Cash for Kangaroos
When I tell people I'm a fundraiser by profession, I get a lot of interesting looks and comments. Mostly people's eyes glaze over thinking I'm going to either ask them for money on the spot or give them a speech about my organization. Then they remark on how they would personally hate my job, saying it's a career they could never handle.
I understand. Really, I do. It's a very personal situation, asking someone for money. And truth be told, it's not easy because you have to deal with rejection. But let me explain a little of my personal motivation for asking others to dig deep.
In my youth, which was only partially wasted, I worked with exotic animals in the entertainment industry. I became absorbed with their protection from a personal, professional and philosophical standpoint and passionately learned as much as I could about a wide swath of the animal kingdom. I've been involved in species and habitat protection since the 1970's and have an unapologetic soft spot for any creature with fur, fins or feathers.
Fast forward to the new millennium, where I find myself in an office in Berkeley working for an international environmental organization with a project in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea. Villagers there have hunted tree kangaroos, exactly like the ones in the pictures above and below, as a food source throughout history.
Today in Papua New Guinea, as everywhere around the globe, people are faced with unprecedented demands for food. This has placed the tree kangaroo population in frightening decline. Sources claim their numbers to be as low as 100 individuals. They are on the IUCN Red List of critically endangered species, and are acknowledged as one of the most endangered animals in the world.
Indigenous islanders understand when a food source -- which has sustained their ancestors for centuries -- is disappearing. But what can they do to change their diet, which will mean a serious protein deficit for their families? Don't forget that a change in diet means an entire change in culture. Imagine yourself never eating another hamburger, piece of chocolate or banana.
To save the tree kangaroo and assist islanders in developing an alternative sustainable protein, Seacology is helping remote villages in the Torricelli Mountains. We are funding a farming project that furnishes indigenous chickens to villages surrounding the tree kangaroo habitat. The chickens are an excellent source of both meat and eggs which will enable the villages to ban all hunting of the tree kangaroo without sacrificing nutrition.
What is a species worth? We could debate this topic forever. I only know what a tree kangaroo, fruit bat, coconut crab, macaw or clownfish is worth to me: priceless. So when the time comes to rally financial support for a project that will prevent the hunting of a species to extinction, sustain the nutritional needs of a people for the future, and preserve indefinitely an increasingly rare slice of pristine island rainforest, I'm up for the asking. No hesitation.