Gabby Wagner (aka Gabby Wild) has walked an extraordinary path to get where she is today. Currently a veterinary student at Cornell University in New York State, in her spare time she works hard to promote welfare and protection for animals both in the clinic and the field. But her story had a sad beginning.
A few years ago she spent time in Thailand nursing a baby elephant called “Khun Chai” that had been stolen from his mother. After she returned to Cornell to resume her studies, his health deteriorated and he passed away. Gabby realised that if the baby elephant had not been taken from the wild, he would still be alive today, and this tragedy inspired her to become an animal activist for the rest of her life.
Now she is the face of her own foundation, and an entrepreneur for sustainable “eco-fashion”. Her most recent campaign is ’12 in 12 for 12’, which aims to highlight twelve different endangered animals for a year through wearing new designs inspired by the animals’ appearances. This idea was so original that it gained Gabby the support of Project Runway, from which eight up-and-coming fashion designers pledged to create one of the outfits. Gabby generously decided to split all the funds raised between four wildlife conservation charities, one of which is the EDGE of Existence.
Animals highlighted for January and February were the Amur leopard and the Bactrian camel, the latter ranking 13 on the EDGE mammals list. The current campaign for March is the purple frog, EDGE amphibian number 4, of which only 135 have ever been seen in the wild. Amelia Brown of Earth Tec has designed the dress using only cutting-edge recycled and sustainable textiles.
Gabby added an eye-catching twist by applying purple Swarovsky crystals to her lips, perhaps a dedication to the frog’s shiny skin (make-up accredited to Meg Ciminera). Other EDGE species in the 2012 line-up include the Red panda, Chinese giant salamander, Ganges river dolphin (designed by Kristen Haskins Simms) Asian elephant, and the Rondo dwarf galago (designed by Kara Saun).
Gabby has high hopes for the campaign: she wants to raise over $10,000 for each animal, from sponsorship, merchandising and auctioning the outfits. She has already had a substantial amount of media coverage, including a feature at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, and at the end of this month she will be showcasing all twelve outfits at the Fashion Fights Poverty Dress Responsibly Gala in Virginia. In April she is also going to pick up the ‘Hero of the Revolution’ award during Sustainotopia, an environmental conference in Miami, Florida. She even has her own internet shop selling t-shirts, bags and silk scarves to raise more money for endangered species.
Gabby’s work shows that education is the key to conservation, otherwise we do not know which animals are disappearing and why. In the last few decades, more and more new species are becoming known to science, so there is strong reason to believe that many more undiscovered ones are slipping towards extinction in the background. EDGE is the only organisation that is focussed solely on conservation action for these more unusual and distinctive ‘one-of-a-kind’ creatures.
See you soon!