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THE WILD BUNCH
By Julie D’Costa
There is a Wild Bunch in the Lakeside area that you will want to know about. These are intelligent folks, keenly observant and well -informed. They are also well connected and work closely with officials at the state and federal levels.
These folks are the Lakeside Wildlife Rescue team and their mission is twofold: to rescue, rehabilitate and release wild animals that get into trouble; and to educate the local community on the value and importance of protecting our local fauna, whether on the endangered list or not. They have what amounts to a small zoo, where they nurture and care for displaced and injured animals until they can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
They work with all kinds of animals: birds of all kinds including falcons and eagles; local indigenous animals such as deer, possums, skunks, raccoons, foxes, an armadillo, iguanas, coati mundis, and a magnificent ocelot that was released some time ago; a wild boar; snakes of all kinds – from the ubiquitous and indigenous corn snakes to a seven foot python; alligators and turtles; and scorpions from all over the world.
They have a significant impact on the community. As part of their mission of educating the public, they take their menagerie to the people - wherever they may be. They can be found at the most unlikely places: in school classrooms, at public functions like the Chili Cookoff, at the Lake Chapala Society, and on street corners.
They come with cages, boxes, perches and pools filled with all sorts of critters of all shapes and sizes, colors and varieties. And they provide a unique opportunity for all of us to see and touch animals that ordinarily we would rarely if ever encounter in the course of our normal lives:
In these situations, they are aided by the innate curiosity of all of us to see and touch our fellow wild creatures. Imagine you are walking along the malecon in Chapala and come across this menagerie in front of city hall. What kinds of reactions might you see?
A very small portion of people turn and walk away. The vast majority are drawn to the scene with a sense of wonder and awe. They are drawn by the opportunity to experience the animals first hand and many feel compelled to experience the animals through touch.
This is how attitudes are changed.
Education is so important for all of us. You may not know that in Mexico it is a federal crime to possess, transport, buy, sell, or kill any wild animal that is considered endemic, under special protection, threatened, or in danger of extinction, or to otherwise cause damage to the genetic pool. Depending upon the species involved, penalties are: 1 to 9 years in prison, as well as fines up to $2,341,000.00 pesos (approximately $200,000 USD), as well as possible deportation for non-Mexican citizens. Tough measures if you ask me. However, given that many endemic species are in serious trouble or in danger of extinction, one can understand their position.
The Lakeside Wildlife Rescue team is made up of 100% volunteers. No one receives a penny. They rely exclusively on donations for food, medicine and care of animals, for cages, flyers, bumper stickers, and signs.
So the next time you see the Lakeside Wildlife Rescue crew and their wonderful critters, go up close and experience the wonder of our natural wildlife. You will be glad you did.