March 13, 2012

Peer Review: Vet Student Gabby Wagner ’11 Campaigns to Save Endangered Animals

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Under her pseudonym “Gabby Wild,” vet school student Gabby Wagner ’11 combines animal activism with fashion to help save threatened animals as a part of her “12 in 12 for 12” campaign. “It’s called ‘12 in 12 for 12’ because I’m wearing twelve outfits in twelve months for twelve threatened animals,” she said. The twelve originally designed outfits are inspired by different endangered animals from all around the world.  “Each animal is either phenotypically, genotypically, geographically, or evolutionarily distinct, and I picked them based off of that. I wanted a variety of animals. I wish I could have had a shark in there or a coral, but I wanted to choose animals that the public could relate to,” Wagner said.  Seven of the twelve species are critically endangered, and four of them have less than 200 individuals left living in the wild.

Wagner started off her campaign in January with the Amur leopard, a critically endangered big cat from Far East Russia.  According to Wagner, there are only 35-50 left of this blue eyed, thick-coated leopard subspecies left in the wild. Althea Harper, the season six finalist of “Project Runway”, designed the leopard spotted dress that Wagner wore that month.The animal for February was the Bactrian camel, which is found in China and Mongolia.  This camel is resistant to nuclear radiation according to research conducted on a population found in China’s Lop Nur Desert, a nuclear weapons testing site. Cornell designers Laura Zwanziger’15 and Max Gengos’12 created the three-piece neutral sportswear outfit for Wagner. This month Wagner chose to highlight the Purple Frog, one of the oldest living species of frog this amphibian is considered to be 130 million years old.  Currently there are only 135 Purple Frogs discovered so far, of which only three are female. This month, Wagner is wearing a royal purple dress and a matching fleece designed and produced by EARTHTEC® which creates its clothing from recycled materials.The April animal, the Ganges River dolphin is functionally blind. One of four species of freshwater dolphins, it is found in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It is also the National Aquatic Animal of India. For this month, Wagner will wear a flowing one-sleeved dress reminiscent of a river designed by Kristin Haskins Simms, a participant on “Project Runway,” season eight.May is the month of the Blue Morpho butterfly. These butterflies are able to see one another from very far away because their eyes can sense UV light. Although this animal is not endangered, its habitat is, and the campaign is trying to preserve the butterflies’ migratory path through Belize. Seth Aaron Henderson, winner of season seven of “Project Runway” created a long blue dress based on the butterfly’s iridescent wings for Wagner to wear.June highlights the Red panda which is native to China. These tree climbing mammals, eat thousands of leaves of bamboo everyday, and are unique because, unlike most animals, they have a thumb. The Red panda’s dress was designed by Andy South, a finalist on “Project Runway,” season eight; it incorporates a striped scarf that looks like the animal’s tail.July’s animal, the Chinese Giant salamander, is considered a living fossil. The world’s largest living species of amphibian, the salamander has lungs, but breaths most efficiently through its skin. A patterned coral gown, designed by one of the pioneers of eco-friendly fashion, Luis Valenzuela, imitates the smooth skin of the salamander.The animal for August is the Rondo Dwarf galago. This animal from Tanzania is one of the top 25 most endangered primates in the world. As a nocturnal animal, it sleeps in nests during the daytime. For this month, Wagner will be wearing a silk pleated sundress created by Kara Saun, a finalist on season one of “Project Runway.”The Asian elephant, the animal for September, can live for up to 70 years. The largest land animal in Asia,  females live in social groups while males usually travel alone. Mila Hermanovski, a finalist on season seven of “Project Runway,” constructed an elephant grey sportswear outfit for the elephant.October is the month of the Kakapo parrot. The heaviest parrot in the world, and the only nocturnal one, these New Zealand natives are unable to fly. The first season winner of “Project Runway,” Jay McCarroll, designed a short fringed dress in the color of the parrot’s colorful plumage.November’s animal, the Sumatran tiger, is the smallest subspecies of tiger. These tigers have predator spots, also known as eye spots, on their ears so that animals approaching from behind will be scared away thinking the tiger is larger than it is. This month, Wagner will wear a striped ball gown, also designed by January’s designer, Althea Harper.Finishing out the year is December’s animal the Red wolf. This canine from North America almost went extinct in back in the 1970s and 80s when there were only 14 left in captivity, but were successfully bred and became the first carnivore to be re-released into the wild. A three-piece look composed of reds and browns designed by Gordana Gehlhausen, a member of season six on “Project Runway” will Wagner’s final look for the year.All of the designers have given their outfits to the Gabby Wild Foundation Inc. as donations to save the highlighted animals from extinction said Wagner. “I just reached out to them and they were so intrigued by the campaign. Each and every one of them is a huge animal lover, and they said that they would love to help,” said Wagner. Her goal is to raise $10,000 each month and the the donations from her campaign go to supporting four wild life foundations; the Ya’axché Conservation Trust in Belize, Kakapo Recovery in New Zealand, The Red Wolf Coalition in the U.S. and the Zoological Society of London. At the end of the campaign each dress will be put up for auction and the money donated to her charity organizations.“The reason why people should care about the animals, other than the fact they want to give back to the planet and save another species, is due to the fact that one animal can completely change an ecosystem. Once that ecosystem is changed, usually for the worse, it can, and most likely will, affect us,” Wagner said.

Original Author: Sarah Cohen