Two summers ago, Kate Gilman Williams went on a summer vacation that changed her life. The 9-year-old Trinity Episcopal School third-grader says that while her parents had been to Africa before she was born, "they thought I would love to go, so we went," she says.
There she saw many animals, including zebras, elephants, rhinoceros, hippos, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, hyenas and more. For two weeks, twice a day she and her family headed out by Jeeps to see the animals where they live.
When she saw a lion stalk and then catch up with another animal, "It was kind of good," she says. "I felt good for the animal that it got to eat. It's the circle of life."
She learned about how the circle of life is one thing, but humans poaching animals is something else. She tells us that a rhinoceros is killed every eight hours and about 100 elephants a day are killed by humans. Her guide Michelle Campbell showed them snares that poachers leave to entrap animals.
Kate wanted to bring what she learned to other kids.
"There's not that many kids that go on safari," she says.
She wanted to teach kids about poaching and animal extinction and help them learn what they could do to help.
Kate, along with guide Campbell, has written a book, "Let's Go on Safari!" (CricketHollow Books, $12.95), which brings together the experience Kate had in Africa and facts about animals from Campbell.
"Michelle probably explained most of what I know," Kate says. "To me, she's an animal expert."
They will be at BookPeople on Sunday, and on Saturday they will speak at Andy Roddick Foundation's Brunchin' event.
Kate and Campbell collaborated by email to write the book once Kate was home. They had the added challenge of Campbell living out of her truck for 393 days in the African bush and being away from cellphone service for days at a time.
"Michelle sensed her excitement from the very beginning," says Kate's mom, Lynn Gilman.
It took Kate and Campbell about a year to write the book. Kate enlisted the help of kids at Trinity to be part of an editing panel to give her feedback on the book to help her improve it. She enlisted the help of her teacher Meg Renwick, who drew pictures of bee boxes people use to keep elephants out of their gardens, which protects the elephants from being threatened.
She also found partner organizations like the Austin-based Global Wildlife Conservation, which is working to save animals like the Javan rhinoceros; the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya that raises orphaned elephants and returns them to the wild; and the Jane Goodall Institute in Virginia that works with chimpanzees and great apes. The book's profits will go to these three organizations, but Kate also includes in the book things kids can do to help these organizations such as foster a baby elephant for $50 a year, join Goodall's Roots & Shoots group for young people, and advocate for a wildlife organization of their choice.
"I really want kids to act like every day is Earth Day," Kate says. "We have a big crisis. If we act like every day is Earth Day, kids can help save our planet."
She set up a website, kidscansaveanimals.com, to help kids get inspired to advocate for animals. And she had friend Magdalene create a logo, which is used on T-shirts and bags to promote the book.
"I always tell kids, 'Advocacy has no age limits,'" she says. She hopes that after kids read her book, they will find a way to help animals.
Kate will be traveling back to Africa this summer, when she will go the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to stay with the elephants there. She'll also be studying rhinoceros for the next book.
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