Even though wild elephants are thousands of miles from Evergreen, their plight is being felt by two sixth-grade reading classes at Evergreen Middle School — and the students are doing something about it.
The students in Kathie Morsette’s and Mary Thomas’ classes have begun raising money to adopt elephant and rhino orphans at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. It costs $50 to adopt an orphan animal for a year, and the class itself raised more than $150. The students also had a bake sale after school on Friday, raising $112 in 10 minutes, and they will adopt another two animals.
They promise they will continue their fund-raising efforts to help as many animals as they can.
“It really helps the elephant who doesn’t have a mom or dad or sister or brother,” sixth-grader Paige Halminiak said after Friday’s bake sale. “The money pays for treatment or toys to play with, so they don’t feel so lonely.”
The sixth-graders have learned a lot about animal poaching in Africa and its effect on the wildlife population. They read a book by Eric Campbell called “Papa Tembo,” and have done research on elephant poaching and the ivory trade. They have developed a strong interest in the Wildlife Trust, which has been trying to stop poachers and help the orphaned animals since 1977.
Sheldrick was a naturalist and founder warden of Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park. The trust helps animals live in the wild again, plus it operates two mobile veterinary units and seven full-time de-snaring teams that try to save animals that have been trapped.
The students have been looking at profiles of the animals living at the orphanage, and they tell stories about the animals’ circumstances.
Take, for example, Aitong, a young elephant who was abandoned when poachers frightened her herd. Aitong fell into a hole and would have died if villagers hadn’t found her, Claire explained.
Sixth-grader Anya Owens told about Kwanzaa, a baby elephant who watched while her mother and sister were killed by poachers, and she was found sitting by their bodies.
Helping the animals is a lifelong lesson for the students, and they are learning it well.
“This is teaching us that we are more privileged than others,” Anya said, “and we need to work for change.”
“We need to care about our surroundings,” sixth-grader Claire Donlan said.