Over four years ago when I started this blog, it was because I thought it would be a great way to keep our friends and family up-to-date on our new lives in Italy. Our family and friends didn’t actually read it, and four countries and three weeks later, the blog quickly became totally focused on travel. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that thousands of people would be reading our blog every month! But here we are, and while we absolutely love inspiring you to travel and helping you plan your trips, we want to use our influence to do a bit of good. So, we officially introduce you to Braving It For Bears, our bear conservation project.
What is bear conservation?
Did you know that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists six species of bears as vulnerable or endangered? Six! The Giant Panda, Polar Bear, Sun Bear, Asiatic Black Bear, Sloth Bear, and Andean Bear all face serious threats to their existence. Simply put, bear conservation is the management of bears and their habitats to prevent their extinction. And we believe it all begins with education.
It started when I was just a child. My dad worked for the Pennsylvania Game Commission and I was always the coolest kid at show and tell. We were usually nursing some baby animal or another back to health before releasing it back into the wild and a few of them may have visited my school. When I wasn’t feeding baby deer or bunnies with a baby bottle, I was running around our 60 acres of land trying to catch chipmunks with Dixie cups or hopefully I’d spot a Black Bear in the woods. In other words, I was a bit of tomboy (I know, shocking right?) and fascinated with all wildlife.
Exciting as seeing a Black Bear amble up our driveway or have one steal the bowl of blackberries my dad told my mom NOT to pick before camping in the woods behind the house was, the big white bears that swam around at the Erie Zoo were even more fascinating.
Twenty some years later, I’m no less fascinated and it’s rubbed off on Tim. I’ve dragged him to I don’t know how many zoos around the world craving any sort of encounter. And then I got the idea to try to see those big white bears in the wild and told him we’d need to go to Svalbard. “I can’t even find that on a map!”, came his text back. “Are you insane?”
Yes, yes I probably am. But a mere three months later we were checking into our hotel in Longyearbyen, Svalbard and getting a briefing on just how far it was safe to wander without being armed with a high powered rifle. We were also SHOCKED to see that global warming isn’t a bunch of hooey. As we stood looking at the wide open Arctic Ocean that was supposed to be frozen over with at least meter thick ice, we knew we wouldn’t be snowmobiling across it like our itinerary said. As we listened to locals talk about how the lack of sea ice was going to affect the seals (they’d have no where to birth their pups) and how the polar bears wouldn’t be able to hunt, the gravity of the situation hit us.
Polar Bears aren’t the only bears in danger though. Their environment is the only one we’ve had personal experience with (so far) and it touched us in that way travel sometimes just slap-you-in-the-face does. So we’ve decided that over the course of 2014, we’ll help educate our readers about the six endangered species of bears, the environment in which they live, and the ways YOU can get involved to help protect these bears’ environments by traveling to the these areas of the world and learning more about them ourselves. The Braving It For Bears tour will help us educate you with tips on how you can travel responsibly through sustainable and eco tourism practices and even things you can do at home to help make a positive impact on the environment.
We’re also raising money for bear conservation projects. $6000 to be exact! Every little bit helps and if everyone that visited our blog in just 1 month gave even $1, we’d actually raise over $30,000. You can donate through our JustGive Braving It For Bears donation page and remember that every donation is tax deductible for US citizens!
Wondering just where your donation will go? Here are the bear conservation projects we’ve chosen to raise awareness and money for:
- Polar Bears International: PBI has the same mission we do – to motivate people to care through inspiration. They have research, educational, and action programs and even work with schools to get kids motivated through fun programs like Save the Sea Ice.
- Giant Panda Habitat Conservation Project: Their mission is to advance the conservation of the Giant Panda and to promote stewardship education through integrated conservation, cultural, and community development programs within the Wolong Nature Reserve (Sichuan, China).
- Andean Bear Foundation: Their mission is to save Andean Bears from extinction through in-field scientific studies and through the rehabilitation and release of captive orphaned bear cubs.
- Borean Sun Bear Conservation Center: Opening in 2014, the BSBCC’s mission is protecting the rainforest habitat of the world’s smallest bear species.
- The International Association for Bear Research & Management: They promote the conservation of the world’s bear species through research, management, and education. We’ve specified through our JustGive donation page that funds are specifically to go toward Sloth Bear and Asiatic Black Bear conservation projects.
Our regular updates about how our project is going will be in our monthly newsletter. Sign up here! And stay tuned because we’re willing to do some crazy things (polar plunge for Polar Bears maybe?) to raise money.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on our Braving It For Bears project in the comments below!