By Kyah Corff

SYV Star Intern

The importance of protecting all animals, from the cute and fluffy to the creepy and crawly, was the topic May 19 at the Saving Wildlife International presentation hosted by the Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake.

The family-friendly event gave curious kids up-close contact with all types of animals, from birds of prey to an armadillo and even a Capuchin monkey.

About 100 people set up lawn chairs or sat on the grass in curious awe and vocal excitement about the animals and their stories; most had been rescued from the streets or illegal traffickers.

The presentation stressed the importance of responsibility and research when it came to pet owning as well as protecting the entire wildlife kingdom. When Rosie, a Chilean Rose Hair tarantula, was brought out, the audience drew back but gradually became more comfortable with the eight-legged, eight-eyed creature. Rosie had been abandoned by an owner who had not realized that this female spider could live 15 to 20 years.

Kids and their parents grew to appreciate every type of creature and their unique stories. The audience was introduced to Prince, an African Pixie frog, who was nearly five pounds and a foot tall. They learned that the frog spent most of his time underground and cocooned in his own mucus — which drew laughter from the children and disgusted faces from their parents.

“Just because something looks different doesn’t mean it is bad. It just means we need to take more time to understand them,” explained Steve Mehren, the presenter at the event as well as the executive director of Saving Wildlife International.

Mehren founded Saving Wildlife International in April 2000. Through the animals it has rescued, the nonprofit organization has educated many people on the importance of wildlife conservation. Its goal is to “assist people of all ages and cultures in developing an awareness of and commitment to nature that will result in informed decisions and constructive actions concerning wildlife and our environment.”

Saving Wildlife International has made an annual presentation at the Neal Taylor Research Center as well as presenting at schools, retirement homes, homeless shelters, and on national television.

“I wanted to do something good with my life and something I loved,” Mehren said.

To learn more about Saving Wildlife International go to To look for upcoming events at the Neal Taylor Nature Center, go to