Endangered Rhino Spotted at the Wetlands
By Karen Belville

Yes, this actually happened at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (BCER). While bird walking by the inner bay I spotted a nondescript grey blob at water’s edge. Upon closer inspection I determined that it was a water logged rhinoceros, someone’s once- precious stuffed animal. I deposited it into a spare plastic bag from my backpack to put in the dumpster at the end of the walk.

While this was humorous at the time, upon more reflection, it actually was very troubling when considering the trash problem we have at our beloved BCER.

Trash pollution has become an obsession with me. It’s hard for me to walk by a piece of trash on the beach or at the wetlands without picking it up. Plastic and styrofoam trash is the worst, knowing how it sickens and kills the birds and fish. I just don’t understand how people can carelessly toss trash on the ground along the trails or over the bridge right next to endangered birds.

Another pet peeve is the trash that is left behind in the parking lot, which is often leftovers from after hours partiers. The paper towels that visitors throw on the ground after using the hand washing station next to the portable, is also most annoying. In my opinion, it sets the tone that it is okay to litter at the Reserve. Some folks take advantage of the fact that we cannot close the parking lot after dark.

While I was traveling in New Zealand a few years ago, I noticed the absence of trash and was amazed how clean the streets, parks, and trails always seemed to be. I asked our guide how was it that there was never any trash anywhere? He thought about it for a moment and replied, “Well, I guess if we spot a piece of trash, we just pick it up.”

So simple.

Perhaps we could all just bring a plastic bag and gloves in our backpacks on all our walks and just pick it up a few pieces at a time. We don’t have to wait for a once a year event. We can model for visitors and especially children, the importance of protecting our wildlife and our environment everyday.