Christina Ward : Project Coordinator
Christina Ward is an artist and life-long animal conservationist. With a background in animal management and wildlife rehabilitation, Christina has worked in the animal care field for over a decade while creating artwork to express her love of the natural world.
Her work in this field began in 2007 when she accepted an offer to oversee the development of Hampton Island Organic Farm and Wildlife Center, located on a pristine island off the southern coast of Georgia and focusing on the care of endangered species in the area including indigo snakes, gopher tortoises, and diamondback terrapins. Christina continued her work in wildlife rehabilitation from 2008–2011 while serving as the head of animal care at Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, GA, where she oversaw the wildlife rehabilitation and education programs.
In 2012, Christina assumed a position as a swing keeper in the mammal department at Zoo Atlanta, where she worked with a range of animals including giant pandas, elephants, rhinos, and tigers. Although each and every one of the animals under Christina’s care inspired her involvement in various conservation initiatives, the two giant otters obtained by the zoo in 2015 changed the course of her life. In early 2016, she collaborated with Dr. Lucy Spelman on a giant otter population survey, conducted from the Karanambu Lodge on the Rupununi River, Guyana. Energized by this experience and with the hope of raising money to contribute to the continuing otter conservation work in Guyana, she started her own business: Colors for Conservation. The proceeds from its sale of original artwork and merchandise go to support conservation-based organizations with a mission to spread awareness about animal conservation. In early 2017, she returned to Guyana to lead the second otter population survey, sponsored by Creature Conserve, a non-profit organization that brings artists and scientists together to foster informed and sustained animal conservation.
She now serves on the Creature Conserve board and returned to Guyana in the late spring of 2017 to evaluate the status of the giant otter monitoring survey and make plans for the future of this program. With the hopes of expanding the current giant otter survey across a broader and more comprehensive study range and encouraging greater participation among local communities, Christina launched the “Save the Giants” initiative.
Christina has a B.S. in Natural Resource Management from the University of Georgia and was recognized by the State of Georgia as a registered wildlife rehabilitator from 2008 to 2010.
Kenneth Butler: Field Manager
Kenneth is a Guyana native with roots in two native Amerindian tribes: the Arawak and the Makushi. He resides with his family in Surama Village, located in the North Rupununi Region of Guyana. Kenneth’s career in Ecotourism allows him to share his love with the natural world and educate others on the importance of preserving Guyana’s precious natural resources. As the founder of Green Diamond Nature Tours, Kenneth utilizes his abundant knowledge on the creatures and plants of the interior to provide his guests with engaging forest and river experiences. Kenneth’s adventurous spirit, along with his warm, witty demeanor and compassion for wildlife make him one of Guyana’s most admired field guides.
In 2016, Kenneth joined the Creature Conserve team and began conducting monthly otter surveys along the Rupununi. His expertise in river navigation, camera trap placement, giant otter behavior, along with his esteemed reputation among the local communities make Kenneth an indispensable member of the “Save the Giants” initiative.
“I’ve learned that there is no better feeling when you can just step out your door and see the beauty of the planet and all that it has to offer us.”
Green Diamond Nature Tour’s Vision is to bring the vibrancy of indigenous cultures together to develop, preserve and share its vast knowledge about Guyana’s natural resources, expressed in the way of traditional values.
OSWIN AMBROSE: Field Researcher
Oswing, “Oz,” a Macushi Amerindians native of Yupakari Village, serves as Save the Giant’s head field researcher. Growing up in Yupakari, a land sandwiched between the Kanuku and Pakaraima mountain ranges, in the midst of the Essequibo and Amazon basins, Oswin was immersed in the all of the rich biodiversity that Guyana has to offer. From a young age, Oz enjoyed spending time on the river, bird watching and of course, looking for giant otters. As an experienced naturalist and boat captain, Oz has an uncanny ability to locate and identify the many species of birds, amphibians and mammals that inhabit this region…especially giant otters! Oswin, with his expertise in the field, his giant otter locating “6th sense” and his winsome sense of humor, which is guaranteed to lift spirits, is an invaluable part of the Save the Giants team. When Oz is not leading guided tours or tracking otters, he enjoys drawing, playing football and assisting his sister in her work as a nurse at the local Lethem Hospital.
Project Development and Support
It takes an army of dedicated people to make a conservation initiative of this magnitude come to life. Save the Giants is grateful to all of the team members who are working on promoting this project! Let’s meet some of them!
Bridgette San Marco: Conservation Field Biologist; Community Outreach and Education
Bridgette is a biologist, behavioralist, conservationist and giant otter enthusiast, who has worked with a wide range of different taxa in zoological facilities for over fifteen years. When she was given the opportunity to care for giant otters, she fell in love with the species. Dedicated to help conserve wild giant otters and their habitats, Bridgette developed a program to help raise funds for giant otter conservation at her zoological facility, Moody Gardens, which provided an opportunity to help spread awareness about current threats to giant otters and encourage others to become equally passionate and do their part to save species worldwide. While attending an annual Otter Keeper’s Workshop, a colleague suggested that Bridgette get in touch with Christina Ward, seeing that they had the same life goal of saving giant otters and were both working on similar projects. Bridgette is thrilled to be part of such a great group of passionate people all working to conserve, protect, and educate others about these amazing animals. Bridgette’s efforts have raised enough financial support to fund multiple giant otter surveys! Bridgette has a B.S. in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology.
Katie Rose Buckley-Jones: Community Outreach and Education, Donor relations and Sponsorship
Katie Buckley-Jones has worked as a professional animal caretaker for the last eight years in various AZA zoos across the country. Originally from Washington state, she currently resides in Houston, TX where she works at a zoological facility, serves on the board of Bears, Etc., a newly emerging bear rehabilitation center and sanctuary, and assists with local conservation organizations. Working mainly with carnivores, some of her favorite species include otters and jaguars so it was only fitting she joined the Save the Giants team. She is incredibly passionate about linking keeper work with community based conservation initiatives and she is excited to bring her enthusiasm and passion to the project. In October, Katie will be hosting a Save the Giants fundraiser, which will bring keepers together to dabble in the arts while raising funds for the project. Katie is looking forward to traveling to Guyana in 2018 to assist in the annual giant otter survey!