Thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated locals, the birds of South Bay Wildlife Rehab get a soaring second chance.
- Written byDiane E.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is a wildlife haven and a nature lover’s paradise, so it is not surprising that it is also home to South Bay Wildlife Rehab, a nonprofit corporation with state and federal permits for wildlife rehabilitation and education. Founded in 1993 by Ann Lynch, a retired South Bay schoolteacher, the charity provides rescue and rehabilitation services to California’s native birds.
Ann’s passion for caring for at-risk wildlife began in 1968 when a friend gave her a baby wild bird that needed help. Since then, and during her 40-year teaching career (primarily in science), she has embraced her role as wildlife guardian.
“I love animals, education and talking with people,” she says. “I have raised and rehabilitated raccoons, possums, squirrels, skunks, water birds, songbirds and birds of prey. Though our focus is on land birds now, we still take calls for other birds and mammals, as we have great referrals to help them.”
Today, with approximately 70 volunteers, three “care stations” in private homes and flight enclosures on private property, the out-shelter organization rehabilitates 1,000 to 1,500 sick, injured and orphaned birds per year and reaches more than 30,000 people annually with its educational programs.
There are about 60 birds currently being rehabilitated by South Bay Wildlife Rehab and often as many as 100. “We get them from animal control shelters that are as far north as the San Fernando Valley, south to Orange County, east to Riverside and west to Catalina,” shares Ann. “They also come to us from animal hospitals, by word of mouth, internet searches and from airports.”
Airports? Interestingly, the United States Department of Agriculture has biologists on staff who trap birds for safety reasons at airports, which are also avian feeding grounds laden with insects and rodents. Ann and volunteers work closely with six airports—LAX, Ontario, Van Nuys, Burbank, John Wayne, Long Beach and March Air Reserve Base—and relocate healthy birds far enough away so they do not return. In 2013, 159 birds were airport rescues, and most of them were uninjured.
Many birds also find their way to South Bay Wildlife Rehab as abandoned babies (several must go through “mouse school” for survival training) and often through dire circumstances. Some have been intentionally hurt by humans and often have been shot and poisoned, while others are victims of manmade accidents such as being hit by cars and electrical power line mishaps. Those feathered rescues that require professional medical attention are put in the tender hands of Ann’s veterinarian, Dr. Cassie Jones at Point Vicente Animal Hospital, and Ann’s surgical wingman, Dr. Rob Kaufman at Harbor Animal Hospital.
Founder and director Ann Lynch (center) with her volunteers.
“We share the Peninsula with wildlife and have a responsibility toward the health and welfare of all of its creatures,” says Dr. Jones. “It is one of the reasons we live here and preserve open space. Don’t you just thrill at seeing a hawk soaring in flight or when you hear
an owl at night? Helping Ann and her organization is just a small way of giving back. Her educational focus is something that needs
to be continued so people learn how to appreciate and coexist with wild things.”
Though Ann is retired from the classroom, her passion for education lives on in tandem with her passion for nature. Birds that do not fully recover from injuries and cannot be safely released into the wild are adopted by South Bay Wildlife Rehab and become educational ambassadors in the community.
The current roster of feathered “teachers” is comprised of four hawks and four owls. Two of the crowd-pleasing favorites are Zena, the red-tailed hawk, and Eddie, the great horned owl.
Zena was electrocuted and lost part of a wing, so she could never fly again. Eddie was hit by a car—presumably in pursuit of prey—and suffered a broken wing along with damage to an eye and his head, injuries which have impaired his ability to fly. With great care and devotion, Ann and trained volunteers share the birds during up-close-and-personal local experiences via school programs, presentations, street fairs and other events.
Communing with nature is food for the soul and a surefire path to quietude and wonder. Albert Einstein said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Science aficionado, teacher and animal lover Ann Lynch and her dedicated team of South Bay Wildlife Rehab volunteers can most certainly attest to that.
South Bay Wildlife Rehab welcomes new volunteers to assist with relocating these wonderful creatures and to help in other ways. For more information and to volunteer, go to sbwr.org.
Meet our Indigo Girl.
Louis Zamperini. Since its November 2010 debut, Unbroken, the much-anticipated second book from Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, has sold well more than a million copies and spent 66 weeks and counting atop the NY Times best-seller list. The book recounts the extraordinary story of a former Olympian, World War II POW and national hero. With the phenomenal success of Unbroken, new generations have been intro-duced to this heroic man and inspired by his unforgettable story. Among Zamperini’s many fans are Southbay photographer Jeff Berting and yours truly. And so it was, on a brilliantly sunny winter morning, that Jeff, his wife, Siri, and I drove up a winding Hollywood Hills road to Louis Zamperini’s home for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to meet, photograph and interview this bona fide living legend.