This nonprofit honors compassionate risk-takers, people who are largely unknown, people who have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good, in the US and around the world.

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BECAUSE TOXINS DON'T STOP AT NATIONAL BORDERS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Mel Visser is a Great Lakes guy—he was born and grew up in the area, went to school there, worked a commercial fishing boat on Lake Superior during his breaks from college, vacationed on and around the Lakes throughout his working years, and then retired nearby. After a long career as a chemical engineer, he could have just gone fishing with old friends. Instead, Visser launched a relentless campaign, investigating chemical pollution and taking his findings to Congressional offices and oversight commissions, to college classrooms and environmental organizations. In the eyes of many of his former colleagues and friends, he’s a renegade and a trouble-maker. He started investigating when he discovered that the concentration of toxic chemicals in Lake Superior was not falling as expected, many long years after the chemicals had been banned from sale and use in the US. Proved dangerous to living beings, the banned list includes PCBs and “persistent organic pollutants” (POPs) but they weren’t banned in other parts of the world. Contrary to scientists’ expectations, Visser found that these toxins can travel through the air. Chemicals used in Russia and throughout Asia and Africa are being detected in the US Great Lakes and farther north. Visser visited the Canadian high Arctic and found that the Inuits who live, hunt and fish there, are at the top of a treacherous food chain. These toxins bio-accumulate up that chain. They’re at low levels in smelt, higher in herring, higher still in trout—the blubber of marine mammals who eat those fish now contains so much chlordane and toxaphene that it can be classified as toxic material. The Inuits hunt and eat all those animals. An analysis of Inuit mothers’ milk has declared it to be toxic, thousands of miles from any industrial sources. The toxins circulate with the weather and settle around the globe. What Visser and others have discovered is that the northern waters are especially hospitable to the most deadly of these chemicals—toxaphene, dioxin, and chlordane. This explains the continued pollution of Lake Superior, now the most toxic of the Great Lakes, and explains as well why the Inuit people have a higher than normal rate of infertility and cancer—their life expectancy has been reduced by 10 years. In his book—Clear, Cold, and Deadly: Unraveling a Toxic Legacy—Visser describes his investigations and his ever-increasing commitment to awakening the public to the dangers of these chemicals. “Medical scientists express surprise,” he said in an interview, “because they think these compounds have been banned. But they haven’t been banned everywhere.” “There are a lot of people who feel good because we’re not the polluters,” Mel Visser has said. “But we’re still eating it.” Thanks for Liking this Giraffe. Now, please Like this whole Page so we can send you more stories.

A CRISIS INTERVENER 24/7 #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Judy Thorslund has taken the Twelfth Step in the Alcoholics Anonymous program to amazing lengths. With some financial backing from a silent partner, she stepped into full-time service and founded a shelter for abused women and their families. Thorslund lived at the shelter herself for almost three years so she could be on call 24 hours a day, intervening personally in domestic fights and bringing the victims to the shelter. Her credibility and effectiveness as a counselor are heightened by the hard knocks she's taken herself and on the wide range of her experiences. She describes herself at one period of her life as an "outlaw;" at another, she was a member of a Christian fundamentalist community talking down-and-out city winos into sobering up. Thorslund went on to be an ever-present advocate for troubled people, regularly participating in a prison-outreach program. She’s available at the drop of a hat to pick up someone who's alone at home and afraid, to file restraining orders against violent spouses, or to sit up all night with someone who's thinking of "taking that first drink" or of committing suicide. Like this Giraffe Hero? Please like this whole Page so we can send you more great stories.

BECAUSE WATER IS LIFE #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Dan and Patricia Shepherd risked their livelihood to speak out about groundwater contamination in the Central Valley of California. The Shepherds weren't interested in politics or environmental issues until their daughter Jenny and other young children in their farming town of Fowler were diagnosed with leukemia. DBCP, a carcinogen that causes reproductive disorders, was found in Fowler's wells. When Dan organized a public information meeting about toxins in the water, the mayor of Fowler called his own meeting, complete with scientists, engineers, and public health officials, who attacked the Shepherds as misguided alarmists. Death threats, ostracism and a boycott of Dan’s barbershop followed; his income dropped by 40%. The family sold their home and moved out of the town where Pat and the kids had spent their whole lives. Three months later, Governor Deukmejian finally signed a cancer registry into law; a registry the Shepherds had lobbied hard to get. It confirmed their worst suspicions—tiny Fowler had had 8 recent cases of cancer. The Health Department deemed it a cancer rate 4 times higher than the norm, while Dan Shepherd calculated it to be 32 times higher. Since then, the Shepherds have become two of the state’s leading anti-toxics activists and their daughter has recovered from leukemia — the only Fowler child who did. In a ceremony at the Los Angeles Zoo, the Shepherds and Giraffe “Sweet Alice” Harris were honored by Lieutenant-Governor Leo McCarthy. Update: Although the Shepherds have moved away, their influence in the Valley continues. There have been hundreds of articles and reports about the poisoning of drinking water by farm chemicals. In 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB685, the “Human Right to Water” bill. The bill declares, “Every human has the right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water, adequate for human consumption, cooking and sanitary purposes.” The bill is one of the first clear victories in acknowledging the amount of water-contamination in California. Thanks for Liking this story. Now please LIKE this whole Page so we can send you more great stories.

Giraffe Heroes International

Comedian and Giraffe Hero Sylvanos Mudzvova just sent this from Zimbabwe (sic): "Sorry for late responses i was recovering after being abducted ,tortued and left for dead by security agents" Mudzvova is just one of many Giraffe Heroes in Zimbabwe who are bravely facing down the thuggish Mugabe government. His comedy routines making fun of Mugabe are really getting under the regime's skin.

Giraffe Heroes/Zimbabwe has honored heroes of the resistance to the current dictatorial regime, and many of them have paid a very high price for their resistance.

A TRAPPER TURNS WILD-LIFE CHAMPION #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut To understand trapper Dick Randall's role reversal, imagine yourself in the body of a young animal—let’s say, a fawn—walking along in the wild. It’s not hunting season and you’re not even big enough to tempt a meat hunter. You should have nothing to fear from humans. But you step into a trap that won't let go of your leg. Now you have several potential futures, all of which are horrible: After a time of great suffering, you may die of heat, starvation, or dehydration. You may get eaten by a predator. You may die of internal injuries. Real deaths like these haunted Dick Randall. He was a professional trapper for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Damage Control program, and he knew that millions upon millions of animals were trapped and killed every year, many of them needlessly. He knew that these animals suffered grievously and that one of the most popular traps—the steel-jaw leg-hold trap—had been declared inhumane by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the National Animal Control Association. The trap had been banned or severely restricted in 8 states and 80 countries. But the turning point for Randall came when he took his 10-year-old son out to see the coyotes that he was hired to capture in Wyoming’s Red Desert. They came upon a bobcat caught in one of Randall’s traps. It had chewed partway through its own foot in an effort to escape, it was weak and dehydrated, and as Randall and his son approached, it lunged, collapsed, and died. Randall’s son looked at the bobcat and said, “Why are you doing this, Dad?” Randall had no good answer. So Dick Randall went against the USDA and his peers. He quit his job and became first a field representative for Defenders of Wildlife, then a consultant for the Humane Society. He traveled the country, speaking before community groups about the suffering of animals caught in traps. He testified at a US congressional hearing about the indiscriminate cruelty caused by the tools of his trade and showed them sickening photos he’d taken of all kinds of animals caught in traps. Part of his testimony: “Even though I was an experienced professional trapper, my trap victims included non-target species such as bald eagles and golden eagles, a variety of hawks and other birds, rabbits, sage grouse, pet dogs, deer, antelope, porcupines, sheep, and calves. The leg-hold trap is inherently non-selective. It is probably the most cruel device ever invented by man.” He has no patience for the excuses of farmers and ranchers who set traps, claiming that they’re protecting their livestock. He tells them that good ranchers and farmers know how to protect their livestock without this indiscriminate maiming and killing. People don’t take kindly to those who challenge their careers or their way of farming and ranching. Randall lost his work allies, personal friends, and his reputation as a professional. He went right on, planning a documentary with the Humane Society, and telling everyone he could about the inhumanity of traps. “Mass extermination of wildlife has never solved the problem of protecting livestock from predators,” he says. “It’s cruel, it’s futile, and it has to stop.” Update: Randall has died, but his testimony before Congress is still cited in campaigns to save wild creatures from cruel human-caused deaths. Please Like this story AND Like the whole Page so we can send you more stories. Thanks!

More Giraffe Heroes


This is Sister Megan Rice, a nun for most of her 80+ years and a peace activist since the 1980s. She had been arrested more than three dozen times and had done time twice when she and two other peace activists performed what was called the most serious security breach in the history of US...


Andy Hall, a Brit, works for Finnwatch, a world-wide nonprofit that spots human abuses around the world and works to stop them. When Hall called out Thailand's National Fruit Company for the way it treats its workers, he asked to work...


This is Catherine Hamlin MD, who left her home in Australia in 1959 to provide gynecological care to poor women in Ethiopia. At 90, she's still doing that, focusing on one of the most distressing medical/social issues imaginable: obstetric fistulas.

This is an injury that women can...


This is Hanna Hopko. She braved snipers' bullets in Kiev during a citizens' uprising that brought down a corrupt government there. Now she's leading a rapidly growing citizens' movement that's doing more than rising up and demanding...


Imagine you're 11 years old and your body is twisting from scoliosis, causing you constant physical pain and making you look very different from other kids. You're scheduled for surgery to straighten your spine and your mom takes a "before" picture so you'll have a history of how you once...


Bob Bajek, a reporter on a small-town newspaper in Illinois, came up with a Big Story: the town's recreational lake, where residents fished, swam, and boated, was highly toxic--a now defunct military base had dumped Agent Orange in the water....


There were no protections for whistle-blowers in South Africa when businesswoman Wendy Addison reported her own corporate bosses for breaking the law. She was fired, got death threats, and was blacklisted, even in England, where she took her...


This is veteran environmental activist, Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez. He's 12. And he's been working to save his beloved Colorado for half of his life. It started when he saw that the forest near his home was changing. Trees were dying, plants...


Allan Adam is Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan nation, whose lands lie within Alberta, Canada. These First Nation people have formal treaty rights that protect their lands from being taken or used by outsiders, but that treaty has been...


Sangduen Chailert, known as "Lek," puts in 18-hour days caring for sick and injured elephants in a protected reserve she co-founded, the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand.

The dwindling elephant population is a world-wide...


Nobis Est - It's Up To Us

Meet people who stick their necks out for the common good, all of them commended by the Giraffe Heroes Project, the nonprofit that's "EnCouraging today's heroes - training tomorrow's." Check out for more stories, and for a way to honor your own hero.

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