Laurel Beechey - The World is a Stage
Many wildlife rehabilitators feel that educating the public is almost as important as helping the animals, for if people understand the animals and cohabitate with them, we will get fewer orphans.
I do a lot of Power Point presentations year round, both historical and on wildlife, and found that using pictures packs a greater punch than just giving a speech. Of course with wildlife presentations, especially in the summer, I am busy at a lot of summer camps with children and the Power Point is not at their level. Instead, I take a bag of various stuffed, wild animals for the kids to identify and tell me what they know. I also take my friend Donna, to protect me from the children. They scare me more than fully-loaded not-so-happy skunks!
I always talk about endangered species, which tug at hearts of most people. It has been predicted that in the next 15 years we will loose half the animals on earth. The next 15 years another half will be gone. I can’t imagine what will be left for your children’s children.
Today, wetland areas are easy to fill in and build on, most disappear before the pubic realizes what is happening, but then most of the public don’t care. But what they don’t realize is that with the marsh gone, so are the turtles, frogs, toads, snakes lizards and assorted creepy crawlies, all part of that pyramid of life. When you remove the base, the whole thing comes tumbling down.
As a child, at my parent’s cottage past Huntsville, the bullfrog chorus in the evenings was very loud. Today there is not one croak. Where did they go? Acid rain has been around so long now that no one even talks about it, but it is still destroying lakes and animals.
My favourite part of teaching about wildlife is letting people know they can help save at risk, threatened and endangered species, right in their own communities, and it costs nothing!
It is a fantastic program run at the Toronto Zoo. (Zoos are now the protectors of many extinct-in-the-wild and endangered animals.) My favourite programs are Turtle Talley, FrogWatch and Adopt A Pond, because they are so simple. Go to www.torontozoo.com or call 416-392-5999. You can request they send you ‘resources’ which are brochures posters, guides, signs or flash cards, on turtles, amphibians, snakes, lizards, wetland resources, even games! Some species like turtles even have nesting protection info and how to be a turtle foster parent! In the brochures, the turtle one for example, are pictures of the eight species of turtles in Ontario, seven of which are at risk, threatened or endangered. Even the snapping turtle. Really! The female doesn’t lay eggs until she is 25 years old. How many will be alive in 25 years?
When you see a turtle, you can use your brochure/guide to identify it and then make note of where you are. You go online or phone to ‘Submit Your Sighting.’ It is that simple. Why?
1) To increase understanding of turtle distribution and ranges. 2) Information on turtle species and location is useful to identify areas of concern and threats. 3) To learn more about threats facing turtles. 4) To have fun.
Information collected will be submitted to the Natural Heritage Information Centre to learn more about turtle distributions in Ontario.
For Frog Watch you have the brochure, but you can also identify them by their calls which you can use the website to learn. You register as an observer, the location you find the frogs/toads, record observations on a data sheet and submit.
FrogWatch helps scientists: 1) Track climate change using phenology data. 2) Identify positive and negative population trends. 3) Learn about range and distribution of frogs and toads. 4) It's a fun, easy family or community activity which can lead to protection of wetland habitat & species. 5) You will learn about lifestyles of the wet and wonderful...
There is also a program on preserving or creating a wetland on your property to encourage the amphibians, and one for schools to nurture some of these species in the classroom then release them!
There is so much to learn, it is free and it is something the whole family can do together! See how many you can spot walking around Lake Lisgar! I have submitted several turtle sightings right here in the middle of town and up north.
Watch your email inbox for an invite to the Zoo in November! You learn how the programs are doing, and have researchers and conservation experts talk about new research, stories and answer questions, etc. I have been and it is fantastic.
So, get out there and help an endangered!