By Paula Musto
Do you have a wildlife-lover in your life? Holiday gift giving presents an excellent opportunity to support wildlife and give friends and loved ones thoughtful gifts that help ensure the future of wild animals. Here is a collection of ideas for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
Think locally and look into offerings from organizations like Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. Perhaps someone on your gift list would like to symbolically adopt an animal: a furry beaver, a fuzzy cottontail, a baby fawn or even a crafty fox. A $50 symbolic adoption package includes a plush animal of your choice, a personalized certificate and a photo of a happy critter saved by Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. The Candler-based nonprofit, which cares for rescued and orphaned wildlife, also has a fun selection of t-shirts, caps, totes and mugs on its website.
Annual memberships make for valuable gifts that keep giving all year long. Consider the North Carolina Arboretum where memberships beginning at $25 for students and $50 for individuals include access to more than 65 acres of gardens, hiking and biking trails, and a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits plus educational programs, many of which feature wildlife. Another organization, Defenders of Wildlife, offers memberships beginning at $20 that include its annual calendar with stunning wildlife photos and a subscription to its magazine that offers a behind-the-scenes look at what scientists are doing to protect imperiled wild animals and endangered species. Also, consider national organizations like the well-regarded Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund where memberships support conservation efforts around the globe.
Books always make wonderful holiday gifts and there are so many wildlife books for readers of all ages. One of my favorites is Wild & Furry Animals of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, a beautifully illustrated book by local author Lee James Pantas. If you buy the book online at AppalachianWild.org, a portion of the cost is donated to the organization. The Western North Carolina Nature Center has a large collection of animal books and games for children in its gift shop. A newborn in the family? Babies in the Forest by Ginger Swift is a good board book to introduce even the tiniest human to wildlife. The Nature Center also offers interactive peek-a-boo animal books for toddlers along with other educational gifts.
For adults, check out new releases including Jane Goodall’s inspiring memoir, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, that chronicles her work with chimpanzees. The author offers hope that humans will act to save our planet from environmental destruction. To learn more about the modern conservation movement and endangered species, look for Michelle Nijhuis’ Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction, which chronicles conservationists’ efforts over the last century.
A bird-lover on your list? The Audubon Society’s extensive online gift shop features lovely avian yard art and prints, a selection of binoculars and sturdy backpacks ideal for birdwatching. A quick, simple gift is an Audubon holiday e-card. Just donate and select from a collection of stunning bird photos and write your personal message on a digital card.
Consider a bee house, a bat house or a bird house for nature-loving friends. They will enjoy knowing that their contribution in providing shelters for these creatures helps maintain and build wildlife populations. Local shops, including Wild Birds Unlimited and Compleat Naturalist, carry a variety of shelters along with feeders, nest boxes and lots of guides on how to best attract and manage these animals.
Looking for a big-ticket item for globetrotting friends? The World Wildlife Fund sponsors small-group, eco-friendly tours through Natural Habitat Adventures, an organization that offers sustainable travel excursions committed to protecting nature, wildlife and local communities. Its 2022 travel catalogue offers exotic locales including the Galápagos Islands, the Artic/Antarctica and African wildlife preserves in Botswana, Tanzania and Uganda. Closer to home, you can travel to Yellowstone or go dogsledding in Alaska.
“Big or small, a gift that supports a charitable cause is always a good idea,” says Kerri Conrad, the development director for Appalachian Wild. “During the holidays, many gift-givers divide their budget between presents for loved ones and charitable giving. Purchasing gifts that give back to causes they care about allows gift-givers to stretch their budget and make a difference at the same time.”
Also, remember that purchases through Amazon can be done through its charitable portal, Smile, and money will be donated to a cause of your choice, including local organizations such as Appalachian Wildlife Refuge and Friends of the WNC Nature Center.
Paula Musto is a writer and volunteer for Appalachian Wild, a nonprofit whose mission is to help injured or orphaned wildlife, support WNC’s wildlife rehabilitation network and provide wildlife conservation education. To help save wildlife, donate and learn more, visit AppalachianWild.org.