It is no secret that the battle for animal rights is waged between a heavy hand and a no-BS policy. Animals cannot personally fight for themselves but these organizations, charities, sanctuaries and individuals work to do it for them as the plight of wildlife is becoming considerably more demanding. But what is being done for the animals we share the planet with? There’s a few badass women out there making huge strides in animal welfare, and they’re all forging a legacy we can follow.
Leela came onto the “scene” in 2007 when her organization Lion Guardians was born. Lion Guardians is a conservation organization whose purpose is to create and enact peaceful, long-term solutions that allow people and lions to coexist in Kenya and Tanzania. Since 2007, Lion Guardians has been helping to conserve lions and preserve culture. This is not just a matter of putting an organizational method into practice; Leela’s focus was and remains to be the collaboration of people and animals. The whole concept of Lion Guardians is based on scientific conservation that starts directly with the indigenous people already living with these lions on the planes of Africa. These warriors not only protect lions, but can actively advocate for their protection, work with farmers to ensure safe solutions to keep lions away from livestock, all while making a measurable impact on a species that has been the pride of Africa for decades. Considering that 50% of Africa’s lion population has disappeared, Leela’s work makes a significant impact both on the warriors living with the large cats, and the lions themselves. Her work was such an impact, she recently won a CNN Hero Award.
The was created in 1965 when Martine took in her first exotic animal. Later incorporated in 1976, Wildlife Waystation was the first exotic animal sanctuary to be established in the US and has been home to over 76,000 different animals. Martine was born in France but had lived an adventurous life as a young girl, traveling through third-world countries, becoming rapidly exposed to the plight of wildlife. Her determination allowed her to pursue a life of caring for animals, advocating for their rights and fair treatment. Today, she remains the founder and director of the Waystation, which houses upwards of 400 animals on any given day and has provided support to different species and creatures since its inception.
Why is her work so important? In the US alone, millions of exotic animals are kept as pets; most of which are reptiles and tigers. There are also several countries around the globe whose wildlife in need of care. Martine’s work allows animals a chance at life, and a free, fair one at that. Martine is also the designated wild animal expert for the city of Los Angeles, which is pretty badass.
In the 90’s, Carole Baskin founded the Big Cat Rescue, a facility located in Florida which houses exotic cats and gives refuge to large felines previously used in circus’, kept as pets, or abused in zoos. Ranging from jaguars, tigers and bobcats, to a few other species of exotic felines you may have never heard of, Big Cat Rescue is home to some pretty cute but very important animals. But Carole’s work is not just about providing tigers with safe homes; since 1992, when the Rescue was first created, Carole has successfully rehabilitated and released a number of exotic cats. The Rescue also allows volunteers to learn more about large cats safely, without having direct contact. Carole has served as President of the Association of Sanctuaries, acted as the legislative liaison to the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition and, amongst several other accomplishments, serves on the board of the Humane USA PAC. On the badass meter for women making positive strides in animal welfare, Carole is hitting a 10.
You may have heard of Tippi Hedren, the famous actress whose movies with Hitchcock and Chaplin were cult classics. This Minnesota girl who got her start on the big screen would become one of the leading ladies making strides for animal welfare. Like Carole Baskin and Leela Hazzah, Tippi’s focus has been on large felines, something she began to do officially in 1983 when she created the ROAR Foundation. ROAR, which supports the Shambala Preserve, provides sanctuary to large felines who have been neglected, abused, mistreated and disallowed to live their lives with freedom and dignity. However, the Foundation does more than just that. One of its more serious goals is providing the public with education on the dangers of owning exotic animals, as well as advocating for legislation that will protect large species of animals, such as large cats (which can include tigers, lions, bobcats, jaguars, cheetahs, etc). But why would a famous actress throw it all “to the wolves” and start a Foundation to help animals? It’s simple: love. After spending time in Africa around lions for a film called Satan’s Harvest in 1969, Tippi was taken with the large cats and, ever since, her life has been largely devoted to them. With the number of exotic felines privately owned as pets in North America, foundations like ROAR are essential to the well being of these animals, advocating for their rights. Tippi’s work puts her right up there on our badass meter with the best of them.
Here’s a woman who’s doing it all: spending years in the Kalahari rescuing birds, volunteering on the Sea Shepherd ship and advocating against canned lion hunting in South Africa. It’s not often we see a woman like Bev, doing it all, and making it look so easy. But Bev is doing it all, and it’s no small feat. Having lived an adventurous life, which includes a previous trip from Cape Town to America in a small, 38-foot yacht (and back to SA again when her marriage ended), Bev has helped wildlife all over the globe. Alongside her husband Chris Mercer (who has, in his own right, done so much for animal welfare and lions in South Africa), Bev runs the Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH), an NGO whose efforts help to raise awareness of, advocate against and help to abolish canned lion hunting in South Africa. On top of all of that, Bev’s life ambition is to create a breeding program for the Cape vulture, hoping to see them fly again in all of the environments they once flew freely in. Bev proves that you definitely don’t need a man to accomplish your goals; but you also don’t need to limit your goals, either. Bev is an inspiration, and a total bad ass. We can’t wait to see the Cape vultures flying again.
Like Tippi, Virginia started out as an actress who quickly changed gears to advocate for the rights and welfare of animals. The Born Free Foundation, which Virginia created in 1984 with fellow actor/husband Bill Travers, is a dynamic international wildlife charity whose work helps to save lives, protect wildlife and stop the abuse of animals in the wild. The Foundation is supported by a plethora of celebrities (such as Bryan Adams and Martin Shaw) but is a family-oriented charity with a task force of people more than capable of rescuing animals and making a positive impact on their situations. Virginia created Born Free because of her time spent in Kenya whilst filming the biopic Born Free. When she began to understand the plight of Africa’s wildlife, it became apparent that Virginia was going to make serious waves, and hence Born Free was created. Now, at age 83, Virginia is still waging a battle on behalf of wildlife. Not just a pretty face, but a mighty force to be reckoned with since Born Free’s conception, she is constantly fighting for the welfare of animals. Her heart remains with them in Kenya, and her fight for their rights and lives continues even in today. I hope that I be as badass as Virginia McKenna, especially in my 80s.
With so many wildlife issues taking place as of now, it’s no wonder we need strong, capable individuals who are ready to defend animal rights. Sure, PETA and WWF are great, but sometimes it takes more than one organization to inspire us to rise up for animal welfare. We’ve got some pretty amazing women doing work for wildlife which is paving the way to allow a younger generation to make an impact. It’s like Maya Angelou once said: “Nothing will work unless you do.”