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A Message from the Founder of WAKA – Cathleen Burnham

As we promote the work of others connecting kids and wild animals, we are also busy publishing books written by the WAKA founder, Cathleen Burnham.

Her first book in the 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).

She has had three more books in the WAKA series published by Crickhollow Books through Fall 2018.

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.