Thanks to Perth woman Rebecca Tilbrook, tigers, gibbons, bears, and a Noah’s ark of endangered species of animals in Southeast Asia are surviving the ravages of so-called “progress,” as their habitats get torn to shreds.
North Carolina-raised Rebecca is the founder of For The Animals, supporting vital animal rescue projects in Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia.
Here’s her story:
“Not so long ago, my life was all about high finance deals and business meetings. I was based in Washington DC, where I worked for the US Trade Development Agency.
But after September 11, 2001, everything changed for me. Those tragic events made me reassess everything that was important. I became determined to make each remaining day count.
It was time to work in an area for which I was passionate – helping animals. Having always got indescribable inspiration and joy from being with animals, I decided to put my business background to work raising money for conservation.
The first organisation I worked for was very large – it seemed to me that everyone had lost track of the mission. They were spending outrageous sums, but I couldn’t see progress in the field projects. So I switched to a small group, WildAid, becoming their chief fundraiser.
I was blown away by the tangible progress they were making on just a fraction of the revenue of my previous employer. During my three and a half years with WildAid I saw tremendous outcomes.
In Cambodia, we rescued tens of thousands of animals from the illegal wildlife trade and created an entire village based on sustainable agriculture for 180 families who were victims of the Khmer Rouge.
We also launched the largest awareness campaign in history, using every major Chinese athlete and celebrity to discourage the consumption of endangered species in China. The campaign has had huge impact on younger Chinese citizens. And in Cambodia, we provided ranger protection in one of the last remaining elephant migration corridors in Asia.
Photograph: Alex Cearns/ Houndstooth Studio
“During one of my trips to Indonesia eight years ago, I met an exciting West Australian man, Dave, who is now my husband! Nine months after meeting him, I moved to Perth. After Washington DC, it was a big change but I much prefer it here. Perth’s quality of life is so much better than any other city I’ve lived in.
Here, I decided to establish a new organisation to continue the important work I was involved with in Washington.
In 2011, I started For the Animals to enable Australians to play a role in the grassroots, effective conservation projects in south-east Asia.
“We help in five ways: rescuing animals who fall victim to the illegal wildlife trade, providing food, medicine and shelter to rescued animals, helping local communities, reforestation, and educating youngsters about the environment.
“One project I’m particularly excited about is an elephant rehabilitation centre we’re hoping to build in a huge tract of land that forms part of the vital elephant migration corridor use by hundreds of these beautiful beasts. With our partner Wildlife Alliance, we have a secured a 99 year lease on this land.
The support I’ve gotten has been amazing, from local businesses, to many volunteers, working so hard to help shore up the protection of one of the last intact tropical forests in south-west Cambodia.
Importantly, this charity ensures 100 per cent of donations from supporters goes directly towards the field work in south-east Asia.
Every six months or so, I take a small group of supporters with me to Cambodia. It’s a chance to see our work in action – and it’s an incredible opportunity to get close to elephants, gibbons, tigers and lots of orphaned baby animals.”
With Christmas coming up, For The Animals has organised a special gift shopping event on November 20 with lots of bargain goodies, with much of the proceeds going to help the wildlife. For details about this, other fundraising events and info on For The Animals go to www.fortheanimals.org.au