Paloma Russ is not a newcomer to cheetah conservation. She has been working with CCF to help save Africa’s most endangered big cat for many years. In the past she has raised money with lemonade stands and bake sales, and she currently makes and sells greeting cards featuring her original artwork and donates the proceeds to CCF. Paloma has given presentations to her school and the local 4-H program in Marin County, California, and has volunteered with CCF at events such as Earth Day at the Oakland Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo in San Francisco.
According to Paloma, she became inspired to get involved in the fight to save the cheetah when she was just three-years-old. This early desire morphed into action after she met Dr. Laurie Marker, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director, at Safari West in Santa Rosa, California.
“When I was three, I saw a movie about African cats and I thought cheetahs were really cool. It said the population was dropping below 10,000 and that made me upset. I decided I wanted to help keep cheetahs around, because they are in trouble, and because I wanted to see one in person,” said Paloma. “At my event last October, my dream came true! We had Themba, an ambassador cheetah from The Wild Cat Education & Conservation Fund in Occidental, California, make an appearance to help people understand more about the species. This was my favorite part of the event. It was awesome to see how interested people are in the cheetah!”
“We are thrilled when amazing young people like Paloma step forward and take on a very mature responsibility like fundraising. Not only are her actions inspiring, they give us hope that the work of CCF will be sustainable over future generations,” said Dr. Marker. “Paloma is a hero for the cheetah.”
Since 2003, AFN has recognized more than 150 young people from over 20 countries and 25 U.S. states. Awarded annually, recipients of the International Young Eco-Hero Award are selected by a panel of independent judges, including experts in environmental science, biology and education.
“It makes me so happy to know I’m inspiring other kids to take action and help save endangered animals and take care of the environment,” added Paloma.
AFN is an international non-profit organization based in San Francisco, California, that encourages young people to nurture a love and respect for Earth’s natural resources and to take personal action to better their environments. Paloma received her award at a ceremony held at Google corporate headquarters in Mountain View on September 16, 2017.