San Diego Zoo Safari Park

From left to right, Melodi Tayles, lead keeper at San Diego Zoo Safari Park; Jeff Holland, Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project coordinator; David Kimmerle, Sanderson Ford Lincoln owner; Andrew Kimmerle of Sanderson Ford Lincoln; Connie Ollson; and Mickey Ollson, Wildlife World director. (Submitted photo)

 

There’s a quote that says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” In the case of the Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project, that message is true.

The project, which is based in Baja California Sur, Mexico, aims to protect peninsular pronghorn — a critically endangered subspecies that is endemic, or unique to deserts of Baja California.

This year, thanks to a partnership between Wildlife World and Sanderson Ford, the Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project is going to receive a free truck.

In 1997, when the subspecies was down to 170 individual animals, a nonprofit conservation group called Espacios Naturales y Desarrollo Sustentable (ENDESU), Spanish for “Natural Spaces and Sustainable Development,” launched the preservation program.

Melodi Tayles, the program leader for the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) peninsular pronghorn studbook, said while the subspecies’ population has gradually increased over the years, it is still very much endangered.

“There are very few actual animals in the wild. A very rough estimate would be that there’s about 50 animals that are living in the wild. There’s another 400 to 450 that are living in a semi-captive situation where (ENDESU) is working on breeding them,” Tayles said.

Tayles, who is also a lead keeper at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said her zoo and six others, including Litchfield Park’s very own Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park, belong to a consortium that supports ENDESU’s program.

“They help by being holders of the peninsular pronghorn because the animals in zoos here in the United States are forming an assurance population for those down in Baja. Those zoos are serving to educate the public on this endangered subspecies,” Tayles explained. “They’re also helping out in various financial ways.”

Mickey Ollson, director and owner of Wildlife World, said he knew who to turn to when ENDESU needed help finding a vehicle for its sites.

“It’s close to home. It’s a species that needs help. And these people in Mexico are very dedicated,” Ollson said. “I expressed all of this to David Kimmerle, who’s a friend of Wildlife World Zoo — but also the owner of Sanderson Ford in Glendale. It took David about two minutes to say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to get them an F250.’”

Ollson said the two-year-old F-250 diesel truck Kimmerle donated is equipped with special features, including a brand new bed liner and towing package.

“Just like a new truck — and a very valuable truck. They could pull a horse trailer with this truck; they could move food for the animals from the different reserves or out to the different reserves that they have in Mexico,” Ollson added.

Projects like that one of ENDESU are the kind that Ollson said he likes to be involved with.

“They don’t get any government funds. They’re doing this with funds they can raise in Baja. These are the kinds of conservation projects that we like to do — we’re helping a species of animals that was down to (170) individuals with a partnership between us and Sanderson Ford,” Ollson said. “This is how for-profit businesses can step forward and do good things for conservation projects.”

Tayles said the truck will be delivered to Baja California once legalities and import taxes are worked out with Mexico.