Meet Kip Peterson, who is our Director of Engagement and Advocacy. He joined Wildlife SOS five years ago and has been an invaluable member of our team ever since. Prior to working on helping India’s wildlife he was focused on saving homeless animals. He has a gift for making everything look easy, has an uncanny ability to remain calm in stressful environments and his good natured attitude puts people at ease. These skills are very much utilized in his role of organizing large scale events where there are multiple moving parts and a lot of different people to coordinate with. He contributes so much to the organization and we thought you would enjoy getting to know him a little more with this interview.
Before you took this position, you had never visited India before. Now you say it is one of your favorite places to be. What do you love about this country and what has been your biggest surprise since you’ve started traveling there?
It would be impossible to list everything! Mostly, I love the work that Wildlife SOS does and have developed deep friendships with my colleagues in India. The dedication and care they have for the animals is inspiring. It can be hard working so far away from the animals, so being able to visit every year to meet the new residents of the sanctuary, see first-hand all the progress we’ve made, and rekindle my friendships, is all something I really look forward to. The entire country is a magical place and Wildlife SOS is at the heart of my relationship to it.
Do you have a favorite Wildlife SOS rescue story?
I find myself fascinated by our snake rescue stories. I know snakes can make most people cringe or run away in fear but I have the utmost respect for our wildlife hotline first responders who put themselves in extreme danger to rescue even something so menacing (to many people) as a spectacled cobra, a highly venomous snake. These reptiles are still treated with respect and care and deserving of rescue and if needed, rehabilitation. Yes, our literal, larger-than-life, rescue stories of elephants are important but I find even the smaller creatures we rescue to be equally fascinating.
You’ve organized several events for Wildlife SOS, what do you like about planning fundraisers?
I’m interested in creating a unique events that are fun, educational, and that inspire people to get more involved in our work. I like how all the little pieces come together to create an impactful experience for our guests. But ultimately, it is the guests who make an event truly great and I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people and finding out their interests and what brought them to Wildlife SOS.
You’ve also organized trips where people travel through India visiting the Wildlife SOS facilities and wildlife national parks, what is that like to lead a group through India?
I can say that I’m probably just as excited as our guests to be a part of this adventure. I’m incredibly grateful to be able to give our supporters a behind-the-scenes look at the work of Wildlife SOS. It’s a dream come true. I’m always excited to meet new people and because we are all so inspired by Wildlife SOS, to lead a tour with so many like-minded people has been incredibly enjoyable. I’m fascinated to hear how everyone has heard about Wildlife SOS and what prompted them to travel so far to see the work first-hand. I’m extremely proud of what we do, and to share this with our guests brings immense satisfaction.
I’ve made a lifetime of memories and friendships already. My only hope is that our guests walk away from these excursions with a positive impression of the country of India and a greater interest and respect for our work at Wildlife SOS.
Which is your favorite elephant and why?
Oh there are so many! How to choose?! Each one has a special place in my heart.
However, I will say that every time I am near the magnificent tusker Suraj, it’s truly a magical experience. No other elephant has made me feel so small and insignificant, yet surround me with a unique peace that I’ve not experienced anywhere else.
You feel as though you are in the presence of something holy, something very sacred.
He’s a sight to behold. He’s intelligent and gentle. He moves with this amazing rhythm, covering immense distances with each step, and despite his massive size, is utterly silent as he walks. My words don’t do it justice but any day I’m around Suraj time seems to stand still. I get goosebumps just thinking about him.
It’s hard to imagine the pain he endured before Wildlife SOS rescued him. He was so badly abused that he was left with only one ear. It’s easy to speculate that the ankus (or bullhook) had a role to play as captive elephants are often “lead” by the pulling, prodding, and ultimately, tearing on the ears from this brutal instrument. What suffering he must have endured at the hands of humans and after all that, has remained so gentle and forgiving.
Tell us what you like to do when you’re not working?
I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah and have recently located closer to the mountains just a short drive away, where it’s easier to enjoy my outdoor passions like skiing, hiking, and camping. It’s been nice to escape the noise and pollution of Salt Lake. We get to see plenty of wildlife right in our own back yard and the slower pace of life up here has been a welcome change.