For Jon Mack, saving animals went from a hobby to a full-blown addiction.
The actress, musician, producer and lifelong animal lover, who has spent her life helping animals, has launched a new organization meant to help protect animals from illegal poaching across the world.
“I'm from Michigan, and I was born and raised on a 180 acre farm," says Mack. “I was an only child so my whole life was animals. I always had a bond with them, and they were my friends as a kid."
Mack eventually uprooted from her bucolic background, where she had dogs, cats, chickens and pigs as pets, and moved to Los Angeles to follow her dream of acting and music. Once in California, she began to rescue cats and soon realized that there were so much work to be done to help animals live better lives.
“I would humanely trap and release cats and I learned more and more about how animals there were out there without homes," says Mack, who adopted two stray kittens from the street. “They were few weeks old hiding in tree. They were feral so at first you couldn't even touch them. Now they are the biggest babies. I've had them for nine years, and they are what got me into helping more animals."
Mack, who is the lead singer for electronic rock band, Auradrone, says she soon found herself addicted to animal rescuing. She next became involved in Heaven On Earth, which was founded by Seth McFarlan's mother, Perry, who is also a passionate animal rescuer.
“They take in every cat, old or young and are no-kill," says Mack, who sits on the organization's celebrity board. “I have been an ambassador for Heaven on Earth for several years now. Not only have I adopted some of my own from them, I have helped also raise awareness for the great work they do. I love that they will take high risk cats and give them forever homes regardless of their health issues or whether someone adopts them or not. These are good people doing good things."
Mack's desire to help animals intensified in 2012 when she visited Thailand and spent time with elephants. During that trip Mack said she was horrified at seeing beautiful rare animals for sale at the market. After doing research, Mack became more aware of the poaching crisis over the past few years and decided to do something about it.
“I really bonded with elephants in Thailand and one in particular I took care of for several days. This is where I saw the majesty and high intelligence in these creatures," says Mack. “I've traveled to many places with colorful eco-systems and varied wildlife such as Brazil, Costa Rica and Bali to name a few. Part of my incentive to take any trips these days has to do with what kind of wildlife there is and what I can learn from it."
The more Mack dug, the more she saw the corruption that is deeply embedded in countries where poaching is at record numbers.
With only between 2,000 and 3,000 rhinos left in the world as of 2016, Mack is focused on working with various animal-protecting organizations in South Africa, which is the worst offender in the poaching industry, to develop new technology that would help protect rhinoceroses. Mack is looking to raise funds to help this and other charitable initiatives.
“The South African government refused to publish numbers this year," says Mack. That means it's bad and they know it's bad. Everything has gotten so corrupt. It's such a huge trade. These countries demand the ivory or rhino horns for 'medicines' that don't actually work. It boils my blood. It's all for superstition or little knick knacks no one needs. They are getting more sophisticated. There is big money behind them. They are basically militarized."
According to Mack, just one rhino horn can go for $20K to $40K and possibly much more on the black market, which traffics them from countries like South Africa into countries like China.
“I thought I want to do something against poaching and trophy hunting," says Mack. “ If nothing is done we will lose rhinos and elephants in five to 10 years. The governments turn a blind eye to it. Poachers get a slap on the wrist."
“I'm so concerned that we are going to lose these species that we take for granted; that our children and grandchildren will only see them in picture books. That scares me."
In order to fix this immense problem which plagues our world, Mack is focused on education and exposing the trade.
“I think education is the number one thing that needs to happen now," says Mack. "People in South Africa know what is happening but people don't realize how bad it is. I want to educate people so that they realize how serious it is."
Mack, who has two films, MindBlown and Doomsday Device, coming out later this year, also has released a music video for her band, called Weapon Of Choice, meant to help raise awareness. Mack says she worked with a director to come up with a concept about poaching that could ring true to people who watched it.
“The video puts people in the place of animals," says Mack. “We did the video I thought this is powerful and different. I wanted to make an impact with art."
In 2015, Mack took her love for animals a step further, by creating and launching her own organization, Defending The Endangered, which she describes as a “collective of artists" who donate their time and money to protecting and rescuing animals. Throughout the year members help raise money for various animal-oriented charities like the Rhino Rescue Project and the Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit. On March 25, Mack will throw her first charity's first celebrity gala, meant to celebrate those making a difference in the lives of animals, and to raise more capital to support organizations that do.
“I wanted to gather creative and compassionate people together and use all of our unique talents to raise awareness as well as donate our gifts to raise much needed funds for various charities working to protect and rehabilitate endangered animals," says Mack. “Defending the Endangered is all about joining together creatives, passionate animal lovers and thinkers all over the world to make art and create events that will not only raise awareness, but celebrate those who have gone above and beyond in their own way to protect threatened species on this planet."
According to Mack, who describes herself as heartbroken by what has happened thus far, yet hopeful that a new generation will step up to the plate, is especially focused on investing in technologies that will help.
“We are working with Rhino Rescue Project at the moment and they have created a new dye that is injected into the rhino's horn without harm to the animal," she says. "This dye makes the horns set off radiation detectors so this makes is much more difficult for even higher level travelers to smuggle horns out of the country. This will be a deterrent and hopefully save several rhinos from being sought out for their horn and murdered. This has to stop and it has to stop now."
Dr. Victoria Bateman, an esteemed economist best known for her nude protests for gender equality, uses her body as a form of art that serves to challenge the stigma around women's bodies and women's rights, in the world of economics. In March 2018, Bateman attended the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society in Brighton stark naked with the word "respect" written across her chest and stomach. Unbashful in delivering her message, Bateman was determined to start a conversation.