conservation · Nature · volunteering · Wildlife

The Effect Of An Individual – By Torie Hilley

Meet Torie Hilley!!

“Holy crap!” is what most people are thinking these days with all the current environmental news. Either forests are burning down because of the demand for palm oil, or crazy weather is occurring more often because of climate change. But how do we, let alone one person, make a difference in this big world that seems to continue spiraling out of control?

When I started college, like a lot of young people, I was set on being a vet to help as many animals as possible. I quickly realised that the occupation is not only insanely competitive with too much estrogen, grueling hours, and testing your sanity every minute, but also tough for the heart. My family and I rescued a lot of dogs in the past and still are. Most of the rescues were old that the previous owners got rid of and thought it’s okay to avoid the obvious health issues that comes with age. Of course, we felt sorry for these dogs and wanted to give them a good life for their last years. We spent a lot of money and tears trying to help them. I personally saw the unglamorous side what vets have to go through with these animals and I came to realise that I couldn’t have that life in my hands. If that animal didn’t make it on my surgical table, I would never forgive myself. So here I was in Animal Science (like Lorna!) still wondering what I could do to still help animals, but maybe in a broader sense. One day in class, a very excited student came in and told us about her volunteering experience in a third world country with endangered species. It dawned on me “this is it”, and that day onward has redirected my career to what I am today.

38887_1471833229749_4059932_nNot everyone who wants to help in conservation has to have a fancy degree in order to make a difference. Volunteers help tremendously for organisations trying to preserve endangered species. More hands and bodies all working together to make that impact can push that project forward. I first volunteered in Costa Rica with the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle project where we assessed nests, counted how many eggs were laid, as well as tagging the turtles. It was here that I knew I wanted to go into conservation, mainly because I was devastated when we went back to those nests in the morning only to see them dug up and the eggs nowhere to be seen. They were poached – by the villagers nearby where the researcher’s families lived. It almost seemed redundant what the research team were trying to accomplish only to have their relatives undo the little progress they made.


For me, I knew I wanted to dedicate my career to conservation by studying the broad field so I may better conserve any species that needed help. I ended up interning in Zimbabwe (where I met Lorna!) and fell in love with the country. I went back the next year as a research student to study the captive lions there and to better enhance their welfare with behaviour enrichment.

IMG_2380 - iOnce I finished my BS in Animal Science with minors in Biology, Equine Science, and Studio Art, I was fortunate enough to be offered a job at that same organisation I interned a couple of years previous. I spent two years as a researcher, particularly on lions and elephants, for the organisation in Zimbabwe and Zambia. As of now, I am about to peruse my MRes in Animal Behaviour. But if that sounds too much, to dedicate your life to conservation, spreading awareness is the next best thing.

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In the current news, a lot is going on with climate change, green energy, and conservation. It’s a pretty hot topic these days and it needs to stay that way until we really start making a change.

Not all conservationists are scientists. A lot are photographers, artists, journalists, or bloggers to name a few. When I’m in the field, I take photos of the animals that I encounter not only to remember that moment but also to use those photos in the future to spread awareness, just like the photographers in Nat Geo! They don’t have to be the only ones who do this! When I’m not in the field collecting data, and back in California, I paint from those photos I took. I sell both to the public for spreading awareness. Anyone can spread awareness – and the more who do and take action, the better the outcome and the results can be.


I close with this: If you are passionate about our world, animals, and the environment, taking one little step or making one little change for the better can be contagious. Whether you make music, poetry, art, pictures, or blogs, you will touch a stranger and that will push them to join the movement. We only have one planet, and we need to do our part to help it, however small the action may be.

Thanks Lorna for inviting me on your blog!


One of Torie’s incredible photos of the research pride in Zambia



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