Determination – a noun that kept Toucan Rescue Ranch going throughout 2020. A concept that I used time and time again when the height of the pandemic made everything feel uncertain.
I look back at the beginning months of 2020 and recall the overwhelming realization that the Toucan Rescue Ranch was not going to be the same place that I helped build the past five years…
As the Marketing Manager and Education/Fundraiser Supervisor, I knew that this could very well be the most difficult feat I have faced in my career thus far – and it was my responsibility to help carry this rescue center through its darkest months, ever. Luckily, this wasn’t a burden I had to carry alone. I was surrounded by a group of passionate people who had this overwhelming desire and determination to survive this year alongside me.
However, it was when we closed our gate to visitors, volunteers, and interns in mid-March, that the severity of the pandemic sunk in, and the most challenging decisions followed, such as pay cuts, indeterminately freezing programs, and losing our main source of income: ecotourism.
It was then that I realized how fragile the world is and how something so microscopic could forever change the minds and functionality of the world.
So, when I was asked to use one word that could describe what 2020 meant to me and the Toucan Rescue Ranch – I undoubtedly responded: determination.
It was our purpose, to continue fighting for these animals. To show them, that no matter the circumstances, we were going to show up every single day for them. It is our responsibility to provide them with the best possible care and give them the greatest chance of returning to the wild, where they belong. You see, as servants to animals, you do not have the luxury to work-from-home or cut operations where it could affect the care of the animals you swore to help.
It was simply not an option.
So, what do you do when faced with adversity like a global crisis such as a pandemic, and when nearly 50% of your income is taken away overnight? You fight… and you take your community with you. This is where you come in. Yes, you: the reader, the subscriber, the donor, the supporter, the board member, the wildlife warrior.
When our backs were against the wall, you carried us through. Through determination, we developed virtual tours which will be a lifelong enhancement to our Education Program that has helped us not only become more economically sustainable but also enabled us to reach more people across the globe!
We initiated three successful crowdfunding campaigns: Call for Artists 2020, 5th Annual Sloth Ironman Games, and Giving Tuesday which altogether raised a total of $23,187 to keep us running throughout our closure; as well as partnering with the Cuddly, a crowdfunding platform, to help nurture the animal-specific cases we receive and their needs!
We teamed up with Loop Abroad. Loop Abroad is a student travel organization that began with a singular mission: provide the best hands-on study abroad for students pursuing careers working with animals. Toucan Rescue Ranch started offering interactive online Wildlife Conservation Medicine internships for veterinarian students with our dynamic and knowledgeable vet team!
It was mostly through these innovative campaigns, partnerships, and enhancements to existing programs we were able to survive 2020 and still rescue 180 animals!
Finally, in November, we were able to reopen our gate to visitors once again. Although this reopening was exceptionally soft and with limited capacity, it was a tremendous feeling for all of us to see the light shining at the end of the tunnel.
As I write this, I know that we are still far from experiencing normalcy again. Toucan Rescue Ranch is very much still operating under its contingency plan to ensure we can survive whatever 2021 might throw at us. But even considering we are still navigating this new life during this crisis, 2020 taught us to never give up. It also showed me the power of putting all of your heart into something, and with that, nothing can stop it from beating – my heart was Toucan Rescue Ranch, and I am grateful that the life that is this mission and all the life that it continues to bring into the world – will continue, for hopefully many more years to come.
Written by Zara Palmer, Marketing Manager & Fundraising/Education Supervisor