April Nigh puts the earth first
Not many people get to meet their childhood heroes, much less work for them, but animal lover April Nigh is lucky: Until recently, she served as Program Coordinator for the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation, an NGO founded by her hero Jane Goodall, the famous primatologist and environmentalist. Through the NGO’s education program Roots & Shoots, April coordinated activities for Beijing students interested in volunteering to improve the environment. April sat down with a rising Grade 7 class at Beijing City International School to talk about the perks of her job – like making giant popsicles for the polar bears at the Beijing Zoo!
Thilo Braun, Germany
What did you study in college?
April Nigh: I studied East Asian studies at university as well as anthropology. I’ve been studying Chinese for almost nine years. I’ve lived in China for four years so I think my Chinese has improved a lot, but it’s very difficult – I like to say that it’s a work in progress.
How long is an anthropology course?
AN: Anthropology is the study of humans. It includes lots of different parts, like the study of ancient civilizations, people and culture. I studied at university for four years. I focused on physical anthropology, which is about the study of humans and their bones, and primates. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the TV show CSI, but I studied the bone aspect [of the science they use on the show]– it’s called forensic anthropology. We learned how to examine human bones and figure out what part of the body they came from and how old the person was or where they came from. It’s really fascinating stuff. Sometimes it gets a little scary being down in the lab with a bunch of dead people around you.
Hyun Ju Park, Korea
How many countries take part in Roots & Shoots?
AN: Roots & Shoots has at least one group of students doing projects to help animals and the environment in over 70 countries around the world. Jane Goodall tries to travel to all countries that have groups, so she travels over 300 days a year.
Maher Kader, Bangladesh
How has Roots & Shoots helped the environment in China?
AN: We’ve grown our Roots & Shoots network from only one student group to over 300 all over China. [There are offices] in Shanghai and Chengdu, too. We are starting to work more on rural environmental education. So we go out to the countryside and work with the villagers on how to implement more environmental ways of living, like through organic farming. We also have a program working with students in Beijing on how to save water.
Selina Song, China
How long did Jane Goodall live in the jungle studying chimpanzees?
AN: It’s been over 40 years since she started studying chimpanzees. In the 1980s she started leaving for periods of time to go to different schools and give lectures to people. She still goes back to the jungle every year.
Emily Sun, China
What can people do to help animals, especially polar bears?
AN: There are so many things you can do. If you are especially interested in helping polar bears you can go to the Beijing Zoo and help make giant popsicles for the polar bears there! Another thing you could do is get a group of students together and organize a fundraising drive to help an organization that goes up to the North Pole to do research on polar bears in order to find out how we can help them more. You could help raise awareness by starting your own website about polar bears so people can start paying more attention to them and their problems.
Sytze Westerdijk, Holland
How long have you been working with Jane Goodall?
AN: I’ve been working for almost three years with Jane Goodall in China. I’ve met her three times – about once a year. I’ve been very lucky because she’s been a really big hero of mine since I was a little girl.
Thais Koenig, Brazil
Do you think Chinese people are interested in helping the environment?
AN: Yes, I definitely think so. Especially young people – I’ve seen so many get really excited about environmentalism. It’s kind of a fashionable new topic to talk about, especially in China with the Olympics coming. A lot of young people in China realize that the environment in China is not so good and they would like to see it become better during their lives, especially if they have children. It’s very inspiring.
Jong Hoon, Korea
Which do you like best: the environment, people or animals?
AN: I like them all because if we didn’t have one, we wouldn’t have either of the others. But I have to admit that I am an animal person. I’m usually more interested in animal projects. I have three stray cats at my house that I rescued, and there’s fur everywhere, but I’m fine with it because I love them.
Hyun Tai, Korea
If you could do any other job in the world what would you do?
AN: I’d like to do a job where I could live half the year in China and half the year in the US, so I could get the best of both worlds. I also think it would be cool to be an international school teacher because I’d get to live in interesting countries and have vacation time – I’d get to see other cool countries and I’d be able to hang out with students like you.