Note: This is a guest post by Alexandra Delis-Abrams, PhD, the author of the book Endangered Species Have Feelings Too.
By Alexandra Delis-Abrams, PhD
When a species becomes endangered, it is a sign – a red flag. Something is breaking down or has already broken down. Humans depend on healthy eco-systems and when these systems start unraveling, as evidenced by the accelerating rate of species endangerment, it is a call for humans to pay attention.
Do we listen? Do we take action? Creative education can encourage us to pay attention, building our capacity for empathy and supporting our ability to act for endangered species.
For over thirty years, my heart has tugged away at me to be of service in two areas: children and animals. Specifically, encouraging young people to develop emotional literacy–a feelings vocabulary. When we are aware of our feelings, then willing to express them, we become more closely connected to our authentic nature. Being honest and yet being kind grows a healthy adult. The art is to learn to listen and have empathy for another – human or otherwise. Learning that an elephant has been in captivity for 50 plus years, unable to live a life that is natural, imagining what that must feel like is someone with compassion. It’s an art.
When I’ve spoken at schools about endangered species and asked the students to guess the number of endangered species…the answers range from 14 to 92 total. According to the ICUN Red List over 96,500 species have been assessed globally, with greater than 26,500 species at risk of extinction. 1
Replacing ignorance about the number of endangered species with knowledge of the scope of species endangerment, while simultaneously building empathy for other beings is the purpose of my book, Endangered Species Have Feelings Too. The vision I have for this amazing teaching tool is reaching every young student and supportive adult to allow the text to open their hearts and take action to support endangered species.
The first step is to help youth relate and find connections with animals. Do children really know that the horn of a rhinoceros and our fingernails are made from the same protein, keratin? Understanding this similarity and learning about the relationships between people and non-human animals builds awareness of our connections and similarities to all other species.
The next step is self-expression through coloring of the animal. In Endangered Species Have Feelings Too the Fascinating Fact pages are filled with information, such as how many muscles are in the trunk of an elephant. These bits of information spark children’s motivation to research organizations, watch videos and/or learn more about a specific animal who draws the attention of the child.
Here is one example of how Endangered Species Have Feelings Too describes iconic endangered species:
I am a polar bear, and I feel exhilarated when I see my new cubs. They each weigh around 25 pounds (11 kg), and because they love my nutritious milk, they grow very quickly and will soon weigh 130 pounds (59 kg). While still young, they will head for the ice but stay close to me for several years.
I feel exhausted when I have to swim long distances looking for ice flows. Global warming is melting the ice, and I have to swim really far to get to sea ice platforms that are moving apart from each other, which makes swimming conditions scary. I will have to spend more time on land and less time on ice drifts so that will make it harder for me to get to the food we usually eat. I swam 426 miles (687 km) without stopping for nine days to find ice, and my little cub didn’t make it. I also lost 22% of my body fat which is not good for me. How long can you swim or run before you feel exhausted?
Exploring through the endangered species coloring book instills creativity and critical thinking. Through art, searching the unknown, developing a feelings language, and being inspiring to others with new-found knowledge, is a means of opening the heart to expose parts of oneself one never knew was there. Helps to answer, “who am I and what is my life about?” Good stuff.
A note from the Endangered Species Coalition:
Author Alexandra Delis-Abrams invites you to consider purchasing Endangered Species Have Feelings Too as an end of year gift. She has graciously offered to donate 25% of book sales to ESC.
Please consider purchasing Endangered Species Have Feelings Too at this website: