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Unicorns Do Exist, And Other Unpopular Truths

Unicorns exist, and I’ve done the research needed to say it’s true. The very name Monodon monoceros is derived from the Greek “one-tooth, one-horn”. Many ancient sea charts depict narwhals and some even refer to them as “sea-unicornes”. The narwhal’s horn was historically cherished and highly valued, often considered magical. Narwhal horns supposedly had the power to cure any disease, as well as neutralize poisons and bestow wisdom upon any who drank from vessels created from them. These facts, when viewed objectively clearly show that the unicorn many people think of today, is really just a bastardization of the narwhal itself. There are even historical references to the fact that the species might have evolved to exist both on land and in the sea. So, the truth is, narwhals are living unicorns.

Now, you don’t have to agree with me on the matter of unicorns existing. You don’t have to subscribe to that truth. We are still, predominantly, living in a free world, so you can choose not to agree or believe that unicorns exist.

However, choosing not to subscribe to someone else’s position on a matter does not mean that the truths they’ve presented are somehow untrue. You don’t get to decide someone is lying simply because you don’t like the idea which their facts support. Belief is up for grabs, but facts that have been presented don’t suddenly become not-facts. You can dispute them, if you really want to, but you can’t change the fact that they are facts.

For example:

Fact 1) Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) are currently swimming in the oceans.

Fact 2) The scientific name, Monodon monoceros is derived from the Greek “one-tooth one-horn”.

Fact 3) Many medieval manuscripts and medieval sea charts refer to, or illustrate the narwhal as being an animal of the ocean, sometimes referred to as a “sea-unicorne” and narwhal horns were considered to be magical and often sold to be used in the prevention of poisons, to heal, etc.

You can laugh and say that narwhals are not unicorns or you can agree with my position that narwhals are unicorns.

What you cannot do, is say that the facts I’ve presented are not scientifically accepted facts, and that I’m lying and not telling the truth.

You don’t get to just dismiss a truth because you don’t agree with it. You can extrapolate your own truth as derived from presented facts, but you don’t have the power to negate reality just because you don’t like how it’s being presented. That’s not how the world works. If it was, then simply naming your kid John Mark Millionaire Smith would somehow actually make him a millionaire. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be nice, but that’s not how it works.

The ICARUS team is, and always has been, concerned with facts. With gathering those facts and then presenting them, and the way they tangibly affect conservation, along with the wild animals of the world, and the captive wild animals of the world. In the matter of captive wild animals, we adhere to a strict set of guidelines as outlined by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, in dictating our definition of a sanctuary. We’ve made this position explicitly clear in even our early posts, and we’ve consistently backed up that position with facts and research.

Obviously not everyone will agree with our position and our truths. That’s fine. However, our position and truths have been built on facts, and as such, they can’t be obliterated simply by hating our position and our members because we publicly present that position.

Similarly, in the cases where confirmable facts could not be secured even through dedicated research, we have made the absence of those important facts a focal point. Sometimes the absence of securable facts is as evidentiary as facts which can be cross-referenced multiple times. In cases where more questions than answers were found in our research, we have left the interpretation of the truth up to our readers, stating that for whatever reason, we could not find reliable facts, and thus we could never know the truth about whatever subject was being discussed.

Again, the fact that we sometimes present questions we cannot answer–and clearly state that we cannot answer them due to lack of attainable and confirmable facts–is not a lie. You literally cannot be lying about something if you simply present questions you have and then state that you can’t answer those questions because you are lacking–for whatever reason–verifiable facts. All you are doing at that point is raising questions, something that occurs in journalism all the time. Engaging the public and encouraging them to think on their own and ask questions is what conservation journalism is all about.

The ICARUS team began as an idea, and it has grown into an establishment. We’ve held our first International Summit, and we are gaining members across the globe every day. We hope that our readers will continue with us on our journey into a world where eventually there will be no captive wild animals, but instead only wild animals in the wild, where they belong, permanently protected from human interference and encroachment.

The ICARUS Team

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Wildlife in Crisis: An International Think Tank

The ICARUS crew is absolutely thrilled to announce that we will be hosting an International summit in 2016 titled Wildlife in Crisis: An International Think Tank. It is our goal for this summit to bring together some of the greatest and most influential minds in the world of conservation today, and to develop strategies for further conservation efforts in the future.

The only thing the members of ICARUS want it to protect the animals and world we live in, and to educate those around us about the challenges involved with world wide conservation. When you choose to donate to ICARUS through this page, or our Facebook page, you aren’t paying us.

Your money goes directly to helping fund animal conservation through rescues, rehabilitation, and things like our 2016 International summit. The members of ICARUS are volunteer only, so all of our articles, and information is gathered and produced around full time jobs and late night hours devoted only to the conservation of the animals.

This is one reason that we took such a hard and forthright stance against hugely popular establishments such as the Black Jaguar White Tiger foundation, and Eduardo Serio 5 months ago when we first opened our WordPress account.

As a group devoted to hands off conversation, the ICARUS team does not condone the unnecessary handling or interaction with any wild animal. Sometimes during the rehabilitation process, handling is required, and as the members of our group have all been involved with wild animal rehabilitation, we understand this.

However, when one posts photographs on social media, or use social media to build themselves into a Celebrity Conservationist who is famous for no other reason than the fact that they post photographs and videos of themselves playing with big cat cubs, or adult big cats, they are not rehabilitating those animals, they are actively participating in their exploitation.

This Social Media Conservation, which so often highlights pseudo conservation is only one of the many global conservation issues that will be addressed at the 2016 International Summit which the ICARUS group will be hosting. Wildlife in Crisis: An International Think Tank will bring together conservationists from all over the world with the goal of addressing such issues as captive big cat ownership, wildlife crime, pseudo conservation groups and sanctuaries, rehabilitation ethics , legislation, and similarly the laws that govern exactly what foundation can describe themselves as rescue group or sanctuaries without actually obtaining the accreditation associated with being a sanctuary or rescue. Only through education can the public learn to see the difference between conserving wild animals in the wild, and exploitation of them by Celebrity Conservationists.

Author: Artemis Grey

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Black Jaguar White Tiger, The Jim Jones of The Conservation World

Something the ICARUS group repeatedly talks about is the method of hands off conservation. It is one of the foundation stones of our ideology, which focuses on keeping wild animals wild. No, not every animal that is rescued or saved can be returned to the wild. Many are habituated to humans, and would never survive in their natural environment, and others, tragically, have no environment to even be returned to, were it possible. One reason that the ICARUS group is so vehemently against the handling of wild animals (as usual, excluding the handling necessary to rehabilitation and to medical attentions) is because it is impossible to justify handling in one instance, and condemn it in another. It is also why we so strictly consider only GFAS accredited sanctuaries as being genuine sanctuaries. The public has proven time and again that it is incapable of watching someone handle wild animals, and then refrain from engaging in the same behavior if given the opportunity to do so.

After reading the best article to date calling out Black Jaguar White Tiger, by Jacalyn Beales, I decided to write an ICARUS article on the subject. My articles are not nearly as analytical–though I do research them– and instead my writing contains a more visceral component. One which is intended to set the reader back and make them think about what they’ve just read. Perhaps if several articles are released closely together, we can do better than making page 7-8 on a Google search regarding the failings of the foundation.

Major case in point: The vastly growing empire that is Black Jaguar White Tiger. Within the span of just two years, this foundation has become a world wide phenomenon touted as the leading edge of conservation, endorsed by dozens of celebrities, and monopolizing social media to the point of being able to shut down sites like Instagram just with the traffic associated with their account. If you Google the foundation including words like ‘abuse’ or ‘criticism’ or ‘controversy’ be prepared to flip an average of 7-8 pages over through your search before you find any article that actually contains legitimate criticisms about the foundation, rather than bait and switch wittily worded endorsements of it. Instead, what you’ll find is a “sanctuary” which only meets the barest minimums required by Mexican law.

The terrifying part of all this support and lavish praise? It’s all in regard to a man who raises lion cubs in his walk-in closet and allows them to run rampant inside his house. No, I haven’t accidentally started talking about Siegfried and Roy, I haven’t accidentally referred to a retired circus performer who hoards ‘rescued’ big cats in his central Texas cape cod home. I’m not being sarcastic, or overly dramatic.

Eduardo Serio, the owner and founder of Black Jaguar White Tiger keeps newborn big cat cubs in his walk in closet so that they can receive ‘around the clock care’ from him personally. Once they’re a few weeks old, they move from the closet into a ‘communal area’ in the main section of the house wherein they’re all fed together–something that can often result in dangerous fighting, and even mortal wounds in larger animals. Eduardo talks candidly about his grossly incorrect handling of his animals, and shockingly, the public hangs on his every word.  In fact, people pine for the chance to visit the foundation and join in the glorified mishandling.

A master of selling ideas, Eduardo runs multiple social media accounts followed by millions of people all over the world and they worship him for his exploits.

I mentioned the other day to someone that my personal house cat, Ari, who is dealing with end stage heart failure, now sometimes has trouble making it to the litter box. The person wrinkled their nose in disgust and suggested that it was ‘probably time to put him down, then, because he could live comfortably for months, yet, and think of the mess.’

However, Eduardo posted this video with the caption  ‘And of course, Ayrton’s signature pee on my wall…’ and within two weeks, it’s received 64,500 likes. Aytron is a wild animal trapped inside a house spraying on walls–repeatedly, and everywhere–to mark his territory, and in 14 days 64,500 people have liked the video and inundated it with comments like ‘That boy is so spoiled.’

Spoiled indeed. As well as continually mishandled.

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Similarly, in the summer of 2015 Dade City Wild Things came under severe fire (and rightly so) for allowing guests to swim with tiger cubs. Meanwhile, Eduardo posts videos like this and is rewarded with 30,500 subscribers to his YouTube channel. Often, his commenters compliment his “sanctuary” without realizing that it’s not actually an accredited GFAS sanctuary because of how he houses and exploits his animals.

Article after article after article lavishes praise on Eduardo and his Black Jaguar White Tiger foundation, all of them overlooking the simple basic failings of the situation. This article, dated in May of 2015 states that Eduardo has purchased 100 acres to house his growing group of rescues. However, this article, dated October of 2015 states that ‘Stage 3’ of Eduardo’s ‘rehabilitation program’ is ‘in the making’ and will eventually offer ‘thousands of acres’ for the cats. This same article lists ‘Stage 2’ as 8 acres where the older animals can run and play. This article also mentions that ‘Stage 3’ is ‘in the works’. But it also states that Black Jaguar White Tiger currently has 152 big cats in its care.

On 8 acres.

You can’t properly care for 8 horses on 8 acres, never mind 152 wild big cats. Every article I have cited, thus far, was published in 2015 and according to these articles the number of animals in Eduardo’s care varies (and let me remind you, Eduardo himself is giving these interviews) from 45 animals, to 152 animals. Meanwhile, Black Jaguar White Lion’s own website claims to have rescued and be houses 180+ animals. On, let me repeat this one more time, 8 acres. And one house.

If I told you that an Arizona housewife living on 8 acres had 180 house cats, you’d suggest I call animal control because she couldn’t possibly care for all of them properly. Even if she had help, there just isn’t room in one house and 8 acres for 180 house cats. But Black Jaguar White Tiger claims to be ‘rescuing and properly caring for’ over 180 200-500+pound exotic cats, inside a house that’s lived in by humans, and with just 8 acres of land. Yet, the praise and hero-worship continues in articles like this.

Aside from Jacalyn’s article, I was able to find only one other article (I did not include articles I’ve written for ICARUS) that cited the problems and misplaced trust in Black Jaguar White Tiger.

‘What if someone told you that animals treat us as equal as long as you give them love?’

‘And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.’

Both of these are inspirational quotes, provoking a deep reaction of unity with the world around us.

The first one is a summary of Eduardo Serio’s beliefs about big cats, taken from an article that goes on to wax poetic about the kindnesses he’s done for the 180+ animals crammed on 8 acres and how love is the end all when it comes to helping animals. The article ends with this purple prose humdinger: ‘All you need is a few minutes on the Black Jaguar, White Tiger Instagram account to feel like a better person. Eduardo and his team share moments of love, between feline and human, that we never thought were possible. He shares the stories of each lion, tiger or jaguar that lives in the organization, showing us time and time again that all is possible with love.’ And, of course, there’s a link for donations!

That second quote, such a mirror image to the first in proclaiming that we’re all one and the same with love? Yeah, that’s from one of Jim Jones’s sermons. If you’re under the age of about 35, you’re going to have to Google Jim Jones. I’ll save you some time and put in a link here. But if you don’t want to even bother with that, I’ll give you the high points.

Jim Jones was a preacher who did something no other church in his time (mid 70s) had done. He ran a church wherein everyone–literally everyone–was equal. I’m talking black, white, illegal immigrants, gays, lesbians, bisexual, transexual. Everyone was welcome and seen as equal in the People’s Church. The entire point of Jim’s ideals were that we were all the same inside, just like Eduardo claims we’re all the same. It was great. Up until Jim Jones lost his shit and orchestrated the largest mass suicide you’ve probably never heard of. 914 died that day, 5 of them shot to death as they tried to escape via airplane to warn the government of what was happening. 909 people died because they drank the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid Jim Jones told them to drink.

I can almost hear your eyeballs rolling around in your head now–those of you who support Black Jaguar White Tiger, anyway. You’re thinking ‘How could 909 people be so stupid as to listen to one guy telling them to kill themselves?’ Meanwhile Eduardo’s supporters are sharing the photos and videos and every other social media shareable thing of a man who has anywhere from 45-180+ captive big cats crammed onto 8 acres of land the location of which is a closely guarded secret. They might as well be giving money to the government to help feed the aliens living at Area 51. They’ve got the same level of proof that the cats in Eduardo’s care are alive and well as they do that aliens are hiding at Area 51.

This is the danger of social media in 2016. If enough people–especially wealthy, celebrities– say something, then it must be true. So a few dozen celebrities have gone down there to Black Jaguar White Tiger. *If* they saw abuse, how many of them do you think are going to come back up here and announce that a man who basically owns Instagram, among other social media outlets, is a liar and fraud? Do you really think these celebrities are going to ruin their careers over this? How many celebrities have kept silent for decades about sexual assaults or worse because the perpetrators were people in high places who could ruin their careers?

It’s up to us as individuals to not get sucked into the social media frenzy. Think of Instagram as the supermarket tabloid of the internet. Not everything you see on the cover is the truth. Now go read Jacalyn’s article again, and think twice about sharing that oh-so-adorbs photo of what’s-her-fabulous-face cuddling a baby lion or tiger at Black Jaguar White Tiger.

 

Author: Artemis

 

 

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We Are Legion… If We Decide To Act Like It

Some of you might have seen the headlines in regard to Lumber Liquidators, and the fact that they have now admitted to importing, and subsequently selling, hardwood which was illegally harvested from the habitat of the highly endangered Siberian tigers and Amur Leopards in the far east of Russia. Since I’m in Virginia, which is where the company is headquartered, I’d heard back in the beginning of October that something fishy was going on, but details as to what, exactly, were not yet available. Then, on October 8th PilotOnline.com ran an article on the matter, which shed a little more light on it. You can read that one here. There still wasn’t much National attention on the subject, though.

Now, that’s changing. Multiple news sites like CBS, CNBC, NBC, and The New York Times, are picking up the story and making noise about it. Their coverage ranges from blurbs, to more in depth information. Overall, most people involved seem to be satisfied with the ‘hefty fines’ that Lumber Liquidators has agreed to pay. But the term ‘hefty fine’ means something different to the lawyers, and judges, than it does to me. Or to Lumber Liquidators. Oh, I’m sure that they’re wailing internally, but let’s examine this ‘hefty fine’ in the format of numbers.

The company will pay $13.2 million dollars in fines. Seems legit. Written out, it looks like this:

$13,200,000

But in stark contrast, the company made about $1.05 billion in profits last year, which looks like this:

$1,050,000,000

So basically, the company is giving up just over one percent of the total profits they received in just one year of existence.

Look at it this way: You find a $100 bill, and your big brother takes it from you and gives you a $10 bill instead. Sucks hind tit, right? Now, imagine that your big brother came into your room, stole a bunch of your super hero figurines that you’d been collecting , sold them for $100, and you caught him, and he said he’d give you $10 because he’s sorry. On a very simplified scale, this is what Lumber Liquidators did.

Between 2010 and 2015 they pulled in roughly $5.6 billion dollars in profits. That’s $5,600,000,000. They’re paying only $13.2 million dollars, or $13,200,000 in fines.

And they only have to do it once.

Next year they’re (probably) going to make another $1,000,000,000. And the year after that. And so on and so forth. If the company only stays in business one more year and does well, it’s still going to make over 7 times more than what they paid in fines. Presuming, of course, that they actually pay the fines now, and don’t drag their feet about it. With a hearing not even set until February of 2016, a speedy payment doesn’t seem too likely. But according to the Justice Department, Lumber Liquidators’ fine is the largest financial penalty ever imposed for illegal timber trafficking, and it is a huge success.

This is one of the greatest, and most heartrending issues within the conservation community. Laws, both those of specific countries, and global, are woefully underdeveloped in regard to the current, and continually growing needs of the environmental world. Humans have been recording history for about 5,000 years, but the first American environmental law dedicated to protecting the environment was passed in 1899. We’ve only been legally protecting our world and the animals within it (in America) for 116 years. Just 116 years out of 5,000. And the number one penalty for breaching the laws we do have, is paying a simple fine, and promising not to do it again. As a rule, there is no loss of business licenses, or jail time given, even to those who made the decisions to break the laws in the first place.

Not only is that just not good enough, it doesn’t even work to penalize anyone. After all, why should companies stop cutting corners, and breaking rules when the only consequence of doing so is to make slightly less profit, when their proft line has already been doubled or tripled by skirting or ignoring those rules to start with? In business (and military) terms this is called Acceptable Loss. The term Acceptable Loss is used to indicate casualties or destruction inflicted by the enemy or market situation that is considered minor or tolerable.

Minor and tolerable. For the company who is making money.

There is nothing minor or tolerable for the Siberian tigers, and Amur leopards who lost thousands of acres from an already dwindling habitat. There is nothing minor or tolerable about the fact that of the just 500 Siberian tigers and 57 Amur leopards left in the wild, a portion of them will likely starve, or die in altercations over the meager, and much too small, habitat they ‘re forced to share. Habitat that is now even smaller.

What our law enforcement groups consider to be massive success stories are nothing more than footnotes in the annals of companies’ histories. Acceptable losses within the churning mechanisms of huge corporations who plow onward in their endeavors, continuing to rake in profits hand over fist. So inconsequential are these payouts that most businesses actually set aside money to be used for them if they crop up. They often pay their own lawyers more to render a settlement on their behalf than they pay in the actual settlements themselves.

But we have more power than any court, or judge, or law enforcement agency in any country anywhere in the world. We can bring these companies to their knees, and we don’t even have to exert ourselves in order to manage it. The only thing we, the people who must live under the umbrellas of these inconceivably colossal  entities, need to do in order to tear them apart, is to not give them our money.

It’s not easy to find out exactly where your food comes from, or where all of the products we use in our daily lives come from. No one has time to google their toothpaste, their rice, or juice, or napkins and see how they’re made, and whether or not the mother company is environmental conscientious. Women, you know what it’s like just trying to see if your sanitary products are 100% cotton, instead of full of chemicals and manmade fibers. It’s incredibly hard to sort out the origin of many of the things we use.

However, it is easy to find out about some of the products we use. The internet is full of farms which focus on producing pesticide-free heirloom fruits and vegetables – more than you would ever imagine, if you google your own area. Small farmers are slowly fighting their way back into the market. Reclaimed lumber is now thoroughly in the mainstream, and many companies focus on using it in their building projects. There are log home companies which specialize in environmentally conscious timbering. Organic dairies are springing up everywhere, along with rabbitries and farms which raise hormone-free beef and even bison. By and large, these products don’t cost more than the conglomerate stuff, they’re just not as ‘in our face’ as the former.

We have the power to choose to utilize these things. We have the power to choose to not use the products of huge corporations. At least some of the time. And you know what? Some of the time beats the hell out of none of the time.

If every single person out there decided that buying a little less of something grown, made, or reclaimed within a hundred miles of their residence, was more important than buying more of something that was imported, or made by a large corporation, those corporations would notice. If every single person who’s never done something like try fresh milk from a herdshare, or rabbit meat (better than chicken) or bison meat (leaner than beef) chose to just try something new, instead of going right for the old stand by microwave chicken tenders, it would make a difference.

A huge percentage of the damage done to the wild spaces we have left in this world, and to the wild animals who live in those wild spaces, is done either to create land which will be farmed by corporations, or to render a ‘cheaper, easier’ product for the consumer. And we keep taking the bait.

These incidents of gross negligence, and the disregard of giant corporations will not be stymied by any law, or fine. It’s like throwing rocks into a swift-running creek. The only way to change the course of that much water is to change the landscape it’s running through. We are that landscape. Us.

We are Legion, if we but stand up and unite.

It will not happen all at once, but it will happen. We have the strength and ability to turn the flow of the consumer river in any direction we want. All we have to do is start.

 

Author: Artemis Grey

Feature Image Credit: Tapiture

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True Facts about the Turtle!

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At ICARUS we are trying to educate and also uncover the awful truths about the interactions of humans with the animals we share the planet with. Six out of the seven species of sea turtle are on the brink of extinction, in fact their numbers have been reduced by 95% in the last 20 years. Turtle poaching in Costa Rica is a serious issue as it has one of the largest populations in the world and their numbers are being seriously diminished despite conservation efforts. Just last week two ICARUS members attended an illegal food market undercover, where both green sea turtle meat and their eggs were being sold every week. We want to help find solutions and help to prevent the green sea turtle from being hunted into extinction. Although it’s our mission to focus on the advocacy and the conservation, we at ICARUS know that you’ll be more inclined to save the turtle if you know about their quirks and habits. One of the best ways to learn is by having a little fun while doing it. So without further ado our humorous and true facts about the Turtle! (original article posted by ICARUS member Sarah here)

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brrrrrr…

1. When turtles are just tiny eggs their sex is determined by the temperature they are incubated at. Warmer temperatures produce more female eggs and the colder it is the more males are born. This sounds a bit like human females who are constantly colder than men, maybe they are just meant to be warm and toasty all the time!

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2. Turtles have favourite colours, which according to research are yellow, orange and red. Most of the people who come in to contact with turtles are divers, who often wear black. So clearly for a turtle if you’re not wearing any of their favourite colours when you’re diving then the turtles are openly mocking you and your fashion choices.

3. Turtles do no have ears but they can perceive low pitched sounds. Often when I’m diving I am constantly talking, singing or shouting at person in front of me who has just kicked me in the face. However you should always remember that the turtles can hear you and they’re terrible gossips.

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“Figaro, Figaro, FIGAROOOOOO”

4. Turtles also don’t have vocal cords, but they can make sounds. You may be unaware but turtles are actually avid opera practitioners.

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“Hey Lettuce, lookin’ good”

5. Turtles select mates by sniffing tails. In fact they have a very good sense of smell, but not so much sight. So if a female climbs over something then the male has often been known to try and mount it. This has been observed in tortoises too as one tried to have sex with a head of lettuce a female had climbed over. Oops. That’s going to be very disappointing!

We hope you have enjoyed our tongue in cheek turtle facts and have picked up some interesting information! We at ICARUS are really passionate about helping to save and protect the turtle. After being part of a turtle release a few weeks ago we can truly appreciate them so much more. We will be releasing a lot more information on that soon, we look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Sarah

What do airplane bathrooms, Donald Trump and Wildlife Conservation have in Common?

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I never imagined that the start of our first ICARUS Project journey would find me trapped in an airplane bathroom at a cruising altitude of 35,000 ft. To be fair, I don’t think anyone imagines that in any scenario, but there I was clinging to the sink and praying for the travel gods to take mercy on my weak stomach. In that moment I said to myself, “And so it begins”.

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It’s a common problem, creating a viable thesis, students all over the world spend late nights crying over their laptops and wishing for the end of days. Me personally, I just ignored it for as long as possible. No really, I spent the last two years in the field trying to avoid the subject. Luckily, that’s how it found me. I knew, in theory, the difficulty in tackling something as broad as wildlife crime. To expose individuals and organizations that traffic, possess, breed and abuse the wildlife that is imperative to keeping our ecosystem balanced. Not only do they keep our planet in check, but keep its human inhabitants grounded and humble. Our animal cohabitants remind us that we do not in fact own everything around us. When it comes to marking territory, it’s humans that feel the need to piss on every tree.

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So how did I get here, in this cramped, putrid plane toilet? How does a grown woman of 36 find herself with a one way ticket out of America, all her belongings packed in her tired old chevy and headed to Costa Rica, and hoping to save some animals.

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In a nutshell, I’ve got nothing to lose. At the age of thirty I found myself bankrupt and jobless (after losing a job as the manager of a posh horse farm due to a horrific bout of meningitis). I spent two long years shelving videos at Blockbuster (yes, it was THAT long ago) and wondering when my bright future had snuffed out. At some point you put up or shut up, so I emptied my bank account, a whole whopping 500 bucks, rented a Uhaul and headed to NYC to sort it all out.

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Long story short, the concrete jungle was not my mecca, but it did lead me to an opportunity through my school to travel abroad to Africa, Namibia to be specific. An opportunity to work with wildlife, specifically big cats, for the first time. Perhaps, Namibia was my mecca and the cheetahs my saviors. There was no turning back after that. I left NY and gave impoverished internship living a shot. From the diversity of the rescues at The Black Beauty Ranch in Texas, to the majesty of the North American wildlife at The Wildlife Center of Virginia and then the ferocity of the Big Cat Rescue residents in balmy Tampa, Florida. I finally found my purpose. Not only did I learn to understand the biology and behavior of the animals that inspired me to live off of peanut butter and toast, but I was exposed to the suffering and neglect that these sentient creatures fell victim to, not only in the countries spotlighted by the media, but also in the pseudo sanctuaries, roadside zoos, canned hunt farms and backyards of America. That’s when I found my purpose. That’s how ICARUS came to be. No matter how idealistic, I believe this project can effectuate great positive change and my ICARUS cohorts share my crazy mission.

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Flash forward to the misery of my airplane bathroom captivity. In the fetal position and my head between my knees, I had no idea this was only the beginning of my nearly 24 hour journey into the jungle. When fellow ICARUS member Sarah and friend Becky picked me up at a bustling and slightly overwhelming San Jose airport we couldn’t forsee that we were climbing into a car that would drop its clutch just before the mountain pass, resulting in a 500 dollar garage bill. We would then find ourselves throwing Sarah’s credit card into the pot and doing a hail Mary, in the hopes that we would have just enough to rent a car and get us over the pass on a dark and rainy night. Somehow we managed to get back on the road and three women, a ton of luggage and a failed scat dog named Cody, barreled over what is perhaps the shiftiest mountain road my poor stomach has ever encountered. Despite any emotional, mechanical or financial obstacles we arrived at our destination alive and well, thankfully!

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So, here we are, in Puerto Viejo. We are currently living in a house (The Love Shack) with a leaking gas cooker, fans that probably started the Ebola epidemic and floors that are slowly becoming holes beneath our feet. This is apparently what happens when you embark on an epic journey with absolutely nothing in your bank account! Within my first 72 hours in Puerto Viejo I found myself advocating against turtle poaching, the sale of endangered animal meat and … wait, cock fighting…really? All of which is apparently occurring right here now. Sadly, this was just with the American residents. I even found myself trapped in a supermarket queue while a preening, peacock of a man preached to a local woman that she needed to look past Donald Trump’s inane racist comments to find the true value he has as a presidential candidate. I momentarily questioned if I was indeed in Costa Rica or perhaps trapped in the Twilight Zone. This was right before I evaluated how much time I would spend in a Central American prison if I stapled this man’s mouth shut. I decided not to risk it.

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So, here it begins. We hope that you will join us as ICARUS embarks on a journey to pool together the greatest minds in animal welfare, to create resources that we can all draw from no matter our race, religion or creed. To gather the good and expose and bring an end to the corrupt. To use global unity to begin to repair global wildlife issues. Human Beings are the root cause of wildlife devastation, but we are also capable of its salvation.

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