The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders

Protecting frail populations

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There’s a little dirt road just south of Blanco, nestled between Comfort and Canyon Lake, with a strict speed limit of 10 miles per hour. Drivers who frequent the road know that this is a precaution taken in case an African lion should amble into the street.

At the end of that lane lies a sweeping sanctuary–the four pastures, lemur enclosure, 1950s cabin, and nutrition center that make up the 212 acres of the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation.

Executive Director Cyndi Nelson works out of the front room of the old cabin using her business and organizational skills to raise money and help run the nonprofit.

“I think I have one of the best jobs in the world,” said Nelson.

Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation works to provide homes and resources to over 6,000 animals per year across Texas and beyond. The organization will accept nearly all animals from nearly anywhere in the world, so long as they are equipped to provide rehabilitation.

“We believe that animals, both rare and common, deserve lives that animals are supposed to have,” said Nelson.

Besides providing a home and other services like medicine and reliable food, the sanctuary provides enrichment activities for animals such as a bubble machine, which, according to Nelson was, “a big hit with the primates.”

For Nelson, her job as executive director is a nice change of pace from her former positions in Health Services. She loves being able to look out her window at the geese, driving down the lane to a no-cell-phone-reception-oasis, and hearing the lions roar every morning and evening, right on schedule.

More than anything, this job fits what Nelson was seeking when she was hired four months ago–a foundation, a charity with one basic mission.

“[The animals] were here first, and now subdivisions are going up and we’ve kind of displaced them…they’re doing their best to survive in a human-dominated world,” said Nelson.

Nelson’s lifelong mission is to help frail populations. About caring for the animals she said, “It’s their world. We have to learn together, respectfully and responsibly.”

Gus Dexheimer's favorite things are people and butter. She’s also a fan of puns, long distance running, power tools, realistic fiction, pastries, new places, old photographs, and good conversation. This is her third year on the APP, and her second year as Editor In-Chief. Gus can’t wait to continue exploring and investigating the people and the world around her via The Polaris Press. In her "spare time," Gus runs varsity cross country, works at a bakery/restaurant, and does a lot of talking. She lives by one of her late grandfather’s many unofficial mottos: things change.

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