Posts Tagged ‘endangered’

Volunteer at Marine Mammal Care Center

seal pup close up


I had a wonderful experience this morning and want to share.

A couple of years ago I picked up a pamphlet for the Marine Mamma Care Center at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, CA. I stuffed it into the ever-growing pile of information I always grab up about possible volunteer opportunities to explore and share, and sadly, I sort of forgot about it.

I recently randomly checked out their website and found their WISH LIST for needed donation items, and realized we had some things that would go to great use for them, and support the animals they rescue and rehabilitate.

Those animals are the all-too-many seals and sea lions that are stranded along the Los Angeles coastline. The MMCC functions as a hospital for sick and injured marine mammals and it is a great program serving a huge need.

With El Nino weather conditions, we tend to think of it just happening this year with some storms finally bringing much needed rain, but ocean water temperatures have been warmer than usual–an El Nino condition–for a couple of years. The warmer water creates some crisis conditions for seals and sea lions. The fish they usually feed on close to the coast are being driven farther out and deeper down, since they cannot thrive in the warmer ocean water. This means that mother pinnipeds (the center mostly treats California sea lions, northern elephant seals, Pacific harbor seals, and northern fur seals) have to go away to forage farther and for longer periods of time to find enough food to sustain themselves and produce milk for their babies. The pups are left on beaches for too long while adults search, sometimes orphaned, often malnourished. When a pup can no longer sustain itself and is starving, Animal Control or other agencies brings them to MMCC for care. Additionally, fishing line, nets, and other injurious human interactions take their toll.

An average year sees about 350 patients at the center…the past two years have exceeded 700. It’s a big deal and a big job.

I love this place. Some of the many animals, both young and mature, are frolicking like you’d hope, slipping in and out of pools of water, barking, feeding–these are getting close to being released back into the ocean. Others are newly arrived, in a quiet zone, while some pretty intensive care is administered trying to nurse them back to health and viability. With as much struggle as these little guys and gals go through, I expected a pretty somber mortality rate, but surprisingly they lose only a few. A few more are deemed unreleasable and find homes at aquariums and other facilities (all of the disposition is handled by the US Government…where, when, how many get transferred to which places).

If you’re local to the Los Angeles area and are looking for a rewarding volunteer gig, check out the opportunities, from docents educating children and adult guests and field trip classes, to folks doing animal husbandry in the back and keeping things clean and running smoothly, there is always a need for more big-hearted volunteers. I suspect it can be tough work, but I bet you, like me, won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face. If you’re local or traveling to the L.A. region and want to visit to learn more about the several species under their care and see them, there are educational docents there to show you around and answer all your questions from 10am to 4pm, and they are open 365 days a year. Check them out, support their work, and you too, will have a perma-grin.

Great Book: Endangered

babybonoSo last Friday I finished a book I pretty much raced through (not my usual reading style, as I rarely give myself permission for pleasure reading). This, however, started as a bookstore purchase I’d figured was research for a novel I am beginning…I’ve been reading lots of YA fiction (YA=Young Adult) to immerse myself, and am rarely lucky enough to be truly transported, as I felt with Endangered by Eliot Schrefer. The teen protagonist, Sophie, visits her mother at a bonobo sanctuary in Congo just prior to war arriving and shattering the peace in the region. Sophie ends up alone in the wild, with one, then variously other bonobos depending on her for survival almost as much as she depends on them. It is a great story, and the conservation/bonobo behavior/harrowing setting make it a super-fast read. I loved finding out more about the author on his webpage ( and how he really ended up jumping into telling this story because of time he spent at a volunteer conservation project.

People of every stripe and focus come home changed forever from volunteer vacations and service travel–and very often become terrific spokespeople for the issues and difficulties faced by the communities they served. Foundations and charities are formed, campaigns waged, funds raised, lives saved, books written, long after volunteers return home and unpack their bags. It is how this work spins the world at a little better velocity, keeping it from wobbling on its axis, as it surely would if we never reached out to one another. Get activated. Get this book. Find out more about the plight and conservation of  bonobos via the organizations Eliot Schrefer recommends after he jumped into the issue (links below):

African Wildlife Foundation focuses on general conservation, conserving wildlife, protecting land, and empowering people.

World Wildlife Fund is the world’s leading independent conservation body.

Conservation International works worldwide to sustain biodiversity and a sustainable planet for all species.

Specific focus on bonobos:

Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI) is based in both Washington D.C. and the Deomcratice Republic of Congo, dedicated to protecting bonobos, their rainforest habitat, and empowering local communities in the Congo Basin. Volunteer opportunities available.

Terese and John Hart work with local Congolese teams for exploration, conservation, and discovery with in-depth field study of bonobo populations in the DR Congo.

Friends of Bonobos supports the world’s only bonobo sanctuary and first bonobo release in Congo. You should adopt a bonobo!



Hey There, Stretch


photo by Billy K. Dodson/Giraffe Conservation Foundation

They’re improbably built and impossibly graceful. Watching a giraffe move through the bush in the wild is like watching a boat rock on medium seas. They undulate and roll their way along, each step of their long legs reverberating through the entire body of counter-weighted levers (that neck and those legs require lots of precision balancing). When they break into a run it looks like slow motion, but the steps are so long, they cover great distances very quickly. They are beautiful to watch and gentle as can be.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation is dedicated to a sustainable future for all species and sub-species of giraffes in the wild. The giraffes indigenous to West Africa, for example, were dwindling in number at an alarming rate–there were only 50 left in the wild in 1996–but through community education and conservation efforts as well as convincing governments that there is value in protection of wildlife, their numbers are bouncing back (there are more than 200 now–still a crazy-low number, but much better than 50).

Education is the key to conservation, and GCF has major initiatives in Botswana, Kenya, and Niger. Scientific research and partnership with local communities is making a difference, and more careful planning with development is beginning to show sensitivity to habitat protection…but the work is only ramping up. For the numbers of any species to get down to mere double digits, like 50, is unforgivable…is there a way you can get involved and support? Find out more here.

Enough Already

27317OK-this kills me. I have visited and fallen in love with the wolves at the preserve where this story originates. They are stunning. They take your breath away. They are regal and majestic and we wish we had as much grace…

One of the rarest wolves in the world–there are only 52 known left in existence –this wolf, known as number F836, was one of the last remaining Southwest Wolves in the world. Also known as “lobos” they are at the very brink of destruction. She was raised in a truly remarkable rehabilitation program in South Salem, New York, near my Connecticut home. I believe this would affect me no matter where I live, but I’ll admit–I take this personally. How dare you…

After a paradigm-shifting recovery program at the NY State Wolf Conservation Center ( – amazing place–you MUST visit and support when in the area), this female was released into her native habitat in Arizona in late 2008. Two months later a poacher shot her and left her on the side of the road outside of Pinetop, Arizona.


I’m sorry, but it’s all I’ve got. Bastard. How dare you.

There are as many ways to make a difference as there are people…but please consider this one. Because it matters to me doesn’t mean it should automatically matter to you, but I will say–this matters to me. At least consider it…

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation of $25.00,$50.00, $100.00 or whatever you can afford to help catch lawless wolf killers like the ones who senselessly killed wolf F836, fund vital action in the courts to end mismanagement of the lobo recovery program, and support effective on-the-ground education, organizing and conservation efforts to save lobos like F836 and other endangered animals.

Lobos like F836 are the most endangered wolves in the world. Only 52 lobos — and only two breeding pairs of these Southwest wolves — now exist in the wild.

That is NOT OK