The Voice of Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center
Warm greetings to everyone in our "mob!"
Meerkat summer is here at last.
After an unusually cool spring, the welcome warmth is back in our beautiful high desert. The meerkats happily bask in the nurturing sun rays that filter through the trees in the morning. Later, in the afternoon, the heat encourages them to cool off, belly down, in the shade.
We've had a flurry of activity at the Center since our last newsletter: Our critters are becoming "little stars" after visits from several television and film crews over the last several months. Fellow Earthlings' partnership with Animal Planet and their "Meerkat Manor" series has resulted in our meerkats being featured in several promotional shoots and television shows. In fact, we fully expect our wee celebrities will soon demand more "bugs" per shoot but, so far, they seem to simply be enjoying all the attention.
Mark your calendars for the return of the popular "Meerkat Manor" series! Season 3 premiers August 10th on Animal Planet - tune in to continue following the story of the fascinating Whiskers mob and their life in the vast Kalahari desert...
In March Animal Planet returned to the Center to film a sequence for their "Ms. Adventure" series. The show was about sibling rivalry and two of our meerkats were used to highlight the "best and worst" behavior of siblings. The meerkats performed beautifully and the species was chosen to be the "Ultimate Siblings" in the animal kingdom because of their loyalty and unique habit of giving the most delectable morsels to their younger siblings until they are old enough to forage for themselves.
Rachel Reenstra, the host of "Ms. Adventure," had a grand time interacting with the meerkats and our director, Pam, who acted as guide and "bug provider." Despite the hot weather, Pam's microphone forced her to keep her long sleeved shirt buttoned up to her chin. Unfortunately, for Pam and the soundman, the microphone had to be adjusted numerous times to compensate for the rustle of her clothing. In fact, she was instructed not to talk and move at the same time which was difficult since she had to keep the meerkats supplied with worms, answer questions on camera, and keep the meerkats from having a "food fight" in Rachel's lap.
Shortly after the "Ms. Adventure" filming, the news show 20/20 visited the Center to interview Rachel Reenstra about her show and, in conjunction with the 20/20 theme, about people who realize their dreams. The provocative question addressed on the show: Is living your dream luck, fate, or effort? We were honored 20/20 chose Fellow Earthlings' as the location to conduct the interview. In fact, they actually canceled the original filming location in Sedona, Arizona to film here! The 20/20 cameramen, who had filmed here previously, all praised the Center by saying it was an "oasis of beauty and serenity."
The week of July 9th brought Animal Planet back through our gates to do a "green screen" shoot with the meerkats. By filming the animals on a giant lime green screen as the backdrop, videographers in the editing room can digitally drop any background into the finished product and have the meerkats in the foreground. So here's a little secret - starting in August, when you visit the "Meerkat Manor" section of the Animal Planet web site, the meerkats you'll see are our very own "wee ones" who are made to look as if they are scurrying around in the Kalahari. Ah, the wonders of technology!
FELLOW EARTHLNGS' CHOSEN AS
GRAND SWEEPSTAKES PRIZE!
Animal Planet is sponsoring a sweepstakes to promote the third series of "Meerkat Manor" which premiers August 10, 2007. Animal Planet asked us if we would donate the Grand Prize for the sweepstakes which is an all expense-paid trip for four to spend the day with Pam and the meerkats at Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center! We happily agreed to donate the visit. Please visit the Animal Planet website and register for a chance to win. The contest ends August 30th. Animal Planet is advertising the sweepstakes in select theaters across the United States by distributing 3 million flyers in the lobbies and by showing a short promo piece on the "silver screen" prior to the feature film. We were very surprised to see footage of Pam and Denise Robertson, our Assistant Director, with Kendi and Rafiki advertising the sweepstakes! Look for us on the big screen in your neighborhood!
In July, we hosted a very special visitor and his family at the Center. Sean Astin, one of the stars of The Lord of the Rings and the narrator for the smash hit series "Meerkat Manor," spent the day with us and had a "nose to nose" encounter with our endearing animals. His wife Christine and their daughters Alexandra, Elizabeth, and Isabella, all enjoyed a relaxing and informative day with the critters. The Animal Planet film crew shot footage of Pam, Sean, Christine, and eldest daughter, Alexandra, feeding the meerkats. They also filmed several promotional clips to use on the Animal Planet Channel to advertise Meerkat Manor. Look for Sean introducing season 3 of the series while holding our darling little Kendi aloft for the cameras! Such a star and so photogenic! Kendi, that is, not Sean. (Sorry, Sean, but the meerkat is cuter!)
The Astin family, after much deliberation, decided that "Bara" was their favorite. Despite the family's hectic schedule of preparing for a filming project in England, they spent the day enjoying the meerkats and picnicking beneath our mulberry trees. Perhaps our desert oasis was a welcome respite prior to their departure. The Astin family could not have been nicer. They are witty, down to earth, and wonderful with the meerkats. They are truly a family of "Meerkat Whisperers." We look forward to their return.
General Center News
The new security fence is under construction! Once again, we send our heart-felt thanks to those who donated to the fence fund. Our fence was badly damaged during the wildfire of 2005 and we have been trying to raise funds to replace it. The cost to re-build the fence around the entire acreage far exceeded what we have been able to raise. So, with the funds we have received, we are replacing the front fence line of the property. Our hope is that, with additional donations, we will eventually have a new fence that encloses the entire property. DONATE NOW! For the safety of the animals, we don't want to move the meerkats into the newest enclosure until we have a privacy barrier which blocks the view of the road. Based on our budget, we've come up with a design that will shield the enclosures' view of the road and yet not inhibit the view for the meerkats.
We are pleased to welcome Bob Snyder and his son Eric to our Fellow Earthlings' team. Lin Snyder, Bob's wife, joined us a year ago. She has been indispensable in keeping the acreage in tip top condition. She's also handling many of our merchandise and Adoption orders. Bob and Eric are working on the fence project for us and they are doing a meticulous job! We're delighted the Snyder family has joined the Fellow Earthlings' family!
We want to take a moment to tell you about a dilemma we have been wrestling with. As you can imagine, the wonderful part of receiving publicity is an increase (though temporary!) in adoptions. Our affiliation with "Meerkat Manor" has resulted in more people learning about us and this caused a brief flurry of adoptions. We were very grateful because the additional funds enabled us to complete our newest enclosure and put a little money away for a "rainy day." The additional adoptions, however, posed a challenge for us because we limit visits to just 6 per week with no more than 4 guests per visit. With more adoptions came increased requests for appointments to visit the Center. As you know, we limit the visits so our donors can experience the meerkats in a serene and intimate setting.
Many people suggested we open the Center to more than one set of visitors at a time. Realistically, we could have one group in each of the enclosures and rotate them on a timed schedule. This would enable many more people to visit and give the Center additional and much needed income. The other suggestion was to raise the adoption donation significantly. We have been told by countless adoptive parents that a two hour, private visit with the meerkats is worth far more than the modest $100 adoption donation which works out to be a mere $25 per person based on 4 guests. Recently, we itemized the expenses that must come out of the $100 adoption donation. After everything was deducted (utilities, PayPal fees, property/enclosure maintenance, website hosting/maintenance, telephone, adoption portfolios, postage, printing, insurance, licenses, office supplies and equipment, meerkat treats for visitors to hand out, etc.) our actual profit was less than $6 per adoption! And, of course, we didn't include our time for doing the office work or hosting visits.
What most people don't know is that we do not charge for any of the filming or promotional work that is done at the Center.
Whether it is Animal Planet, 20/20, Discovery, The Today Show, National Geographic or any print press, we have never charged a penny to use our facility for filming or photographing. We strongly believe in the work we do for meerkats, and anything we can contribute which might help meerkats in captivity, educate people about this amazing species, or enlist people to help with habitat conservation, we are most happy to do without payment of any kind.
Additionally, we have NO PAID STAFF! No one at the Center receives a salary - including Pam. Every dollar we bring in goes directly to the care of the meerkats and the maintenance of the Center.
So, with all that in mind, we struggled with the best course of action to take, with the primary focus being on the well being of the meerkats. After looking carefully at all of our options, and the pros and cons of each, we arrived at this decision:
We will not change anything - not the adoption donation, not the visitor policy, absolutely nothing. We are sticking to our slogan of "Growing Bigger by Acting Smaller."
Could we bring in more money by increasing our adoption donation, opening the Center to more than one group at a time, and increasing the number of guests we host at each visit? Absolutely! Would it be the same intimate, unique experience which produces such joy and wonder in our visitors? Probably not.
So, we will carry on in the same manner we have since Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center was founded almost 20 years ago.
Surprisingly, we have seen our re-adoptions decrease significantly over the last year. Our puzzlement soon gave way to a realization that perhaps many of our adoptive parents have been under the impression the yearly "re-adopt" donation only applies to those who plan to come back to visit, rather than viewing it, as we do, as ongoing financial support for our sanctuary. We rely heavily upon the loyalty and consistency of our adoptive parents year after year to help sustain the Center and provide the meerkats with food, shelter, and veterinary care. Other than our T-shirt and poster sales, this is our only source of income.
There is a very special core group of amazingly loyal, long term adoptive parents who have adopted every year, even though they don't visit. These committed members of our mob are our "true foundation" and the reason we are able to continue providing the meerkats with the highest quality care possible. We know who you are, and want you to know how blessed we are to have you as an integral part of our meerkat family.
And so, rather then charge more, or have more visitors per week, we are taking on the task of cultivating others into this special group of supporters by asking all of our wonderful, generous 1st time adoptive parents to continue supporting the Center by sending in your re-adoption donation when your yearly letter arrives in the mail. We hope you will keep your "Mob Membership" current and help us grow the Center by being a part of our extended family. Through your ongoing yearly donation, you help ensure a consistent income for the meerkats which pays for everything from the "bug bills" to heat and electricity.
Our promise to you is that we will continue moving forward with total faith. Your loyalty deserves our trust and, as such, we will not raise the adoption donation or change anything about how we run the Center. Our fervent hope is that our "extended mob" will remain by our side like a true meerkat family - step by step, as we continue on the path of caring for meerkats in need. ADOPT
"I believe life is constantly testing us for our level of commitment, and life's greatest rewards are reserved for those who demonstrate a never-ending commitment to act until they achieve. This level of resolve can move mountains, but it must be constant and consistent. As simplistic as this may sound, it is still the common denominator separating those who live their dreams from those who live in regret."
The Furred and Feathered Update
We are always extremely happy to report that all the meerkats are thriving! We count our blessings daily they are so healthy and active. Although we tend to concentrate on the meerkats in our newsletters, we do get inquiries every week about the other furred and feathered creatures at Fellow Earthlings'. So for all you Cogburn fans, you'll be pleased to hear that our endearing resident banty rooster, better known as "Rooster Cogburn" is still busy "strutting his stuff" at the Center.
Jake, our mega mutt, continues to vigilantly guard the acreage and ensures the cats (Fanny, Chobe, and Duggan) and Rooster Cogburn are all herded into the cottage at sunset to keep them safe.
Our favorite time at the Center is sunset. The meerkats have had their delectable smorgas-bug supper and are "kicking back" in their small, over-stuffed chairs, Cogburn is clucking softly to himself as he hunts for any remaining worms around the enclosures. And, Jake is stretched out under the mulberry trees keeping an eye on the trio of cats who have arrived for dinner. Contentment reigns over our little sanctuary. The sun sets, the meerkats lazily yawn, take a final sip of water, and retire to their cozy dens for the night. In that sweet moment, the delight is dazzling. After everyone is fed and tucked in, we humans pause, take a deep breath, and send a message of thanks out on the breeze, realizing just how lucky we are to have all these blessed little souls in our lives. They teach us so much and ask for so little in return.
And to you, our loyal "mob," please know that we are forever grateful, always appreciative, and full of praise for everything you do for the animals that have been entrusted to our care.
Until next time, we sign off with hearts full of joy!
When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, all is possible.
Paw Prints is written quarterly by Denise A. Robertson of
Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center