Thursday, May 21, 2015

Recognition from USFWS gives Dylan hope for his future

Conservation. Saving endangered species. 

Fundraising. Setting goals and surpassing them. 

These are just a few of the topics discussed at my dinner table. 
Yes, I know this is not your typical dinner conversation, but that is because my son is not your typical 11 year old. 

Being a conservationist is not the coolest thing for a 6th grader to be known for. However, Dylan takes pride in his efforts and I keep reminding him that he is doing great things. That's what moms do, right? We praise our children for a job well done. Sometimes the response I get is "You're just saying that because you're my mom" or "Most people don't care about what I'm doing to save the animals". As his mom, this breaks my heart to hear him think this way. He may be partially correct, the world is filled with all sorts of people who have their own beliefs ... but as Dylan recently found out, there are a whole bunch of people who think he's doing some pretty awesome things for wildlife conservation. 

Last Friday was Endangered Species Day and we were invited to take part in a special Rally4Rhinos event at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to help bring more awareness to the plight of rhinos. Even though Mother Nature decided to give us lots and lots of rain this day, it was an event we wouldn't miss. The Rhino Rally kicked off with a "crash" mob of elementary students and teachers from the San Pasqual Valley and was followed by updates from San Diego Zoo Global and William C. Woody, Chief of Office of Law Enforcement at the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Imagine Dylan's surprise when Chief Woody asked Dylan and another young boy to come up to he podium.

Both boys were recognized for their conservation efforts and for making a difference for rhinos and other endangered species. Hearing my son share what he has done and seeing the look of of pride on a friends face while he spoke was something I will always remember. The applause that filled the pavilion for Dylan when he was done speaking filled my heart with a kind of joy that I have never felt before. Not just pride as his mom, but pride for him getting the recognition he so desired and needed. As Dylan walked back to his seat, standing tall and clutching his rhino sculpture, I saw something in him that I haven't seen before. I saw confidence. The confidence of a young man was beaming from my pre-teen son's face. This public recognition from our friends at San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and from Chief Woody was just what Dylan needed to reaffirm his passion for conservation. 

As another way of saying thank you to the boys, we were invited to go out on a VIP caravan safari to see Nola, one of only five Northern white rhinos left in the world. Nola is our favorite rhino and truly one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever met. This was a dream come true for Dylan.

I really don't think it matters anymore what the kids at school say because Dylan just had the best day of his young life.

For more about Nola and to see pictures from our visit with her, you can visit my photography site 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy World Binturong Day!

A bintur-what? What the heck is a binturong? Well, up until a few years ago I didn't know what a binturong was either, but now that I do, I love them! Binturongs are these adorable animals that look like something out of a cartoon. They have the head of cat, the body of a bear, and a prehensile tail that is just as long as their body. Sometimes people call them bearcats. However, they are neither a bear nor a cat. They are binturongs and today marks the very first World Binturong Day!

Dylan and I had the opportunity meet Khi, a resident of the San Diego Zoo, up close during a special Presidents Association event back in 2013. Khi is a young male binturong who serves as an animal ambassador for his species. The more we know about these animals, the more we can do to help save their habitats and ultimately their species.

Binturongs live in the tropical rainforest and spend most of their time living in the trees. They have long coarse hair that actually repels the rain water, an adaptation that allows them to live in the rainforest. Although classified as a carnivore, binturongs love fruits and vegetables. The hibiscus flower is one of their favorite treats. Oh, and they smell like buttered popcorn!

By giving the binturong their own day, more people will learn about this wonderful animal and realize how important the binturong is to our ecosystem. To learn more about the binturong and how you can help raise awareness, visit

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Zoology for Kids

As the parent of an animal lover and an animal lover myself, I can tell you that Zoology for Kids is a book that you will definitely want to add to your collection. My son has read too many animal books to count and frankly, they all start to look the same to me after a while. He doesn't read the average animal books, he reads animal encyclopedias. Animal facts, species breakdowns, habitats, and so on ... is what most of his books contain and he loves it. Don't get me wrong, this is all valuable information for him. I've just always wondered if there isn't something else out there to teach him more about his passion of working with animals.

Luckily, last weekend we had the opportunity to meet Josh and Bethanie Hestermann, coauthors of the wonderful new book Zoology for Kids, at a meet and greet during the International Children's Day Festival at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Listening to them talk during a brief presentation was so inspiring. They both have backgrounds in Zoology and truly believe that whatever your passion is ... scientist, educator, artist, photographer, writer, etc. there is a place for you working with animals.

It is no secret that Dylan wants to pursue an animal-related career. Whether he becomes a zoologist, a zookeeper, a researcher working in the field, an ambassador for endangered species, or is working campaigns to stop the poachers is still unknown because of his young age.

Until now, he has only talked about the possibility of these careers. Thanks to Zoology for Kids, he can actually read about his choices and what each job entails. This book is the ultimate research tool for any child interested in understanding and working with animals.

Each section contains valuable information about the various animal-related careers along with corresponding science experiments, activities and fun games for kids of all ages.

Aside from the great content, what I love about Zoology for Kids is that it was written by two people who have made their living working with animals. Josh and Bethanie encourage kids to follow their dreams and are living proof that it is possible to make a difference doing what you love.

To learn more about Josh and Bethanie and find out where you can purchase their book, visit