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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Next Generation of Conservationists
You know how, despite your best efforts, sometimes you can't help but feel pessimistic about the future of wildlife conservation and then - Pow! something happens to restore your faith?

That happened to me recently when I met this wonderful young man, Michael. I received an email a while ago from Michael's mom explaining that he was obsessed with clouded leopards and that she wanted to surprise Michael with a trip to the Zoo to see ours. Oh, and did I mention they live in Illinois? Yep, Michael's mom, dad, and sister traveled all the way from Chicago to spend the day at the Zoo to nurture Michael's passion in clouded leopard conservation.

I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast and spending several hours with Michael and his family talking about our favorite cats. I was so impressed with how much Michael knew, his thoughtful questions, and his incredible interest in cloudies and other wildlife. Just as amazing was Michael's super supportive parents who do all they can to encourage the passions of their kids. We should all be so lucky!

Michael isn't just selfish in his interest in cloudies. He and his family gave a generous donation to the CLP to support our conservation efforts and Michael has returned to school to share what he's learned with his classmates. His mom even reports that their community paper wants to do a story about it! Michael sent me a wonderful letter about his visit, calling it "the greatest experience of my life." His family plans to return to the Zoo when our new exhibit is open next summer and I very much look forward to their visit.

With up and coming conservationists like Michael, I am confident that the world's wildlife will be in great hands!

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