767-acre Wildlife Refuge, home to rare South Jersey plants and animals, seeks donations

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Unexpected wildlife refuge in Buena Vista Township needs donations to complete the renovation of its shelter headquarters, as well as to modernize its education center.

“We want to expand our educational programs, but the new head office is moving faster than our fundraising,” said Dr. Nedim Buyukmihci, his president and son of the original landowners, Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci and Cavit Buyukmihci. “We still have about $ 84,000 that we need to raise to comfortably pay for the rest of the seat. “

The Buyukmihci bought the original 85-acre property in 1961 for Hope to view the protected wildlife, which was the muse of his artistic talents.

“It was my mother who realized that they had to do more with this land,” Buyukmihci said. “She wanted to make it official protected habitat, and then raise money to add land to it so it could grow and provide more and more wildlife with the opportunity to thrive.”

Today, the refuge spans 767 acres of protected pine forests and is home to over 130 species of birds and 30 different types of mammals. Land is not only used to protect wildlife, but is also used to educate others about the habitats around them.

“We are trying to educate the public about wildlife and the importance of sharing this world with others,” Buyukmihci said. “We are all interconnected and the refuge is a microcosm of this type of interconnection.”

Beaver lodges at the end of one of the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trails.

The original Buyukmihci hut is now being built as the headquarters of the refuge, as well as a house for the manager of the refuge. The current principal’s house will also be converted into a conference hall and education center to help improve their educational programs.

“I cannot stress how critical this cabin is,” Buyukmihci said. “The manager provides a presence at the shelter which has helped deter people from enjoying the wonderful habitat and destroying the animals and plants there.”

The non-profit shelter works with an annual budget of $ 30,000 and survives on donations. According to David Sauder, president of Animal Rights Activists of New Jersey, Inc. and shelter administrator, the project could be at a standstill until more donations are received.

“Donations are the lifeblood of this refuge,” Sauder said.

The shelter has applied for grants that have helped the project so far, but according to Buyukmihci, grants from the federal and state levels come at a price.

“The subsidy money is available, but to receive this money, they have to allow citizens to come hunting or fishing and we cannot have it,” Buyukmihci said.

“We need funds. We want this building to be finished and paid for and would like the public to provide funds to help make it happen. We would love to have the public come to visit us. We want people to come out and see the place and feel the excitement when it comes to the wildlife, ”Buyukmihci said.

According to Buyukmihci, the refuge plans to renovate its trails to make the terrain easily accessible to hikers. The current trails are covered with rapidly deteriorating cement and Sauder hopes to replace them with a more environmentally friendly solution.

The refuge is often filled with volunteers, including Boy Scout troops and school trip students who help keep the park and trails clean and pristine. The park will be hosting a “cleanup day” on April 19, the Sunday before Earth Day.

An unexpected wildlife refuge needs donations

Sign up to welcome hikers on the trails of the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge.

Mackenzie Fitchett can be reached at mfitchett@njadvancemedia.com. Do you have any advice? Tell us.nj.com/conseils Get the latest updates straight to your inbox. Subscribe to NJ.com newsletters.

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