Monday, October 5, 2009

WCN 2009! Dr. Jane Goodall Says Hello to My Students

This past Saturday I attended the 8th annual WCN Wildlife Conservation Expo in San Francisco. I saw a host of incredible speakers, all of them conservation heroes working in the field to protect various endangered species from the myriad of threats facing them in the wild. They presented their organizations’ challenges and successes through eye-opening speeches and PowerPoint presentations, and greeted attendees out in the lobby at their respective tables to answer questions and sell products to fundraise for their organizations. If you haven’t been to this event before, I highly recommend it for next year. Visit the WCN website and mark your calendars!

One of the major highlights from the day: I got to see one of my favorite conservation groups again, Painted Dog Conservation. This group does incredible work to save Zimbabwe’s remaining populations of African wild dogs, also know as painted dogs, amidst the turmoil of a country under a president who seems bent on destroying his own people. Painted Dog Conservation does as much for the people of this devastated land as it does for its dogs. Greg Rasmussen and Peter Blinston, the director and project manager of PDC, are excellent and humorous presenters, and their passion for the wildlife they protect and the children of Zimbabwe they educate is infectious and heart-warming.

Also worth mentioning: PDC has the best stickers ever. They never chip, fade, or disintegrate. I have one on my laptop, my water bottle, my car, my dresser in my bedroom, my classroom wall, and I also have one of their patches stitched into my duffle bag. This Saturday I bough ten more (the volunteer behind the counter, Renee, who works with painted dogs at a facility in Vancouver, recognized me from last year, when I bought six stickers.)

And of course, the big banana was when I got to see Dr. Jane Goodall and her assistant Mary Lewis again. Dr. Jane Goodall gave a wonderful speech, which provided for me a fresh shot of inspiration. She has an incredible way of doing that; revitalizing your passion for conservation by talking about her own, by providing stories of hope and success, and for saying the words with total conviction: “Never give up.”

After her speech, I met up with her outside, and asked her to say hello to my students on camera. She sweetly obliged, and now I can’t wait to show my class! Here she is: