Animals in Danger: UNODC launches children’s book raising awareness of crimes that affect the environment with two launch events in Vienna

© UNODC

Vienna (Austria), 16 May 2022 – Vita, a young girl shipwrecked on an island, and Scooter, the UNODC fictional character from the planet Zorb whose special skill is teamwork, respond to messages for help from endangered animals around the world in a new children’s book entitled Animals in Danger: Vita and Scooter on a mission.

The book touches on issues of wildlife crime, climate change and plastic pollution, and its characters tell the story of how we can work together to prevent and address crimes that affect the environment. Animals in Danger also includes a set of exercises and guiding questions to help children feel empowered to act to address these challenges with ethics and integrity.

Animals in Danger was co-authored by HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands and Ms. Lotte Stegeman, also a Dutch national. Both women are children’s book writers, with HRH Princess Laurentien known for the popular “Mr. Finney” series. Princess Laurentien is also an active campaigner against illiteracy, and for sustainability and nature conservation, in her roles as Special Envoy on Literacy for Development for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and president of international conservation organization Fauna and Flora International. Stegeman has been working as a strategist with Princess Laurentien on various projects regarding wildlife conservation and education for years.

Launched today, the book was formally presented at the United Nations Convention on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), which opened today with events in-person in Vienna and online. Following the launch, at an event held in collaboration with Vienna’s Natural History Museum, Princess Laurentien and Ms. Stegeman gave a reading of parts of the book, and children aged 8-11 were given opportunities to draw endangered animals and see their work reflected in a museum display, test seized wildlife products for fingerprints, compare wildlife products to their sources, and share ideas of what they can do to prevent wildlife crime.

© Illustration by Melle Mellink

Princess Laurentien and Ms. Stegeman noted their delight that UNODC acknowledges the importance of reaching out to children as potential changemakers. “Children’s love for wildlife often comes naturally; with this book, we aim to help children further activate their moral compass and encourage (intergenerational) dialogue on action on the urgent topic of wildlife crime,” they said.

For the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the launch of Animals in Danger is a joint initiative of experts working on, respectively, crimes that affect the environment and climate, and education for anti-corruption and youth empowerment. Core elements of UNODC’s mandate are addressed, in organized crime and corruption, and the ‘Zorbs’ brand has been built upon to introduce children to actions they can take to help to protect our global commons.

Addressing participants at the launch event at the CCPCJ, UNODC Executive Director Ms. Ghada Waly commented: “The launch of this book directly ties in with UNODC’s vision of reaching out to non-traditional stakeholders in environmental crime and criminal justice, in an innovative and forward-thinking manner. Animals in Danger educates and empowers children to prevent and address crimes that affect the environment. It harnesses a culture of learning and innovation, in order to prepare future decision makers to ethically meet the challenges they are inheriting,” she added.

Animals in Danger is now available online in Dutch, English, French, Mongolian, Portuguese and Spanish, with a version in Arabic forthcoming.