Why vultures make great Christmas gifts

My wife was all smiles when she saw her new turkey vulture for the first time – an ugly-looking thing named Igor. I think that raptor was one of her favourite Christmas presents that year.

Of course, I didn’t actually bring the vulture home: I “adopted” Igor through a fundraising program at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association (NIWRA), which helps wild animals in distress on Canada’s Vancouver Island. Cash raised through animal adoptions, which rewards donors with a certificate and photo of the creature, help ensure that NIWRA can continue its work.

So every year for the past five years, I’ve stuffed a picture of that grisly bird under the Christmas tree. After all, we couldn’t let the more handsome creatures, like Sandor the Eagle, snag all the adoptions. Igor needs love too.

Adoption programs are among the many tools conservation groups use to lure more donations. Hopefully they’re working. It’s important for trekkers, climbers and anyone else who spends time in the wilderness to give back in some way. But often, it’s not until the holidays hit that we start thinking about making a donation.

If you’re considering giving something more meaningful this year, ponder this list of creative eco-friendly gift ideas:

• Plant a tree or two

Combat deforestation without picking up a shovel. At Grow-Trees.com, contributors can purchase trees online and then select what kind of forest-aiding project they’d like to support. Decide whether your trees will benefit a rural community overseas or help bolster a remote forest that’s struggling. Dedicate the trees to friends and family and they’ll get a certificate.   

• Offset their carbons

Maybe it’s not the most glamorous present – it’s certainly no turkey vulture – but purchasing carbon offsets are a unique eco-friendly gift.  Plenty of vendors offer programs online, but you should do your own research before you cough up the cash. In Canada, environmental superstar David Suzuki has a free guide that offers advice. 

• Adopt a creature

This is probably one of the most popular gifts that helps the environment. For between $20 and $100 per year, you can “adopt” a forest creature or chunk of land. Some organizations reward your contribution with calendars, mugs and stuffed animals cute enough to make you retch.

  • World Wildlife Federation gift centre This group provides a giant online gift store where you sponsor everything from elephants to stingrays. The more you donate the better adoption kit you get.
  • The Nature Conservatory and the Nature Conservatory of Canada Rather than only wildlife, these organizations also offer programs to adopt a coral reef or an acre of wilderness. Their massive gift store includes mugs, calendars and other items.
  • Local wildlife societies
    I like knowing that my donations will help the environment I in live in. Sure, it’s important to contribute to major conservation players as well, but smaller grassroots groups are often strapped for cash and can’t afford the same fancy fundraising initiatives that the WWF uses. That’s part of the reason why I sponsor Igor for my wife each Christmas.

In fact, this year I’m adopting a second creature from NIWRA in honour of my daughter: another turkey vulture, actually. This one’s name is Vladimir.

He’s even uglier than Igor.


About the author

Dustin Walker

Dustin Walker is a journalist, travel copywriter and editor/owner of Slick and Twisted Trails. Follow him on Twitter @dustinjaywalker


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