January 13, 2010
Race to Save the Bears: Winner Q&A
In fall 2009, HSI Canada organized a virtual "Race to Save the Bears" to support our campaign to end trophy hunting of bears in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. People from all over the country asked their friends to make a donation to protect these beautiful animals from trophy hunters. Prizes for top fundraisers included a two-night stay at the Great Bear Lodge, a signed copy of a photograph entitled "Great Bear Guardian" by world-renowned Canadian photographer and bear advocate Ian McAllister, a digital camera, and Protect Bears t-shirts. Here, Grand Prize trip winner Lynn Amaral shares her motivation for participating in the Race:
HSI: Tell us about yourself.
Lynn: I am a foster mom and wildlife photographer.
HSI: Were you aware of this issue (trophy hunting of bears in the Great Bear Rainforest) before learning about it from HSI Canada?
Lynn: I was aware of trophy hunting before, from articles in the paper and online. I have always felt this was a barbaric practice that is unnecessary in today's society. I think with wildlife—especially larger mammals like bears—being under threat from deforestation, urban sprawl and car hits, to kill them just for the sake of doing so is irresponsible at best.
HSI: What compelled you to get involved in the Race?
Lynn: I had actually just come back from a tour to see spirit bears when I learned about the Race. On that trip, I was able to see grizzly, black and spirit bears. I was amazed at how gentle, accepting and majestic the bears were. They were accepting both of other bears and of people... We have a lot to learn from the bears! I am also convinced that bears play a vital role in healthy forests; for example, bears sometimes break branches in the forest, creating holes in the canopy which allow light to reach the smaller plants, thereby enhancing and enabling their growth.
HSI: What was your experience trying to fundraise?
Lynn: I contacted just about everyone I knew asking for funds. Most people were willing to help, especially those already interested in conservation.
HSI: Were people interested when you told them about the cause?
Lynn: Yes. Most thought it was a good cause.
HSI: What are you looking forward to most about the trip?
Lynn: Seeing bears, of course! I'm planning to take the trip in the spring to see some cubs. I am hoping that my husband and I can go.
HSI: Have you taken any similar trips in the past? If so, what did you enjoy about them?
Lynn: I was amazed at the willingness of the bears to "just be bears" in the presence of people. They would walk around, swim, and eat—just about oblivious to the fact that we were watching them. The fact that people could go to this same area and kill the bears is disturbing. These bears do not run when they see humans. These bears would be of no hunting "challenge." It would be as easy to kill a domestic dog as it would one of these bears. They are just there, accessible and available. They should be enjoyed and appreciated, not shot and destroyed in an instant.
HSI: What can you do once you return home to help keep the focus on this issue?
Lynn: I hope my photography and stories of the gentleness of the bears will help to change the hearts and minds of people. I am also personally working to put up signs in my area to stop poaching of bears for the Asian market [for their gallbladders and other parts used in traditional Chinese medicine].
HSI: Any message you would like to relate here for others interested in this issue?
Lynn: Bears are willing to live beside humans if we let them. Many communities (Whistler, BC and Churchill, MB for example) have shown that people and bears can "share" habitat if humans are wise to the bears, being careful not to leave food and scaring the bears off when they come to close to populated areas. I think to paint the bear as a scary enemy needing to be destroyed and hunted is a lie. I think bears, unless desperate or in fear are docile creatures, just wanting a safe place to live, eat and raise young. I think we need more education on the reality of living with bears.
Lynn has promised to share stories and photos of her trip with HSI Canada upon her return.