloths that have been orphaned, harmed by electrical wires or hurt by humans. The sanctuary is also in the process of reseeding critical areas to combat habitat loss.

3. Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee – A documentary by Emmy Winner Allison Argo, The Urban Elephant, opened my eyes to the plight of elephants that were brought as babies to work in circuses. One of the segments of the film tells the story of Shirley, a crippled elephant that suffered at the hands of humans throughout her life. After living a solitary life for several years, she was brought to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee where she was reunited with an old friend Jenny that she knew from her life in the circus 20 years prior. Jenny too was a victim of abuse. The sanctuary is the nation’s largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants. It operates on 2,700 acres and cares for fourteen elephants. To watch the heartwarming tale of Shirley and Jenny, click here:

4. Animal Works in India– Due to habitat loss, animals are increasingly coming into conflict with humans in villages in India. Animals Works is dedicated to educating the public and helping orphaned elephants in the Assam region of India. It collaborates with two on-ground organizations to reduce the human-elephant conflict problem– the Wildlife Trust of India and the Assam Haathi Project (“Haathi” means elephant in Assamese). At the Wildlife Trust of India’s Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, elephants, one-horned rhinos and tigers are rehabilitated before they are returned to the wild. The Assam Haathi Project has developed chilli (hot pepper) projects across the state, to keep elephants away from people’s crops and also give them a high value cash crop that elephants don’t eat.

5. Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in Congo – Bonobos are great apes, along with chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. They are most closely related to us, sharing 98.7 percent of our DNA. They are faced with destruction and degradation of their habitats, and are commercially hunted for bushmeat. Lola ya Bonobo, which means ‘paradise for bonobos’ in Lingala language is situated just outside of Kinshasa in Congo. It is home to 52 bonobos that live in 75 acres of primary forest. Claudine Andre founded the sanctuary as part of the NGO, Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC) in 1994. Claudine’s reach extends to the rest of Congo, as she works to educate the Congolese of the endangered bonobo, and the danger and cruelty of eating bushmeat.

6. Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest – A little closer to home, the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, located on a 26 acre farm in the Cascade mountains east of Seattle houses seven chimpanzees released from biomedical research. We are not the only ones who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. After having endured years of abuse for scientific purposes, Chimpanzees show similar symptoms as soldiers and torture victim. The sanctuary is only one of nine in the country that cares for chimps. Alas, the our cousins can now enjoy peace and spend time outdoors.

7. Save the Manatee Club in Florida Manatees are endangered largely due to human activity, specifically watercraft collisions, ingestion of fish hooks, and entanglement in crab trap lines. Save the Manatee Club is dedicated to protecting manatees and their aquatic habitat. Raising awareness, advocating for protection measures along with rehabilitation and release are top priorities for the Club founded by renowned singer/songwriter, Jimmy Buffett, and former U.S. Senator, Bob Graham, when he was governor of Florida.

8. Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia – The cheetah is the fastest land animal and is also the most endangered cat in Africa. There was a time when cheetahs lived in almost all African countries and in large parts of Asia, but today they are almost extinct in Asia. Main causes include poaching, high infant mortality and loss of habitat. Namibia is the only country with the largest and healthiest population of cheetahs. The CCF is dedicated to understanding the animal’s biology and ecology so as to better able to manage its sustainability for the future.

Let us hope all these animals can win the race for survival with our help.

Jeff Corwin with CCF founder Dr. Laurie Marker and Chewbaaka, ambassador for CCF


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