Washington, DC—From documenting how a hungry sea turtle might mistake a plastic bag in the ocean for a jellyfish, to employing forensic science to curb pangolin trafficking, the winners of the 2020 “A Voice for Animals” contest show they not only care about protecting animals and safeguarding their habitat, but also are willing to get involved, make a difference, and educate others.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the annual contest offers high school students ages 14 to 18 the opportunity to win cash prizes for essays, videos, or photo essays that explore strategies to mitigate animal suffering. The contest is sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Humane Education Network, with additional support from the Palo Alto Humane Society.
Twenty winners were selected this year from more than 500 entries received from around the globe. Students addressed timely topics, such as the role of wildlife markets in disease outbreaks and the recent Australian wildfires that scorched millions of acres, affecting billions of animals.
“While COVID-19 has shut down many in-person opportunities for advocacy, young people remain as committed as ever to spreading awareness about the biggest threats facing animals,” said Regina Terlau-Benford, executive assistant at AWI and co-manager of the contest. “These winners continue working behind the scenes to educate themselves and inspire their peers and communities to act with compassion, protect species, and reduce animal suffering.”
The first-place winners are:
- Sarah Robison of Lutz, Florida, for her video, “The Plastic Effect: Sea Turtle Awareness,” which describes her efforts to organize a Sea Turtle Awareness Day at her local aquarium to educate the community about how these marine turtles are threatened by plastic bags, straws, and shriveled balloons, among other marine debris.
- Reed Farrar of Rutherford College, North Carolina, for his essay, “Strange Birds,” which focuses on how a certain fungus, Geomyces destructans, and habitat destruction have devastated bat populations. Farrar built and installed six bat nursery houses to increase his town’s bat capacity.
- Yolanda Chen of Hacienda Heights, California, for her essay, “Overfishing and Bycatch: An Empty Ocean,” which explains how overfishing is contributing to animal suffering and ecological devastation. While working as a camp counselor on a California marine research vessel, Chen devised lessons and activities to delve into the ethics of the seafood industry.
- Liana Hase-Penn of Castle Rock, Colorado, for her essay, “The Tragic Plight of Pangolins and the Poaching of the Endangered Species,” which discusses how pangolins, the most trafficked animal in the world, are being exploited for their scales and bushmeat. Hase-Penn, who has an interest in STEM technologies, details how forensic science is being used to identify and apprehend poachers.
- Dane Wary Lapaan Dulnuan of Ifugao, Philippines, for his essay, “Humanity in the World Wild Web,” which explores how the Philippine eagle, the national bird of the Philippines, has become critically endangered through hunting, habitat loss, and pollution. Small acts can make a meaningful difference, says Dulnuan, who tries to limit his use of products made from valuable trees.
For more information on the “A Voice for Animals” contest and to review all the winning entries, visit https://www.hennet.org/contest.php.
Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, firstname.lastname@example.org