B Bryan Preserve
An experience of hope and joy
We left ya hangin’ last week, didn’t we? “Safari Land Rovers and large African mammals? Aren’t these guys in Mendocino? What’s going on?!” Such were probably the vaguely befuddled questions running through your mind when you finished reading our last post. Not to worry though, not to worry. We haven’t gone completely off our rocker quite yet. What we DID do, in fact, was go visit the B Bryan Preserve down in Point Arena.
What a personal, beautiful opportunity to get to know some of the most iconic and majestic creatures of the African landscape, to gain a better understanding of their plight and catch a glimpse of the hope that still holds out for their survival.
We arrived early in the hovering morning fog, enthusiastically greeted by two barn cats that meowed for attention as they accompanied us on a short tour of the gardens. We had to pet them, of course – they may not have been exotic animals from far-off lands, but they were just so darn cute, especially Amos the polydactyl tuxedo cat, who was certainly rather social. As we waited in the barn / reception area for the tour to start, we browsed the educational displays and gift shop items that were mixed in among the owner’s eclectic collection of antiques. It was a fun little space, unassuming and quaint yet obviously filled with love and a sweet passion for the animals that graced the posters on the walls.
Then in came our guide, who introduced us to the ways and norms of the Preserve as we sat perched on old wooden theater seats. She told us a little bit about the work that the Preserve is doing with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to breed certain of the large African animals that are slowly declining in the wild. She also outlined some of the nonprofits they partner with and support that are out in the field, pushing to keep what remains of those wild populations thriving. “We really hope you enjoy the tour,” she said, “but what we want most of all is to teach you about these magnificent animals and the danger they are in. We want you understand how important it is to DO something to ensure their survival.”
Prepared to learn, we filed out to the car shed, filled up a couple of the awesome vintage Land Rovers (ours was named “Pickle”!) and rumbled out to where the animals were awaiting their morning meal. We stopped by the bachelor quarters, where two roan antelope quietly shared a large space with the preserve’s only Plains Zebra, Elvis. Our first introduction to a zebra, Elvis stayed close to the fence, showing off his stripes until the guide was done telling us about the success his species is having. At that point, she stopped tossing him treats, so he huffed and ambled back away to the quieter parts of the paddock.
Right across the trail from Elvis’ enclosure, the small herd of Hartman’s Mountain Zebras was in from the outer reaches of their couple of acres and bickering around the hay. Pretty feisty, these ladies seemed to be a bit of a handful, pushing each other out of the way to get to the treats the guides tossed to bring them closer to the fence. The proximity of the Hartman’s to Elvis was perfect for pointing out some of the physical differences between the two species – size, coloring, stripes, tails, manes, all so different! Our guides brought our attention to the shy mid-sized foal feeding next to its mother – evidence of the Preserve’s active breeding of these endangered zebras as part of the international effort to keep the species strong.
On to the Grevy’s Zebras, we got to see just how different these biggest of the zebras were from the others. They were adorable huddled behind the matriarch of the group, their big ears pointed inquisitively forward as their leader checked to make sure this gaggle of humans boded no harm to the herd. Our guides explained that as the Grevy’s are the most critically endangered of the zebras, the Preserve is really trying to build a successful breeding program with this untamed crew.
Turning away from the zebras, we watched the timid Greater Kudu from a distance, most of them tucked in back amongst the grasses of their enclosure. Two apple-lovers worked up the nerve to come close to the fence as one of the guides tossed them their favorite treat. They were alert and a bit skittish, watching our every move as they gobbled up the apples. The sable antelope in another area also kept their distance, as they had quite a few gangly, bouncing babies in their midst.
Next was the part we were all waiting for – getting right up close and personal with the Rothschild Giraffes! The guides told us about the “silent extinction” this species is undergoing, explaining habitat loss and a host of other factors as she handed out slices of sweet potato to everyone in the group. The oldest of the five giraffe brothers housed at the preserve, Mazi, came close to the fence and leaned out toward what he knew was a tasty treat – “Come on!” he seemed to be saying, “I’m hungry!” We all held up our slices as he swung his long neck back and forth, easily snagging each treat as it was offered. His raspy tongue felt so funny! Even funnier though, was getting a “kiss” by holding up the sweet potato in our teeth. Some of the younger kids in the group couldn’t quite do it, giggling and dropping their slices every time Mazi reached out. So much laughter.
There was so much we had learned by the time the tour was over. Most of all though, we came away with a fresh sense of connection with these animals from far away lands and a deeper appreciation for the work that is being done to keep them alive and thriving, both here at B Bryan and elsewhere. It filled us with hope for a fuller, more sustainable future, and it left us with a smile in our hearts.
Tours run daily at 9:30am and 4:00pm (3:30 in winter), during feeding time. They go for about an hour. Cost is $35/adult, $20/child under 10yrs. When you go, make a day of it and enjoy some other highlights down the coast.
Written by Laura Hockett