The headlines, taken collectively or individually, can be discouraging at best.


The TreadRight Foundation is working to protect animals and communities around the world by funding dozens of sustainable travel initiatives. (photo courtesy of Kenya Tourism Board)

A baby elephant in India set on fire by local villagers. The Trump administration’s potential repeal of the ban on elephant trophy hunting (on pause for the moment). Massive swaths of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier reef due to rising ocean temperatures. Tourism-inspired protests and backlashes from Venice to Barcelon

By many accounts, we’re at a critical juncture with regard to not only the future of our planet but also the survival of the many animals that exist here.

The travel industry is in a unique position when it comes to its ability to have an impact on such issues. Day after day travel companies, tour operators, cruise lines and hotels bring people to communities around the world that can either be helped or harmed by such visits.

The TreadRight Foundation fully grasps this responsibility and has leaned in to embrace it.

A non-profit supported by The Travel Corporation’s 30 brands—think Uniworld River Cruise Collection; Contiki; Trafalgar; The Red Carnation Hotel Collection and more—the foundation was created to help ensure the environments and communities travelers are visiting remain vibrant for a long time to come.

In pursuit of this mission, TreadRight provides financial support to critical sustainable tourism projects around the world, partnering with such groups as Wilderness Foundation Africa; Wild Aid; Wildlife SOS - India; World Animal Protection and the Sea Turtle Conservancy, among many others.

It’s an effort that was initiated in 2008 by Brett Tollman, the son of Beatrice and Stanley Tollman, founders of The Travel Corporation.

"In my lifetime and in my father's lifetime, we have seen the decimation of wildlife grow and grow," Tollman told TravelPulse. "That's due to a combination of factors. The Asian fascination with rhino horn, for instance, is decimating the rhino. Every year, it's getting worse. The deaths or rhinos are exceeding the births. And it's not just rhino. It's elephants, lions—all of these are terribly endangered—sharks as well. The obsession with shark fin soup in China has had a dramatic impact on the shark population."

Indeed, the plight of rhinos provides one small snapshot of what Tollman's foundation is working to change.

At the beginning of the 20th century, 500,000 rhinos roamed throughout Africa and Asia. Today, very few survive outside national parks and reserves.

In 2016 alone, 1,054 rhinos were killed in South Africa—about three every single day, according to SavetheRhino.org. In addition, poaching gangs have begun moving beyond the borders of South Africa, gaining a foothold in other countries, many of which have fewer resources available to protect wildlife.

As Tollman himself indicated, it's a narrative that could be applied to elephants, gorillas, cheetahs and more.

To date, TreadRight has helped 40 sustainable tourism projects around the world that are working to turn such statistics and heartwrenching declines around.

A recent example of the foundation's work includes its purchase of a Bat Hawk aircraft that's being used by the Wilderness Foundation - Africa for anti-poaching operations and to support wildlife crime countermeasures.

The foundation is also supporting the work of Wildlife SOS - India, an organization focused on the incredibly critical issue of elephant welfare. This includes education of people who are still using the animals for such things as manual labor, performances, entertainment and street begging.

With TreadRight's grant, Wildlife SOS-India is building a permanent enforcement training classroom at its Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura, Uttar. The classroom will be outfitted with AV equipment to train staff about anti-poaching measures, wildlife laws, proper elephant management and more.

These are just a few examples of the foundation's long list of notable efforts.

"Any and every animal we can save is one more animal that has an opportunity to breed and survive," said Tollman, who has always been passionate about treading lightly as a citizen of the planet, including supporting sustainability projects, recycling, wildlife conservation and more.

Part of that drive to address such issues comes from Tollman's parents and their long history of philanthropic work. He also traces it to reading about figures who led the way before him, such as Paul Newman who was famous for donating 100 percent of the profits from Newman's Own to charity.

 

"It's very appropriate for us as a private, family-run business, to do something in a small way to give back and to protect the communities that we bring travelers to," said Tollman. "We are very proud knowing that we are doing something to help reduce poaching by having that Bat Hawk aircraft up in the air."