Gorilla Summit Puts New York Kids on African Front Lines

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 6:17 PM EDT
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Gorilla Summit Puts New York Kids on African Front Lines

NEW YORK, New York, September 25, 2008 (ENS) - The first Kids Gorilla Summit, which is happening on Friday in New York City will enlist young people to make a commitment to help endangered mountain gorillas and the people of Africa. The summit will explore the connection between the urgency of wildlife preservation and inter-related humanitarian issues.

This event and the gorilla conservation campaign it spearheads were born out of a commitment to action made at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative shortly after last summer's massacre of 10 of the world's remaining 720 mountain gorillas, of which, 380 live in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park.

A project of the William J. Clinton Foundation established by the former U.S. president, the Clinton Global Initiative convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, such as the planet's dwindling biodiversity.

The gorilla conservation campaign brings together some of the world's most respected names such as Kenyan conservationist Dr. Richard Leakey, founder of Wildlife Direct, and South African Anglican Archbishop, activist and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu.

Turtle Pond Publications and Scholastic, in association with Dr. Richard Leakey's Wildlife Direct and the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation through the catalyst of the Clinton Global Initiative, are the partners in this effort to protect the mountain gorillas.

Dr. Leakey started Wildlife Direct in 2005 to raise awareness and funds for conservation in some of the worlds most endangered and dangerous places. Operating deep in the jungles of eastern Congo, blogs written by rangers last year alerted the world to the crisis facing mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Funds raised through the blogs have enabled the Congolese wildlife authority, the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute to continue wildlife conservation activities on the ground despite the ongoing crisis that pits rebels and government troops against each other for control of the area inhabited by the gorillas.

"Wildlife Direct was conceived as a way of facilitating exchanges between the front lines of conservation and the rest of the world, to create a community of people concerned about conservation and to allow for direct interaction with and support to the conservationists on the ground," Dr. Leakey says on his blog.

The Kids Gorilla Summit will now be part of that community. Participants will discuss the new children's book, "Looking for Miza: The True Story of the Mountain Gorilla Family Who Rescued One of Their Own, published by Scholastic Press. It was written by the best-selling team of Craig, Isabella and Juliana Hatkoff, photographer Peter Greste, and ecologist Dr. Paula Kahumbu who is in charge of conservation, policy and partnerships at Wildlife Direct.

Some 180 students in grades five to seven will view short videos of the gorillas, as well as special animated "Gorillasodes" that were created by students from the United States and Rwanda to help spread the word about the gorillas' plight.

The young people will discuss the issues with Leakey, Kahumbu and Hatkoff, and they will meet four reporters who are members of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps, reporting from Africa.

After learning about the gorillas and the region, the students will develop their own ideas for solutions with the help of educational, web-based technological tools.

At the end of the summit, participants will be asked to sign the Kids Global Act Pact, which will declare their commitment to taking action to make a difference.

Students nationwide can participate via a live national webcast at http://www.scholastic.com/miza and will be able to email questions to participants.

In addition, http://www.scholastic.com/miza and http://www.miza.com, created jointly by Turtle Pond and Scholastic, will offer students up-to-date information on the gorillas brought from Wildlife Direct's field-based blogs written by the Mountain Rangers and other activities and resources.

The new curriculum and online portal will be distributed to a million students to teach them about the gorillas, their habitat and the Mountain Rangers, and is intended to empower them to become advocates for change.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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