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Jane, a high school senior, is thrilled to land a job working with the animal actors on the set of a local movie production especially when she is able to reconnect with Gaia the elephant. However her enthusiasm fades when she becomes increasingly fearful about the mistreatment of the gentle animal so she embarks on a dangerous search for the truth. Saddened by the results, Jane and her friends find themselves re-examining their beliefs about freedom and soon become resolutely determined to save Gaia from her miserable existence. The intriguing characters that weave through the complex plot of this book will challenge student perceptions about the ethics of keeping wild animals in captivity, while reminding them that youth can come together to make a difference in our world.
Gaia Wild explores the ethics of keeping wild animals captive for human enjoyment. This controversial issue was recently highlighted in Canada with the closure of the elephant exhibit at the Toronto Zoo. Students could research the science behind the various viewpoints of the case and prepare a discussion paper that outlines the relative success of endangered species breeding programs, zoo education programs and standards of care. This research could form the basis of a student-led campaign to encourage local zoos to refrain from practices such as accepting animals from the wild.
This book also highlights the plight of endangered Asian elephants and would be a valuable addition to any unit studying the role of keystone species in the sustainability of ecosystems. Students could examine how habitat loss is significantly impacting this species and the potential effects of the extinction of such a large mammal on local ecology.
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