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By Jessika Rodriguez, CAP Public Affairs

Got time for volunteering?

Turnouts at Southwest WildlifeWe did, and we made a difference! Last year was my first introduction to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWWCC) – a center with a mission to rescue native animals that are injured, displaced or incapable of surviving in their natural habitat. These rehabilitated animals are released to the wild and those that cannot be released often find their forever home at Southwest Wildlife.

This year more than 20 of our CAP employees and family members volunteered at the SWWCC. At the end of our volunteer assignment, we were rewarded with a free tour of the facility, where we were introduced to all animals residing at the center and learned about the tragic history that lead them to the SWWCC sanctuary.

One of the many animals at the center is Cinnamon - a gorgeous dark brown bear with a heart-wrenching story. Born just outside of Tucson, baby Cinnamon was fed by a nearby family and became familiar with people. As she grew larger and a little more dangerous to humankind, she was labeled a public nuisance. Cinnamon once roamed the mountainside with acres of freedom, but because she now associates people with food, she will remain in an enclosure with bears like her for the remainder of her years.

All too often, we hear stories of people coming across baby javelina in the desert or having the perception that a coyote cub has been abandoned and that they should try to rescue it. However, once imprinted, these wild and magnificent animals, now habituated to humans, become pets, and when they do something innate to their kind might happen (like biting) or they might grow too large. That’s when they might truly be abandoned. Having their food brought to them in a bowl, these animals lose their instinctive ability to hunt and survive.

Turnouts at Southwest Wildlife Coyote

Our volunteer assignment was laborious. The nonprofit SWWCC sits on 10 acres of land, which has to be maintained. We trimmed cacti, (and cacti pricked us in return). We weeded, we raked, we sawed and we removed gates to build homes for the rescued animals. Our goal was to make this space a comfortable living environment for the abandoned animals, and we did - with little blood, a whole lot of sweat and maybe a few tears.

CAP does a volunteer project with organizations like SWWCC each month, because volunteerism is one of our core values at CAP. Having volunteered for many neighborhood cleanups, fundraisers and food banks, I can tell you that at SWWCC, I learned more about my co-workers, their humanity, their fearlessness and their abnormal human strength behind landscaping tools! Together, we improved the quality of life for so many of these rescued animals and we look forward to continuing the mission next year

It is imperative that we understand the complexity of the social, environmental and economic issues surrounding abandoned animals. If I learned anything from this CAP Turnout event, it is to allow desert animals to roam free as nature intended. That, and the fact that I work amongst a group of the selfless human beings with superhuman strength and hearts of gold.

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