By Lucy Townend
Orphaned African animals loved by Kiwi kids
Barsilinga the baby elephant and Solio the rhino have added another 20-plus primary school pupils to their list of foster parents.
The two orphaned African animals, based in Kenya, have been adopted by a class of 7 and 8-year-old Palmerston North children.
College Street Normal School's room 13 spent the term learning about African wildlife conservation projects and fundraising for various ventures.
The children researched ivory poaching, human-wildlife conflict, and habitat destruction, and the impact they had on African animals.
They decided to sell handmade, beaded elephant, rhino, and lion key rings imported from Kenya and made posters promoting the causes to their friends and family.
The class then used the $230 they raised to foster the orphaned elephant and rhino through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
They also donated to conservation projects Ewaso Lions, which promoted co-existence between people and wildlife, and Big Life Foundation, a protection agency that co-ordinated cross-border anti-poaching operations.
The key rings were brought in from Kenya's The Bead Factory and made by Maasai Mara women, who are based in a large game reserve in the southwest of the African country.
Pupil Jane Ambridge, 8, said she had learnt a lot through the project, including that an elephant's gestation period was nearly 2 years.
Teacher Vonette Pearce said the children had learnt more about being responsible global citizens and the impact they could have on others.
"It's been a two-pronged thing really," she said.
"They've learnt all about the animals and their plight, just how many are killed, weekly, monthly, yearly, and for what is a relatively small part of their body.
"But they're also helping the ladies of the Maasai Mara, who are the key-ring makers, so they can earn something too, and the money's then gone back to foster an orphaned elephant and a rhino," Pearce said.
"The idea that they can in some small way be part of something bigger through this initiative to both support these women and these animals is a wonderful thing," she said.
Solio the rhino was found in April 2010 as a six-month-old, standing by her injured mother, whose shattered shoulder prevented her from protecting her calf.
Barsilinga was 2 weeks old when his mother was attacked by poachers in the Wamba region of Kenya.
The animals were taken to orphanages run by the trust, where specialist keepers were looking after them.
They would then be moved to reintegration centres and eventually to conservation parks.