Every Elephant Counts: A Contest for Your Innovative Student

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how much email I have to sift through on a daily basis, and that was just from one of the multitude of inboxes I manage. I know that in the mass of messages I get I occasionally miss something important or exciting or meaningful, and thankfully a couple of weeks ago I didn’t pass over one asking if I’d be willing to promote a really exciting contest for students ages 9-18 to win a trip to Africa. It was the word ELEPHANT that caught my eye, and I’m sure that surprises you. You’d think it would be NEW FAD DIET or SOMETHING ELSE EXTREME YOU SHOULD TRY THAT WON’T WORK AND WILL TOTALLY MESS UP YOUR LIFE.

As some of my longest readers may know, I have a long-standing passion for elephants and endangerment. Readers who are new to this story can read about it at the bottom of this post.

My experience is why I leapt at this opportunity and partnership. The basis of the contest called Every Elephant Counts is to come up with unique and original ideas about how to save this endangered species. Here I can further apologize to a certain infant elephant and give it my platform for the welfare of its extended family suffering from the dangers of poaching in Africa. Hosted by Paul Allen’s production company, Vulcan Productions, and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), students are encouraged to answer this question:

“What is your best idea for how we can save the elephants?”

Ideas can be submitted as a video or a document of approximately 500 words, and the objective here is to dream big. If Leta decides she wants to enter the contest I wouldn’t be surprised if she writes, “For starters, DON’T TRAVEL ANYWHERE TO TAKE A PHOTO OF YOURSELF WITH AN OBVIOUSLY TORTURED OR ENDANGERED ELEPHANT. DUH.”

A panel of judges will deliberate and choose the winning idea. The goal of the contest is to encourage learning and exploration, so entries will be judged for originality versus outlining any sort of detailed plan for implementing the idea. The grand prize winner will receive an all-expense paid trip for three – including themselves, their sponsoring adult (this means your kid could potentially be paying you back big time for all those sleepless nights they’ve caused you) and a friend or sibling – to Abu Camp in Botswana. You’ll get to meet Naledi (pronounced NAH-LAY-DEE), a baby elephant born into a rescue camp in the Botswana wilderness. At only one month, she was suddenly orphaned and dedicated caretakers rallied to adopt her, saving her life and reintroducing her to the herd that had forgotten her.

On this trip of a lifetime, the organizers will help the winner share their experience and everything they are learning about elephants first-hand with other students back home.

Here’s how your kid can enter the contest:

STEP ONE: Get the details.

STEP TWO: Develop your idea. They have some thought starters for you, like, “Researchers have created an app that can track an elephant’s movements all day to make sure they are still alive. What kind of technology would you build to help save elephants?”

STEP THREE: Submit your entry.

Additionally, everyone is invited to take the pledge to help protect African elephants and share why elephants are important to you. All pledges are entered to win a weekly prize through November 23, 2017. There are also prizes for the runners-up in the contest.

The contest entry deadline is November 23, 2017. The contest winner will be announced in January of 2018, and the trip to Africa will take place sometime between March-May 2018.

I already took the pledge and included another mea culpa about my ignorance, shared with you below. I have collected elephant figurines since I was a kid and should have known more since they’ve always been my favorite animal—I know, you thought it was the hippopotamus, and you’re only right when you ask me what I want for Christmas.

Some of you may remember the Baby Elephant Fiasco of 2014 when I posted a series of photos in which I was posing with an infant elephant while on a trip to Thailand with a group combating human trafficking. After digesting the outraged comments I researched the plight of elephants who are exploited and tortured for the sake of tourism, posted an apology, and have since then been donating $35 a month to an elephant refuge and rehabilitation center in Chang Mai, Thailand. It’s been over three years and I still feel terrible that I stopped to pose with that helpless animal, especially since I’ve learned about the imminent threat to elephants in Africa. Their rapidly diminishing population is facing a loss of habitat, illegal poaching, and wildlife trafficking.

I’ll close with encouraging you to get your kids to enter the contest, learn more about the work that Paul Allen and National Wildlife Federation are doing, and see if you can make it through this clip of Naledi’s caretakers trying to figure out how to feed her without getting your heart caught in your throat. Not possible.