Call of the Wild

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The CWC regularly picks up baby animals, such as this fawn.

California Wildlife Center holds its annual fundraising shindig for the rescue and rehabilitative work the center does.

By Kim Devore / Staff Writer

Whether it’s coming to the rescue of the tiniest baby humming bird or a sizable 800-pound sea lion, the California Wildlife Center is on call for animal emergencies great and small. Every year the community has a chance to thank CWC’s dedicated team of staff members and volunteers at the organization’s annual fundraising celebration. This year’s bash will take place on Aug. 19 at the Gull’s Way Estate in Malibu.

“Because we are having it at Gull’s Way we decided to call it the ‘Wing Ding,'” CWC’s Victoria Harris said. “For people to open up their homes and their properties to us is wonderful. It’s a very natural environment for us.”

Since 1998, the nonprofit organization has been on a mission to rescue, rehabilitate and release animals in trouble. From injured raptors to globbed-up grebes, deer in distress to endangered dolphins, the center has come to the aid of more than 13,000 critters in all.

“Our facility isn’t really open to the public so this is our opportunity to tell our story and get the word out,” Harris said. “It’s our way of having the chance to educate people without being preachy.”

But Harris couldn’t help praising the work of CWC volunteers: “Our dedicated volunteers gave over 5,400 hours of their time to the center in 2006!”

She also noted the home care group of senior volunteers who take on the task of caring for the baby animals, such as baby hummingbirds that often have to be fed every 30 minutes, and infant squirrels and opossums that need to be fed every hour for up to 12 hours a day. “These tireless folks cared for 456 of the babies we took in last year,” Harris said.

Last year, the center took in 2,310 animals-351 from Malibu alone.

The center receives no state or federal funding, and relies solely on membership, donations and grants to keep operating.

The center is located on California State Parks land in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu. The CWC is the only licensed facility providing marine mammal response and full term rehabilitative care in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties. During the recent algae bloom, CWC volunteers responded to numerous incidents of dead or ailing birds, sea lions and other marine mammals that washed up on the beaches along Malibu this spring.

CWC volunteers called the toxic condition, known as domoic acid poisoning, the worst they’d seen in years, and the center received distress calls by the dozens.

A happy ending took place for another rescue this spring-a fawn was reunited with its mother after several Pepperdine University students brought the baby deer to the center. Harris and Tim Weis knew that deer often leave their young alone while they look for food, so they quickly gathered the fawn and took it close to where the students found it. The mother heard the cries of the hungry fawn, and soon came to the open crate where rescuers quietly left it, and the two reunited and disappeared into the night.

In addition to animal rescue and rehabilitation, the center works to promote protection of wildlife habitats through education, training and community partnerships.

The “Wing Ding” event will feature a gourmet spread, refreshments and children’s activities as well as a musical performance by Marianne Keith and dancing by the Malibu Environmental Conservation Community Artists Alliance. Live auction items include a six-day South African photo safari and a scuba diving adventure in Bali. The CWC will top of the afternoon by releasing a red shouldered hawk that has been treated at the center and is now ready to return to the wild.

The California Wildlife Center’s seventh annual celebration-Wing Ding 2007-takes place Aug. 19 from 12 p.m.- to 4 p.m. at the Gull’s Way Estate. For more information call 818.222.2658 or go to californiawildlifecenter.org.