NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Chris Evers’ quest to change the world started in his own backyard.
The North Salem resident and founder of Animal Embassy, a company dedicated to exotic animal rescue, adoption and environmental education, recalls his earliest memories of traipsing through the backyards of his neighborhood in Darien, Conn., catching frogs and turtles and whatever else he could find to learn more about them.
“It wasn’t until I got into high school and dodged physics and took a class on ecosystems that I realized this is what I had been passionate about and sharing with others when I was a little kid,” Evers said.
At 17 years old, Evers had already spent years volunteering for local animal rescue organizations and developed a reputation as an expert.
“There happened to be a python that none of the nature centers would adopt–they wouldn’t deal with exotic animals,” Evers recalled. So the python went to him and in that moment, his life’s work was sealed.
With Sydney the python in tow, along with a chinchilla, iguana and nearly a dozen other exotic creatures he subsequently acquired, Evers headed to the University of Maine where he lived off campus to accommodate the animals. His parents paid for his schooling, but he took up a part time job to pay for the animals.
“That’s where my money was going, caring for animals that people didn’t want anymore,” Evers said. “My friends all loved coming over to my house; it was the animal house.”
The next several years of his life included graduating from college and then traveling the world to see up close what he had been studying.
Then in 2003, after working for several rescue organizations, Evers launched his owned and called it Animal Embassy with the goal of creating kindness toward creatures.
“My goal is to change the world,” Evers said.
It wasn’t long after that he met his long-time partner, Rebecca Bose, who is the curator in charge of the well-being of all the wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem.
Animal Embassy has grown quite a bit since its founding and now has a handful of employees and a center in Connecticut where the animals live. He has programs for things such as birthday parties and events and also educational presentations in schools.
Recently, he was in the Bronx with his exotic animals for an animal therapy program for kids with visual impairments. He also has anti-bullying programs where students learn the importance of diversity and respect for all living things and programs where he leads nature walks with at-risk youth.
For Evers, the educational programs grew out of his own experience being bullied for his love of animals as a child.
“I was teased a lot as a kid,” Evers said. “The kids would shoot the frogs with BB guns and I was out there trying to catch the frogs to save them.”
Evers believes teaching kids about the environment around them will lead to caring more about the local environment and those in it.
“These are really important places that are full of life and we are having an impact on those places directly and the kids don’t know who lives there. If you don’t know who lives there, how can you care about it?” Evers said.
One of his biggest lessons is teaching kids to respect animals because Evers is so often the beneficiary of discarded pets.
“A lot of times people tell me they want to donate to Embassy and I’ll say, ‘How much would you like to donate?’ and they say, ‘I’d like to donate my tortoise’,” Evers said. “That tortoise is going to outlive me. That’s not a donation.
“I didn’t ask for all this. I didn’t need any of this. They needed me and I stepped up to the plate and created a place for them to go,” Evers continued.
On Thursday, June 28, Evers will bring his exotic animals to Hayfields for a program about the diverse colors and patterns on the creatures. He’ll have with him Argentinian horned frog, a Cuban tree frog, an Amazon tree boa, a New Caledonian giant gecko, a spectacled owl and an African crested porcupine.
If you would like a guaranteed seat, please RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.