Turtle essay sending girl to summit

May 07, 2002|By Megan Hall | Megan Hall,SUN STAFF

Jessica Huber is headed to Los Angeles for the first time ever this week, courtesy of a television show. But she's not exactly going with stars in her eyes.

Jessica, 12, is a down-to-earth pupil at North Carroll Middle School who has more on her mind than TV - such as bog turtles, the small, endangered turtles whose habitat has been shrinking for years. And conservation, which is what she'll be discussing with dozens of other young people today through Thursday in Los Angeles.

Fifty kids from all 50 states - chosen from among 5,000 essayists - will take part in the first-ever Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Kids' Summit on Conservation; Jessica is the Maryland representative. The youngsters will share ideas about endangered animals and conservation with each other and with event hosts Jim Fowler and Peter Gros. Fowler and Gros were hosts on the old television show Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, which will air in a new format on Animal Planet cable network this fall.

On the eve of her trip, Huber spoke to The Sun about her thoughts on environment, her conservation project and how TV animal shows can help kids think about the environment.

How did you become interested in the environment and conservation?

I always really liked nature and the things in it. After I went to Hashawha Outdoor School [at a regional environmental center in Carroll County], I learned how endangered animals were, and about bog turtles.

It was an essay you did on bog turtles, an animal that's been considered endangered in Maryland for 30 years, that got you invited to the Wild Kingdom summit. What did you write about in your essay?

I said in my essay we should talk to Maryland land owners about how the environment and bog turtles are important, and I want to tell them not to drain the swamps the bog turtles live in and keep the area cut back and not let the area get populated with trees and shrubs.

You've got a turtle project of your own going right now. What are you doing?

We [my family] bought all the trees the bog turtles eat and bought stuff [like grasses] that attract bog turtles. We're going to plant bog turtle grasses in my yard and see if they come.

TV is full of animal shows these days, but Wild Kingdom was an educational show about animals and their habitats that was on before you were born. Have you ever seen it?

No, I never have.

Do you watch any of the animal shows that are on television now?

Sometimes I watch them. I like the Crocodile Hunter, and sometimes I just turn on Animal Planet and watch what's on at the time. I like [Steve Irwin, the star of the show] because I think the stuff he does is kind of crazy, and it's cool to see the animals and how he handles them.

Do you think shows like those on Animal Planet affect the way people ... think about animals and the environment?

When they are about endangered animals, I think they have a positive message, and they explain how you can save them. I also think even when they are not about endangered animals they still show how they live, which is good.

Do you have any heroes or role models that are active in conservation?

I would say Mr. Jim Fowler, because he had television shows of his own once, and they were about endangered animals and how they can be helped. He is also the guy who ran the contest. My mom heard about it on the radio ... She heard Jim Fowler being interviewed.

Why did you decide to become part of the ambassador program?

I just wanted to get together with others who were interested in endangered animals and share our ideas.

How about when you get older? What are your ambitions? What do you want to be?

I kind of want to be a large animal veterinarian. [These days] I play outside with my dogs, ride my horse and board it at Weave A Dream Farm in Manchester, Md. That's one reason why I want to be a large animal vet.

Tell us about some of your other interests.

I also go to Pioneer's club, play my cello, sing in the chorus, and I used to do Ski Club when the weather was good for skiing.

So you are headed to Los Angeles. What are you looking most forward to do?

I'm not really sure, but it all sounds fun!

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