Involving Children In Conservation Is Easy!

Leaders and policymakers around the world need to wake up every morning to go to work for the next generation… This is our inalienable responsibility and duty in society, yet we choose to forget this as short-term benefits, ego and greed drive the destruction of our natural environment and marginalise young people around the world. There are no jobs and important ecosystems are collapsing around us. We are warming the planet and polluting our freshwater with reckless abandon, seemingly setting our children up for a volatile future with water shortages, tropical storms, tornadoes and hurricanes, droughts, famine and inequality. We need to change and children cannot help but show us the way…

Children are resourceful, objective and without preconceived ideas or agendas. They will surprise you every time and are powerful little ambassadors and agents of change in their local communities, spreading new ideas and concepts that originate at school, asking questions that need to be answered, and telling us how it really is. We filter a lot out to make life more tolerable. They do not. The best way to engage young people is LIVE and interactive. Kids like doing and experiencing, so get them involved! We did not have a captive-bred Cape parrot to show the children at Reddam College, but we got them actively thinking about and promoting conservation. They, after all, have the magic of imagination and are able to fill in the gaps between the TV shows and news articles. By the end of the week-long awareness project these kids became, without a doubt, the most knowledgeable people in Cape Town in regard to the plight of the Cape parrot. They managed to raise just over $1,000 in one day through innovative fundraising ideas like “Pin the beak on the sick Cape parrot”, “Cupcakes for Conservation”, parrot art, parrot hats, parrot t-shirts, and requests for charitable donations made in local newspapers and on local TV and radio shows. Amazing what kids these days can do!

Rodnick Biljon
Cape parrots are only found in South Africa in areas with high mountains and old-growth Afromontane forest dominated by yellowwoods. There are less than 1,000 remaining in the wild. Please watch this important video about the Cape Parrot Project. (Rodnick Biljon)

The recent “Friends of the Amur Falcon” campaign and associated “ecoclubs” in schools in Nagaland has successfully ended the massacre of tens of thousands of these amazing little falcons. See: Children are a powerful force for change because it is their future, not ours, that hangs in the balance. They approach the world without greed or prejudice and should be involved in all long-term, community-based conservation projects. All conservation efforts should be considered “multi-generational” and should be managed in the knowledge that one of the children living in the local community will be the person that takes over when you are gone. Conservation funding proposals should be declined if they do not include young people in the project design. Involving children in conservation is easy! 

"Friends of the Amur Falcon" poster behind two school children that have been taught about just how amazing these little falcons really are. (Ramki Sreenivasan)
“Friends of the Amur Falcon” poster behind two school children that have been taught about just how amazing these little falcons really are. (Ramki Sreenivasan)

The Cape Parrot Project and our community-based conservation project, the iziKhwenene Project, are multi-generational projects that aim to stimulate positive change for Cape parrots, other threatened forest endemics (e.g. the Hogsback frog), local communities, and the degraded Afromontane forest patches they all depend upon for food, shelter and environmental services. We are working more and more with local children and through our “micr0-nurseries” and “Forest Custodians Program” hope to establish them as the future stewards and custodians of the communally-owned indigenous forests near their homes.  Please watch this amazing 14-minute video on the iziKhwenene Project to learn more about our work: Share this link with your friends and colleagues…

Steve Boyes / Cape Parrot Project
Hala Village in the valleys below Hogsback Mountain where Cape parrots used to feed on yellowwood fruits, Celtis fruits, wild olives, and wild plums before they were chopped out by greedy colonists or burnt under communal land ownership. We have now planted thousands of indigenous fruit trees in “Cape Parrot Community Orchards” in several villages, fencing them off to protect them from livestock and paying local communities to care for them as the custodians of these forest plots. We have also launched a micro-nursery program that builds small tree nurseries for ten households in the village, which are stocked with yellowwood seedlings that must be grown up to planting size. These partnerships are all going from strength to strength. (Steve Boyes / Cape Parrot Project)

Please consider donating to the Wild Bird Trust to help us grow our various conservation projectsWe depend on donations at this time of year to fund new, exciting projects and react to emergencies like the disease outbreak in 2009. Go t:



Meet the Author
Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to conserving Africa's wilderness areas and the species that depend upon them. After having worked as a camp manager and wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta and doing his PhD field work on the little-known Meyer's Parrot, Steve took up a position as a Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. He has since been appointed the Scientific Director of the Wild Bird Trust and is a 2014 TED Fellow. His work takes him all over Africa, but his day-to-day activities are committed to South Africa's endemic and Critically Endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Based in Hogsback Village in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), Steve runs the Cape Parrot Project, which aims to stimulate positive change for the species through high-quality research and community-based conservation action. When not in Hogsback, Steve can be found in the Okavango Delta where he explores remote areas of this wetland wilderness on "mokoros" or dug-out canoes to study endangered bird species in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Steve is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in the Okavango Delta and on the Cape Parrot Project.