Brad: When we launched SEE Turtles, we decided from the start that if it was successful, we would expand to other animals. Since then, in a little more than 3 years, we have generated close to $250,000 for turtle conservation efforts and local communities with close to 300 people visiting turtle sites. Turtles aren’t the only animals that are facing many threats from humans around the world and some people would rather see tigers or whales on their vacation. We want to be able to help people support the protection of their favorite animals, whether they live in the water or on land.
John: Among the goals expressed on your website, SEEtheWILD.org, is the desire to connect travelers and volunteers with conservation projects in places that need the most support. What criteria do you use to determine the projects that you choose?
Brad: We look for conservation projects that offer concrete ways to help communities thrive while reducing threats to wildlife. In each location, we support projects that protect animals that are endangered and where possible places that travelers can take an active role in helping those animals. These organizations have strong ties to the local communities and strong track records of effective conservation programs.
John: How do you choose the organizations with whom you partner?
Brad: We put together a comprehensive set of criteria that we use to evaluate tour operators and non-profit travel organizations. These criteria include strong local support of both wildlife conservation and community development, industry leading efforts to reduce negative environmental and social impacts, and the usage of locally-owned businesses and guides in their tours. These organizations fill out an extensive application detailing their business practices and community ties.
John: Are your travelers and volunteers briefed about pre-trip preparation and what to expect from their experience?
Brad: The operator who runs each trip provides extensive pre-trip materials to travelers so that they know what to expect on the trip. The information includes details on accommodations, activities, wildlife areas, and more. In addition, SEEtheWILD uses our broad social media networks to educate travelers about the threats wildlife face around the world as well as actions people can take to help local organizations.
John: I know that a key part of your programs is to protect endangered wildlife and to work with organizations to ensure avoiding harm to wildlife and the environment. How do you accomplish this?
Brad: The primary ways that we ensure that the tours we promote avoid harm to wildlife are by connecting each trip with a locally-based conservation organization and by thoroughly researching each tour operator and trip that we promote. By working with local organizations, we can have confidence that there is oversight of the groups wherever they are around the world. As a small organization, we don’t have the staff to visit every location, so local partnerships are key. In many cases, we work with local organizations who have strong relationships with the tour operators.
John: What advice do you have to help a volunteer/traveler choose the SeetheWild.com program that best suits his or her interests?
Brad: The best advice we can give is for people to carefully consider how active and hands-on they want their conservation tour to be. For example, some of the volunteer programs are quite active and are in fairly rustic accommodations, which are not ideal for every traveler.
Brad: On our website, we have a simple search engine that allows people to choose what type of trip they are looking for, whether that is a hands-on volunteer experience, an adventure tour, or a sailing cruise. People can also search by species, location, or tour operator. Each trip also lists what level the activities are, ranging from easy to strenuous. And interested travelers can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask questions or inquire about customized trips.
John: Thanks very much, Brad.