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Sarah Kennedy, Spring 2013 Students

Researchers and volunteers say wildlife conservation in San Diego is urgently needed

By Sarah Kennedy

People use nearly 30 percent more natural resources than the earth has to offer, according to the World Wildlife Federation. Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 9.42.47 AM

Finding any land that is not being used by humans in the United States is almost impossible, according to San Diego State University biology professor Kevin Hovel, which is why he says conservation is more vital now than at any other time in history.

“It’s critical because there are very few habitats or places that are still untouched by people,” Hovel said.

“Even in the oceans where people view them as still pristine, it is not the case anymore,” Hovel said.

Hovel also says whether it is overfishing that’s removed many ocean species to pollution; people have disrupted pretty much everything.

Humans have an impact on more than oceans and sea life.  According to Bobbi Brink, who is the founder of a wild cat rescue in San Diego, wild animals are constantly in danger in the United States.

“The wild animal trade is second to drugs and weapons in our country,” Brink said.

Ecology researcher Sheila Madrak says she believes people don’t realize how much wildlife effects human beings.

“If it doesn’t function as a whole, then our whole society as we have it could potentially have really devastating consequences,” Madrak said.

“We are seeing some of that now with the lack of natural resources.”

With the lack of natural resources left on earth, many habitats like estuaries are starting to die as well.

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The Tijuana River Estuary is one of the few natural wetlands left in Southern California.

Winand Hess, who is a biologist and volunteer bird watcher at the Tijuana River Estuary, says because humans have demolished so many wildlife habitats, wetlands have essentially disappeared.

“We have managed to destroy more than 90 percent of our coastal wetlands,” Hess said.

Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve Project

San Diego is home to nearly 70 miles of coastline and countless beaches, but it is also home to the last known wetland in Southern California.

Although the Tijuana River Estuary is a rare wetland, it is essential to the wildlife and environment.

This estuary helps migrating birds and also acts as a filtration system to the Pacific Ocean.

Lisa Cox, who is the public information officer for the National Fish and Wildlife Service in San Diego, said estuaries are crucial for future generations because they prevent sediment from contaminating drinking sources.

“The health of your watershed, which many people all live around, will become unhealthy and it will become backed up,” Cox said, adding that when sediment begins to build up in these wetlands, it will probably end up contaminating the whole area.

Wildlife conserved through the Tijuana River Estuary

The Tijuana River Estuary not only keeps water from being contaminated, it also serves as a home for a lot of migrating birds as well.

Cox says if this estuary were nonexistent, not only would the biodiversity in these areas die, but many birds would starve as well.

The Tijuana River Estuary happens to be right on the migration path for many species of birds. The estuary serves as a pit stop for the birds to find food and shelter along their journey.

Hess says that people must be reminded that birds do not have a reserve canister that they can rely on while traveling and without this estuary many birds would die off from starvation and dehydration.

The Tijuana River Estuary here in San Diego is a vital wetland for both wildlife and humans. Sarah Kennedy talks to both volunteers and biologists to talk about the impact this estuary is having on our ecosystem.

Lions, Tigers and Bear Big Cat Rescue conserves wildlife big and small

Birds aren’t the only species that need protecting in San Diego.  The Lions, Tigers and Bears Big Cat Rescue focuses on the conservation and welfare of big cats.

Bobbi Brink says this facility homes several different types of large cats, domestic animals and even a bear as well.

She also says that one of the main goals of the sanctuary is to make the public aware that there are now more big cats in captivity than in the wild.

According to a statistic by the World Wildlife Federation, there are less than 3,200 tigers left in the wild.

By working with legislatures, the Lions, Tigers and Bears animal rescue are constantly pushing for new laws in several different states.

“ It’s perfectly legal to own a lion, a tiger or a rhino,” said Brink about some states.

Many of the animals at the Lions, Tigers and Bears place are there because they were rather surplus animals from the zoo or they were mistreated by their previous owners.

Bobbi Brink of Lions, Tigers and Bears talks about how both domestic and exotic animals find a new life at her animal rescue.

Ways to get involved

The Tijuana River Estuary and Lions, Tigers and Bears have a primary focus on getting the community involved with the conservation efforts in San Diego.

The Tijuana River Estuary has events every weekend that are open to the community. The events include everything from picking up trash, to bird watching or listening to guest speakers.

Lions, Tigers and Bears focuses a lot more on the education aspect of getting the community involved.

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Photo courtesy of Lions, Tigers and Bears

One of the main goals of the rescue is to inform people of the harmful effects of buying and selling wild animals.

Brink says the best way to get involved with the wild animal trade efforts is to try to push legislatures to change current laws that allow the ownership of exotic animals.

Hovel says educating people at a young age is also one of the best ways to contribute to the conservation effort.

“Education and also getting people on board with the conservation movement at an early age is really important,” said Hovel.

Whether it is through education or events, both Hovel and Cox say people need to get involved to help protect the lands of San Diego.

“It’s really important because this is their backyard, this is their public land,” said Cox.

“You can’t see this between the houses and the cities, but if you come out here, you will have a chance to reconnect and hopefully care a little bit more.”

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