It’s hard to imagine your biggest fear becoming your strongest passion. Yet, I found that moment when I overcame severe arachnophobia. I was at a point where I could not enter a room without a panicked thought that a spider could be nearby. I had enough of living my life this way. I enlisted the help of my son, Quentin. Together, we purchased a tarantula to care for.
One tarantula turned into two. Two tarantulas turned into dozens. Dozens turned into hundreds. Before we knew it, we were breeding tarantulas, participating in conservation efforts, and spreading the love and education of these animals to thousands on Facebook. Oh, what is a “Pokie?” you might be wondering? It refers to Poecilotheria - my very favorite tarantula genus.
The Biologist: Ranil Nanayakkara
My passion for Pokies began to transcend borders when reading every scientific paper I could find about them led me to Sri Lankan biologist, Ranil Nanayakkara. I nervously decided to make outreach in a bit of a “fan girl” fashion, but was delighted to acquire a new friend and colleague. I learned that Ranil spends most waking hours studying and writing about pretty much any animal in his proximity - arachnids, marine animals, elephants. When he is not doing that, he is working with local villages to educate them to be partners in protecting their native flora and fauna. This work, for example, has directly led to a decrease in the killing of local elephants.
What’s more is that Ranil has also discovered several undescribed species of Pokies and other tarantulas. He needs to research and document these animals, but may never get the chance. The several acres of land these animals call home is set to be completely cleared.
Unless we can help Ranil purchase the land!
The Campaign: Save the Pokies!
I, along with my fellow board members at the Tarantula Keepers Coalition, am raising $14,000 to help Ranil save these animals. We need your help. 100% of your donations will go to accomplish an amazing feat, 15 acres of land will be conserved from clearing. Second, all of the animals on that land no longer have to fear being killed or losing their natural habitat. Third, the new Pokies and other tarantulas can be studied and receive their very own names. Ranil hopes that some day a research facility will be built on the land so that his conservation, research, and education outreach can continue and expand.
I hope you are as intrigued as I am by the opportunity to have your donation dollars transfer directly into a home for endangered animals, and the naming of a newly discovered animal on a planet where so many animals are now gone for good. Pokies saved me from a life of constant worry and panic. Now please help me save the Pokies!