Larry Ellison and his multi-billion dollar fortune have long funded endangered wildlife and conservation causes and now he is in the process of bringing a long-cherished dream to life, to provide a refuge center for the less visible creepy crawlies in California. Perhaps better known as the chairman of the Oracle Corporation, the technology giant based in Redwood City, California, Ellison aims to create the first wildlife refuge center for bugs, reptiles and amphibians. The center will focus on rehabilitation, release and education from its facility near Saratoga, in an abandoned quarry located in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Ellison has been working in conjunction with the Peninsula Humane Society (PHS) for five years to put his funds and plans for the refuge center into motion. Wildlife advocates are thrilled with the news that the less glamorous endangered species, whose plights do not generally make the evening news, will have a chance at healing and recovery that they have never had until now. The Conservation Center for Wildlife Care, as Ellison and partners have dubbed it, will house a captive breeding program for endangered amphibians, reptiles, bugs and butterflies, as well as a medical facility and an education center. Their veterinary staff will focus on repairing torn and broken wings and hides and sheltering the creepy crawlie orphans until they are healthy enough to be released back to the wild.
PHS’ President Ken White explains that while it would certainly be a shame for the more iconic endangered species such as the condor, which garner much public sympathy and funding, were to become extinct, what most people do not realize is that the extinction of bees and hummingbirds would have catastrophic consequences for all life on earth. U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife endangered species chief Chris Nagano voiced special concern over the alarmingly low count of the Lange’s metalmark butterfly, native to the sand dunes near Antioch. He said that the breeding program at Ellison’s refuge center will be critical to preserving the species. The center will be a pioneer in the field of conservation as the first refuge specially designed for the care and preservation of invertebrate species. White only fears that the opening of the refuge will not be soon enough to save the critically endangered metalmark with a population count of only about 45 at this time.
As a trailblazer in invertebrate conservation, Ellison is determined to spare no funds to make the creepy crawlie refuge center a first-class, cutting edge facility that will serve as a model for conservation scientists around the world to follow in his footsteps. The center will provide services for San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and expects to treat approximately, 8,500 injured creepy crawlies per year. He plans to meet and exceed the programs offered at other conservation intake centers. He envisions the Saratoga center to have a wildlife museum, a rehabilitation facility, educational nature programs for children and more. He wants to take the best of the models in use elsewhere and put it all together in one center. The buildings alone will take up about 140,000 square feet, enough space for three large supermarkets, with room to spare on 170 acres of woodland. Plans include 50 rehabilitation coops, in addition to the breeding center, a greenhouse, an organic garden atrium and two homes for an onsite caretaker and for guests from the scientific community.
A land-use analysis determined the project would provide minimal environmental and traffic impact. Although funding details are not clear, it is expected that Ellison will foot the bill for the construction of the wildlife refuge center, while staffing and maintenance funding will be the responsibility of the Humane Society. White is very grateful for Ellison’s contribution, as he explains that the kindness and generosity of such a single-source benefactor is the only way to make a project like this possible. Without the large cash influx from Ellison, the typical flow of charitable donations for what most consider a low priority cause would not come close to covering the costs of a facility such as this dedicated to the conservation of local creepy crawlie wildlife.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top and featured image courtesy of hjhipster – Flickr License
Inside image courtesy of Karen Roe – Flickr License