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About WAKA

WAKA books for kids on global animal conservation projects

WAKA stands for World Association of Kids and Animals. It’s our way to share positive, inspiring stories about kids around the world active in wild animal rescue and conservation projects.

We share stories of young people who truly care about animals and are finding ways to help protect endangered wild animals whose habitats are shrinking and whose precious lives are threatened in too many ways.

These stories shine a light on young people who are kind, caring, and active in a variety of conservation projects … in many cases on a small-scale, grassroots level.

These stories are seeds. Stories are great tools to inspire and draw more kids into a connection with wild animals.

We hope the stories on this site will inspire you to think about ways kids can do something to help protect wild creatures who might need a helping hand.

Think globally. Act locally. If each of us does something, we can make a difference in the world.

As we promote the work of others connecting kids and wild animals, we are also busy creating some books of our own, written by the WAKA founder, Cathleen Burnham. Her first book in the WAKA series is Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon. A true story of a 10-year-old girl living on an island in the Amazon rainforest region of Peru who rescues endangered animals, it was released on Earth Day 2015 (April 22).

There are three books in the series so far, including one about kids in Costa Rica saving sea turtles, and one about a boy in Thailand who lives at an elephant refuge, along with three more books in the works.

A Message from Cathleen Burnham, founder of the WAKA website

I am often asked how this website and my own book series came about. Here’s the story behind the story.

A few years ago, our family vacationed in the Amazon. We spent pre-dawn hours scanning the jungle for jaguars and monkeys and the rivers for pink dolphins.

Cathleen Burnham, photodocumentary photographer and author

As we slowly motored along a tributary, we passed an island on which a red uacari swung on a wooden railing. A pair of saddle-backed tamarinds chased each other over two tree stumps. A spider monkey sat in a small patch of grass in the dirt-swept yard of a stilted hut.

We asked our guide to stop there but he said, “Oh, no. That’s a private home.” He went on to say, “That family takes in orphaned and endangered monkeys on their own. They raise them and set them free again.”

What? Our family loves animals. We begged until the guide agreed to contact the owners. “I’ll ask,” he said with a shrug.

Next day, miraculously, we were invited to visit. Stepping onto the island, we met a young girl with one saddle-backed tamarind on her head and one perched on her shoulder. My kids were in awe that this girl, Doyli, spent her days caring for such rare creatures. I thought other kids might be interested in her story, and the idea of a book came to me. We returned to Doyli’s island several more times, documenting her life and her care of the monkeys.

I started thinking that there might be other kids around the world like Doyli: young people doing what they can to protect local wild animals.

It turns out there are. As a documentary photographer, I’ve been privileged to be allowed to meet, interview, and photograph such kids going about their daily activities. Each child is fortunate to attend a school, just like kids you know, and has a loving family. And they do what they can, sometimes on their own, often with family and neighbors’ assistance, to find a way to help wild animals thrive.