Say hola to our interns

There is some dissention as to whether explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, the namesake of the park where Peace River Wildlife Center is located, was the first European to discover Florida upon his visit in 1513.  Some historians claim at least one member of a resident Native American tribe greeted the explorer in Spanish—a strong indication that there were others before him, since Rosetta Stone didn’t start hawking their wares on late-night tv until a few years later.  Written records of previous encounters don’t exist, so Ponce de Leon is credited with the discovery.

Whether or not the first Spaniard to set foot in the Charlotte Harbour area was Ponce de Leon, we have concrete evidence that Punta Gorda is still an attraction for Spain’s citizens.  PRWC is hosting three veterinary students from the University of Barcelona.

Laura, Laura, & Claudia encounter wildlife at Placida
Laura, Laura, & Claudia encounter wildlife at Placida

Our current explorers didn’t set out with multiple ships loaded with men, supplies, and gold.  They boarded a plane with a couple backpacks and headed to an unknown land after a few emails with what could have been some nefarious character.  While they haven’t ended up being sold as slaves yet, there are probably days they wish they had been.

Turns out that nefarious character they were corresponding with was me, so they aren’t really in the clear yet.  We have put them to work at PRWC and they are sweating with the oldies here during the dog days of summer.  When I say “oldies” I am of course referring to the fact that the other staff members (both employees and volunteers) have been here for some time now, not that anyone is of an advanced age.  This is the site of the Fountain of Youth, after all, so none of us have any plans to get old in that respect.

Our interns—Laura Martino, Laura Massanet Fusté, and Claudia Massajué Malla—will be learning all about wildlife rehabilitation in the three weeks they are here.  They have started by cleaning the outdoor habitats and washing dishes and laundry, just like everyone else at the Center.  They will get a brief course in the nutritional needs of many species we treat.  They will help with the maintenance of the habitats and enrichment for the birds, both never-ending chores.

The interns will also help the rehabbers and veterinary staff with treatments, medications, and surgeries.  They will go on rescues and releases.  In the short time they are here, they will be immersed in wildlife rehabilitation medicine and go home with lots of tales to tell their families and classmates (and probably a few scars.)

Laura, Claudia, Laura, & Dr. Robin visit Boca Grande
Laura, Claudia, Laura, & Dr. Robin visit Boca Grande

Of course, it’s not all work and no play.  The president of PRWC’s board of directors, Jerry Jones, can’t let anyone visit the area without giving them the VIP tour.  He also happens to work for the Charlotte County Tourism Bureau, and so knows all the hot spots and juicy gossip (like the scuttlebutt on that potential poseur Ponce de Leon.)

Jerry lead the exhausted interns on a whirlwind tour from Manasota Key to Boca Grande to Fishermen’s Village.  He pointed out the mall in Port Charlotte, a paddle board rental kiosk in Don Pedro Park, hiking trails at CHEC, and downtown shopping possibilities on Dearborn Street and Marion Avenue.

The girls will be so busy working at PRWC and exploring all that Charlotte County has to offer, they might not have time to write in their diaries.  But hopefully they will have learned a valuable lesson from the forgotten first Spanish explorers to set foot here.  If you don’t document it, it didn’t happen.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, that isn’t an issue for most people any longer.  While we don’t really need to see each bite of what you are eating for lunch, it is nice to keep up with important and exciting life events.  Check out PRWC’s Facebook page and website for updates on the interns’ adventures as well as our current patients and residents.  And join us in welcoming our interns and thanking them for helping us protect native Florida wildlife.  Take a page out of the first early Floridian’s playbook and say, “Hola.”

by-Robin Jenkins