Fourteen conservationists known as “Green Girls” will step off a plane in Tanzania, Africa, at the same time most Americans will push back from the Thanksgiving table.
Two days later, the outdoor enthusiasts will ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, to bring attention to the plight of the African Black Rhino and raise money for nearby Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary.
Although theoretically protected by international law, rhinos are still heavily and illegally poached for their horns, the trade of which is extremely lucrative on the global black market.
“This is why we climb,” says Green Girl Vanessa Meier in a fundraising video on YouTube.
The conservationists are scheduled to reach the summit of 19,336-ft. Kilimanjaro on Nov. 30. Their trek will fund two sanctuary programs – the first is an educational program at the sanctuary that teaches African schoolchildren and university students the value of animal and environmental conservation.
The Green Girls, who include actress Mariel Hemingway and seventh grader Taylor Justice of the Volunteer Aspen Ski Patrol, are also raising money for a fence replacement project at the sanctuary.
“There’s been a massive increase in poaching within sanctuaries, and the rhinos need the protection that these alarmed fences provide,” Meier says. “The replacement of the fence might not sound like an exciting project, but it is essential to the security of the black rhino and to the success of Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary.
The climb was organized by genConnect contributor Ginna Kelly, host of the “Green Girl Minute” and co-founder of Climb for Conservation. The charity combines mountain climbing with conservation fundraising.
Here’s a Q&A between Kelly and genConnect about the climb:
1.) How did the status of the black rhino get onto your radar?
I learned about the status of the critically endangered African Black Rhino through a friend in Aspen, Eli Weiss, who runs Wildlize, another conservation non-profit. I started doing my own research and realized that the Rhino receives much less attention that the tigers, lions, and elephants. I wanted to focus on the Rhino to raise worldwide awareness. These pre-historic creatures have roamed the Earth for over 50 million years – homo sapiens only a comparable 200,000 years – therefore, we should respect them. In just 13 years, rhinos may be extinct in the wild.
2.) How long have you been planning the trek?
It has always been my dream to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro. Three years ago, it originally started as a personal goal to climb the mountain and face my fears. Once I started planning the trip, I realized I wanted to do it more than just a selfish pursuit – I wanted to reach the summit for a cause I truly believed in. I started putting together this team of amazing, dynamic eco-women about two years ago and it has grown into a truly inspiring combination of women from around the country. All these women want to make a difference in the world and save endangered species, just like me.
3.) How do you train for it? Are you an experienced climber?
I am an avid hiker and snowboarder. I have hiked many of Colorado’s 14,000 peaks. To train for this trek, I simply hiked as much as possible in Colorado. For over a year, I’ve hiked Aspen Mountain, Smuggler Mountain, and the Ute Trail at least 6 days a week. I was also very fortunate to have Aspen Crossfit sponsor our climb – and they helped me build strength training.
4.) Can you tell me a little bit about the mother-daughter teams on the trek?
We have an amazing team of mother-daughters! We have three mother-daughter teams: Julienne Stroeve & Indea Rogers, Whitney Justice & Taylor Justice, and Nancy Paley & Julia Paley. Taylor Justice is a 12-year old young girl who is going to change the world one day.
5.) How much money have you raised to date? What is your goal?
We are still raising money until the day the hike is over on December 2, 2012!
The other Green Girl climbers are research scientist Julienne Stroeve of the National Snow and Ice Data Center; Sprout Events CEO Margot Moselle; Tara Sheahan, founder of Conscious Global Leadership; artist and gallery owner Olivia Daane Reische; TV producer and travel writer Cathy Cooper; Fallon Swann Feast, fourth generation farmer, director and producer; Whitney Justice, builder, skier, hiker and adventurer; Leah Hunter of Idea Couture and M/I/S/C Magazine; Nancy Paley, Aspen community activist and world traveler; Julia Paley, Colorado College student; aesthetician and outdoor enthusiast Bernadette Regan; former Miss Rhode Island Allison Rogers; and high-school student Indea Rogers.
Each of the 14 Green Girl climbers has been busy raising funds in addition to paying their own climbing and travel expenses. Seventy-five percent of the net public donation proceeds will be donated to the rhino sanctuary and the remaining 25 percent of net public donation proceeds will be kept in reserve for the funding of future Climb for Conservation projects.
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