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Encanto Elementary School fourth grader Noemi Mora, left, and her classmates let out a big lion roar in appreciation for National Endangered Species Day on May 20. Photo by Tony Cagla
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Younger generations take up conservation cause

ESCONDIDIO — National Endangered Species Day has come and gone, but the message behind it is still resonating with young students around the country.

When the U.S. Senate passed a resolution back in 2006 declaring the third Friday of each May National Endangered Species Day, students of every age flocked to zoos, aquariums, gardens and museums to learn what they could do to help prevent the extinction of endangered animals.

At the heart of that lesson: One person can make a difference, explained David Robinson, the creator of National Endangered Species Day and education director for the Endangered Species Coalition, based in Washington, D.C.

Robinson was on hand at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on May 20 to help celebrate the day he helped to create 10 years ago.

One person can make a difference, Robinson explained. “Get involved and participate in a school club or do a habitat clean up, join a beach clean up — any number of things — planting a milkweed garden for Monarch butterflies,” he said.

Max Guinn, founder of Kids Eco Club, explained the significance of hearing for the first time a lion roar while on an overnight campout at the Safari Park with his mom.

“At that moment, somehow, I knew a world without lions and elephants would never be an option for me,” he said.

A San Diego Zoo Safari Park animal handler with an Andean Condor, one of the world’s endangered species.  Photo by Tony Cagla
A San Diego Zoo Safari Park animal handler with an Andean Condor, one of the world’s endangered species. Photo by Tony Cagla

“At 15 my generation is the first to experience global climate change and mass animal extinction. And my generation may be the last with any real hope of saving the planet as we know it.”

Robinson, though, said he’s aware of the doom and gloom part of the message, but that there’s also hope.

“I think that’s what people like to focus on. I think that people — if you’re only focusing on how terrible the planet is — a lot of people just don’t want to get involved. It’s just too depressing.

“So you look at it from a positive aspect that every day actions make a difference. This generation, I don’t think they’re the only generation to get involved…But I think there’s a call to action that’s there. They’re going to get more involved and kids are going to rise to the occasion and do things.”

Lynn Howard, a fourth-grade teacher at Encanto Elementary School in San Diego, said her one thing she does a day to make a difference is to spend 30 minutes every day researching and signing petitions for endangered species.

Noemi Mora, 10, a student of Howard’s, talked about the importance of saving all the animals, most especially the elephants because of their abilities to help spread seeds as they grazed, which in turn, helps the ecosystem.

She and her class have written several letters to China, she said, asking for people to stop killing elephants and other animals for their ivory tusks.

“It’s sort of been working,” she said. “They’ve been stopping. But we want them to stop absolutely.”

“Every single animal should be saved because they’re important to our ecosystem,” Mora said. “So it’s like one animal dies out, then our whole ecosystem falls apart. And we can’t have that,” she said.

Robinson said that every year since National Endangered Species Day began, he’s seen the programs associated with it grow, he said, and the success stories about endangered species being told more often.

There’s more and more people involved, it’s become more international, he said.

“I believe everyone can help,” Guinn said. “Start with one thing today to change the way you care for the planet and its animals.”