What is the Lindsay Wildlife Experience?
Maintaining the Intimate Connection to Nature Through the PandemicPosted on: August 6th, 2020
Sheltering-in-Place Blog Entry #17
The first time I walked inside Lindsay’s exhibit hall and saw the raptors sitting quietly in their mews, I thought they were taxidermy specimens…until they moved. That was an eyebrow-raising moment. This was the first time I could get close and photograph captive animals without glass, fences, or bars between us. I was mesmerized and immediately spellbound. Even though their movement was confined to their perches, it was lovely to see them up-close, hear their various calls, and explore this collection of raptors and owls in the exhibit hall. Similar feelings came as I encountered the live and thriving beehive inside the building, and the invertebrates, reptiles, and amphibians in their habitat enclosures. I heard Atsá’s call and was able to get photos of her up close without bars or fences. And then there was Penelope in her beautiful redwood enclosure.
There were other opportunities for close-up encounters outside. The ambassadors spread their wings while taking in the sun, exercised their flight muscles, or sat quietly on a gloved hand or a perch. The keepers’ stories flowed smoothly and enthusiastically, as did those from the volunteers. Later, I visited the wildlife hospital. Again, I was amazed by the quantity and quality of the work done there. Once I started working here, the discoveries and encounters continued. I learned that the natural history collection has more than 16,000 specimens, some quite unique. The youth programs delivered by the OWLs were sweet and exciting. And the myriad volunteers put in thousands of hours of L&L (labor and love) working with the ambassadors, with kids in education programs, and healing patients in the wildlife hospital. And the longer I stayed, the more I discovered, something that was to last for months. I struggled to define what we were as an organization, asking myself what the most crucial part of our mission was?
I realized that Lindsay is a lot of things: It is an ecological education center with programs for children and adults, at the facility and in the communities; a wildlife hospital and rehabilitation center caring for over 5,000 injured animals every year; a museum with natural history collections and some pretty impressive specimens; a small zoo with a remarkable collection of charismatic animals; and a resource for the community to learn about human-wildlife interactions. Our mission is to connect people to wildlife to inspire responsibility and respect for the world we share, and we seek to maintain, grow, and support vibrant and healthy habitats for wildlife throughout California and beyond. Eventually—and after many discussions with board members, staff, and volunteers—we landed on one phrase that helped us define who we really are. A science-based conservation organization.
We firmly believe that a healthy, supporting, and educated connection to wildlife and nature is a critical element in human development and well-being. We came from nature, and we go to nature to find solace, a respite from our busy lives, recharge our “batteries,” and regain energy and perspective to continue our daily undertakings. We need nature to be happy and complete. And nature needs us as well, today more than ever.
Our human footprint is massive and ubiquitous. Our impact can be felt everywhere from the deepest recesses of the ocean trenches and the peaks of the tallest mountains on Earth to the most remote jungles of South America and in the vast prairies of Central US. We have also left our mark on the frozen landscapes of the poles. For example, massive country-sized masses of floating waste materials, particularly plastics, have been found in the middle of the oceans. Plastic waste litters the previously unspoiled beaches of remote and uninhabited islands in the world’s oceans, where it impacts wildlife often in deadly ways, and this is not OK. Understanding our footprint and how we manage it is the first step towards better stewardship of our surrounding nature and wildlife. Once we know our impact (positive and negative), we can become better guardians and caretakers of these valuable natural treasures. We can become better stewards and conservationists.
Lindsay creates opportunities for people to acquire knowledge and information about our wild neighbors and become active participants in their protection. The injured wild animals that come to Lindsay every year are brought in by caring citizens. Understanding how these injuries happen and what we can do about them is an essential form of stewardship. No one wants wild animals to be injured, and at Lindsay, we provide people with valuable knowledge to help avoid these injuries in the future. Any person, child, or adult, can become an agent of positive change in their communities when armed with experience and knowledge.
At Lindsay, we look for opportunities to develop a mentoring philosophy about nature and wild animals. In fact, we’re passionate about this. If there is anything this pandemic has taught us, it’s that we need nature and a healthy environment now more than ever. We need to improve the ways we interact with our wild neighbors. Softening our footprint on land, air, and water resources can leave space for nature to heal and thrive again. My take-home message on this broad topic is this: we don’t want to go back to where we were before the pandemic. We want to move forward to a better way to manage our relationship with nature to benefit humans and wildlife.
Dr. Carlos L. de la Rosa