Sitting on a FedEx plane next to a half-Grizzly, half-Black bear, Carney Anne Nasser was in the middle of one of the most memorable moments of her career.
Nasser had just fought, and won, the right to transfer Ben the bear from a 12-foot-by-22-foot concrete chainlink dog run in North Carolina, where he had lived his entire life, to an animal sanctuary in California. “I was there when his paws touched dirt for the first time in his life,” she says. “I will never forget that moment.”
An animal advocate for more than two decades, Nasser has spent the last six years working in animal protection law – rescuing bears from concrete pits in Georgia, working to impose a ban on Sea World San Diego’s captive orca breeding program. She has dedicated her life to fighting for the welfare of exotic and endangered animals wherever they are being abused in the name of entertainment.
An internationally recognized expert on captive wildlife, Nasser will represent the Animal Legal Defense Fund at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg, South Africa this September.
“The CITES treaty underpins our Endangered Species Act and there are definitely issues that need to be addressed,” she says. “Commercial usage of endangered species isn’t supposed to happen, but it still does.
“The exotic animal trade is a $20 billion black market industry right now with high rewards and low risk. We really need to start cracking down,” she says, adding, “There’s definitely evidence of a correlation between the black market trade of an animal and the decimation of the species.”
Mentor: I recently heard Dr. Kathy Fields speak. She co-created both the Proactiv and Rodan + Fields skincare lines. What she said about character, grit and having a growth mindset really stuck with me. I think about those things all the time now as I’m constantly trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. Defining moment: I’d say that was becoming a single mom of two [Jackson, age 6 and Henry, age 2] through divorce about two years ago. I’m about 2,000 miles from family, so I really had to learn how to make things work on my own. I could either focus or fold, and I chose to focus. Advice for young women: Recognize that there’s an unlimited amount of success in the world and it’s up to you to go after it. Goals: To end the use of exotic and endangered animals in entertainment and end the use of private ownership of tigers, which is actually a huge problem in this country. Favorite thing about what I do: I feel fortunate to have a career in which I look forward to Monday morning. Everything I do is creative. Every day is interesting, stimulating and challenging and definitely keeps me on my toes.