This is the entrance to the Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation sanctuary located in Kendalia, Texas. It was my great privilege to visit with this non-profit organization’s founder, Lynn Cuny. Please read on to see and hear more about WRR!
WRR is a sanctuary for native and non-native wildlife, encompassing 187 acres in the Texas Hill Country. The sanctuary employs about 20 full-time staffers who care for the animals and maintain the grounds. They also have another 15 interns, gaining hands-on training to pair with their formal education.
Thanksgiving was just a few days before my visit to WRR, and during the festivities, I learned that I was only a few degrees of separation from a one-time intern. This gave rise to one of those situations where you shake your head and exclaim “what a small world!”
These lounging sheep were the first group of residents we came upon. Even though there was a chill wind blowing, these sheep sought out the shade of Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) trees. You can see some of the enclosures behind the trees, where other rescued animals live.
This enclosure houses white-fronted capuchin monkeys. One of them even tolerated me and my snapping camera. At WRR, their approach to building enclosures is to make them as large as they possibly can, leaving them open-topped in all but a very few enclosures. Many of the animals at WRR are survivors of the pet trade or laboratories, and are not native to North America. These animals cannot be released into the “wild” once they have been nursed back to health because they simply don’t belong on this continent. WRR does their best to make these non-native animals feel at home in the Texas landscape.
↑ Can you see the jaguar in this picture? It took me a full 2 minutes to spot him, standing just 50ft away! And I had help. I’d say this jaguar is feeling quite at home!
This beautiful enclosure is home to several cougars, also known as mountain lions. Lynn said that they were all rescued from the “pet” trade where they had suffered abuse and mutilation. Lynn also said that it is typical for cougars who are exploited by this trade, to be declawed and defanged. All of those in the care of WRR have suffered this cruelty.
What? Another cat enclosure? You bet. WRR’s very first permanent resident was a baby bobcat, taken in 31 years ago. She and her mate died 18 years later, within just days of each other. Here’s an excerpt from the story of how WRR came to be:
When a friend rescued a bobcat kitten from a glass aquarium in a pet shop, she called Lynn seeking assistance. The kitten had been declawed with a pair of pliers and was in serious need of care. Lynn took the kitten into her home, and gave her two rooms in which to live. Shortly thereafter, San Antonio Animal Control asked her to take in another bobcat, and WRR was soon taking in animals of all kinds.
Today, WRR accepts animals in need of care and sanctuary from all over the United States. They evaluate each request to determine if they have suitable accommodations given their current mix of residents. WRR’s goal is to release the rehabilitated native wildlife back into their native habitats whenever possible. Inevitably, some animals have suffered injuries such that, though healed, they could not survive in the wild. These natives then live out their lives along with the non-native animals who call WRR “home.”
After 31 years of rescuing and caring for the countless animals who have come to WRR, it is easy to understand how Lynn knows the history of each animal who lives at the sanctuary. Some, she told me, had been with them for many years. Others, she would point out, just arrived from a zoo, for example. Though WRR began in Lynn’s own backyard, the plan was always to grow into a 200 acre sanctuary. Lynn has remained devoted to the mission of WRR. It is her love of these animals and her commitment to their well-being that also compels her and her staff to NOT try to tame them. The rule at WRR is that no wild animal is named or tamed.
Lynn told me this story:
The bears at WRR have sad histories. Perhaps the most touching is that of one of the females. She and several other bears and three tigers had spent their lives suffering the exploitation of traveling circuses and wild animal acts. When finally they were “retired,” they were left languishing in a dark, windowless barn, still held captive in their small shipping crates. It was 9 long, torturous years before any action was taken to rescue them. Though they had been given just enough food and water to stay alive, the filth-encrusted crates had been all but filled with feces and the animals had only a modicum of space in which to “live.”
I was heartsick to hear this story, and then immediately overwhelmed with gratitude for the good work that Lynn and WRR do for animals in need.
There are many wildlife sanctuaries in the US – but it is a rare thing to find a sanctuary that is not open to the public in some way. WRR is operated with funds generated from events like marathons, golf tournaments, and annual dinners. Their big event for 2009 includes a chance to win a great door prize – a Mercedes! No, I’m not kidding! As with fundraising events, WRR relies solely on contributions from individuals. During this time when so many of us have less cash to donate, you can imagine how great Lynn’s commitment to the animals is, by her continuing to resist the funds that would come from opening their doors to the public. The philosophy of WRR is one that places the animals first. Lynn believes that the animals should not have to earn their living, because they have been through enough pain and suffering before being rescued.
My time at WRR was truly inspiring. I drove away with my mind buzzing with the stories I’d just heard and with new ideas to “try on.” I have never met a person so utterly committed to the well-being of every living plant and animal. I also left with the intention to do my very best to spread the word about this wonderful organization. I know that Lynn would be gratified if the message of treating animals with dignity and respect were to reach every human being. If you find this article and WRR as inspiring as I do, please share it with a friend!
I currently support WRR through a permanent badge on the Birder’s Lounge sidebar, an annual membership, GoodShop, and 5% of any proceeds from sales through my online store. (Since I just opened the online store, I haven’t actually received any proceeds yet.) And I’m going to do something else, right here, right now. I may be crazy, but…
I will match one dollar to your one dollar as a year-end, tax-deductible donation to WRR. If you would like to donate more – great! I can still only commit to matching the first dollar. However you choose to donate, please be sure to note Birder’s Lounge, and send me your name on the pledge form below so that I can keep a tally of what my part will be. Let’s do this through December 30, 2008. On December 31, 2008, I will write my check for whatever the tally is, send to WRR, and post a copy of my check (less account info) online. C’mon – don’t embarrass me by making me write a puny little check!