“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.” ~ Jane Goodall
Amazing women like Jane Goodall have been helping animals for years. They have been raising awareness about endangered species, developing sustainable solutions to bring back species on the brink of extinction, studying animal behavior to further protect them, and helping bring about positive change.
In honor of Women’s History Month, let us pay homage to three amazing, award winning wildlife conservationists.
1) Jane Goodall – Chimpanzees
Internationally recognized expert on chimpanzees, 77-year-old Jane Goodall is an icon for animal conservation. Goodall has been studying the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, East Africa and advocating for their protection for more than 45 years.
When Goodall set out to study chimpanzees, all she had was a strong sense of determination and a desire for adventure. One of Goodall’s early accomplishments was the discovery of tool-making among chimpanzees. She was able to achieve this by being patient, and gaining their trust enough to get close enough to observe them. It was a feat achieved by no other scientist at the time. When her mentor Louis Leakey first heard about her discovery, he sent her a telegram: “Now we must redefine tool, redefine man, or accept chimpanzees as human.”
Dr. Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute 35 years ago to support the Gombe research and protect chimpanzees and their habitats. The institute is recognized for its innovative and community-based conservation programs throughout Africa. The institute’s Roots & Shoots program currently has more than 8,000 youth groups in 120 countries and encourages youngsters to partake in environmental conservation.
Dr. Goodall also used her knowledge of chimps to improve the conditions of lab chimpanzees and those in zoos. As a United Nations Messenger of Peace, she continues to tour the world educating the public and raising awareness about chimpanzees.
2) Laurie Marker – Cheetahs
Dr. Laurie Marker has worked with cheetahs since 1974 and is the Founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) headquartered in Namibia, Africa. Marker started the Fund in 1990 after having spent 16 years developing the most successful captive cheetah-breeding program in North America at Oregon’s Wildlife Safari.
Determined to study the world’s fastest land animals in their natural habitat and set up a permanent Conservation Research Centre for them, Marker set out to Namibia, which is the last large stronghold of the endangered species. Cheetahs are endangered because of habitat loss and coming into conflict with livestock farming.
CCF’s mission is to release captive born cheetahs into the wild, develop a conservancy for cheetahs on Namibia’s livestock farmlands in cooperation with the farmers and local communities and to improve the cheetah habitats by clearing invasive bush that leads way to restoring Namibian savannah. CCF has also developed a Cheetah Museum and visitor and education centers.
One of the most successful non-lethal predator control programs at CCF is the Livestock Guarding Dog Program, which uses Anatolian Shepherds and Kangal dogs to protect livestock from cheetahs. The dogs are raised with the herd so that they bond with the animals and assume the role of protectors. The fight or flight instinct in cheetahs causes them to stay away from farmlands.
3) Sangduen “Lek” Chailert – Elephants
Dr. Sangduen “Lek” Chailert grew up in a small hill tribe village in Thailand.
Her love of elephants started when her grandfather got a baby elephant to help him with farming chores. While working with trekking companies after college, Lek discovered the abuse and neglect that many domestic Asian elephants endure. Retired elephants (from logging) were made to beg on the streets for food. Later on, they are sent to tourist camps to provide entertainment and rides.
Lek decided to take things into her own hands, and began advocating for better treatment of the elephants. In 1995, Lek set up the Elephant Nature Foundation, which advocates and acts on behalf of the rights of Asian elephants in Thailand. Within the foundation, the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) operates as a sanctuary and rehabilitation center providing a natural environment and allowing formerly abused and retired elephants to simple be elephants.
The elephants roam freely and work for no one. In addition to rescuing elephants, Elephant Nature Foundation also provides emergency healthcare to elephants in remote villages throughout Thailand through a program calledJumbo Express.
The Surin Project helps mahouts in rural communities with elderly elephants through sustainable volunteer tourism. Volunteers will help with building shelters, digging irrigation canals, planting elephant food and helping elephants get off their chains and live natural lives by leading them on a long walk each morning.
Why Bilinguals Are Smarter
Published: March 17, 2012
SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.
This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.
They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.
Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.
In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.
The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.
Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.
The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.
The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).
In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.
Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.
Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is a staff writer at Science.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 20, 2012
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of a university in Spain. It is Pompeu Fabra, not Pompea Fabra.
Cheetah Conservation Fund, Namibia. Il Centro che pensa ai ghepardi e alla loro sopravvivenza.
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