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Changing Attitudes Towards Wild Animals When Attitudes Don’t Want to Change

By Ryan Meczkowski, Tour and Education Coordinator

Standing in front of the classroom, with 25 young faces watching and hanging on my every word, I knew this was the opportunity for a breakthrough. As the Education Coordinator at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, addressing a group of local students about protecting sea turtles, I was about to highlight why poaching turtle nests was wrong. I presented the class with a question: Why do some people in Costa Rica eat turtle eggs? The response came from the teacher observing from her desk. “Because they’re delicious! With lemon juice and Tabasco, they go down smoothly.” Momentum gone. I could almost hear the record scratch. Here was a person in charge of forming the minds of young people, not only advocating the consumption of turtle eggs, but gleefully doing so. This experience illustrates one of the biggest challenges in teaching sustainability. With a growing human population, the pressures on wildlife and ecosystems are increasing and we need to change our lifestyles in order to preserve our natural places for future generations. However, cultural norms are often resistant to the changes that need to be made.

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