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Flying High

Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy Celebrates the Wonder and Beauty of Birds

by JOSEPH MONTEBELLO

Upon entering the grounds of the beautiful Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy one is transported into an environment designed for the care and preservation of rare and special species of waterfowl and other birds.

Continuing the tradition begun by her parents, S. Dillon Ripley and Mary Livingston Ripley, in the 1920s, Rosemary Ripley has expanded the facility and made it one of the largest not-for-profit waterfowl breeding facilities in North America. Home to 70 species and about 400 individual birds from throughout the world, the LRWC maintains a diverse collection of waterfowl with an active propagation program that provides birds for reintroduction programs, zoos and educational programs.

“My father developed an interest in birds at a very young age,” explains Ripley. “It was my great grandparents who discovered Litchfield and purchased acres of land which eventually got divided up among my grandmother’s four children. They all settled in this area and, at age 17, he set up his first duck pond, initiating it with a pair of green-winged teals he had received as a present from his mother.”

The elder Ripley went on to publish many articles and books and became a prominent aviculturist. He was responsible for propagating many threatened and endangered species in captivity. “My mother was very much his partner in his study of birds,” says Rosemary Ripley. “She became a self-taught entomologist so they collected insects as well. They were the first to raise certain birds in captivity and get them to reproduce.”

The LRWC is a unique organization offering many advantages over a traditional zoo. Those interested in viewing birds from all the major continents enter an enchanted spot, comfortably walkable, where one is able to see specimens up close, in enclosures that are tailored to the specific needs of each species.

The LRWC has become known for its focus on education programming and raising people’s awareness that biodiversity matters. It partners with local organizations to reach out to children and adults and offers in-school, online and on-site programs to help people understand its mission in addition to summer camp programs and internships.

“What we’ve tried to do,” Ripley explains, “is expand beyond waterfowl to include cranes, pheasants and shore birds. We are also doing species adjacent to waterfowl – more flight birds, raptors, different kinds of songbirds. We are always trying to make it more interesting and engaging so that there is always something new to learn and see.”

To celebrate its mission the LRWC holds an annual benefit to present its Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award. This year its recipient is Arethusa Farm, owned and operated by George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis. They have been instrumental in preserving farmland and creating countless local jobs. The award is in recognition of their commitment to environmental conservation and the community.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, June 1st at the conservancy with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, dinner, awards and dancing.

For further information visit the link below or call 860-567-2062.

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