Label: Conservation

February 5, 2011

            penguin chick

I recently received a letter from a mother which reminded me of my own experience when my kids were growing up. She wrote:

“I have a seven year old that I read your penguin book to. Now she wants to have a pet penguin. I’ve explained to her that she can’t own one as a pet at home, but she wants to know if there are any organizations that care for penguins that she, and/or her class could sponsor and call her/their own.

Her school mascot is the penguin and she was thinking about wanting to start a penguin club. Can someone adopt a penguin, and if so, how? Is there a place that we can contact? Is there a place that takes contributions to help care for them? Your book is terrific. It really moved her.”


Penguins book cover

This letter really touched me because my own son, Michael, also loved penguins when he was in elementary school. In fact, I dedicated my book PENGUINS to him, writing: “For my son Michael, who was President of the Penguin Club in elementary school.” When Michael (who is now an adult) read the dedication, he objected, saying “Dad, that was an appointment for LIFE!” Funny guy, my youngest son.

We’ve done some research and found an organization called the International Penguin Conservation Work Group ( which allows one to adopt a penguin!

Why should kids be concerned about the welfare of penguins? Well, like many marine animals, commercial fishing practices endanger penguin colonies, particularly when overfishing depletes the food sources near their breeding grounds. Governments, conservation groups and the fishing industry worldwide are working together to develop safe and responsible practices that will protect our precious marine wildlife, including penguins.

Parents and Educators can download a free, 5-page Teacher Guide that we’ve created to use with my PENGUINS book. It includes Questions to Ask Before and After Reading, Suggested Activities, Additional Resources, and a child activity page. Download it from my website and use it with your kids to help them get even more out of the experience of reading the book.

Photo: Lyn Irvine



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Animal Books, Conservation, Penguins, Kids comments   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 10, 2010


Christmas came early this year for gorillla conservation experts. A census that counted endangered mountain gorillas in their African habitat shows that their number has grown by more than 25% since 2003. This is big news because just 30 years ago we were down to 250 mountain gorillas, and scientists believed that the species was in danger of extinction.

Scientists who did the census this spring found 480 mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) living in 36 groups, plus 14 solitary silverback males. They live in a huge park called the Virunga Massif which spans three countries - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The governments of these nations are credited with working hard alongside wildlife conservation groups to protect the gorillas by policing poachers and protecting against accidental snaring by local hunters.

"The mountain gorilla is the only one of the nine subspecies of African great apes experiencing a population increase.  While we celebrate this collective achievement, we must also increase efforts to safeguard the remaining eight subspecies of great apes," said David Greer, African Great Ape Coordinator at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 




 You can learn more about mountain gorillas in my book, and visit the International Gorilla Conservation Program website to learn how you can help.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals, Conservation, Gorillas   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 24, 2010

Richard Pough, founder of the Nature Conservancy, died on this day i 2003.  Pough’s efforts as a nature conservationist led to the establishment of numerous wildlife sanctuaries across the country. He also wrote the Audubon Bird Guide, and led the fight to ban the sale of the feathers of endangered birds (whose feathers were prized in those days as ornaments for women’s hats).

 Pough was one of the first people to raise the alarm about a pesticide that was threatening the wildlife in a way never seen before. According to a 1945 article in the New York Times, Pough reported on tests by the Audubon Society and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service showing that forests in Pennsylvania had lost their birds after being sprayed with DDT. ‘‘If DDT should ever be used widely and without carewould have a country without freshwater fish, serpents, frogs and most of the birds we have now.’’ Rachel Carson’s more widely recognized book on this same subject, ‘‘Silent Spring,’’ was not published until 1962.

 Pough began his conservation career in 1932 when he heard about a hunting spot called Hawk Mountain near where he lived in Philadelphia. He went to investigate, and was horrified to find hundreds of dead hawks. He eventually stopped the hunting when he persuaded a wealthy New Yorker to buy 1400 acres of the land on the mountain, establishing the country’s first sanctuary for birds of prey. If you have ever seen one of these glorious raptors soaring in the wind drafts and thermals over a verdant valley, you will know why he was moved to action.

 Richard Pough is also very close to my heart because later in his career he became the Chairman of Conservation and General Ecology for the American Museum of Natural History. While in that position he oversaw creation of the Hall of North American Forests, which includes a realistic diorama of Stissing Mountain, in the Hudson Highlands in Upstate New York. As a little boy growing up in the city I used to sit in front of this diorama and imagine living in a place with a big lake, soaring hawks, supple white birches, and leaping bass. Many years later, I am fortunate to own a house not 20 minutes from that very spot. I have always strived to be an active conservationist and environmentalist, and I was inspired by the work of people like Richard Pough. 



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Conservation, Environment   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 24, 2010

After a recent visit to the world-renowned St. Louis Zoo (one of the top conservation and research zoological facilities in this country), I chatted with my friend, Dr. E. Wendy Saul, an expert science educator, about how parents can help their kids get the most out of a visit to the zoo.

Her answer surprised me. I thought that she was going to suggest that parents take the time to read all the information that is posted near the animal habitats, discuss aloud what they are reading, etc.

In fact, Wendy enthusiastically said, "Oh, one of my favorite things to do is have a ‘theme day’ at the zoo. One day, just go and look at ears. Talk about all the different ears you see, why you think the animal has those ears, how well you think they hear, etc."

What a great idea! Enjoy not only the animals but also the game, and get kids thinking, talking and speculating aloud.

I must say for the record that I still love taking my time and reading all the information that is posted. 

 Do you know why hippopotamuses have ears and eyes that sit high on their heads? That is so they can be mostly underwater and still hear what is going on above water. And this wonderful creature’s jawbone also conducts soundwaves, so a hippo with his jaw submerged can hear sounds above and below the water at the same time!

Visit a zoo with your family this summer, and take advantage of all the different ways to talk about animals, conservation, protecting habitats, and even EARS!


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Summer Vacation Science, Conservation, Zoo   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 7, 2010

The oil spill in the Gulf off the coast of Louisiana threatens one of America’s treasured environments as well as the livelihood of many families in the region. The area has a huge abundance of living things, both above and below the surface waters of the Gulf. The bays and wetlands are nurseries for fish and birds. This photograph, taken by Alex Brandon of the Associated Press, shows volunteers caring for one of the tens of thousands of birds who nest on Breton Island National Refuge in this season. The oil is reaching there now.

Sea turtles in the Gulf are migrating or nesting on the shores in the pathway of the oil slick. Many Gulf families depend upon fishing or shelling for their livelihoods.

The NY Times has been publishing a map daily, with each day’s outline reflecting the most current estimate by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the extent of the oil slick on that day. Here is where we are today:

For those who are interested in following this more closely, NOAA publishes daily forecasts of how the currents are moving the oil (including the potential of carrying it out of the Gulf  and into the Atlantic Ocean) at

This huge oil spill is an ecological and economic disaster and the effects will be felt not just in the Gulf region but all over the country.






Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Conservation, Oil Spills   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 5, 2010


A few weeks ago we were so pleased to report here that the Eco-Libris blog had named Seymour’s GLOBAL WARMING book the "green book of the week."


Today we received a note from the reviewer, Raz Godelnik, who is doing valuable work on behalf of the environment at Eco-Libris.


He wrote: As you will see, our mission is to green the book industry and make reading more sustainable and we hope to make it happen sooner than later! One of our main activities is a tree planting program, where we work with readers, publishers and authors to plant trees in developing countries for the books they read, publish or write. So far we have planted with our planting partners around 150,000 trees! You’re welcome to see some of the planting activity on our planting gallery.


I took his suggestion and learned a lot on the Eco-Libris website. For one thing, more than 30-million trees are cut down annually for virgin paper used for the production of books sold in the U.S. alone.  That is sobering.


Eco-Libris has come up with a very simple idea to enable those of us who are readers (and therefore big consumers of books) to do something simple and affordable that will have an impact: plant one tree for every book we read. They see it as a way of taking responsibility for the environmental impact of the books we read.


This is a big idea. Here is how it works:


You go to the website and make a commitment to plant 10 trees every month, for a cost of $10 per month. Eco-Libris has carefully selected qualified planting partners in Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Malawi – places where planting trees will not only benefit the environment but also the local community – and they will plant the trees.


You willl receive stickers like this one (printed on recycled paper) for every tree that you plant, affixing them to your books to demonstrate your commitment to the environment.


I’m not only signing up to support Eco-Libris myself, I’m going to give a gift subscription to my college student, who as a History/Literature major, will be very happy to start to balance out the environmental impact of all those books!  What a great idea. A simple, elegant way to make a difference.


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Global Warming, Climate Change, Conservation   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 29, 2010

The news from the Gulf of Mexico this morning is not good. British Petroleum (BP), the owner of the ruptured oil line, is finally confirming what NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)  and the Coast Guard have been saying for several days now. This spill is MUCH larger than previously reported - 5 times as large - and is currently spilling 5,000 barrels per day into the Gulf.


There is great urgency around attempts to contain the spill and/or disperse the oil before it reaches land, where it would have a major impact on wildlife, marine life, sensitive habitats and shorelines in four states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida).

I’ve been reading everything I can about whether or not the proposed burning of oil is an environmentally sound strategy. From what I’ve found, it sounds like it is our best option.


Source: NASA Earth Observatory



Here is what biologist Andrew C. Revkin, who teaches environmental science at Pace University and writes the DOT EARTH environmental blog for the New York Times, is reporting today:

One of the biggest such tests was undertaken off Newfoundland in 1993. Called the Newfoundland Offshore Burn Experiment, the joint Canadian and American project concluded that combustion consumed most of the more problematic compounds and the levels of harmful compounds in smoke were below danger thresholds outside 150 yards of so of the fire zone. The water beneath the burn area showed no detectable levels of harmful compounds.

I photographed an offshore oil rig when I took a boat trip in the Santa Barbara (California) channel last month.


 These are massive structures, and there is as much below the water as there is above - the water here was nearly 200 feet deep, and the rig is anchored to the ocean floor. As the captain of our boat noted, from ocean floor to the top of the rig is as tall as a skyscraper.

Do we really need to construct more of these oil rigs along our coasts? What is the risk-reward ratio of offshore drilling? As an environmentalist, I’m terribly afraid that the possible damage to wildlife and our coastlines are not worth the risk of building more oil rigs that produce only a tiny fraction of the oil our nation uses. If most of us changed the incandescent light bulbs in our homes to more energy-efficient light bulb source, we would not only be making up for the oil that off-shore rigs produce but saving our own money in the bargain.




Posted by: Seymour Simon

(5) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Oceans, Conservation, Oil Spills   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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