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A wild day at Mission Plaza celebrates 30 years of rescuing animals

Regina Pacheco, 8, of San Luis Obispo smiles as she hold a small box turtle at a Pacific Wildlife Care event in 2017. Several animal ambassadors from the organization will be present at the Earth Day Fair & Music Festival, April 21, 2018, at Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo.
Regina Pacheco, 8, of San Luis Obispo smiles as she hold a small box turtle at a Pacific Wildlife Care event in 2017. Several animal ambassadors from the organization will be present at the Earth Day Fair & Music Festival, April 21, 2018, at Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

What do opossums, brown bats and turkey vultures have in common with late comedian Rodney Dangerfield? They don’t get no respect.

Pacific Wildlife Care education outreach specialist Kathy Duncan did her part Saturday to change that, introducing critters like Cricket the Virginia opossum and Barf — yes, Barf — the turkey vulture to wide-eyed youngsters and grownups alike at the “Wild in the Plaza” event at Mission San Luis Obispo.

The “European Street Faire”-style event marked the nonprofit organization’s 30th anniversary — three decades of rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals such as hawks, opossums, owls, raccoons and vultures.

Event sponsor Joan Gellert-Sargen beamed with pride as she praised the work done by Pacific Wildlife Care.

“They’ve been such unsung heroes all these years,” she said.

Gellert-Sargen said she also was pleased with how other organizations came together for Saturday’s event, such as Too SLO California Turtle and Tortoise Club and the Nature Conservancy.

The free four-hour, all-ages event let people hold and touch such diverse animals as gumboot chitons, sea snails, corn snakes, bearded dragons, a red-tailed boa, a Kenyan sand boa, a box turtle named “Speedy” and a rehabilitated tortoise that Denise Boddeker of Too SLO said was “really a success story.”

She said that when she received the tortoise, it was severely malnourished and it’s shell “mushy” and deformed. While the tortoise made a full recovery, the deformity of the shell meant that it was impossible for Boddeker and others to firmly identify to which species of Mediterranean tortoise it belonged.

Also on display Saturday was an 8-year-old Pelican named Morro, a juggler on a unicycle, numerous musical and dance performers and two people in animal suits.

According to its website, Pacific Wildlife Care treats nearly 3,000 wild animal patients from 200 species every year with a goal of returning them to the wild if possible. If an injured wild animal is found, information about how to get it help can be found by visiting the organization’s website or calling 805-543-9453 (WILD).

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the girl photographed holding a turtle. She is Reigna Pacheco, 8, of San Luis Obispo.

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