‘Project Roar’ article by Alison White
‘The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves’ – Jane Goodall, Animal Rights Activist
In October, 21 volunteers made their way across the pond to take up the challenge of a lifetime. All from different corners of the world, most of them strangers to each other but all with the same purpose – to stand up, be counted in the name of conservation and to make a difference.
It’s really difficult to sum up in a few sentences just how amazing and life changing this challenge was. It pushed me more than I’ve ever been pushed before it was physically and emotionally draining but worth absolutely every second of it. – Laura Howarth
The Body Shop Foundation teamed up with the incredible Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, USA for this year’s challenge.
Big Cat Rescue (BCR) work tirelessly to provide big cats that have been mistreated and abused a safe home where they can live out the rest of their lives in peace, away from the cruelty that they once endured. They are constantly campaigning to change mindsets and attitudes about keeping these magnificent creatures as pets or in domestic captivity. With more tigers being kept in the USA as pets as opposed to numbers in the wild, its vital to work to end the abuse of these incredible creatures and to the save the species from extinction. BCR also rescue injured bobcats with the hope of releasing them back into the wild once the animals have recovered from their injuries.
BCR relies heavily on the help of their volunteers and quite simply could not do what they do without them. The PROJECT ROAR! team had five intense days ahead of them not only volunteering with the rescue centre but also helping them with their latest campaign to stop the private ownership of big cats in the U.S.
The team landed late on the Wednesday and headed straight to BCR where they were introduced to the owners and founders of the centre; Howard and Carole Baskins. There was no time to feel the effects of the long flights as they were launched straight into the history and activities of BCR, to give them an idea of why supporting this organisation was so vital. The challengers were also lucky enough to catch a few glimpses of some of the big cats that BCR have in their care, and the thrill of hearing the gentle roar of Joseph the lion, set in the moonlight.
Teamwork makes the dreamwork and the group soon realised how close they would get to know each other, as the dorm like accommodation welcomed them. Take yourself back to any school trips you may have been on – suddenly, there’s a whole new personal situation to deal with. These challenges do ‘test’ individuals, with many people worried about personal issues like snoring, visiting the bathroom in the night or simply the worry of sleeping on a top bunk without falling out on a stranger below!
Up bright and early the next day, with the sun rising over Lake Platt, the challengers got ‘down and dirty’ linking up with and helping BCR’s interns with the building of the new bobcat rehabilitation area. They cleared and cleaned enclosures, who’s (luckily for the challengers) inhabitants where on ‘vacation’ at different enclosures and had the chance to make enrichment toys for the animals; all the while being surrounded by the chuffing and cat calls of the big cats.
While they were there challengers were introduced to the tigers, lions, bobcats, cougars and many more of the residents at Big Cat Rescue, each with a more heart-breaking story than the last. Tigers that had been hidden underground away from authorities, lions that had been kept by drug lords and those that had been bred purely for the colour of their fur coat. These stories were tough reminders that there is still a lot left to do to protect these beautiful animals.
Being a part of this challenge and making a difference to these beautiful big cats at Big Cat Rescue after years of abuse, neglect and horrific stories was so self-satisfying. I walked away proud of what myself and the group achieved. I would love to do another challenge similar to this again, to give back to animals, to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.” – Chrissy Joester
As a final job, the team was tasked to ask members of the public visiting BCR to get in contact with their state representatives; asking them to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which hopes to put an end to back yard breeding and exploitation of big cats and their cubs in America. Each challenger was in awe of the amazing people who volunteer and work for Big Cat Rescue, and being able to campaign alongside them for animals’ rights was a perfect way to bring the challenge to an end.
I absolutely loved the whole experience, getting stuck in with the dirt-shovelling, finding out all about the work of Big Cat Rescue outside of their day-to-day activities at the sanctuary, but especially I loved feeling part of the team and feeling like we were really making a difference. I’d be first on the list to sign up again!! – Helen Finch
In the time that the challengers spent not only at BCR but also with each other helped form lifetime bonds and memories. These challenges are not only for pushing yourself to your limits but also a chance for you to give back to this truly amazing world we live in.
Big Cat Rescue – we salute you for all the incredible work that you do, you inspire those around you and care for those that are unable to speak out. And to the PROJECT ROAR! team, thank you; thank you for looking beyond your own lives and believing that you can make a difference in this world. You are, quite simply, roar-some!