California Wildlife Center to host ‘party of the decade’

The California Wildlife Center opened its new fawn enclosure several weeks ago. It now houses six orphaned fawns, which, after they are rehabilitated and old enough to go it on their own, will be released to the wild.

The nonprofit center, which rescues and rehabilitates wildlife, will have its 10th annual “Way Wild” fundraiser on Aug. 10.

By Olivia Damavandi / Special to The Malibu Times

The utopia of visitors enjoying a summer day in Malibu on a recent Sunday afternoon was interrupted by the cries of an injured sea lion that was trapped in a chain fence under a beach house. Swiftly, volunteers of the Marine Mammal Response Team of the California Wildlife Center arrived at the beach and contained the 800-pound sea lion, and took it to a treatment center where it was medically assessed and is to be nurtured back to health until it is able to return to the wild.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what the California Wildlife Center does to protect local wildlife. The CWC rescues and provides medical care and rehabilitation to nearly every animal species from the Santa Monica Mountains to the beaches of Malibu, in the event that they become orphaned, injured or sick. Be they king snakes with dislocated jaws, juvenile egrets that need X-rays, newly orphaned fawns or cottontail rabbits that need splints, the center is a crucial element in the protection of all animals, most of which are injured by the impact of their urbanized environments.

“By far, the largest quantities of animals we receive are orphans of all species,” said Cynthia Reyes, hospital manager and director of Marine Mammal Response for the past five years. “Traumatic injuries, such as being hit by a car, and domestic animal interaction, such as cat or dog bites, are also very prevalent.”

Most recently, the CWC announced the opening of its newest facility, a fawn enclosure. The enclosure, an approximately $20,000 project, now houses six orphaned mule deer fawns.

One fawn from Santa Barbara, another from Tehachapi and a third fawn that was hit by a car in Camarillo came to the enclosure after rehabilitation, said Victoria Harris, CWC’s vp treasurer of the Board of Directors for special events.

“Our fourth fawn, Reef, was rescued from the ocean on July 20, after apparently being chased down a hill, crossing Pacific Coast Highway onto a rocky beach and then running into the ocean,” Harris said. “We just received two new fawns, Gregg and Margie, from San Diego. All of them will probably be with us through early October.”

The fawns, transported to the center in large dog kennels, are cared for in a very specific manner.

“Fawns are bottle fed a specifically formulated milk-replacement until they reach approximately 14 weeks of age,” Reyes explained. “During their entire stay they are provided with a variety of native plants and grasses to forage on, which provide supplemental nutrition and prepares them for release.”

When asked about the risk of wild animals becoming dependent on and domesticated by human care, Reyes said, “If an animal is suitably raised in a rehabilitation facility, the possibility of domestication or habituation is greatly reduced. We maintain a constant vigil to keep our patients wild, whether they come is as infants or adults, regardless of species.”

The fawn enclosure, Reyes said, has been designed to significantly reduce the need to directly interact with the fawns, a species known for their ability to imprint on their caregivers. Bottle racks, and grain chutes are all accessed from the outside of the enclosure. A series of sliding doors with visual barriers enable staff to move fawns from one area of the enclosure to another without entering. Harris also mentioned the inclusion of eight video cameras (with night vision) allowing for “constant remote monitoring.”

Yet, amenities such as the fawn enclosure do not come cheap. “It costs about $800 per day to keep the center open,” Harris said. “People think it [the California Wildlife Center] will be here forever, but it won’t, not without sustainable funds. Nobody [who works] here makes much past minimum wage.”

The nonprofit organization receives no state or federal funding, and relies solely on donations, membership and grants to continue its mission.

“We have a small staff that provides year-round coverage for our Marine Mammal Response program, as well as our hospital technicians and Dr. Duane Tom, our part-time wildlife veterinarian,” Harris said. “However, it is our wonderful volunteers who are the backbone of CWC. Each year they provide between 12,000 and 15,000 hours of volunteer time-especially critical during our busy ‘baby season’ which runs from early March to September.”

Thus, on Aug. 10, from noon to 4 p.m., the California Wildlife Center is throwing the “party of the decade,” the 10th annual “Way Wild” celebration. The fundraiser will take place on Gull’s Way Estate with the goal of raising at least $100,000 to ensure California Wildlife Center’s continued commitment to caring for native wildlife, and upgrade its facilities and paramedic rescue of marine mammals along Malibu’s coastline.

The event will feature cuisine from top chefs and restaurants, fine wine tasting courtesy of local vintners, live auctions, including a Galapagos adventure, a silent auction, children’s activities, magic by David Groves, complimentary intuitive readings and healing sessions, and music by Elettra Blu, Maureena & The Maniac Cadillac band, and Music Entertainment Services.

Luminaries such as Pamela Anderson, Cindy Crawford, Morgan Fairchild, Michael Madsen, Bill Maher, Chris Backus, Mike Einziger of the band Incubus, Amy Madigan, Eloise and John Paul DeJoria and Mira Sorvino (to name a few) sit on CWC’s honorary committee.

Beyond the party of the decade, the California Wildlife Center also empowers people to make day-to-day changes to help keep wildlife safer. “Controlling pets to prevent dog/cat bites to wild animals is important,” Reyes said, and “when driving through mountainous areas, or areas known to have a lot of wildlife, slow down.”

Other tips: do not feed wildlife that may roam into your back yard (birds are the exception); if you have a pool, invest in a pool cover to prevent animals from falling in and injuring themselves; “animal proof” your home, including crawl and attic spaces, to prevent unwanted visitors; if you discover injured or orphaned wildlife, contact a licensed rehabilitation facility immediately. Do not attempt to care for or raise the animal yourself.

Additional tips can be found online at www/

“Way Wild” will take place at Gull’s Estate, 26800 PCH, on Aug. 10. Tickets range from $40-$110. RSVPs are requested by Aug 1.