Any of you who have used online dating platforms have more than likely seen the infamous tiger photos (like this one, found in an article about tinder), and even if you haven’t I would bet that any friend of yours who has traveled to South East Asia has posted a photo from the back of an elephant. The desire to view these majestic animals up close keeps tourists flocking to what are essentially petting zoos for exotic creatures, but these businesses don’t always have the welfare of animals explicitly in mind: an example, albeit a rather extreme one, is the recent discovery of forty tiger cubs in a freezer at one popular attraction (read more here). Many attractions even claim to be sanctuaries, leading tourists to believe they are helping to improve the lives of the animals and furthering conservation efforts by spending their money there. However, it’s difficult to know whether the animals are well cared for if only visiting for an hour or two, and it is extremely doubtful in any case that the always lethargic, placid, obedient animals used for rides and photo ops are living their lives as wild animals should. So, if even the places touting conservation as a focus may not be above scrutiny, is there a way to interact with these animals ethically, and what can tourists do to actually make an impact?
In May of 2017, I’ll be traveling to South East Asia (Thailand and Cambodia specifically), with Operation Groundswell to spend 40 days working on conservation projects in the region. Any of you who know me know that travel is one of my top five priorities, but this is a little different and much more important to me than the normal trips I take. Though I make an effort to raise awareness about issues in the regions in which I travel through my writing, my traveling has been largely self serving up to now. I wanted to make a bigger difference than just words, and I selected OG as the best way to combine my love of backpacking and traveling with animal and environmental conservation.
In our 40 days, the volunteers will be immersed in a series of projects, including work in sustainable agriculture along Cambodian school children with Okenden Cambodia, turtle conservation with the Mekong Turtle Conservation Center, and elephant conservation with the Elephant Valley Project.
Part of what Operation Groundswell promotes is a greater, deeper, more empathetic link between communities across the globe, and that is part of why I’m writing this today. What I am asking from you is help raising $615 towards my community contribution, which is a part of each Operation Groundswell trip. This is independent of my trip costs and does not go to my lodging, flights, or meals (all of which I will be paying for on my own separately), but rather will be donated to the communities and organizations we will be working with in our time abroad, and 10% will be used to offset the carbon from my flights. This community contribution will go from you (my community) to the communities I will be visiting and becoming part of, and will allow them to thrive and continue to do the great work they are doing for conservation of animals and the environment!
Feel free to donate by visiting my fundraising page (seriously, NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL! If each of my Facebook friends donated $1.50, we would more than meet the $615 goal!), and please share this with anyone you know who might be interested in helping out. Don’t forget to check out all the great things Operation Groundswell is doing across the world at http://operationgroundswell.com/.
Thanks a bunch in advance,
Please note: these donations are not eligible for tax write offs sorry!
Photos (except for the tiger photo at the top) all come from the Operation Groundswell blog, and were taken on last year’s version of the trip I’ll be going on in May. If you’d like more info about where I’ll be, go check it out!