In her book “Hope for Animals and their World”, primatologist Jane Goodall writes about her childhood as follows, “When I was a child, more than seventy years ago, there was no television and no internet to trap me in front of electronic screens. Instead I spent hours watching birds and insects in our garden, and reading books. Back then most of the animals that are so endangered today lived safely in as-yet-unlogged forests, undrained wetlands, and unpolluted field and oceans. Yet even then, of course, large-scale slaughter of wildlife was taking place.”
As years progress, the slaughter of wildlife continues to intensify and many animals that used to live during Goodall’s childhood have been completely wiped off from the face of this Earth. Dr. Goodall continues to say, “If a child seventy-five years from now finds that most animals have gone from the earth, she will not be able to excuse the behavior of those who destroyed them. For she will know that they were lost not from the position of ignorance, but because the majority of humans simply did not care. Fortunately, some people do care a great deal, and sometimes heroic efforts are being made to save and conserve threatened and endangered species. But for them, the list of extinct animals today would be much longer.”
Dr. Jane Goodall is one of the world’s most renowned animal welfare advocates; she has made a great impact on the lives of primates and other animals that if not for her research and continuous efforts might have joined the list of extinct animals. She has also made an impact on the lives of children all over the world who have grown up reading about her life’s work and dedication to the cause of protecting the Chimpanzees of Africa and other animals on the brink of extinction. Some of these children have even grown to become proponents of animal welfare and conservation and are now making a difference in their communities.
Jane Goodall, whose vision has inspired the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program for young people, as well as animal welfare advocates around the world strongly believe that educating children and inspiring them to make a difference for “people, animals, and the environment” makes a lasting impact in our future and is an essential element in improving the chances of survival for endangered species around the world.
Many children love domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, and understand the importance of being kind and compassionate towards them. But in a world where it is common to see animals in cages at the zoo, taxidermy hanging on the walls of living rooms and certain stores, and natural habitats being destroyed for purposes of housing development, they may not understand that the lives of wild animals are important and should be respected. Some children are exposed to the killing of animals for sport, which diminishes their respect for animal life and life as a whole. Others eat animals daily without acknowledging the life of the animal on their plate.
Simply teaching children that animal life should not be unnecessarily taken and that killing for sport is inhumane and morally wrong can have a great positive impact in your child’s ability to be compassionate. While some families opt to teach their children to be humane towards animals by becoming Vegetarian or Vegan, meat-eating families can also cultivate respect for animal life in their children by teaching them to be grateful for the life of the animal on their plates and choosing to buy animal products that are manufactured under higher standards of humane treatment.
Doing activities with your child that focus on wildlife conservation, such as camping, gardening, creating backyard habitats for small wildlife, reading books about wild animals, watching movies with wildlife conservation themes, visiting kid-friendly websites that provide fun activities for children to learn about nature and wild animals can help your child develop appreciation for wildlife. You can also empower your child, letting them know that they can make a difference even at a young age and giving them examples of children who are already making a difference in the world of conservation such as Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late animal lover and wildlife conservation advocate Steve Irwin.
Teaching children from an early age through education centered on conservation can nurture their sense of compassion for animal life and help them grow up to be kind and compassionate individuals that stand up for those who do not have a voice.
One organization that understands the importance of empowering children through education is Children of Conservation. This organization provides scholarships for village children and children of African wildlife sanctuary workers, providing them with education that would otherwise be unattainable. They focus their programs in Kenya, Cameroon, and Uganda, where the ape meat trade and poaching of elephants is prevalent. The organization explains that the end result of providing education which focuses on the compassionate treatment of wildlife is “better care for the animals and a culture where the future leaders come from a background of conservation.”
These children will undoubtedly make a difference in their villages and help deter the inhumane treatment of African Wildlife. Children in our communities can also make a difference and become the next leaders in Wildlife conservation, just as Dr. Jane Goodall who was once a little girl in England who could only dream of exploring Africa and later became one of the most important Animal Welfare advocates of her and our generation.
Books on Wildlife Conservation
- “The Chimpanzee Children of Gombe: 50 years with Jane Goodall at Gombe National Park” by Jane Goodall
- “The Chimpanzees I Love: Saving their World and Ours” by Jane Goodall
- “Rickie and Henri: a true story” by Jane Goodall
- “With love” by Jane Goodall
- “Gorilla Mountain: The Story of Wildlife Biologist Amy Vedder” by Rene Ebersole
- “The new 50 simple things Kids can do to save the Earth” by EarthWorks Group and Sophia Javna
- “Can we save them?” by David Dobson and James M. Needham
- “Saving Turtles: A Kids’ Guide to helping Endangered Creatures” by Sue Carstairs
- “Jane Goodall: Chimpanzee Protector” by Robin S. Doak
- “Will we miss them? Endangered Species” (Reading Rainbow) by Alexandra Wright and Marshall Peck
- “A life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts” by Pamela S. Turner
- “Animals at the Edge: Saving the World’s Rarest Creatures” by Jonathan Baillie & Marilyn Baillie
- “Macmillan Children’s Guide to Endangered Animals” by Roger Fevv
Visit your local Library for more Book Titles that fit your child’s age range and literacy level.
Websites for Parents, Teachers, & Children
- National Wildlife Federation Kids’ Webpage
- Animal Fact Guide for Kids
- Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo
- National Geographic: Kids Books and Atlases
Kid’s Movies with Wildlife Conservation Themes
- Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book
- The Amazing Panda Adventure
- Once Upon a Forest
- FernGully: The Last Rainforest
- Fly Away Home
- Mighty Joe Young
- Disney Nature Films: Bears, Monkey Kingdom, Wings of Life, Chimpanzee, African Cats, Oceans, Crimson Wing, Earth