Confronting the Aftermath of Animal Trafficking in Costa Rica.

When you google ocelot, this is what comes up:

Can you keep an ocelot as a pet?

Is it legal to have an ocelot as a pet?

Are ocelots dangerous pets?

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Animal trafficking is alive and well in the Americas. It's disturbing how these animals are captured. It's harrowing to see how they are illegally trafficked from the country. It's heartbreaking to see what their lives become when they are stolen from the wild and live as unhappy pets in small enclosures. 

This is an animal sanctuary we recently visited in Costa Rica. While sanctuaries are not perfect (only the wild is), it did a pretty damn good job explaining to people why these animals couldn't be realised back into their forest homes. Spoiler alert: humans. When these animals are trafficked sometimes their teeth are ripped out without anaesthetic, sometimes they are declawed without anaesthetic, sometimes they are just taken so young they never had a chance to learn how to be wild. They can't hunt, socialise, den or even really cat. 

Humanities obsession with owning things and our entitlement over the natural world has spelled often a life of torture and psychosis for the animals who survive animal trafficking. 

If you love animals, keep them in the wild. Ocelots are not for you, no matter how cute you think they are. 

 While this enclosure is pretty good habitat for this cat, it pales in comparison to the life she would have if she was in the wild.

While this enclosure is pretty good habitat for this cat, it pales in comparison to the life she would have if she was in the wild.

We are Elephant Friends, and friendly!

We are so proud to announce that we have been named one of the 215 elephant friendly travel companies by World Animal Protection!

That means when you volunteer with us you know for sure the elephant program is one that isn't just helping the animals, it's not hurting them. We couldn't agree more with World Animal Protection's elephant campaign, elephants are wildlife, they are not entertainers!  We are committed to elephants, to their protection and sanctuary. None of the elephants at our partnered sanctuaries will ever be chained up. They will never be part of elephant rides. They will always be given ongoing and consistent medical care. They will always be respected and loved for the gorgeous animals they are. 

If you love elephants, volunteer with them! Just make sure you volunteer on and visit centres that are certified elephant friendly by World Animal Protection!

We're on a podcast!

Here is a quick and dirty podcast that our co-founder: Nora, get's to discuss what it's like running AEI. She also talks about the roots of AEI, how it started and where she would like the branches to grow. Of course, being a woman she also talks about the trolls on social media and why you won't find any on the AEI Facebook page. 

Give it a listen and let us know what you think: I AM CEO podcast.

Happy listening!

Readers Digest says no to elephant...

rides!

Why? Because they asked us what tourist attractions were overrated. We thought about this idea at first. We love being tourists, that is why we started AEI. We love travel but we love giving back- the real reason we started AEI. 

We love going to new and exciting places and getting selfies with other tourists. We love meeting people at landmarks we had only dreamed of visiting. We love coming back and showing silly grins from silly friends exploring places that have been explored before, just not by us. We love being tourists. We love touring the world. So did we really think there were things that were overrated. Then we remembered the horrible torture of elephants and we remembered yes, of course there were things that were overrated- they were things that take advantage of animals, people and communities. 

Elephant rides help no one. Before elephants can be trained to have someone (or someones) on their back they have to be horribly broken as babies. We would explain it more, but it really is horrific. A quick search on google will keep you crying for days. After elephants are terribly broken, they can be dangerously shipped all over the countries they are living in. Sometimes on the back of trucks, sometimes on trains, always horrified and in danger of hurting themselves and others. Once they get to the attraction they will be working in they are typically not given enough water, socialisation or room to roam. They are chained when they are not boringly walking the same track over and over again with heavy loads on their backs. Do the elephants like this? Of course they don't. Do the communities that have elephant rides located close to them? Typically they don't either. They see these elephants languishing in the sun, in pain, bleeding and rocking due to boredom and torture. Not many communities we have talked to are excited to say they host exploitative acts. 

So why even have them anymore? Because people want to see elephants and don't know there is a better way! The better way is visiting and volunteering at elephant sanctuaries. Places were elephants are allowed to live in social groups with enough water, browse and space to walk, without chains and painful isolation. We help people volunteer in Thailand at such a beautiful and loving place, you can volunteer their, too! Check out our Elephant Sanctuary Volunteering page and write us a note if you are interested. 

There aren't too many things that we think are overrated when you travel, but we for sure think there is no good tourism when there is exploitation. 

Check our Readers Digest's article about overrated tourist attractions and see what we have to say about elephants!

Stop the presses! We are Best For the World (again)!

Today, Animal Experience International was recognized for creating extraordinary positive impact as a business based on an independent, comprehensive assessment administered by the nonprofit B Lab. Honorees are featured on B the Change, the digital Medium publication produced by B Lab, atbthechange.com/bestfortheworld.

 Animal Experience International is honored in the Best For The World Overall list, which includes businesses that earned scores in the top 10 percent of more than 2,400 Certified B Corporations across all categories on the B Impact Assessment. Animal Experience International was also honoured in the Best for the World Governance, Community and Environmental lists.  The assessment measures a company's positive impact on its workers, community, customers and the environment. To certify as B Corporations, companies like Animal Experience International must complete the full assessment and have their answers verified by B Lab.

 

The full B Impact Assessment evaluates a company’s environmental performance, employee relationships, diversity, involvement in the local community, the impact a company’s product or service has on those it serves, and more. Honorees scoring in the top 10 percent of all B Corporations set a gold standard for companies using business as a force for good. Animal Experience International made the list thanks to exceptional practices like donating 6% of their profits to their animal welfare and conservation partners, using 2% of their annual sales to plant trees, and providing their local community leaders with enough help in one year (2017) to 219 weeks (4 years).

The 226 Best For The World Overall honoree companies come from 92 different industries and 30 countries. B Lab simultaneously released separate lists recognizing top-performing B Corporations as Best For Environment, Best For Customers, Best For Governance, Best For Community and Best For Workers, which can be found at bthechange.com/bestfortheworld. In the fall, B Lab will release the Best For The World: Changemakers and the Best For The World Funds lists.

 

Animal Experience International truly has three stakeholders: the placement partner (where we send clients), our clients and the planet. This honor shows not only is it possible to run a business with these ideals- but a business can thrive! We have had more than 550 clients volunteer on 27 different programs and every experience has been safe, ethical and beneficial to not just the animals, the community and the clients but also the environment.  Our business success has never been at the expense of our client experience, the planet or our local community members. This honor shows that the dream of running a company that is truly beneficial for people and the planet while making profits doesn't have to be a dream. We hope that we can inspire more clients to volunteer and make a difference with us- we also hope to inspire more businesses to take the leap and become certified as a B Corp. Conscious capitalism isn’t just a trend, it’s a way of life at AEI and we have the awards (and quantifiable data) to prove it. ” said Nora Livingstone, Co-Founder of Animal Experience International.

Additional 2018 Best For The World Overall honorees include: A to Z Wineworks; Give Something Back Workplace SolutionsMascoma Bank and Northwest Permanente.

“With the rise of anger at a system that feels rigged, people are hungry for companies like Animal Experience International, who are changing the system by building businesses that seek to create the greatest positive impact,” says Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab. “Best For The World is the only list of businesses that uses comprehensive, comparable, third-party-validated data about a company’s social and environmental performance. As consumers, talent and investors increasingly demand transparent, values-aligned businesses to buy from, work at and invest in, companies will need to not just the best in the world but the best for the world, and not just to be nice but to be the most successful.”    

A total of 932 Certified B Corporations were named 2018 Best For The World Honorees, including: Patagonia; King Arthur Flour CompanyGreen Mountain Power; and the United Kingdom’s Charity Bank. Fifty-two countries are represented, including Denmark, India, South Africa and Taiwan. The selection criteria for Best for the World honorees are available at https://bit.ly/2IgAzF5.

Today there are more than 2,400 Certified B Corporations across more than 150 industries and 50 countries, unified by one common goal: to redefine success in business. Any company can measure and manage social and environmental performance at http://bimpactassessment.net.

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About Animal Experience International

Animal Experience International (AEI) is a Travel, Adventure and Volunteer company that specializes in animal and wildlife conservation experiences. Animal Experience International is an organization with a mission to help animals around the globe by matching clients with animal-related volunteer opportunities at sanctuaries, wildlife hospitals, animal clinics and conservation projects. Through their respective work as a wildlife veterinarian and as a volunteer coordinator for wildlife sanctuaries, co-founders Dr. Heather Reid and Nora Livingstone have come to understand the need for an B Corp like AEI. People from all walks of life, and from every country, are seeking animal-related experiences as volunteers. Organizations that provide help to animals, either directly or through conservation projects, are often reliant on volunteers to achieve their goals. AEI is excited to help bring these two groups together and make a difference in the lives of animals around the world. AEI is committed to making sustainable and long lasting connections by partnering with only the very best organizations around the world. The TICO certification means these quality, worry-free placements allow AEI’s clients to focus on taking care of the animals and getting the most possible from their volunteer experience.

Animal Experience International – Points of Interest:

-The only Travel, Adventure and Volunteer company dedicated to animal and conservation projects that is a certified B Corporation and registered social enterprise in Ontario.
-AEI’s directors are both women.
-AEI’s president is a wildlife veterinarian.
-To date, AEI’s charitable donations to animal projects and wildlife conservation have exceeded AEI’s profits.
-To date AEI has more than 550 alumni go through their programs.

www.animalexperienceinternational.com

B Lab is a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good.  Its vision is that one day all companies will compete not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world and society will enjoy prosperity for all for the long term.  

B Lab drives this systemic change by: 1) building a community of Certified B Corporations to make it easier for all of us to tell the difference between “good companies” and good marketing; 2) passing benefit corporation legislation to give business leaders the freedom to create value for society as well as shareholders; 3) helping businesses measure, compare and improve their social and environmental performance with the free B Impact Assessment; 4) driving capital to impact investments through use of its B Analytics and GIIRS Ratings platform.

 

For more information, visit http://www.bcorporation.net.

 

B the Change is a Medium publication, produced by B Lab in collaboration with the community of Certified B Corps and the movement of people using business as a force for good.

 

B the Change exists to inform and inspire people who have a passion for using business as a force for good in the world. Because we believe that storytelling is an essential element in the transformation of business and society, we commit ourselves to telling the most compelling stories possible to the largest audiences possible to propel the movement of business toward its destiny as a powerful force for good. We want to dramatically broaden and deepen engagement with entrepreneurs, managers, employees, investors and citizens in one of the most important discussions of our time.

Read all B the Change stories at http://www.bthechange.com.

 

Celebrate World Turtle Day!

4 turtle projects, 3 continents, 1 important mission: save sea turtles. 

After being on earth for 110 million years, sea turtles are in trouble. Climate change, oil spills, plastic, micro beads, fishing and poaching are hurting sea turtle populations around the world.  

But, don't worry there are ways to help! The easiest way to help sea turtles starts at home. The choices you make with respect to plastic have ripple effects across the world. Remember, every single piece of plastic that has ever been made, STILL exists. Some plastic can be recycled but more than 90% of the world's plastic is not recycled.That plastic has to end up somewhere- and eventually a lot of this waste ends up in the ocean where it hurts sea life. 

Want to make a bigger impact? Why not volunteer with sea turtles? Every single AEI program is community based and run, which means our programs address the local reasons for turtle decline in those communities. It also means your fees, donations and time goes directly to the local community and the work they are doing for their ecosystem and the animals that live there.

Today is world turtle day so why not help turtles at home and abroad? Apply today and we will give you $100 off your fees!

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Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica

Help with sea turtle conservation on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Nearly all species of sea turtles are endangered – their numbers dropping due to poaching and over-exploitation, climate change and pollution, habitat destruction, accidental capture in fishing gear and trauma from boats. Our partner organization in Costa Rica helps sea turtles through conservation, research, sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation.

Sea Turtle Conservation in Australia

Help with sea turtle conservation off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef is located just off the coast of northern Queensland and is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The reef attracts people from all over hoping to see first-hand the gorgeous diversity of marine life. Unfortunately many of these magnificent marine creatures are in trouble, including the Green Sea Turtle, Flatback, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley Sea Turtle.


Sea Turtle Conservation in Sri Lanka

Help conserve sea turtles in Sri Lanka. 

Five species of sea turtles nest on the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka, and these turtles are also under threat. In 2005, the “boxing day Tsunami” affected Kosgoda, Sri Lanka tremendously. Hundreds of metres of beach were lost and so were people's livelihoods. Fishing was compromised and even the local tourism industry saw a dramatic decline. Many people are now dependent on the selling of turtle eggs and jewellery made from the shells of Hawksbill turtles.


Leatherback Nesting Conservation in Costa Rica

Help conserve sea turtles in Costa Rica by protecting nesting sites. 

The beaches along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica are the nesting site for many Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles that lay their eggs here.  As the female turtles come in to nest, they are exposed to many threats. One of the biggest threats is the illegal poaching of the eggs that they lay.

Celebrate Your Mama and Her Love of Animals

Nora and mum in Greece.jpg

We think that mamas want to have adventures, too! While all of them deserve sleep-ins and frosty drinks, some mothers crave adventure and a way to nurture something inside of them they had to put on hold when they had kids. 

When we were younger we all had favourite animals that we loved. As parents we get to relive this wonder and excitement with our children. But we can start to believe that there are no opportunities for us to help animals. Leave that to the biologists, the veterinarians, the professionals. Well, at AEI we help everyone volunteer with animals no matter their background. We provide safe, ethical and life changing trips, so anyone can have an animal adventure. All our programs include airport pick-up and accommodation, most of them include food – all-inclusive packages, but with endangered animals!

Volunteers help with the conservation of dolphins in Croatia, take elephants on jungle walks in Thailand, feed breakfast to toucans and monkeys in Guatemala and care for kangaroos in Australia. Our animal experiences span more than 15 countries and help over 25 important programs. 

Sure, some mums want a total break from everything- fair enough! But for those who are looking for an adventure, something just for themselves - and those animals they used to dream about? Animal Experience International is for them!

Should You Travel Alone?

If you are untethered, footloose, fancy free... why not travel and volunteer with animals? 

We will help you live your dreams by making it real easy.

When you travel with AEI you get picked up from the airport and dropped off. You live either right on site or close enough to walk through UNESCO world heritage sites or on ocean side boardwalks. Most programs have meals included- but some don't for those looking to cook for themselves. Travelling by yourself means finding the program that is exactly perfect for YOU.

Looking to meet lots of people? We have lots of programs that have you volunteering on big teams of international volunteers. Looking to introvert and really focus on the local culture? We have one-on-one volunteer placements that you live with a family and volunteer on local teams of volunteers. 

Everyone is welcome to volunteer (after a short interview to make sure they are right for the experience and the experience is right for them) and then we do all the logistics. Our programs are great for single travellers because you get to participate in exactly what you want to do but you won't ever be lonely!

Our programs are safe, ethical and our clients always have local or international volunteers who are hosts and adventure buddies. Remember, we visit all the places first to make sure that they safe for single volunteers and groups, alike! 

Do that thing you have always wanted to do because you WANT to and you CAN.  

 

Travel Swag Recommendations!

In January we submitted some travel advice to Happy Luxe. They were looking for some travel recommendations. Well, do we ever have those! Our volunteer coordinator travels 20-30 weeks of the year. They specifically were looking for advice about travelling in Africa. 

We have two programs in Africa, one helping rescue wildlife in Malawi and one helping rescue dogs in Kenya. Our volunteer coordinator also has volunteered in Sierra Leone and Uganda

The final blog was great: How To Have The Best Trip Ever: Awesome Travel Tips for Africa. A great group of people with a lot to stay about travelling ethically and smartly throughout the continent. 

What made us maybe even more excited was the email from Happy Luxe a few days after it was published. They thanked us and asked if we wanted a thank you care package. Of course we did!

A few weeks later and the day before a flight cross Canada we got a travel wrap, pillow and eye mask. All of them made from micromodal, in America, designed by women. So not only were they soft and comfy they also made us say: hey, this company sounds pretty neat! 

happy luxe 2.jpg

True, they buttered us up by sending us some free stuff but after trying them (and loving them) how could we not recommend these travel accessories to everyone? 

The wrap was great on the air plane, the pillow was outstanding for sleeping in the airport and the sleep mask was perfect for the jet lag that followed. Soft, sustainable, brought to you by good people who want to share travel knowledge and all actually designed with function as well as looks in mind. 

Wait, what is micromodal? Micromodal is a super soft fabric that is made by spinning cellulose of beech trees. There are so many people on earth, there is no fabric that can be mass produced that has a completely ethical footprint. However, micromodal is better than a lot of fabrics. It has a smaller water and carbon footprint than most synthetic fabrics- and cotton!

We think Happy Luxe is a great little company and we like little local business. We also like that the woman who designed all of these travel accessories was Leah Murakami, one of the first combat ready female fighters pilots in the U.S! If you are looking for something to make your flights a little bit more comfy but don't want to cut ethical corners, we really recommend what Happy Luxe has to offer! 

Take care and travel safe!

World Water Day

This year Wold Water Day is all about helping animals 

All life needs clean water to grow, survive and thrive. Our volunteers understand the reality of this fact as they help animals around the world. Every single program we offer depends on water. Howler monkeys in Guatemala need fresh water to drink. Elephants in Thailand need water to clean their sensitive skin. Horses in Mongolia need water to fall as rain, to nourish the grass that they eat. Dolphins in Croatia need unpolluted water in which to live. Without clean water, life on Earth wouldn't exist. As animal lovers we must protect our water - fresh and salt, from pollution, toxins, plastics and human development. 

When you volunteer with animals you are doing more than helping those specific and individual animals you are in contact with every day. You are showing your friends, family and community that conservation isn't just for some - it's for all of us. Your powerful message is that you know you can help these animals - and that they can too. We can all do our part to protect and conserve the world around us, including our rivers, lakes and oceans. 

To help spread this message of empowerment, if you send in your application today, we will give you $100 Canadian off your trip fees. Take advantage of this amazing offer as you celebrate World Water Day and stand up for nature!