A Wing Ding fling

Artist Frank Rozasy's ghostly images are of animals made extinct by the activities of humankind walk-on art made a strong impact on visitors to the CWC event Sunday. Visitors walked on the images in order to gain entrance to the festivities. Photo by Janet Laird / TMT

The California Wildlife Center celebrates nine years of animal welfare.

By Kim Devore / Staff Writer

The location was the Gull’s Way Estate and the afternoon event was appropriately called the Wing Ding. The celebration, California Wildlife Center’s annual fundraiser, gathered hundreds of animal lovers and center supporters who turned out to say thanks to the many staff members and volunteers providing aid to thousands of animals in need each year.

The objective with each and every animal is simple-to rescue, rehabilitate and release. The center rescued 2,310 animals last year. Of those, 351 responses came from Malibu alone, including an 800-pound sea lion was trapped under a home on Malibu Road and a young fawn that was reunited with its mother after becoming separated on the campus of Pepperdine University.

As guests entered the tree-lined grounds, they encountered a thought-provoking piece of “walk-on” art. They were encouraged to tread across ghostly black and white images of extinct animals created by artist Frank Rozasy.

“The whole idea of the installation is that these are all species that man has killed off over the years: the giant sloth, the red gazelle, the blue buck, the dodo,” Rozasy said. “It’s a reminder that homosapiens are the only species on the planet with the ability to totally destroy other species.”

Rozasy found depictions of these extinct critters in natural history museums and took photographic images of them. Those images were turned into negatives and then printed and mounted on large pieces of wood.

“When people walk on these images, it’s like they are walking on the animals’ graves, Rozasy explained. “I want everyone to think about what we’ve done and what we are doing. I want to raise awareness.”

Raising awareness is also a major concern of the Wildlife Center. “Education is such a critical part of what we do,” said board member Elizabeth Oreck. “Our ultimate goal is to teach everyone to respect and co-exist peacefully with wildlife.”

As wildlife revelers milled about the ocean-view estate sipping their Tommy Bahama strawberry mojitos and cranberry sodas, and listening to deep, soulful music by Marianne Keith, they had a chance to learn more about the center’s important mission.

During the recent algae bloom, CWC volunteers responded to dozens of incidents of dead or ailing birds, sea lions and other marine mammals that washed up on the beaches along Malibu this spring. CWC volunteers described the toxic condition, known as domoic acid poisoning, the worst they’d seen in years.

The CWC also cared for eight fawns in 2006 as well as 94 hummingbirds, 286 squirrels, 85 pelicans and 272 opossums. Supporters learned that coming to the rescue 24/7 not only requires commitment, it requires money. It takes $250 to mend a falcon’s broken wing and $250 to hospitalize and rehabilitate a bobcat with a broken leg.

To raise money for future rescue missions, CWC supporters generously wrote out checks and bid on silent auction items including flashy long boards and even flashier Swarovski crystal jewelry. The live auction lot featured a week-long photo safari to South Africa, deluxe digs in Paris and perhaps best of all, an exclusive invite to a very private party-the release of two great horned owls back into the wild.

CWC party animals got to experience a little of the magic first-hand at the end of the afternoon. That is when volunteers released a rehabilitated red-shouldered hawk back into the wild. It was seen as the perfect way to symbolize the center’s good deeds on behalf of our feathered, finned and four-legged friends.