P.E.I. non-profit group educating summer campers about at-risk species

·3 min read

A non-profit organization is on a mission to educate children about at-risk species on P.E.I.

Nature P.E.I. launched a new program this summer with the goal being to travel to children’s summer camps across Prince Edward Island to raise awareness about endangered species and how they can be protected.

“A lot of children and members of the public in general in P.E.I. are not aware of the species at risk,” said project co-ordinator Harriet Laver in an interview with SaltWire Network on July 29.

“It’s great to get the message to out to especially through children because they love learning this stuff.”

There are 26 species in Prince Edward Island currently listed on the federal species at-risk public registry.

Many Islanders know about piping plovers and monarch butterflies, but they are unaware of how many other species are at serious risk of extinction, said Laver.

“They have been heavily focused on, but there is so many other people need to hear about,” she said.

As of 2022, P.E.I. has three bumble bee species at risk, four species of lichen and 15 species of birds. Others include arthropods, bats and vascular plants.

Several fish species found near P.E.I. are also at risk, including Atlantic salmon and striped bass.

“(Striped bass) is surprising because a lot of people enjoy fishing that here and have no idea,” said Laver.

Reasons for loss

Much of this loss is due increased urbanization, deforestation, rising sea levels and changing weather patterns.

Laver distributes a pocket guide to every camper that labels the species and breaks down which are more at-risk than others, categorizing them as either endangered, threatened or special concern.

It also labels the species the Island has already lost, which includes the caribou, wolves, the Canadian lynx and the American black bear.

“At the start, I always ask the kids how many species are at risk in P.E.I. that they know of. Typically, some can name a few, some can’t name any. At the end, I ask what species they know now, and they can usually name five or more,” said Haver.

So far, Haver has visited five camps across the province and talked to over 75 children. Most of the campers she talks to are between the ages of five and 11, and their response has been very positive.

“The biggest thing would be letting (kids) know there is always something we can do. It could be as simple as planting flowers and building bird or bat boxes or just trying to conserve the habitat that we have,” she said.

“It’s great to get the message out, especially to children, because they love learning this stuff. It feels really great.”

Finding funding

Rosemary Curley, president of Nature P.E.I., says this idea has been years in the making.

Curley worked with several provincial environmental ministers to get the funding for the project, receiving a one-year grant from Forestry, Fish and Wildlife to complete the work.

“We didn’t have much trouble getting the funding for this project,” said Curley.

Once the summer ends, the plan is to continue the program through the fall and visit schools to continue educating children. So far, one school has already signed up.

Seminars for adults are also being organized, as the goal is to try to reach every Islander with this information.

“We really want to reach the whole population. A lot of Islanders don’t have any idea of how many at-risk species we have or what we can do to help,” said Curley.

“It feels good to actually make some progress and perhaps make a difference.”

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian

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