Australia Zoo Journal-PART 1-
-PART 2--PART 3--PART 4--PART 5--PART 6--PART 7--PART 8--PART 9--PART 10-Australia Zoo Journal - Part 2
In October 2009, my final year of study at university, I was busy with my studies and developing the foundations for my undergraduate thesis. However, during that time my exploration of my usual online haunts gave me the opportunity to find out about a contest being held by the Australia Zoo. I am usually skeptical to invest time and energy in any contest, particularly during times of scarce free time. However, the nature of the contest intrigued me.
The Australia Zoo, under the promotion of its November 14th "Steve Irwin Day" events, was offering the opportunity for fans of Steve Irwin to show how they "Khaki It". This entailed uploading a short YouTube video showcasing how one makes a difference for animals or conservation, carrying on the khaki-colored spirit Steve shared with the world. The most popular videos by fan voting would be judged by Australia Zoo matriarch Terri Irwin and the winner would be flown to Australia for a VIP experience of the zoo during the Steve Irwin Day events and a tour of nearby Fraser Island; two other winners would receive travel vouchers to use in conjunction with Australia Zoo's travel company.
To me, the contest was my big chance to visit the Australia Zoo. After all, flights were too expensive and I was recovering from a lengthy stay in Asia during a year abroad program. It seemed too good to be true, but ultimately, with a diverse list of volunteer experience and commitment to conservation, I felt I had a good shot.
I carefully crafted the video to cram as much of my exploits in as I could
. Ultimately, I wouldn't have sufficient time to cover everything, but I tried not to worry about it. The video was uploaded and I began to frantically promote it in various forums. I was fortunate to have amassed an audience on places such as DeviantArt and through my personal contacts on Facebook.
I was both surprised and touched with the response to my video. People not only voted for my video, but they made a strong effort to promote it through their own contacts. It seemed as though people believed in me and truly wanted me to fulfill my dream of visiting the zoo. The level of commitment people, even complete strangers, showed in securing me votes for the contest was astounding, so much so that I began to feel guilty that people would spend more time promoting something selfish on my part rather than so many of the conservation projects I tried to raise awareness about, which often struggled for attention. My own personal ambitions were of infinitesimal importance compared with the cause of protecting the world's wildlife. I still don't understand why people had such a positive response, though I was nonetheless thankful.
By the end of the contest, I had amassed more votes than any other video. Securing my place in the top ten meant that Terri Irwin herself would view and judge my work. However, the confidence I had at the beginning of the contest had slowly evaporated upon seeing the other videos. Many of the other entrants in the contest had done astounding work and it was impossible to tell who Terri would choose. My goal in the contest was always to win. Though second and third place spots came with respectable travel vouchers, I would need to get to Australia to use them and, in my mind, the expense of flying was cost prohibitive. For me, it was all or nothing
I eagerly awaited the notification of the winners and my anticipation was such that when the announcement video was posted
, I was one of the first to see it. Unfortunately, I wouldn't have to wait long to know how I did. Little Robert Irwin, script in hand, announced that "Eric from Canada" was the third place winner.
I watched to see the announcement of the other winners, though I was in somewhat of a haze, a haze that would continue for some time afterward. Most people would be ecstatic to win an $800 travel voucher and a third place title in any contest, though the disappointment of losing a golden opportunity to fulfill my dream of visiting the Australia Zoo was heart-breaking. However, the most painful realization was that my best efforts to make a difference for the causes I've been involved with were deemed not good enough by a person I tremendously respect.
A victory would have brought me out of a long series of disappointments that was conquering my spirit at the time, though instead this personal loss brought me down further. It seemed as though I was a waste of a third place winner. However, there were people who wouldn't let me give up hope, showing me a small glimmer on the horizon.
I was down, but not out...-PART 1-
-PART 2--PART 3--PART 4--PART 5--PART 6--PART 7--PART 8--PART 9--PART 10-