A friend of tapirs and of the rainforest: Celebrating the life of Suzanne Davenport
As 2017 has drawn to a close, I would like to veer away from the usual “year in review” posts and invite you to join us here at Rainforest Trust in celebrating the life of Suzanne Davenport, a longtime supporter and dear friend whom we sadly lost in 2017.
Suzanne was well known as “The Tapir Lady” at Rainforest Trust due to her love for the rainforest-dwelling “pig with a trunk” (although Suzanne would be sure to let you know they are more closely related to horses and rhinoceroses than pigs). Over the years, she worked tirelessly to support and volunteer with organizations that provided protection to tapirs and was a donor to Rainforest Trust.
As we celebrate Suzanne’s life, we found ourselves asking, “Why the tapir?” What was it about this unusual species that captured Suzanne’s heart and served as a microcosm for how Suzanne approached life? Luckily, her husband, Scott, had the answer and shared her amazing story with us.
“Suzanne first came across a tapir at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, Germany,” recalled Scott. “The way she told it to me, a woman next to her made a disparaging remark about their attractiveness and perceived intelligence and Suzanne felt obligated to stick up for them.” And through this small exchange one could learn all they needed to accurately sum up Suzanne’s values: a champion of the downtrodden who stuck up for those who could not do so for themselves, but also someone who was incredibly positive, seeing the best in all those around her and who absolutely loved providing others the opportunity to shine.
It was Suzanne’s love for the tapir that first brought her into contact with Rainforest Trust. She discovered our organization at our April 27 observation of World Tapir Day, an event that she was heavily involved in through her work with the Tapir Specialist Group in Brazil.
“When she began speaking with the folks who were working with tapirs it became obvious that their biggest enemy was the loss of habitat and the incursion of roads into their areas,” recalled Scott. “So finding an organization whose efforts were focused on preservation in the way that [Rainforest Trust is] was very exciting to her.”
That excitement translated into years of generous support and since 2011, Suzanne raised awareness and funds for several of our South American and Southeast Asian projects where tapirs would receive protection. In addition to supporting Rainforest Trust projects, Suzanne regularly held CrowdRise events to promote awareness and raise funds for Rainforest Trust and tapirs. A classically trained pianist, she rallied her musician friends and established “Tapir Aid,” a music event aimed at promoting the plight of the tapir.
“It was really the tapirs and the habitat preservation that sparked the more active role in raising awareness that she developed over the last 7-8 years,” Scott continued. “When she realized how many people the internet and social media could mobilize she definitely started to think bigger…and that was how the two ‘Tapir Aid’ concerts came to be.”
“Suzanne was a firm believer in the ability of the individual to drive change, and the more individuals that came together, the greater their ability to drive even bigger change.”
Suzanne’s passion for change has led to an outpouring of support in the wake of her passing, both from friends and family as well as from the organizations promoting the causes she held so dear. Suzanne has certainly left us all with some big shoes to fill, and though she may be gone – she will certainly not be forgotten. Thanks to her big heart and personality, Suzanne’s impact will live on. Since 2011, Suzanne was responsible for protecting 3,986 acres of rainforest habitat through Rainforest Trust’s SAVES Challenge.
Rainforest Trust is grateful for the generous support of Suzanne and Scott Davenport.