This article originally appeared on Medium and as of April 18, 2019 has been edited to be current with Peter's project statuses. This post is part of our new ongoing series "5 Questions with..." We will be featuring chats with socially responsible leaders who inspire us.
Five questions with wildlife conservation leader Peter Gottesman
Endangered Species Revenge makes people laugh…while teaching them about animal biology, animal behavior, and wildlife conservation. I asked their fearless leader Peter Gottesman five questions about what he does and why.
Well, there are two answers to this question. What started my love of animals, in general, was, believe it or not, Siamese cats!
Growing up my family always had three Siamese cats — one for every child in the family — and I even have photos of me fast asleep as a toddler with three cats sleeping on top of me. Many people ask where my passion and love for animals began — and they are waiting for me to tell a fascinating, macho tale about a rescued wolf or jaguar — or at least a German Shepherd. But no, it’s just cats. The woman who ran the Madison Square Garden Cat Show in New York City was a scientist from Paris, France — and my mom was from Paris, so they became friends, and we got all of our cats from her. In fact, one of our cats, an Oriental Lavender named Panther, was the son of a champion cat named “Pink Panther!”
My passion to save African painted dogs came as soon as I heard Greg Rasmussen describe in such an exciting and heartfelt way just how amazing and cooperative painted dogs are, and how, in many ways — they have a society which is better than ours! War does not exist in painted dog society, nor are their political power struggles, they find the best job for every dog, based on their abilities, and they communicate, cooperate, share, and help each other. As Greg puts it, “Every dog helps every other dog.” And “What other animal in the wild helps their sick, their old, and their injured?” It was all just amazing to me.
And of course, it was also easy to fall in love with them for their giant ears and beautiful orange, white and black coats — no two of which are alike; and the playfulness of the pups. When I learned how packs are being decimated by snares, and that because of this we could lose all painted dogs, it was heartbreaking. And I knew we needed to act.
One of my goals in starting Endangered Species Revenge was to get as many people as possible to feel they were making a real difference — by donating as much as they could afford to — and knowing that with this money, the world’s top conservation scientists would take tangible, immediate action to save species. So, all donors could see the results of their donations quickly, whether they’ve donated $10 or $500.
With this philosophy in mind, I choose rapidly-attainable funding goals, so that this money can be put to work in the field right away. And every time we reach a fundraising goal, we start a new fundraising goal for that project, so the process continues. Of course, we have long-term funding goals in mind — but I love giving donors immediate gratification, especially in this age of information overload, where many people have gotten used to wanting results quickly.
Our biggest challenge has been getting even more animal-lovers to watch our videos, so they can learn about incredible animals such as painted dogs, and the perils they face — so they can then donate to help Endangered Species Revenge save them.
It’s marketing basically, which is much, much tougher than most organizations think — which is why we are so grateful to Projects For Good for stepping in to help us save painted dogs and other animals, since they have such a wonderful marketing team, tech savvy individuals, and management team with great experience and instincts in strategy (we’re blushing Peter). And in their case, you can tell the desire to do good for animals and the world, is very strong, unlike many other companies Endangered Species Revenge has tried to use for marketing, who clearly were driven only by profits, and did not care about our wildlife conservation goals.
I’d have to say our project to rescue moon bears, also called Asiatic black bears, from horrible captivity and torture.
When I was in my twenties, I was at an outdoor zoo in Southern China, in the remote Province of Xishuangbanna, and, as many animal advocates know, the enclosures for many animals in Asian zoos, especially back then, were extraordinarily small — and with no stimulation at all for the caged animals — not even a tree branch, or grass, or rocks — just rusted metal and concrete.
As I was walking, on my right was a tall rectangular cage about the size of a refrigerator. And when I walked by it, a black bear who barely fit in the cage stood up and screamed at me — looking me directly in my eyes — clearly begging for my help. But I felt powerless to help him, especially as a foreigner in a rigidly-controlled, communist country. So today, I feel I that am carrying out a promise I made to that bear — to rescue as many bears as I can.
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