On October 11, seven local children who all volunteer at the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue joined a special event in San Francisco to celebrate various Roots and Shoots groups from all over California. The children, ranging in age from six to 17, exhibited the work they are doing in the rescue’s PEEP program at the service fair and each had a chance to meet Dr. Jane Goodall personally.
Roots and Shoots was founded by Dr. Jane Goodall, who is the world’s leading expert on chimpanzees and is best known for her 55-year study of wild chimpanzees since she first went to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania in 1960. She started Roots and Shoots in 1991 as a youth service program for young people of all ages. The worldwide organization’s mission is to “foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, other animals and the environment.” The event on Wednesday was a celebration of the various Roots and Shoots projects taking place in California.
The local Sonoma County children exhibited their PEEP program, or “Predator Exclusion and Educational Barnyard” – a Roots and Shoots project facilitated through the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. The program is an innovative interactive educational program designed to help people with conflicts between domestic and wild animals. By providing a physical learning lab, students and members of the community can learn ways to protect their livestock and pets from natural predation in ways that do not harm wildlife, so the ecology of the region can remain balanced.
“We were very excited to share not only what we’ve been doing, knowing with all the research we’ve done that this is one of the few places in the world that has a program like this, but also to share it with the person [Jane Goodall] who really inspired Doris [Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue’s Executive Director] and the program,” says Michelle Fowler, Volunteer and Community Support Coordinator for Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. “It was very exciting for us on that level and to have it acknowledged in that way was very heartwarming.”
The chance for Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue to showcase their PEEP program to Jane Goodall was a full circle moment for Doris Duncan, Executive Director, since it was Goodall who inspired her in the first place to pursue her dream of helping animals.
“In 1969 when I was 9 years old, I read about Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania,” says Doris Duncan. “I was impressed how she was a young woman all by herself exploring the wild jungles to learn all she could about the chimpanzees that she loved so much. Right at that moment, I wanted to be just like her. In 1997, my dream finally came true. I started to volunteer at our local wildlife center, Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue and became a professional wildlife rehabilitator and educator. In 2014, our wildlife conservation efforts visualized through the development of our Predator Exclusion and Education Program (PEEP). Dr. Jane Goodall’s best advice came to me as she shared how she would spend the rest of her life educating people and especially children and how important that was to the conservation efforts of all wildlife. That was all the inspiration we needed.”
The Roots and Shoots celebration day included conversations and lessons about critical issues like wildlife poaching and climate change, the service fair and a talk by Dr. Jane Goodall. The participating children were excited to meet other Roots and Shoots groups and of course to meet Goodall in person. Each child had his or her “elevator speech” ready, to explain to Goodall what they were learning in the PEEP program.
“I am learning how to have pets and farm animals without causing trouble for wildlife and how to protect our garden food without the wild animals eating it, in a nice way,” said 6-year old Noa who attended the event. “We don’t use traps. We can put fake animals out and use the right fencing.”