African Cats is a documentary that was released by Disney Nature last year on Earth Day. It is a true story that features two star felines: Mara, a lion cub, and Sita, a cheetah mother of five. Both cats live on the Savannah in Africa.

The film has the dramatic power that comes from combining beautiful images, a compelling story, stirring music, and just the right narrator—in this case, Samuel L. Jackson.

The cheetahs and the lions fight to survive every day. People who watch the film will at least want to see them survive, and at best want to do something to help them survive.

Natalie, a fourth grader who lives in my town, is part of the "at best" group. Her parents took her to see the movie when it opened. She was so moved by the story of the cheetah that she started studying cheetahs. She learned:

  • a cheetah runs up to 60-70 miles per hour
  • a cheetah can accelerate to 40 miles per hour in 2 seconds
  • cheetah cubs have grayish fur
  • cheetahs are losing habitat
  • cheetahs are hunted by farmers
  • cheetahs are endangered

Natalie was not satisfied with just reading and learning about cheetahs. At some point she asked herself an important question: "What can I do to help?" She then came up with an idea, made a plan, and set that plan in motion. Her neighbors were planning a neighborhood-wide tag sale. She thought that would be a great opportunity to talk with many people about cheetahs and the difficulties they face. On the day of the tag sale, Natalie set up a table with Cheetah informations and a donation box. At the end of the day she had spoken to many people and raised over $47.00 for the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

During an New England Environmental Education Alliance conference I attended in the fall, a speaker talked about "raising citizens"—individuals who aren't afraid to take a stand, get their hands dirty, be part of the solution. Natalie is just such a citizen. She did so much more than just raise money for an animal she cares about. She campaigned for cheetahs, educated the people she spoke with, and became a role model for others. My son Stephen loves tigers. Recently, he asked me if he could raise money for the tigers, the way Natalie did for cheetahs. Does your family love a particular animal? Consider mounting a campaign. Let's encourage our children to follow Natalie's good example!

Cheetah Conservation Fund

WWF -Save Tigers Now

World Wildlife Fund

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