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Unlikely heroes saving wildlife & trees: English Detective #125
March 19, 2019

Unlikely heroes saving wildlife & trees

We all know the environment is under increasing threat, and so much of the news is bad! I appreciated finding stories about ordinary people finding ways to have a surprisingly large impact on some of the problems we see. Here are three stories—of many—about individuals who are helping to save wildlife inn Africa and forests in India and around the world.

The BBC has a long but compelling article on a group of women rangers protecting Zimbabwean elephants from poachers. These women, many from difficult backgrounds, have made it through a rigorous training program and proved themselves as dedicated wildlife protectors. They call themselves Akashinga, “the Brave Ones.” They not only watch for poachers but also bring the benefits of wildlife conservation home to their communities.

Damien Mander, the creator of this program, feels that using women as the principal guardians of wildlife could reduce violence and help their communities in profound ways. He quotes an African saying: “'If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation,’” He adds, “‘At the very least, with this model, we have twice as many people to choose from for employing as rangers… At the very best, I think women will change conservation forever.’”

The program has faced a lot of challenges, and it’s still controversial. However, along with some similar programs, it has won support in the community and has the potential to make a real difference for threatened elephants and other wildlife.

Planting Billions of Trees

While still very young, Felix Finkbeiner started an organization that (working with the U.N.’s Billion Tree campaign) has planted 14 billion trees in countries around the world. They have over 50,000 young “climate justice ambassadors” working for change in their home areas.

A fourth-grade school report about climate change motivated his tree-planting project. He read about Wangari Maathai’s large-scale tree-planting in Kenya and started a campaign to do the same in Germany.

He has now spoken at conferences in several countries, including to the U.N. General Assembly, and continues to encourage his own generation, as well as any adults he can reach, to do what they can. “We’re going to be the victims of climate change. It is in our own self-interest to get children to act.”

Restoring Forests in India

“The Forest Man of India” was distressed to see the destruction of the riverside forests of his childhood. Seed by seed, seedling by seedling, he single-handedly restored a living ecosystem to a large barren sandbar.

Those few small trees have grown big. After 36 years, the forest covers more than 1,000 acres. It provides shelter for all kinds of wildlife including tigers, elephants, and even endangered rhinos. He’s won many awards, but he uses any prize money to expand the forest.

Conservation Vocabulary +

Practice with a crossword on Conservation Vocabulary here. The answers are here.

Here are explanations of a few words that did not fit in the crossword but were used a lot in the article on women rangers:

Area has several meanings, but here it means a region or a space used for a particular purpose. (In geometry it’s the amount of space within a geometric figure. For example, the area of a rectangle that is five centimeters long and 3 centimeters wide is 15 square centimeters.)

To empower is to give someone power or the ability or confidence to do something they might not have not dared to try previously.

Expanded means enlarged.

An interviewee is a person being interviewed (usually for a job).

To patrol is to walk or drive through an area regularly to protect it and watch for threats.

To poach is to hunt animals illegally. Poachers often hunt elephants in order to sell their tusks for ivory.

To quit is to give up or leave a job.

Rangers are people who protect parks or other lands.

To recruit is to find people for an organization (or often for military service) and persuade them to apply or enlist to become a part of it. Recruits are the potential new members.

Similar means to be like something else.

Tourism is the business of attracting travelers (paying visitors) to an area. It’s a major source of income for many countries.

A trophy is a prize for winning a game or evidence of a major success. Trophy hunters want to show that they have killed “big game” like a lion or (in the past) an elephant.

Viability means the ability of something to do what it is designed to do. Seeds are viable if they can grow; a business is viable if it can earn a profit consistently.

A victim is a person who has been harmed. The people injured or killed by a natural disaster or a terrorist attack are its victims.

A couple of explanations from the Indian forests article:

An acre is a unit of land area in the U.S. or Canada (and formerly in the U.K.) It’s about 40% of a hectare.

Dense means thick. (A dense forest has trees very close together.)

Saplings are small, immature trees.

Seedlings are small plants that have just sprouted.

The next issue will probably be about Jane Goodall and her work: studying and protecting chimpanzees, improving life for the people near the reserve where she worked, and helping prepare a new generation to care for the earth and its creatures.


Catherine Simonton,

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