Did you know elephants get sunburns?
If you said yes, maybe you’re a member of the Eco Club at Adam Beck Junior Public School.
Sam is a Grade 2 student in the Eco Club, and this year, he and the 30 other club members are really in the know when it comes to elephants.
“They can get sunburns on their ears,” he said.
“But their ears protect their face.”
Sam’s sunburns report got Beach Metro News working overtime.
Elephants do indeed get sunburns, this reporter found, along with other animals without fur, feathers, or scales.
Hippos get sunburns too, it turns out, but they can make a pinkish sweat that works like a lotion to block UV rays.
Elephants are less hi-tech, scientists say, preferring to throw sand on their backs or heads. Adults shade their young just by standing over them.
It’s fun to learn a thing or two about elephants, but the Adam Beck Eco Club is going a big step further. This year they have so far got to know 16 real ones by adopting the orphaned elephants in care at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at Nairobi National Park.
Teacher Dominique Bruce, who helps organize the club along with fellow teachers Martine Gingrich, Jarrod Bines, and Karen Sickinger, said the project came together in December. The goal is to adopt 20 elephants – one for each class at the school.
“When we adopted the first ones at Christmas time, one of the little Grade 2’s in the club came and said, ‘Are we really getting an elephant?’” she said, smiling.
Since then, the Grade 2 to 6 students have learned a lot more about the world’s largest land animals, thanks in part to what they read in the daily journals of their elephants’ keepers.
“They have it as a reading activity,” said Bruce. “They can see, ‘Oh, one of our elephants is having a mud bath.’ Or there’s a couple of them that are always greedy, and rush for the bottle during feeding time.”
“The kids can really relate to that,” she said.
Some of the elephants’ stories are serious stuff – poaching is on the rise again as ivory demand grows in several developing countries.
But many of the Adam Beck elephants were orphaned by other causes.
“One was washed away in a flood,” said Sam.
“One fell in a well,” said Markus, a Grade 3 student working beside him.
In fact, just before New Year’s, one young elephant sponsored by the school died of infection — apparently a common problem for elephants that are teething.
In response, the Eco Club announced the passing of the elephant, Asanje, over the school’s PA system, and asked for a moment of silence.
There were no quiet moments in Eco Club last week, as the students had just one lunch hour to design, colour, and press all the two-inch buttons they wanted to sell for an Earth Week fundraiser. Each elephant is $50 to sponsor for the year, Bruce said, and the club still has four to go.
Besides elephants, the Adam Beck Eco Club has raised money for the World Wildlife Fund, and taken on lots of projects in and around the school, like recycled sculpture contests for Earth Week, and better recycling in class.
Bruce said the club has been going steadily for 16 years or more, and she credits staff as well as students for getting on board with the kind of messages the students were pressing on their buttons – “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” “Turn off the Lights,” and “Save the World.”
The school’s parent council printed recycling guides for each class at the school, Bruce added, and principal Rita Gallippi got behind a “pack it in, pack it out” rule for any litter created by student lunches – a step that encourages reusable containers.
When the next Earth Hour rolls around, Markus said people should turn off the lights and otherwise avoid using electricity.
When asked why, he said, “To save the animals.”
And us too?
“Um, yeah,” he said.