Out of Africa and on to Our Shelves

LB December 5, 2017 by Laura Barbieri

As a child, I spent many summer afternoons reading the Wildlife Fact File (serious throwback here, it was a giant three ring BINDER filled with collectible animal facts). So, you can only imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to visit Masai Mara – an animal reserve in the heart of Kenya’s Rift Valley.

Set alauragainst the backdrop of the unspoiled savannahs, my friend Hadley and I donned our best safari gear, hopped into a Jurassic Park style van and headed into the park. Most animal enthusiasts embark on safari to catch a glimpse of the elusive “Big Five” – African elephant, Leopard, Lion, Rhino and Buffalo. Even though we got to see big cats on the hunt – I was all about the giraffes.

Watching these gentle giants (and their babies!) was truly an unforgettable experience. It’s easy to get lost in the natural beauty of these majestic creatures, but many of these animals now face devastating threats and scientists warn that half of all species on earth may be gone within the next century. It’s a sad script we’ve all heard: many animals are vulnerable to loss of habitat due to human encroachment, poaching, deforestation and drought. These all threaten populations – and nature’s balance. But there is some hope for our furry friends.

It’s no secret that conservation is heavily integrated into all aspects of life in places like Masai Mara. Often, community members living in delicate ecosystems, must double as activists and advocate for the protection of these incredible creatures. And so, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has taken a chance to build on something that is already working in the local community – cultivating the next generation of wildlife stewards with their Classroom Africa Program.

giraffesAs part of AWF’s Classroom Africa program, kids learn the valuable role wildlife could play in their future and will grow up with a newfound appreciation of the wild lands around them. Schools close to Kidepo National Park in Uganda and Manyara Ranch in Tanzania foster the link between education and conservation, ensuring a stronger tomorrow for Africa’s children and wildlife. Classroom Africa serves as clear evidence that while humans are the primary cause for this extinction, they can also be the solution.

plushToys“R”Us is excited to join forces with the African Wildlife Foundation to become part of the solution. To show that together, we can make a difference in helping protect animals and their habitats, we created a special edition giraffe plush, now available at all Toys“R”Us stores nationwide and online at Toysrus.com. Besides being wildly adorable, for every purchase of the plush, the Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund will donate $1 to the African Wildlife Foundation, in support of conservation education in Africa.

From the aisles of a toy store to the grass plains of the Serengeti, Classroom Africa shows the leaps, bounds and progress that can be made when we work together on conservation efforts. Just think how much better you'll feel spending your hard-earned cash on something that benefits not only your loved one, but also makes the world a better place.