The allegation of assault rattles the bird watching community


Content Warning: This article is about rape and may not be suitable for all readers.

The allegation of rape by a prominent American male bird watcher has shocked the avian world and resulted in his removal or resignation from prominent positions.

The reveal came on Monday, February 15, when Aisha White, an Atlanta bird watcher, posted an in-depth story on her blog which she shared on Twitter. She accused Jason Ward of raping her while the two were bird watching together in a park in the Atlanta area on November 27, 2020. Ward hosted the popular YouTube series Birds of North America, hosted last year’s Black Birders Week, and was featured in a Nissan commercial earlier this month.

White, a digital marketer and part-time freelance writer, wrote that she and Ward met in early October while she was on a birding trip he was leading. He soon contacted her on social media and they started bird watching together.

The two were finally together, but at the end of a full-day bird watching excursion in late November, White claims Ward forced himself on her against her will. A day or two after the incident, they ended their relationship.

White’s blog post didn’t name Ward, but she wrote that her attacker was “an authority on diversity and inclusion” and that he put on a bird-watching show that “took him to places across the country”. Birders on Twitter quickly inferred that Ward was the man in question, and White later confirmed that by naming him in a tweet.

White declined to comment on this article. Ward did not respond to a request for comment.

On Tuesday this week, White set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for a possible legal battle against Ward. More than $ 32,600 has been donated to date.

A quick deplatforming

On Tuesday, Ward stepped down from his position as chief diversity officer at American Bird Conservancy, a position he began in November. The National Audubon Society, Ward’s former employer, issued a statement that reads in part: “During his tenure at Audubon, which ended in January 2020, we had no information about inappropriate – much less criminal – conduct or we would have acted right Path. Because of the blog post, we ended our relationship with him immediately and permanently. “

Nissan removed the ad with Ward, production company Topic Studios removed Birds of North America from all platforms, and the American Birding Association took offline episodes of their podcast that featured Ward as a guest. Georgia Audubon, for whom Ward was leading the excursion on the day he and White met, terminated his excursion directing contract and later said that “all volunteer and contractor-led activities, including field trips, will be suspended so that We can conduct a thorough assessment of our procedures and protocols. “And BlackAFinSTEM, the group that organized Black Birders Week, removed Ward from the organization.

In addition, several bird watchers, bird watching clubs, and organizations have made statements supporting White.

The original version of this article contained further allegations. BirdWatching removed them from this story.

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