Environment

This Is How Your Bright Blue Feet Can Help Save A Vanishing Booby Bird

Two young brothers, Will (16) and Matthew Gladstone (13) from Arlington, Massachusetts, USA, show us that age is no bar when it comes to saving the planet and its astounding biodiversity. Four years ago, they founded the Blue Feet Foundation to protect a very charming bird -the blue-footed booby. Together, they came up with an extremely ingenious idea to save the bird. They decided to sell bright blue socks matching the blue feet of these boobies to raise funds for these birds! Their hard work has helped raise thousands of dollars that have been spent on the conservation of these birds and their habitat in the Galapagos Islands. The story of these two brothers serves as an inspiration to all striving to make a positive change in the world.

A blue-footed booby couple performing the mating dance. Image credit: BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock.com

But before learning more about this awesome brother duo, let us know some interesting facts about the bird that they are endeavoring to save. 

Blue-footed boobies, as the name says, are known for their bright blue feet. They are very proud of their feet themselves and never leave a moment to show them off. Males use this precious feature to attract the females with a high-stepping strut in the mating season. The bluer their feet, the higher their chances of wooing their favorite lady. These birds are also not just about good looks but they are excellent divers as well. They live off the western coast of Central and South America. The Galapagos Islands, known for the Darwin's finches, houses nearly half the breeding population of these boobies. Nesting on the land at night, these birds fly far into the sea during the day to feed on fish, often hunting together co-operatively. They are highly skilled divers who can swoop down from the air and into the water to catch their unlucky prey. All these traits make the blue-footed boobies really interesting birds that anyone will fall in love with!

Will and Matthew. Image credit: The Blue Feet Foundation.

Going back to the story of Will and Matt, let us learn about what their feelings are about this bird, why they are concerned about its fate, and what they are doing about it. 

To learn more, World Atlas speaks to Will, and here is the conversation:

So, how did you learn about the blue-footed booby in the first place?

In my 5th-grade science class, we did a whole unit on birds. I was so excited to learn about them that I soon started reading about different birds on the internet. That is when I learned about the blue-footed booby. I read about it on the World Wildlife Fund website where they let you “adopt” one virtually.

What made you fall in love with these birds?

They are unlike any bird I had ever learned about! Also, they have so much personality and such bright blue feet. They dance to show off how blue their feet are to attract a mate. They are not at all afraid of people. That is how they got their name. When Spanish explorers discovered them they thought they were stupid for not being afraid of people. “Bobo” is stupid in Spanish. 

A blue-footed booby diving into the sea for fish. Image credit: Neel Adsul/Shutterstock.com

Why did you decide to do something to save them? When did you start the Blue Feet Foundation?

I was sad to know that the population of blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos was declining and no one knew why. Their population dropped by around 60% in fifty years. So, I started the Blue-Feet Foundation with my brother four years ago to do something to protect these birds. Matt came up with the name. 

How and why did you come up with the idea of selling blue socks? 

I knew if I could sell something people wanted I could give the money from the sale to a charity that is helping the blue-footed booby and the Galapagos. So, one day I was laying on my bed staring at my feet trying to come up with an idea when it just hit me! If people could have blue feet they would care more about a bird with blue feet. So blue socks would be perfect!

Wearing the blue-footed booby socks at the Tropic of Capricorn. Image source: Blue Feet Foundation
The blue-footed booby socks reaches Stonehenge, UK. Image source: Blue Feet Foundation

Who bought the first pair of socks (if you remember)?

I don’t remember the exact person but it had to be one of my classmates. They were very supportive. 

How many socks have been sold till now and how much funds generated from the sale?

So far we’ve sold over 20,000 pairs of socks and donated over $130,000 generated from the sale. We’ve had orders from all 50 states and over 40 countries! Till now, The US, Canada, Australia, and Italy have been the most supportive countries. We don’t keep any of the money. We pay for the socks, shipping, packaging, website, advertising, and the rest we give to one of two charities. Both The Galapagos Conservancy and The Charles Darwin Foundation help the blue-footed booby. In fact, the Galapagos Conservancy used the money to pay a blue-footed booby expert to travel to the Galapagos to do the first-ever population decline study on the bird. They said the study wouldn't have happened without our donation because there wasn't enough funding for the study. So, we are really happy to have been able to contribute to the blue-footed booby conservation in our own little way!

The brightly colored blue-footed booby socks stand out on the dark landscape. Image source: Blue Feet Foundation
Musicians wearing the blue-footed booby socks. Image source: Blue Feet Foundation

Have you seen a blue-footed booby in the wild? Did you visit the Galapagos Islands? 

Last summer I went on a dream school trip to the Galapagos. I was really excited to see a blue-footed booby in person. I only saw them from far away so I didn’t get to see them up close. But the trip was awesome. The Charles Darwin Foundation gave our whole tour group a behind-the-scenes tour so we got to see a lot of cool animals. 

Blue-footed booby socks at the Great Wall of China. Image credit: Fotos593/Shutterstock.com

What do you plan to do for these birds in the coming years? 

Matty and I are going to keep working on the Blue-Feet Foundation so we can raise more money for the blue-footed booby. It is also very important to save their Galapagos habitat as well.

Blue footed booby with booby chick in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Image credit: Fotos593/Shutterstock.com

What is your message to the world about the blue-footed boobies and why should people buy the socks?

The blue-footed is a very special bird that we must protect for future generations to see and experience. We feel really happy when people send us pictures of themselves wearing our socks. People wearing our socks have posted photos from The Great Wall to Stonehenge to Antarctica! The blue-footed booby is a symbol of the Galapagos, one of the Earth's most fascinating destinations, and a real global treasure. We need to protect both because once lost, we can't ever get them back. 

Two children having fun showing off their blue-footed booby socks. Image source: Blue Feet Foundation

Also, by buying our socks someone is not just helping the blue-footed booby but inspiring kids to get involved to help an animal or a cause they care about. Many kids reach out to us to know how they can help the animals they love. For example, we have helped a California boy to save frogs, one in Idaho to protect salmon, and an Indonesian girl who wanted to save dogs.

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