Introducing The TOMS Animal Initiative

May 13th, 2014 by TOMS

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We couldn’t be more thrilled to launch our newest project, introducing the TOMS Animal Initiative.

The TOMS Animal Initiative is a series of partnerships planned to conserve and protect animals. Today, we are proud to announce our first partnership with Virunga National Park. Sparked by the passion and love for animals, Heather Mycoskie, TOMS Chief Animal Lover, has created the TOMS Animal Initiative, which is an overarching platform to drive awareness and monetary funding for global animal conservation. TOMS is proud to be able to support the Virunga National Park and its efforts to save the mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are threatened by poachers and habitat destruction.

The TOMS + Virunga National Park Initiative collection features Vegan Earthwise Classics with Virunga’s logo, an embroidered version of one of the mountain gorillas we’re fighting to save. We sat down with Heather Mycoskie to learn more about her vision for this initiative, and how the final product came to be.

What was your inspiration for the TOMS Loves Animal’s Initiative?

I have always been extremely passionate about animals – ever since I was a child. So I was thrilled to be able to figure out a way to infuse my passion into TOMS.

Why gorillas?

I started with the gorillas, specifically in Virunga National Park, because of their dire need at the moment. Their habitat is seriously in jeopardy, which is has created a life threatening situation for them.

How did the idea to focus on working with Virunga National Park come to be?
We were supposed to travel to the DRC last fall but due to its current state of conflict we had to cancel the trip. We extended our time in Rwanda and fell in love with the gorillas there. Through our time in Rwanda, specifically with the gorillas, we learned more about how they were being affected in the DRC and knew we had to help.

You’ve spent some time with gorillas in their natural habitat, can you tell us a little about that?

We were very lucky to be able to spend time with a family of 24 gorillas during our time in Rwanda. Blake and I were captivated by their stoic nature and how they were so protective of their family.

Despite the seemingly endless conflict, Virunga is actually one of the great success stories in international conservation – can you speak to this a little and why were you drawn to join in the fight to save the park?

The park rangers at the Virunga National Park are doing extraordinary selfless things for the gorillas in extremely trying circumstances. They are risking their own lives to protect these incredible animals. I was incredibly inspired by their heroic acts and wanted to help their fight.

Can you walk me through the design of the shoes and your vision for the final product?

The design on the shoe is the Virunga National Park logo which every park ranger wears on their uniform. To me it stands as a symbol of strength and unity and I was honored to incorporate it into the shoe.

Can you tell me a little about the animals in your life?

We have quite the brood at our house these days. We have two Golden Doodles Buddha and Gypsy and we recently rescued a Golden Retriever named Canyon. The three have formed quite the bond and are hysterical to watch together.

What do you want TOMS fans to know about the latest addition to the TOMS movement?

Its amazing to watch how the One for One model can be applied to serve other needs in the world and I am very grateful that we have applied it to helping animals.

Can you give us a little hint into what’s next for TOMS Loves Animals?

We are really excited to spread the TOMS Animal Initiative to the African Elephants in the fall. Many many more details to come on this endeavor.