She insisted we continue. There were other moments which elicited tears, from both of us. And one that made me nervous. As researchers were preparing to release live rabbits into the enclosure of two captive tigers, I instinctively put my hands over my four year-old's eyes.
"Why are you doing that, Mommy?" she inquired.
"Do you know what is about to happen, sweetie?"
"Yes. The tigers are going to eat the bunnies."
"Are you OK with watching that?"
"It's how nature works, Mommy. Animals eat other animals."
I wasn't actually looking at her eyes, but there may have been a roll. OK, then. Ahem.
For the record, the film did not actually show the tigers eating the bunnies. I may have been more grateful for that than she was.
Since watching the documentary, SB has developed a very strong passion for tigers. And for helping save them. She has always loved animals, and often develops short-term obsessions or fixations, as is normal for her age.
But this has been different. She talks about tigers all the time. Devours any and all information she can obtain about them. For the first time, she began to draw pictures completely on her own - of tigers. (In the past, she refused to even try to draw, preferring instead to color in pictures in books or that I had drawn outlines of at her request.)
I'm going to be honest - there was a point where I was getting very tired of hearing about tigers all day every day.
But then I decided this was a great opportunity to show SB the power she has to make a difference, by taking her passion and translating it into action. I explained if she wanted to do more than simply love tigers, there were two ways she could work to help them: by raising awareness of their plight and funds for their protection.
There are countless needs in this world we live in, and many worthy charities working to help both humans and animals. We regularly go through SB's clothes and toys and select items to donate. We also participate in food drives in our area. We've taken gently used towels and dog beds to a local animal shelter. And have contributed to relief efforts for other countries, like Haiti.
We talk about how fortunate we are to have what we have, and how for a variety of reasons, not everyone does. I feel it is my responsibility to teach my daughter the importance of being a compassionate, giving member of society. It is also essential for her to know she is a citizen of the world.
And quite frankly, I don't think enough people truly follow their passions. With all that in mind, we are launching:
Here are some facts she would like you to know about her favorite creature, the tiger:
- They are the largest cats in the world
- They are the most endangered of the big cats
- They need to eat a lot of food because they are so big
- Their main threats are poaching and habitat loss
- They are mammals, so the cubs drink their mother's milk
- They are beautiful animals
After much research, I found a wonderful organization to support - Panthera. Its focus is on wild cat conservation, not tigers specifically. But the organization is doing great things, demonstrating respect for both the people and animals in the wild places they are working to protect. Their approach is outstanding.
I loved learning about how they train Maasai warriors in Kenya to be Lion Guardians. And produced 4,500 faux leopard skins for the Shembe Baptist Church in South Africa to reduce the hunting of leopards and demand for their skins worn in religious ceremonies. The ways they have incorporated the indigenous people and their needs into efforts to save the big cats are, I think, innovative and far more likely to meet with success.
Best of all, 100% of the donations they receive goes to their work in the field. All administrative and operating costs are covered by their founder. I was SO impressed watching their mission video, and was in tears by the time it was over. (SB and I happen to share a passion for the wild creatures of this earth.) I loved the fervor, intelligence, creativity and commitment of the people involved with Panthera.
When I showed SB this video and asked her if she wanted to help raise money for Panthera, she jumped up and down, clapped her hands and shouted, "YES, YES, YES!" I asked what she thought our fundraising goal should be, and she answered, "Ten thousand dollars!" I explained that was a little on the lofty side for such a campaign. But told her I loved her enthusiasm.
I understand and recognize not all will be in a position to make a donation. And some may not share SB's passion for this particular cause. But I would greatly appreciate your leaving a comment of encouragement below I can share with her. And if you do find it in your heart to make a financial contribution, we will be very grateful.
Panthera uses Crowdrise to raise funds online. I have set up an account there. That way, we can track the funds SB's efforts raise, the process will be easy and transparent, and donations will go directly to the organization. There is a button in the right hand column on my blog you can click on to donate.
I didn't get to choose the widget colors, but how cool is that they are black and orange?! SB emptied her piggy bank to help make the first donation. In the past she has used piggy bank money to buy something for herself, but she said this is more important.
Of course, it will take a bit more than change from her piggy bank to truly help the tigers. Hubby and I have chipped in. Now we are asking others to help her efforts if able.
My four year-old daughter's current life goal is to become a wildlife biologist or zoologist. I know this is likely to change many times before she actually becomes an adult. But regardless of her eventual path, I believe the lessons she will learn through actions like this will serve her, and the world her generation inherits, well.
In honor of Panthera and its mission, here are some fabulous photographs hubby has taken of big cats we've had the pleasure of seeing in a variety of captive environments (and one very mediocre pic I took):
|Tiger at Disney's Animal Kingdom|
|Black jaguar at our local zoo. Her name is Salsa.|
|Lioness at our local zoo.|
|Amur leopard at our local zoo.|
|SB's favorite animal at our local zoo, Limpopo, who turned 14 this week.|
|Florida panthers at our local zoo.|
I can only imagine what an incredible thrill it must be to view these beautiful creatures in the wild. Let's help keep them there!
Thank you so much for your time and consideration.