In August 2014, the Associated Press reported an alarming and heartbreaking statistic: In just two years (2010-2012), an estimated 100,000 elephants were victims of poaching. Likewise, big cat populations have plummeted in the last 75 years. Cheetahs have disappeared from 75 percent of their range, more tigers live in captivity than in the wild and lion populations have been decimated by 90 percent.*
My name is Bobby Myers. I’m a server at the Olive Garden, an aspiring artist (writer, visual and performance) and a conservationist. I am passionate about helping some of our planet’s most endangered species.
My love for our cohabitants runs deep. As a child, I was inspired by the imagination found in works like Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and in movies like Dumbo (1941) and The Lion King (1994). I lived for Looney Tunes (Inki and the Minah Bird, 1943, is my favorite episode), I loved learning from programs like PBS’ Nature (1982) and Discovery’s Wild Discovery (1995), and I wrote papers about the research and stories of renowned primatologists Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall.
Since those formative years, my concern has grown, but so too has my passion and my voice. In 2011, while watching Deadly 60 on Nat Geo Wild, I discovered Cause an Uproar, National Geographic’s big cats initiative. That summer, through the IMAX documentary Born to Be Wild, I was introduced to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a Kenyan-based elephant and rhinoceros orphanage. I’ve become a proud proponent of both.
My support of these organizations began in the form of modest and occasional donations, but I felt I could do more. Then I had an idea, to use my birthday as a fundraiser.
In 2013, in lieu of gifts or cards, I asked my friends and family to make donations for wildlife conservation. During this time, my friend Kacie Bauman donated to – and I learned of – the Wildlife Conservation Network (and indirectly, Save the Elephants). In addition to their donations, I pledged the earnings from my birthday (August 12) to these causes.
This year, I wanted to replicate that success, but I wanted to create more of an impact – to outraise last year. On Sunday, August 10 (World Lion Day), I donated fifty percent of my earnings from the Olive Garden in memory of my grandmother. I then donated one hundred percent of the earnings from my next shift (in honor of World Elephant Day), and again, I asked friends and family to support these causes.
The additional funds allowed me to foster a beautiful elephant orphan named Rorogoi for one year. Rescued by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in 2012, Rorogoi, under the guidance of the staff, will be raised in a protected community of elephants and prepared for and reintroduced to the wild.
My hopes for the cohabitants of our planet extend beyond birthday fundraisers, though. It is my goal to become synonymous with efforts to save endangered species. Recently, a number of coworkers told me they think of me when they see elephants on clothes, at the zoo or in the media, and my five-year-old nephew even said he wants to make a $5 donation so elephants don’t go “exskunkt.”
Beyond supporting these organizations, I would like to raise further awareness to the plight of elephants and other endangered species. I’m in the process of completing illustrations for The Story of Piph, my first children’s book. It is my dream that one day my children’s books are adapted into far-reaching motion pictures that inspire new generations of conservationists and imaginative engineers.
My Olive Garden team has been encouraging as I pursue these dreams. Especially my co-worker Andrea Carosello and my manager Emily Meyer, both of whom have been extremely supportive. By working part-time at Olive Garden, I am able to support myself and dedicate time to my family and creative endeavors.
To learn more or to get involved, visit: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Cause an Uproar or Save the Elephants.
To follow me and the progress of my conservation efforts or creative endeavors, visit my site.
By: Bobby Myers, Server, Olive Garden
100,000 elephants killed in Africa, study finds
Cause an Uproar