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COLCHESTER — After being told about the planet’s endangered wildlife, students from Lakenheath Middle School at RAF Feltwell wandered around the Colchester Zoo to see these animals while they still can.

“It makes me kind of sad,” said student Mark Cogdell, reacting to the lecture from Gemma Mills, a zoo education officer.

More than 200 students and about 50 teachers and chaperones made the 90-minute journey on six buses. Greg Klaes, a science teacher at the school, organized the trip as part of the seventh grade’s science curriculum, not simply a visit to the zoo. Part of the science standard, he said, is studying the diminishment of the planet’s resources.

“A lot of the children do not know about the resources of the world diminishing as fast as they are,” he said.

Field trips like this one, he said, that are tied into the curriculum “are essential to learning.”

Mills told the students that animal species are becoming endangered for a variety of reasons. They are being hunted for sport and for their body parts, from their skin to their teeth. Pollution is particularly deadly for marine animals, she said.

“One of the main reasons is habitat loss,” she said. “Humans are taking over the planet.”

For example, she said, the rain forest is disappearing at the rate of one acre per second. The 60-acre zoo, she said, would disappear in one minute.

Tigers and orangutans, snow leopards and turtles are all threatened by the appetites of man, she said.

“Don’t forget the little insects, all the invertebrates that live in the rain forest,” she said.

After the lecture, the students spread out across the zoo with several science assignments in hand. They used the information boards throughout the zoo to show on a map where the endangered animals were and to list the reasons why they were threatened with extinction.

The math teacher asked the children to tally the number of endangered animals in each of the zoo’s separate zones. For language arts, students were to make an observational writing.

At the heart of the day, however, was the lesson about the planet’s vulnerable residents.

Asked why we should care about an animal’s extinction, seventh-grader Anthony Vargas said, “First of all, there’s the food chain.”

If an animal is eliminated from the food chain, he said, it could have serious repercussions throughout the animal world as some animals lose a food source and other animals become too numerous.

Brandon Nicholson, who listened to Vargas talk outside the white tigers confinement pen, added, “Plus, they’re pretty.”

Klaes said his hope is that when the students are tempted in the future to have a bowl of turtle soup or buy a coat made from an animal’s pelt, they’ll decline “because they’ll remember this trip to the zoo.”

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