By Niki Vetter
Once a year, My Sister’s Closet partners with Defenders of Wildlife and the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) to host Dinner with Wolves. This fundraising event is a truly unique way to raise money for Mexican Gray Wolf conservation and research, allowing attendees to enjoy a gourmet meal while interacting closely with the wolves and other animals at SWCC. Now in its fourth year, Dinner with Wolves has not only raised much-needed funds for Defenders of Wildlife and SWCC, but it has also raised awareness among the Arizona community about the current state of one of our most cherished, yet endangered subspecies.
Last year, 113 Mexican Gray Wolves were recorded in the wild, an increase from the previous year’s population of 110. Although this is good news, experts say these numbers are still falling short of what is needed for the subspecies to recover. One of the reasons these wolves face extinction is the misplaced fear and negativity that has been associated with them in the past. The best resource we have to save these animals is community education.
Dinner with Wolves was created from a mutual passion for animal conservation. CEO of My Sister’s Closet, Ann Siner, believes her company mission is aligned with that of SWCC since both are committed to giving back to the community and increasing education about wolf conservation. Linda Searles, director of Southwest Wildlife, expressed that the most important thing they do is bring community awareness to wildlife issues in addition to mentoring and inspiring the next generation of wildlife advocates.
Both Ann and Linda agree that Dinner with Wolves is having a positive impact on the way the community views wolves. “Wolves belong; they are an important part of the ecosystem. Wolves are a keystone species and we need them to keep a healthy [ecosystem] balance,” said Linda. There may always be resistance to reintegration and fear associated with wolves, making Southwest Wildlife’s job of educating the public on such matters a never-ending one, but enormous progress has been made.
Last year’s event raised a record $36,000 and the goal for this year is to reach that amount or surpass it. Experts from Southwest Wildlife will be present to answer questions and take attendees on the tour, which Ann describes as the most fun part of the evening. “You are able to get so close to everything, from the bobcats to wolves to bears. You’re never going to see them that close anywhere else, even in the zoo. It’s just a much more natural setting,” she explained.
This is exactly the type of experience that makes Southwest Wildlife and Dinner with Wolves so special and unique. There will be a silent auction for incredible prizes, the most notable being a horseback and hiking tour through Mexican Grey Wolf Country, donated by Defenders of Wildlife. Another top auction item is an original wolf painting from local artist Timothy Chapman (pictured above).
This year’s outcome will likely shape the future of SWCC. Due to legal issues with neighboring residents, they are currently seeking to move their operations. Relocating will allow them to increase the number of visitors and, according to Linda, “Once off the Rio Verde property we can expand our conservation medicine program and increase our biology and veterinary internship program.” Funding is currently the largest barrier to making this happen. Additionally, Both Linda and Ann expressed concern for the current political climate, agreeing that community involvement and support will become increasingly more important as time goes on.
Dinner with Wolves takes place on Sunday, April 2. Attendance is limited to 100 guests. Visit dinnerwithwolves.com for more information and to purchase tickets. Single tickets cost $250.00 and corporate level sponsorships are also available. All proceeds from ticket sales, personal donations, and the silent auction will benefit SWCC and Defenders of Wildlife. For more on Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center or to schedule a visit, go to southwestwildlife.com. For more information on Defenders of Wildlife, visit defenders.org.
Niki Vetter is an Arizona local with an Environmental Studies degree from the University of San Diego. She is currently working on her vegetable garden and will be attending law school in the fall.
Original artwork by Timothy Chapman.
Read more giving back articles at greenlivingaz.com/givingback