Having inherited my love for animals from my parents at a very young age, I never doubted that these values would pass on to my children. Besides the fact that I firmly believe that healthy coexistence with our surroundings is key to our future and presence on this planet, I often ask myself: what good the appreciation of wildlife can do for kids? How will this positively affect their personality and social behavior? When founding Agga, wildlife education became a mission, challenging me to analyze how I see the correlation between the love of all species and child development.
1. Critical thinking -
We develop a dislike from a young age for certain animals because we fear them, and it is easy to understand why. Knowing that crocodiles have the strongest jaws in nature or that coconut crabs have the strongest claw grip can shape our opinion that these species were evolutionally developed to cause harm to others. But that is a very two-dimensional way of looking at the animal world. Understanding how animals live, how each one of their traits is functional to its survival and the ecosystem by large, and that essentially, they all feel pain, can help us care more about their existence. It can also direct children to challenge the stigmas and stereotypes that society tracks them to believe. Knowing that there is often a very big gap between fact and myth, is thought-provoking in itself.
2. Accepting the other -
Fighting prejudice is an uphill battle we face throughout life. It is hard to wipe out what we were taught to believe about people from different ethnicities, religions, genders, and sexual identities. The same applies to the animal kingdom. Books, movies, and TV series that negatively portray predators are in abundance. Opening children’s minds to different animal species, who don’t necessarily fall under the “beauty” or “cuteness” model, having them open their hearts and minds to them, can create individuals who treat their peers non-discriminately.
3. Compassion -
Animals don’t use human words to speak, and can’t unite and lobby and fight for their rights. This means that their welfare and existence on this planet are dependent on us. Understanding that Elephants mourn their dead, that wolves, eagles, and porcupines form long-term, monogamic relationships, and that even the loathed rats are sentient beings can change our view of the animal world. Knowing these and other facts could help children feel and develop compassion for them, which could extend to their siblings and peers.
4. Responsibility -
As I wrote earlier, in the shape the world has taken, animals depend on us for survival. Our actions affect the ecosystem and different habitats, directly and indirectly. A child aware of the fact that trash left on the beach can result in harm to sea turtles is a child that understands the concept of consequences for their actions. The notion that if we want to be surrounded by a diverse, rich natural world in the coming years, it’s up to us to sustain it immediately creates a sense of responsibility.