Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
World traveler and conservationist Christopher Montero has found his life’s purpose.
Born in Costa Rica, Chris grew up in an urban area, but his extended family lived in the country where he spent his summers. “Those are my fondest memories,” Chris shares. “That shaped a lot of my interest in animals, nature, and being outdoors.”
Family lore says that when Chris was very young, he walked up to his mother holding a venomous coral snake. “I have always been very curious and fascinated with animals, especially reptiles, snakes, and all sorts of creatures,” he says.
Moving to the Pacific Northwest in 2005, Chris knew right away he would love it here. As the airplane broke through the clouds to land, “My first thought was: I am going to like this place,” says Chris. “The Puget Sound and all the greenness, it feels like home here.”
Working at Wolf Haven International since 2016 as outreach coordinator, Chris wears multiple hats for the non-profit organization. With his strong background in science, he spends a lot of time talking to college students and others about wolves. Chris also creates graphic art and illustrations for projects.
Wolf Haven is home to around 60 wolves with 35 or so animals also in a new facility in Montana. Support for the organization comes from symbolic adoptions of the animals and from volunteers. “The thing that amazes me about Wolf Haven is it is a small organization, but with volunteers, they are able to do a lot of work,” says Chris. “It would be impossible without volunteers.”
Chris knows that wolf conservation is a hot issue. “We are an organization that wants to find a middle ground for everybody,” he shares. “Like everything that is polarized, it is important to have an educated opinion. If you care about wolves, learn about them. We are open to talking to people.”
For the last eight years, Chris spends his summers with teenagers on National Geographic Student Expeditions. “It is an amazing adventure,” he says. “I have seen places I have always wanted to see.” Last summer he went to the Arctic Circle in Canada and saw polar bears and snorkeled with beluga whales. “Growing up in the tropics, I never thought that would happen,” he says. “The kids laugh at me because I get so excited.”
One of his most beautiful experiences was night hiking in the Australian Outback to see Uluru with the Milky Way full of colors behind it. “It was pretty magical,” he shares. “This is the stuff you see in documentaries only. I am a lucky human being.”
From fishing piranhas in the Amazon to running into large carnivores in the wild, some elements of danger are just a part of Chris’s life. He has spent time in the hospital with snake bites and had some close calls with wildlife.
Chris shares a very frightening experience with two large groups of peccaries at a mineral deposit in the Amazon. “You could feel the ground rumbling,” Chris shares. With not much protection in a tarp hideout, the animals became nervous and started to make fake charges, some just feet away. “I was sweating bullets and freaking out,” he shares. Chris climbed a nearby palm but the tree bent under his weight and the animals got even more agitated. “I started yelling, ‘I’m not ready yet!’” Armed with only a pocket knife, he used it to cut the tarp and wave it around. Finally, the sound and motion scared the animals away. “I could not walk back in a straight line from the adrenaline of it,” Chris says. “It was pretty intense.”
In winter, Chris goes to Costa Rica to teach adults with Biomimicry 3.8. The consulting service provides professional training based on innovations inspired by nature.
With all of his jobs, Chris says his real passion is teaching. “I am an educator, I like to teach and talk to people. I love and care so deeply for these animals and ecosystems that I think it is a privilege to talk to others and show them how amazing wolves are despite all the myths we have. Or to teach others about snakes, my first love since I was a child. We have so many misconceptions about some animals in so many regards and it is an honor and a great opportunity to teach others.”
His travels around the world made Chris is uniquely aware of climate change. After visiting the Great Barrier Reef in Australia several times, he witnessed the coral bleaching and reduction in fish firsthand. In his native land of Costa Rica, he is aware of certain animals’ typical habitats expanding to higher elevations.
Chris feels that we live in a very unique and critical time. “Never before have we had such big questions of what is going to happen to our species in the future,” Chris shares. “We are a global community now with global problems. The human race is ready for the next evolutionary leap, but it has to be a cultural transformation of core values with political and economic systems that are constructed to fit within the cycles of nature. We have enough information and knowledge to have that big awakening.”
You can reach Christopher Montero at email@example.com.