Rockland teen champions dolphin conservation

Ella Van Cleave

Ella Van Cleave

Ella Van Cleave may be just entering the teen years, but already she is a force to be reckoned with.

“It is so fun to be her parent,” said her mom, Liz. “I say that all the time.”

At 13, the Victoria resident has become so involved as a young wildlife conservationist, she’s had to make room in her busy schedule.

Competitive gymnastics has been sidelined so she can juggle her Grade 8 homework, piano lessons, the Glenlyon Norfolk school debating club, as well as upcoming speaking engagements.

Somewhere in all of that she finds time to sound an online alarm over the plight of dolphins, which she says are being slaughtered for their meat and taken into captivity for entertainment purposes.

She is also Canada’s first Joey Ambassador with the Australia Zoo’s international Wildlife Warriors program, which appoints youth between four and 17 to raise awareness and money for conservation efforts.

“There’s so many people that want to be involved,” Ella said. “We’re coming to a point where a lot of issues are coming up.

“As youth, we’re coming to realize that. I think we’re just ready to take a stand for it and change the way things are going.”

Since the age of seven, she has worked to support animals.

But a defining moment came last summer while glued to her TV watching The Cove, a documentary about dolphin killing practices in Japan.

Ella turned to the Internet to create www.savethedolphin smile.com.

Since then she has collected 2,000 petition signatures from people around the world.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that youth should take a stand because we are the next generation to make a difference,” Ella said.

“So many people tend to turn a blind eye.”

emccracken@vicnews.com