Help Support Declining Species by Attending a Special Mission Wildlife Event in San Diego

Mission Wildlife is a wonderful organization that helps educate people about declining animal species. Each year, they host a fundraiser at a private home in San Diego, and this year promises to be another wonderful experience! (Buy tickets here!) We got a chance to sit down with Julie Scardina, Animal Ambassador, and talk to her about this upcoming event and what it really means to the organizations it will help on October 7th when it happens.

A few organizations that are supporting this year’s event are Piper & Heath Travel, (which Julie explains is the absolute best host for an African safari) Cheetah Conservation Fund, and Giraffe Conservation Fund (the only organization that supports only giraffes).

Tickets are available now here at this Eventbrite link. There are two types of tickets you can purchase, a general admission ticket, or for a bit extra, you can purchase a VIP ticket, giving you admission into the event over an hour early. This will allow you to meet the animals and get very close and personal with them.

Once the general event begins, there will be animal demonstrations and announcements but there will be limited time to meet the animals, so make sure to grab a VIP ticket and get there early! See you there!

Here’s what Julie had to say (and don’t miss the ending where I demonstrate how Mission Wildlife will be receiving donations via a feathered friend of Julie’s!!):


Amanda:    Hey everyone. It’s Amanda with the San Diego Lifestyle. I’m here today with a really exciting guest, and a co-guest who is even more exciting. This is Julie Scardina and she is with Mission Wildlife. Why don’t you tell us who you are and how you came to do this?

Julie:         My background has always been with animals. I’ve been an animal lover since I was born. I’ve worked for many years for Sea World and Busch Gardens. I was able to do a lot of amazing and spectacular things, one of which became a passion for me. This was conservation.

I realized that the animals we worked with at Sea World are ambassadors for their wild counterparts. Through that process of learning more about what is going on in the wild, I realized that there are a lot of big issues out there. In the last 40 years, more than 50% of the animals on the planet have disappeared. That’s huge in terms of numbers.

It has become my life’s passion to be active in conservation and figuring out ways that we can help. One of the things that I’ve been fortunate enough to do is travel a lot. I’ve been to all seven continents. Every trip is amazing. I love seeing new places, and especially viewing wildlife when I’m there. Going to Africa the first time blew me away.

There is the diversity and number of animals that are there. Seeing the changes in the last 20 years that I’ve been going is something that I felt we need to do something about. I was on a trip in 2013 with friends and family. We visited some conservation partners Ewaso Lions, Uganda Conservation Foundation and Save the Elephants.

On the way home, we said, “We have to do something to help these organizations fulfill their missions and help save these species.” So, we did. We created a fundraiser that became known as Mission Wildlife. This is our fourth year. On October 7th this year in Poway, we’re having our fourth fundraiser.

It’s not just about raising funds for these organizations but also about raising awareness. We do it in a way that is fun and entertaining. You come and meet animals. We brought one of the ambassadors. This is Brisbane.

Amanda:    What kind of animal is he?

Julie:         Brisbane is an umbrella cockatoo, or a white cockatoo. He is just one of the many ambassadors. He will be collecting donations. We’re practicing this. We’ll also have other animal ambassadors there to meet, such as a serval from Africa. It’s a small to medium-sized wild cat.

We’ll have a lemur, which was made famous from the Madagascar movies. We’ll also have a number of other different species, hopefully an African porcupine. Sea World will hopefully be able to bring some of their ambassadors. I’m hoping for a penguin.

Amanda:    You never really know what you’re going to get.

Julie:         No. We’ve had a variety of animals over the past few years. It depends on what’s available.

Amanda:    Is this event open to the public?

Julie:         You have to go online and get the tickets. We’re selling tickets through Eventbrite. You can go to the website for Piper and Heath, who is our main sponsor. Piper and Heath is a travel company. There is a Mission Wildlife website and Facebook page. You can get tickets at any of those places.

It’s only $50 for a ticket if you get it before September 25th. After that, it will be around $60. There is also a VIP event that gets you there about an hour and fifteen minutes early. This means that you have greater access to the animals. We’ll have the animals out. We will have some otters as well.

The venue is a private home with a swimming pool. I have a feeling that there might be otters in the swimming pool. There will be a lot of fun stuff. There will be a live auction and a silent auction. We have a formal safari that will be auctioned off in Namibia through Piper and Heath. Piper and Heath has been fantastic. They’ve been our main sponsor for all four years. If anyone wants to travel to Africa, I recommend going with Piper and Heath.

There is no one that comes close to the amount of attention to detail. Chris and Emily own it. Chris is from Namibia, so he knows what he’s talking about. He was my guide when I went on safari in Namibia with Jack Hanna 15 years ago. He and his wife moved to San Diego. They now have two boys. They are a great family.

Amanda:    Did you disconnect and then reconnect with them in a different way?

Julie:         Yes, I halfway kept in contact with Emily since she was in San Diego.

Amanda:    What time does the VIP event start?

Julie:         The VIP starts at 3:30 in the afternoon. Then the main event starts at 4:45. You can buy tickets for either one. We’ll have valet parking, food, wine and animal ambassadors. The conservationists are coming from Africa to talk about the work that they’re doing. People will get a chance to interact with the conservationists.

One is Laurie Marker. We are supporting cheetahs this year. Every year, we pick two different organizations that are working to save an imperiled species. A lot of people realize that cheetahs are in danger. Cheetah Conservation Fund has been working to save the cheetah for many years. Laurie Marker has been their founder and executive director for the entire time. She’ll be at the event speaking for a few minutes.

It’s about getting to know them on a personal level, asking them questions and interacting. We will also have Julian Fennessy who founded Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Most people do not realize that giraffes are in severe decline.

Amanda:    I did not know that. Giraffes are my favorite animals.

Julie:         It’s really important. Raising awareness is important but also the fact of helping these organizations to help save the species. That is critical. Giraffe Conservation Foundation is the only organization working totally to save giraffes. It’s really important that we help them and get them support so that they can continue to do the research.

They’re just starting to publish the fact that giraffes are one species even though there are all of these different types. They recently figured out genetically that there are four different species. That helps because one might be endangered where another one might be threatened. This helps with protection and for us to understand what their populations need.

Amanda:    There is so much studying that has to go on with this, for years, and in so many different areas on the planet for this. I remember when I first went to your event. It was all about bonobos. A good friend of mine, Debbie Sandler, loves bonobos. I had no idea what a bonobo was.

Julie:         That’s what happens.

Amanda:    At the event, I remember them saying, “Who knows what a bonobo is?” Not very many people did. I’m glad that there are events like this that bring awareness and teach. It’s educational but in a fun way where you get together with other people in a fun atmosphere. It’s laid back. It was so much fun. We go every year now.

Julie:         That’s what we’ve found. Once someone goes once, they want to come back again and again. We’re expecting well over 100 people. Our fundraising goal this year is $50,000. We’re going to try and double it next year so we want to get new people coming.

That’s why we’re reaching out and asking for help in supporting these organizations. We have Sea World locally that has supported us as a main donor. They’ve supported us with tickets. The VIPs also get a goody bag, which is not necessarily little. There will be some Sea World tickets in it and other swag. It will be a really fun event.

We also have the Annenberg Foundation from LA. They are helping us through a donation. Our committee is made up of local San Diegans. Deb Sandler is on our committee as well as a few folks from Sea World, Julie Byford and Heather Armentrout, and her husband Anthony Armentrout.

Then we have the Piper and Heath crew, which is Chris and Emily Laubenberg and Mark Fullman. Everyone has helped all year long. We plan for this event all year long It’s an amazing event. I have no doubt that anyone who comes will feel like $50 was way less than what they’d pay for an event like this.

Amanda:    It’s like a complete VIP experience getting to be this close to the animals. I remember when a penguin came out right in front of me. You do not get to do that. It would cost thousands at Sea World.

Julie:         We will have our animal show as well as the animal meet and greets.

Amanda:    Is that the best way for people to donate to the cause, to come to the event? People might think, “Giraffes are declining, but what I can really do to make a difference?” Where does this money go? How does it make a difference?

Julie:         One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event go to these organizations. From the tickets, there is a fee that Eventbrite charges. There is no administration. There are no people we are paying. Wildlife Conservation Network based in San Francisco is acting as our umbrella organization that the fees go through. They cover all of those administrative fees and credit card fees. Anyone who comes is helping those organizations directly. If you cannot come, please feel free to make a donation on the site.

Amanda:    Buy tickets and mail them to a friend or give them to a neighbor.

Julie:         Find your favorite animal, go online and find an organization that is doing good work. Over the years, we have supported several different organizations. There are so many that need our help. Most people don’t realize that lions are in severe decline. There used to be hundreds of thousands of lions. Now there are less than 30,000.

You found out about bonobos. They are only found in one country and they are declining. There are a lot of reasons, like loss of habitat, illegal wildlife trade and conflict with humans because of the growing human population. We need to support those people who are living in Africa, in the field and getting the work done.

That’s a really great way to help prevent these extinctions. Other ways are making sure that you are an informed consumer and you’re not buying any products that would lead to endangerment, such as live animal products or parts and pieces of animals like ivory from elephants. Up until about five or six years ago, a lot of people didn’t put together, “If I buy a little ivory statue, that means that an elephant was killed for it.” Unfortunately, there is an elephant killed every 15 minutes for its ivory. We’ve raised money for organizations to help.

This is an awareness driving event. I take groups to Africa every year. I remember a man who had called me after we talked about what we were going to be doing as a group. He said, “My wife asked me, what’s the name of the Z country that we’re going to?” People don’t really know Africa. After we went, we met with the Painted Dog folks. Painted dogs are critically endangered. We met with some of these organizations and people who are doing work there.

They come back. They want to go to the fundraiser. They want to help the causes. Now they understand. They also understand what behaviors and mechanisms are happening and how we can help prevent it. I’d like Brisbane to show you a demonstration. Hand him $1. We’ll be taking hundreds and twenties at the event. He gets a treat for that. We would love it if anyone who is interested would come and participate or make a donation.

Amanda:    Thank you so much for talking to me today, Julie. Thanks to everyone watching. Come to the event. I can’t wait. I’ll be there. I’ll probably bring my camera and record some of the special things going on. Hopefully this brings a lot of awareness so that people show up.

Julie:         Thank you so much, Amanda.

Amanda:    Thank you.