With the season for giving upon us, so we begin to ponder which will make the most meaningful gifts? Of course, we could settle for generic stocking stuffers, practical or impersonal presents, which imply we are time-poor and unable to give what we bought deeper thought.

I suggest another solution, one that simplifies but deepens the value of giving.

Give the gift of inspiration and impact. Look to nature and you will find there are many wild wishes that impart a deeper meaning and value beyond the season.

There is something in nature for everyone, it’s virtues and wonders profit us all. By preserving, exploring and celebrating it’s beauty our generosity can have a profound impact: we can help save or discover a species, inspire our young to be curious and care about conservation, fuel a passion to explore new places, and have unforgettable encounters, the potential of our wild wishes are truly endless. Here are few ideas, perhaps some will speak to you.

Donate to a wildlife foundation and help fund a conservation initiative, research project/expedition or welfare program for your favourite animal, botanical species, or habitat. Some of my personal favourites include:

Panthera: 100% of donated funds are used in the field, and you can directly contribute to any of their projects which protect big cats worldwide through science, community conservation, habitat restoration, wildlife corridors and education.

You may also wish to explore National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, a partner of Panthera dedicated to raising global awareness for endangered cats.

Tolga Bat Hospital: run entirely by volunteers your funds will help maintain this incredible sanctuary. Tolga acts as a nursery for orphaned fruit bats (deforestation has fragmented much of their forest home), a hospital for injured or infected bats (fencing and parasites are killing-off these vital pollinators), and an educational center (children and families can feed and interact with the bats, learning about the species and how to help save them).

Polar Bears International: science and education are at the heart of PBI’s approach and they highlight countless ways to contribute and get involved through actions and activities such as: expeditions/tours of the Arctic, volunteer opportunities, fundraising campaigns, symbolic adoptions, classroom courses, Q/A with scientists in the field and conservation checklists to help ‘Save Our Sea Ice’ and Green Your Holidays.

Vital Ground: here you can help sustain a whole ecosystem, ensuring land for all it’s creatures. Creating wildlife corridors through land acquisition of key habitats, and promoting community conservation to benefit land owners and their wild occupants.

Sponsor Science and support stewardship by investing in our wild future.

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation: donations to the ASC are in essence a gift for future generations, and an investment in the education, experience and scientific exploration of nature. This unique collaboration between scientists and outdoor enthusiasts provides opportunities which make scientific knowledge accessible to all, including guided outings and educational resources.

Snow Leopard Trust: the majestic snow leopard is both beautiful and elusive this makes studying the species difficult without the aid of camera traps and GPS collars. Like many non-profits the Trust relies on donations to fund their field projects and to purchase equipment essential to their research. We can help sponsor their work and fund a future for the snow leopard, as knowledge of the species is what’s needed to implement effective strategies for their conservation.

Cheetah Conservation Fund: the fastest land animal is running a race against extinction, but with our support this incredible feline can finish in first place. Once again science plays a key role, and the CCF are world leaders in cheetah research. Sparking interest in the cheetah and getting people involved with their conservation through various initiatives that revolve around education—from internships to school projects and encounters with animal ambassadors like Chewbaaka (who sadly passed on in April 2011) who helped connect people with the cause. To support CCF, consider donating to Chewbaaka’s memorial fund, sponsoring a resident cheetah (the cost of care for these animals is not cheap and every contribution counts), or a livestock guard dog (by protecting livestock we can encourage farmers to coexist with cheetahs).

The International League of Conservation Photographers: there is an enormous need for evidence of what is happening to our planet. There is no better way to awaken social conscience than through powerful imagery; imagery that is made with outstanding skill and conviction and that has the necessary credibility to make a believable statement about the state of our planet. Why not sponsor a specific project, the iLCP invest in research expeditions and conservation programs around the world. Biodiversity is paramount to a flourishing earth so valuing every ecosystem equally (as iLCP does) is important to the preservation of wild places.

Rewilding Europe: aims to rewild one million hectares of land by 2020, creating 10 magnificent wildlife and wilderness areas of international quality. With special focus on Europe’s huge areas of abandoned land, and on providing a viable business case for wild nature. Make a wish to make Europe a wilder place, with much more space for wildlife, wilderness and natural processes. Donate to Rewilding Europe and support their efforts to bring back the variety of life for us all to enjoy, and to explore new ways for people to earn a fair living from the wild.

The Watermen Project: men and women who volunteer their breath-hold skills to assist scientists in their research on large marine animals. These apex predators are declining rapidly. Founded by William Winram an IUCN Ocean Ambassador, underwater photographer and freediving word-record holder, the overall arching objective of the project is to help prepare, mentor, guide and motivate future generations to act as either leaders or supporters to the mission of protecting our oceans. I had the fortune of speaking with William recently and learned of his hopes for the project, which included sponsorships for motivated individuals to join expeditions and have the opportunity to gain working knowledge of marine life. Funds are sorely needed to sustain and expand the project, we can make this happen. I encourage you all to explore the site for the watermen are doing some truly wonderful work and provide diving lessons, expeditions and other means of getting involved.

Ps. William’s film ‘Great White Shark 3D’ is now showing in IMAX theatres around the world, why not take the family on an epic underwater adventure this Christmas?


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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
Inga Yandell

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