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How I Started Working with Animals

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The question I get asked most often is how I got started working with animals.
Well let me just tell you this; it wasn't easy. Many are familiar with the struggle of following their passions in life, because for the majority, passions don't pay. Fortunately I've found an avenue into being paid to do what I love, and if you're interested in my story ...read on.
I grew up in low-income household with little prospect for success. But I remember being fascinated as a child by educational programs on PBS. In the absence of parental education, PBS became my mentor. My favorite show was Nature, which I watched religiously. That's where my love of animals and the natural world began. Though owls, foxes, and cheetahs were my favorite, I learned to respect all of the different species because of the role each one plays in its ecosystem.



In high school, I took up modern dance classes and found dance to be a great outlet for the frustrations of my childhood and living situatio…

My work with the Belize Raptor Center

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Earlier this year I decided to spend a few months in Belize working with rehabilitated raptors at the Belize Raptor Center with bird trainer Aron Smolley. And let me tell you what a HOOT it was!

BRC is a small raptor rehabilitation center and sanctuary in San Ignacio, Belize. It is situated in a semi-forested area outside of town, 25 minutes up and down a very bumpy, hilly dirt road. There are 7 education birds at the center, birds who came in for rehabilitation and who for one reason or another cannot be returned to the wild. These birds serve as ambassadors for their species in educational outreach programs.

Aron moved to Belize in November 2016 to help offer more progressive bird training methods to BRC, and I came to help with rehabilitation and to learn some of these training methods. Bird training is important because it allows for the trainer to build a trusting relationship with the bird, so that the bird willingly participates in educational programs for the public. BRC is i…

Thailand Elephant Sanctuary with Jennie of the Jungle Part 2 - Elephant Nature Park

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November 2015 was my first-ever trip with my new business Jennie of the Jungle, and I chose to take clients to volunteer at Lek Chalert's Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. The Elephant Nature Park is among a few of the only legit conservation organizations/sanctuaries in the country. Many organizations claim to rescue elephants, but in reality they deny them true freedom and natural behavior, the ability to socialize and form family groups, and continue to exploit them and their negatively trained behaviors for profit. As a general rule, if you can ride an elephant, it is still being abused.

Elephants have to have their spirits broken in order to learn behaviors that are unnatural to them, such as riding people around, doing tricks, and yes - even painting. Breaking an elephant's spirit takes years and years of abuse - which, in Thailand and many surrounding countries, involves beating, burning, skinning, starving, and other brutal tactics that we don't like to think abou…