By: Elani Kodner ’24
Pine Crest Lower School proudly welcomed Dr. Gabby Wagner ’08, also known as Dr. Gabby Wild, as a guest speaker to discuss newly released books she wrote in a partnership with National Geographic and teach students about her wildlife conservation efforts.
Gabby is a lifer, having spent fourteen years at Pine Crest after joining the community as a pre-kindergarten student at the Boca Raton Campus. As an Upper School student, she was an exemplary science student who was also known around for her fondness of animals. She excelled in all of her science-focused classes and was part of the three-year science research program.
Gabby completed her bachelor of science at Cornell University with a dual degree in Biology and Animal Science and graduated sum cum laude. She continued to receive her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University, and Master of Public Health from the University of Minnesota. Gabby is a published genetics researcher who integrates her research background to screen zoonotic disease transmission among wildlife, domestic animals, and people. Gabby’s interest in veterinary sciences and wildlife manifested from her persistent love of animals since her childhood. Gabby says she knew at four years old that her ultimate purpose in life was to pursue her love for animals.
“I have always loved animals and always wanted to work with them,” she said. “I declared officially that I wanted to become a wildlife vet after watching ‘Lion King.’”
Gabby’s love for science epitomized in her adult life as she initiated The Gabby Wild Foundation at just 21 years old. The Foundation aids in the implementation of veterinary medicine, conservation methodologies, and educational campaigns for the protection of the world’s most endangered species. Gabby travels across different countries with the goal to help conserve species that are on the brink of extinction. Her passionate conservation mission has taken her around the globe to work with zoos, museums, rescue organizations, national parks, top conservation organizations, and universities. Gabby’s ultimate goal of wanting wildlife to return to its natural habitat is one of the driving factors in all of the work she does.
“I feel that working in a controlled environment such as a zoo is sometimes limited,” Gabby said. “I prefer working in natural habitats when working with animals and have made it a priority to travel to see animals in their natural habitats because of my overarching goal of wanting wildlife to return to its wilderness.”
In addition to her foundation, Gabby is a National Geographic Kids educator and writer. She is “the veterinarian” on National Geographic Kids “Animal Jam,” the world’s largest online playground with 54 million players. There, she creates videos about conservation medicine and looks to inspire children and educate them on animal conservation.
“I love getting messages or interacting with kids who suddenly feel inspired to help the planet or to just be a better person,” said Gabby. “The most rewarding part of what I do is when I receive messages that I am inspiring children to love animals more and that they are learning how to take care of them. It makes it worthwhile because they are the future. One day I won't be here, but these lessons will be, and these kids will teach their kids or will teach other people. And that's how we make the world better by inspiring others and future generations.”
In the realm of animal conservation, one thing that sets Gabby apart from others is her work in elephant acupuncture. Gabby’s love for elephants manifested in her becoming a pioneer in the realm of animal acupuncture. In fact, Gabby is the first elephant acupuncturist in the past 3,000 years.
“When I started working with elephants, I began to realize how great, and emotional they are and how I could read them and understand them in a non-scientific way,” Gabby said. “I picked up on their cues, and that's really how I got interested in them. Their medicine and their surgeries are very difficult but very rewarding. I started to perform acupuncture on these animals because of my desire to want help with pain management.”
Gabby’s desire to continue saving animal species is her main motivator in life. She reflects that she will not be completely fulfilled in her work until she is able to save every animal species.
In addition to her conservation efforts, veterinary work, and authorship, Gabby has combined her love for animal conservation with fashion.
“I wanted to reach a broader audience and educate more people about the work that still needs to be done in order to save animal species,” she said. Gabby has received the title of “eco fashionista” as she aims to reverse the detrimental impact that the fashion industry has on the environment and animal habitats. Gabby has used fair, ethical, and sustainable fashion to reverse the damage and use fashion as a paradox to save nature.
“I decided to use fashion to inspire people who might not care about animals, and to inspire them to care about animals, because everybody cares about their fashion, whether you wear sweatpants all day or couture, you care in some way about how you appear, said Gabby. “So it appeals to everyone and it affects everyone.”
In addition to inspiring fashion trends, Gabby and her partners put on eco-friendly fashion shows in order to promote eco-friendly fashion as well as raise money for animal conservation. Gabby has produced numerous eco-fashion shows, modeled for ethical fashion brands, and created sustainable fashion campaigns.
Gabby with fifth grade students following one of her on-campus presentations.
“We get sponsors together to support our events,” explained Gabby. “We have these fashion shows, and the money raised from the fashion shows goes back to our wildlife conservation. So it brings people together.”
While Gabby has vastly impacted animals across the globe, she reflects that the largest impact that she has made has actually been in raising her own children. Gabby has three children who inspire her every day to become the best version of herself.
“I think my greatest accomplishment at the moment is how I'm raising my own children because they will impact the rest of the world,” said Gabby.
Gabby’s final piece of advice is that she wants to inspire others to stay persistent.
“I would say whatever your dream is, don't lose sight of it. It can be accomplished. It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow, but you'll get there. And just because you're not the best in your class or just because you are the best in your class, you shouldn't rest on your laurels and it doesn't mean you shouldn't stop. Try again. You should try to do the best you can in all you do and be a good person and a good example, because the more successful you are, the more people will look up to you and try to make the world the way you want it to be for yourself.”