By Sonali Das
A river otter is back in its Illinois natural habitat with the help of some preschool children at UI's University Primary School.
More than $400 was raised for the Illinois Conservation Foundation's Otter Reintroduction Program by the 3- and 4-year-old students in Gwen Torren's class.
The project was facilitated by Laura Hungerford, professor of veterinary pathobiology. She introduced the class to the program after her son, a student in the class, brought an otter to a show-and-tell session. The children were fascinated by the otter and began investigating why some animals, like the otter, were having difficulties remaining in their natural habitats.
"The children were really sympathetic toward the otter," Torren said. "They feel for other living things and were very bothered and upset that man was driving the otter from its home."
So, to help out, the students began soliciting money from parents and faculty members at the school. Initially, Torren said the class planned on contributing a portion of the total cost of the reintroduction program; however, the students were so successful in fundraising that they had enough to sponsor one otter completely.
On Jan. 10, the students presented a check to John Schmitt from the Illinois Conservation Foundation. Many of the students took the opportunity to voice their concerns that the otter would not survive the reintroduction process.
"What will make them stay, since they left before?" one student asked Schmitt.
Torren said it was the students' fascination with the program that made it such a success. "Their absolute intense curiosity about the animal never waned," she said. "They stayed interested from beginning to end and that was very enjoyable for me, as a teacher."
Plans for sponsoring other animals are being proposed for the incoming kindergarten class in the fall. Torren said the teachers will sponsor a class aquarium in order to examine how fish live in their natural environment.
Comments to: Inside Illinois Editor Doris Dahl, (217) 333-2895, firstname.lastname@example.org
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