For children who care about the plight of the natural world, there’s never been an easier – or more important – time to get involved with conservation. Whatever they’re passionate about, there’s bound to be a way for them to do their bit to help preserve some of the unique biodiversity of the planet – whether that’s here in the UK, or on the other side of the world.
Starting at Home
They say charity begins at home, and so can conservation. Decades of development and urban growth coupled with changes to farming practice and the way we use the countryside has been tough on many once-common types of British plants and animals, driving many into decline. The good news, however, is that over recent years the upsurge in popularity of wildlife gardening has thrown many of these beleaguered species an incredibly valuable lifeline – and it’s something that just about anyone can do, no matter how small your garden or back yard.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a really big difference to a whole range of British flora and fauna and there’s plenty of help available (including the sister-site to this one) so getting started couldn’t be simpler. The birds and the bees will thank you for it!
If your youngster wants to do something a little further a-field, then it’s worth getting in contact with your local wildlife trust. There are 47 across the UK – 36 in England, six in Wales and one each for Scotland, Northern Ireland, Alderney, the Isle of Man and the Isles of Scilly – so wherever you live, they’ll be one for you to join. Altogether these regional trusts have over 800,000 members and manage 2,256 nature reserves, amounting to some 90,000 hectares of wild habitats.
Unsurprisingly, they’re always on the look-out for new members and willing volunteers – and there’s a junior branch – Wildlife Watch – for kids too. Join up and as well as access to your local facilities, there’s often the chance to go to meetings, on guided walks or take part in organised conservation days.
For kids with more specialised interests, there’s no shortage of organisations to help nurture their interest. Some, such as the Marine Conservation Society, the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and the Woodland Trust, aim to protect particular habitats, while others, including Plant Life, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, RSPB and Bug Life conserve individual kinds of wildlife.
There are also groups which act on a world-wide basis and support a wide range of schemes, such as WWF, while others are set up around a single project – the likes of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, or the Sea Turtle Conservancy, for instance.
Most of these groups provide a range of useful resources for kids, including regular newsletters and suggestions as to how they can get more involved with their favoured projects. For elephant-mad kids in Edgbaston, or the lion-lovers of Luton, it’s probably the best outlet for their passion – at least until you’ve saved up to take them on that safari!
If, however, what your youngsters really want to do is get involved in something a little more hands-on and practical, then you might like to think about a working holiday. Most of the major wildlife and conservation organisations run them, which opens up the possibilities to do just about anything from dolphin surveying in the Caribbean, to learning how to repair dry stone walls in Cumbria. Prices range considerably, depending on where you’re planning to go, and the level of luxury of the accommodation, but there’s something for pretty much everyone, and it comes with the added bonus of knowing you’re doing something concrete for conservation into the bargain.
All the same, the usual warnings about holidays and holiday insurance apply, so if the idea does appeal, make sure you only use a reputable travel agent or well established charity, just to be on the safe side – and get any necessary injections and medical cover too, of course.
From whales to wild flowers, whatever your kids are interested in, they shouldn’t have too much trouble getting involved with conservation – though with so much on offer, they might just find themselves a little spoilt for choice!