December 6, 2016
Back when he was just eight years old, Dylan Fryer knew he could make a difference for wildlife conservation. He started out small, raising money wherever he could—$100 for San Diego Zoo Global by participating in a recycling program called Cans for Critters, $500 by participating in a fundraising effort called I ___ for Wildlife (Dylan chose to read for wildlife), and so on.
Then, for his ninth birthday, Dylan set out to raise at least $1,000 for the tigers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. With help from friends, family, and strangers, Dylan’s birthday wish came true. He raised $1,200, and his name is now on a plaque at the entrance to the Safari Park’s Tiger Trail. With his mom’s support, in 2013, Dylan hosted a summer camp called Dylan’s Animal Adventures, which helped him raise another $1,000 for a new leopard habitat at San Diego Zoo.
Today, Dylan is in 8th grade, and he hasn’t slowed down a bit. In fact, across their various projects, Dylan and his mom Michelle have raised more than $12,500 for wildlife conservation. Their latest endeavor is Creations 4 Wildlife, a company Dylan and Michelle dreamt up and co-founded last year to raise awareness about the plight of endangered species. Dylan and Michelle design and handcraft wildlife-themed bracelets and donate 40% of profits to carefully chosen conservation organizations and charities.
Don’t be afraid to fight for what you believe in, and never forget that one person can (and does) make a difference.
Despite being a busy student, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Dylan found some time to answer some questions about his work so far as a young wildlife warrior. Here’s what he had to say!
ZFK: Can you describe a time when you became aware of a conservation issue and felt compelled to help? What was the issue, and what did you decide to do?
DF: I realized that rhinos needed help when I watched a show on Nat Geo Wild about rhinos and their plight. I had the chance to get up close to a rhino and touch them on a cart safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and made a connection that inspired me to help save them. These are beautiful animals that deserve to be saved. Our (Creations 4 Wildlife) flagship bracelet, Crash of Rhinos, raises money for rhino conservation and led to a partnership with the International Rhino Foundation (IRF).
ZFK: What is your role at Creations 4 Wildlife, and how do you and your mom decide which species to highlight?
DF: It’s hard to define my role, because my mom and I make all decisions together. I play a key role in the design of the bracelets and what semi-precious stones to use. I also do most of the research and animal fact checking for our social media posts. School keeps me pretty busy, but I still find time to help and do what I can.
Deciding what species to highlight is a process with several steps. First, is the species classified as endangered? Then, we look to see if there is a credible organization working to save the species that we would like to work with. Next, we research the popularity of the species on social media with posts and polls to decide if the bracelets should be a limited edition or part of our collection.
Our first year was all about land animals, and 2017 is the year we launch the ocean collection. We had an early release of the sea turtle bracelets for the holidays.
ZFK: What do you want to be when you grow up, and why?
DF: There are so many things that I could do to help wildlife. I would like to work at an AZA-accredited zoo as a zookeeper, I would like to be a Curator of Mammals, I would like to teach others about wildlife, I would like to travel and work in the field of conservation, and possibly work for one of the organizations that Creations 4 Wildlife supports.
ZFK: Who do you look up to, and why?
DF: I look up to anyone who works to save wildlife. Rick Schwartz, aka Zookeeper Rick, was a major influence in my life when I first started working with conservation and he still is today. I look up to the men and women who work in the field, putting their lives on the line, to protect animals from poachers.
ZFK: Which conservation issue or endangered species are you most passionate about, and why?
DF: I am passionate about all endangered species, I could never choose one over the other. The conservation issue that I am most passionate about is illegal wildlife trafficking. When I read about wildlife that has been confiscated, it makes me sad and angry that these animals had to die because of the belief that their body parts have some medicinal value. The only value they have is when the animal is alive.
ZFK: Finally, if you could send a message to other kids and adults who want to make a difference for wildlife conservation, what would you tell them?
DF: Don’t be afraid to fight for what you believe in, and never forget that one person can (and does) make a difference.
Bethanie Hestermann is a freelance writer and co-author of Zoology for Kids.