Creative Kids Help Save Gorillas

Children help gorillas in many creative ways. They raise funds and educate other kids and the public. Some children have even harnessed the Internet and reached beyond their communities to spread the word.

A lemonade stand makes a difference

Nick Carswell of Pacific Grove, California raised $135 for the cause when he was only 8 years old. He sold lemonade outside his local post office on "National Make a Difference Day," helped by a friend and his big brother Wesley, who wore a gorilla costume. They skated and danced to help draw attention to the cause, according to their mother, Martha Carswell. "Nick takes this cause VERY seriously and will probably sell lemonade again next year," says Mrs. Carswell. Nick calls himself "Your friend in the gorilla business."

"Kids Save the Apes" on the Web

At age 11, Haley Stern of Burlington, Vermont, started her own organization called Kids Save Apes. "In 2007, I went to the Bronx Zoo, and was blown away by the gorillas," she says. "My parents got me the movie 'Gorillas in the Mist,' and during the poaching scenes in the end I was so terrified, I adopted a gorilla from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund right after. But I wanted to do more to help. I gathered my friends to form 'Kids Save Apes'. I made a website, an email address, and spread the plight of the apes. I notified teachers, parents, kids, senators, representatives, the president! Before I knew it, I had raised $500 (not including what other members had raised as well) and was telling everyone about the cause."

Haley and James at the zooKids Save Apes includes chimpanzees, gorillas, and other apes in its mission. The web site: http://kidssaveapes.webs.com/ provides a basic description of each species and links to other organizations, especially those oriented towards young people. "We learn more about apes and we petition to stop poaching and raise money to adopt apes from organizations such as the Fossey Fund and the World Wildlife Fund," says Haley. She has succeeded in recruiting more than 40 members from all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Tanzania.

In May 2008 Haley and her 11-year-old Co-President, James Brooks of Ontario, travelled to Boston to meet Jane Goodall and speak about their work with Goodall's youth organization, Roots and Shoots. James also started an organization, 1000 Classrooms, an affiliate of Kids Save Apes, which educates children in western countries about the risks faced by people and wildlife in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His group raises funds for a poultry co-operative that supports the widows and children of park rangers who were killed while protecting gorillas. See www.1000classrooms.org

Haley is looking for more children aged 7-14 to join Kids Save Apes. She invites schools, classes, scout troops and individual students to become involved by holding a fundraiser, learning about apes through research and field trips to zoos, and writing for the web site. Haley sets ambitious goals for her organization. "One thing we hope to do is touch a poacher's life, so he'll put down his knife—even just one poacher. Our main goal is to save the apes from extinction, maybe even from being endangered... I believe that all of us hard-working animal organizations will really make a difference in the world!" Haley says.

Mariah Saves Gorillas: Recycling cell phones

Another kid who saves apes is Mariah Nablo. Two years ago, Mariah saw a TV documentary about Dian Fossey's work and another film that showed how illegal mining of coltan, a strategic mineral used in cell phones, destroys gorillas and their habitats in the Congo. She decided to start Mariah Saves Gorillas to spread the word and take action after she noticed a cell phone collection box at the Buffalo Zoo Her group collects discarded cell phones and sends them to an organization called Eco-Cell for recycling, which reduces the demand for new phones. Eco-Cell resells the used phones and also sees that phones that can't be reused are disposed of properly so that the hazardous substances they contain won't go in a landfill. Funds from sale of the used phones go to the Fossey Fund, zoos and other conservation organizations. (See Gorilla Journal, Winter 2009 for more information or visit www.eco-cell.com.)

MariahMariah's campaign started with an Earth Day visit to her father's workplace, where she collected 150 phones, and now operates through phone donation boxes at several schools and businesses in her home town of Williamsville, New York and other nearby Buffalo suburbs. Like Haley, she has a website: www.mariahsavesgorillas.com. In 2010 she reached her first goal of collecting 1,000 phones, and last time we checked the website she was well on her way to 2,000. She also reports on proposed legislation that would ban United States companies from using DRC coltan in any electronics.

Mariah told a reporter at the Amherst Bee that she would like to work with animals when she gets older, like Dian Fossey. Meanwhile, her slogan is "Save the gorillas one cell phone at a time!"

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