| WOMEN IN THE WILD

Christina Ward

| Areas of Expertise

Conservation

| Born

Atlanta, Georgia

| Currently

Atlanta, Georgia

| Favorite Quote

Let me learn from where I have been; keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn.

Mumford

| Job Title

Founder of SavetheGiants.Org, a community driven giant otter conservation initiative out of Guyana, South America and ColorsforConservation.com, an online art business directly supporting giant otter conservation.; Member of the IUCN Otter Specialist Group and board member of two, 501c3 organizations: Creature Conserve and Global Conservation Corps (Rhino Man).

| Degree

BS in Natural Resource Management from the University of Georgia

| Biography

As an artist and avid animal lover and conservationist with a background in animal management and wildlife rehabilitation, Christina has worked in the animal care field for over a decade, all the while creating artwork in her spare time as a way to express her love of the natural world. Of all her career experiences in the animal care field, working as a swing keeper in the mammals’ department at Zoo Atlanta proved to be the most influential. As a swing keeper, Christina was afforded the opportunity to work with a wide range of species, including some of the earth’s most impressive megafauna! Although each and every one of the animals under Christina’s care inspired her involvement in various conservation initiatives, the two giant otters obtained by the zoo in 2015 stole her heart and changed the course of her life forever. In 2016, Christina traveled to Guyana, South America to begin her career in giant otter research and conservation work. Inspired by her experiences in the field, Christina left the zoo world and has since founded two businesses: Colors for Conservation, and her non-profit, Save The Giants.  Both organizations utilize Christina’s original artwork to create merchandise that raises awareness and funding for conservation initiatives and assist non-profits seeking help with branding and product development.  After traveling to Guyana in 2017, Christina launched the 501c3, Save the Giants to continue to expand upon her existing giant otter conservation work in the field. As a board member of two influential non-profits: Creature Conserve and Global Conservation Corps (Rhino Man) and a member of the IUCN Otter Specialist Group, Christina is looking forward to working with experts in the field to develop a country wide conservation ranger program in Guyana and promoting giant otter conservation on a global scale…so stay tuned! 

| Tracking otter movements.

| Traveling art shows are one of my favorite ways to spread the conservation message!

| Original Pangolin Design: a shop favorite!

| Original “cloudie” painting on a messenger bag.

| Challenges

Negativity and pessimism have always been the dark clouds threatening to rain down on my conservation crusades.  Ambition and passion can often times be misconstrued as naivety and overzealousness and elicit negative reactions from others who can’t quite handle what you are bringing to the table.   Respect the difference of opinions from others, but never sacrifice who you are and never suppress your inner alpha female!

| Emotional Story

During my 2016 otter research trip in Guyana, I visited two wildlife trade export facilities.  While the wildlife trade in Guyana is legal to an extent, it was clear that these facilities were operating way outside of their legal boundaries.  1,000’s of wild animals – primates, sloths, bush dogs, jaguars, macaws, toucans, tapirs, giant otters – all crammed into tiny cages, fed improper diets and forced to live in their own feces.  There was a giant otter pup, maybe 4 months old, who’s coat was mottled due to lack of water and grooming.  I took a short video of the pup and watch it every  day to keep me focused on my mission: putting an end to the wildlife trade.

| Conservation Tip

Envision yourself as a walking, talking billboard for the earth.  Really put yourself out there and be a visible presence in your community. Talk to people in the store, on the street; keep a flyer or card with you to hand out every chance you get.  When you leave a tip at a restaurant, write your waiter/waitress a note encouraging them to take action.  For example, I always bring stickers with me that I can leave for wait staff with a little note on the back that suggests not handing out straws unless a customer asks for one – a simple act and a true win for the oceans!  I also like to create clothes and accessories that make bold statements in regards to animal welfare issues.   I call these “wearable advocacy” pieces and I never leave the house without at least one on.  They make for fantastic conversation starters and I am convinced that my pangolin pieces are responsible for introducing the metro Atlanta area to these wonderful little creatures.

| Advice

Look outside the box – for conservation to be successful, we HAVE to get creative and come up with new ideas to engage and educate; so be original; get a little crazy and embrace your inner black sheep! Broaden your horizons – make it a point to learn something new every day that will enhance your understanding of different cultures and their views towards conservation.  Practice Empathy – don’t ever become so caught up in your pursuits that you forget to stop and spread some love.  Your compassion will draw people in and make them want to be a part of what you are doing.  After all, conservation is a one health issue and we are all in this together!  

| If You Could Be Any Animal, What Would You Be?

Giant otter, because being giant is cool! Giants are loud; the most vocal of all the mustelids in fact. With 9 different vocalizations, giant otters are extremely capable of expressing exactly how they feel…THIS is a winning attribute in my book! Giants are also extremely social and develop strong family bonds. They travel in groups; fishing, grooming, resting and playing together (real team players).  Known as “wolves of the river,” giants are masters of their environment and rule the river ecosystems of South America.  With their intricate highway systems overland and quick escape routes strategically planned all along the river, giants are reminiscent of aquatic Houdini ninjas; leaving their human observers scratching their heads in confusion. As I see it, I think the real question is: if you could be any animal, why would you be anything other than a giant otter!?

| Contact

Links: For more information on Giant Sea Otters and how you can help: SavetheGiants.Org  And the online shop: ColorsforConservation.com,
Social: @Colors4Conservation –  #SaveTheGiantOtter – on Instagram Etsy Shop: “Colors for a Cause”