STAR ECO Aids Wildlife
Pepperdine University senior Ruth Wu let out an excited squeal when the children of Mar Vista kindergarten lined up on stage, "They look so cute in their little sombreros" said the 22-year-old who strangely enough, heard about the event while at a supermarket check-out line.
What followed was an extremely rousing dance routine that drew plenty of camera flashes and gushing from the audience, many of who were video-camera-toting parents.
Granted, the skies were rather cloudy this Saturday as the STAR ECO Station wildlife rescue center's children's Cinco de Mayo event went underway, but even the heavens seemed to smile at the scene as the clouds slowly parted way.
The event, held as a "community celebration of Mexican culture", boasted a hot-dog stand, caricature station, live performances and even a temporary tattoo stall - truly the perfect setting for a weekend fiesta.
The celebration was, however, overshadowed by a sadder tale of an impressively maintained menagerie of exotic wildlife, most of which had been confiscated while on illegal passage into Los Angeles or abandoned.
"Los Angeles is the largest port of entry in the United States for illegal trade, and the third largest in the world" said STAR ECO coordinator, Dana Bean, as she proceeded to lead a guided tour through the facility, almost all of which was constructed from recycled materials.
The scene that made the acquaintance of visitors was all at once heart wrenching yet amazing.
Enclosures of macaws, snakes, iguanas and even alligators stood next to tanks of pacu "tank-buster" fish and a variety of turtles, most of which had been either rescued or deserted.
"We try to educate children that it's not a good idea to buy a pet, that it is better to adopt." Said Bean, "People buy these when they are small not know that they'll well... you know," whilst motioning at the massive disc-like pacu fish.
Delving further into the tour, Bean pointed out two rescued wildcats that had to undergo hand reconstruction.
"It is excruciating for them when big cats are de-clawed" said Bean. The hand reconstruction procedure was done by The Paw Project organization.
An African Serval was next on the tour.
Turned in by a kennel after its owner had left it there to "go on vacation", the big-cat seemed docile enough in its enclosure, but Bean promptly reminded those on the tour that it is in essence, a "wild animal".
The final stop was through the bird aviary, where the tour chanced upon a group of children being schooled by a volunteer on the long lifespan of macaws.
Said Bean "a lot of people don't realize that these birds could outlive us." - indicating the responsibility of caring for these creatures once the owners have passed on. Bean then described the bonds these birds create; being by nature, "flock birds".
Outside the enclosure, Bean and I shook hands and parted. The sun was out full-force; a mariachi band had arrived as the Cinco de Mayo activities were going underway.
Yes, it was a happy Cinco de Mayo for the families gathered on Saturday, and it is heartwarming to know that the work done by STAR ECO helps in ensuring that there will be a happy Cinco de Mayo for those creatures rescued too.