B Bryan Preserve
● By Jordan Venema
By Jordan Venema
JUST 10 MINUTES inland from the Point Arena Lighthouse, an area of Northern California coast known for its rolling fog and scenic cliffs, exists a little slice of Africa. Since 2004, the 110-acre B Bryan Preserve has been home to a variety of species of antelope, zebra and giraffe, but don’t think it’s some rugged zoo or safari substitute. The B Bryan Preserve is a refuge for endangered species.
“We’re in conservation work,” says Judy Mello, who owns and operates the B Bryan Preserve with her husband Frank, where they not only conserve but also breed select endangered species. They’re certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Animals at the B Bryan Preserve include Rothschild Giraffe, of which there are estimated only 700 remaining; sable, roan and greater kudu antelope; and plains, Grevy’s and Hartmann’s mountain zebra, though their single plains (or common) zebra is just a solo act.
“They’re not endangered, so we don’t breed them. We just have him for show. He’s a showman ‘cause his name is Elvis. There’s about 600,000 of those guys,” says Mello. By comparison, there are only about 10,000 remaining Hartmann’s mountain zebras, and fewer than 2,500 Grevy’s zebra.
“We’re one of the few places in the U.S. where you can see all three species of zebra,” adds Mello. “Most people don’t know there are three species of zebra, but once you see them all side by side, it’s so drastic how different they are.”
The preserve is also home to the oldest kudu on record, and Mable the Sable, the animal responsible for launching the Mellos’ conservation career.
While living in Mississippi, the couple began taking care of exotic animals “just as something fun to do,” says Mello. “Then my husband went to Texas where you can still buy some African animals and called and said he was coming home with a sable antelope. Most people get a t-shirt. I got an antelope,” laughs Mello.
They began raising sable antelope on her grandfather’s land in Mississippi, later adding roan and kudu, when in 2004, Mello’s day job relocated her to the Point Arena area. “We loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies with 11 antelope and today we have our 90 animals.”
Soon after settling in Point Arena, Mello’s husband went to pick up a male sable antelope, “and he came back with a couple zebra,” she laughs. “So now he isn’t allowed to travel.”
Though the Mellos focus on conservation, they also encourage education, and offer tours to the public, which is their main source of revenue.
“That’s our bread and butter,” explains Mello, adding that they offer tours year-round, seven days a week.
“My mantra is to educate you first then entertain secondly,” she continues. The tour begins with a presentation about the animals, and then proceeds in open air Land Rovers to the animals’ enclosures.
“It’s a bumpy, authentic ride, and the animals know when its tour time because it’s also feeding time. We give them treats and they pose for pictures,” says Mello. “We always end the tour at the giraffe house, and we give guests pieces of sliced-up yam or romaine lettuce, and they can hand feed the giraffe. Most people in the tour put it in their mouth and end up getting a sloppy kiss.”
The tour lasts an hour and 15 minutes, and costs $35 for adults and $20 for any child under age 10. The only requirement is that guests can get in and out of a 4x4 vehicle.
For guests traveling to the preserve or wanting to explore the Point Arena coast, the Mellos also offer cottages for rent, though it’s not a B&B.
“Just one B and not the other,” laughs Mello. “It’s easier to feed animals than humans. But we have some eco-friendly cottages made out of reclaimed redwood and old stained glass windows, and guests can rent those for their home base while they discover the coast.”
The cottages include hot tubs and a kitchen, extend a discount for the tour, and can be booked on their website.
Though Mello’s husband has been banned from traveling, the preserve still intends to expand. By spring or early summer, the preserve will welcome from the Denver Zoo an African buffalo named Drizzle.
“We’ve also been approached to possibly do a breeding program with an eastern black rhino,” says Mello, though she doesn’t expect that to happen soon.
Just last March, the last living male northern white rhino died, effectively sentencing the species to extinction. The death of the rhino gained national attention, and yet scientists estimate dozens of plant, insect and animal species go extinct every day, though the natural rate, were it not for human factors like poaching and construction, would be but a fraction of that number. Efforts of preserves like B Bryan Preserve are essential to the conservation of species that play a role in the ecosystem. Species play specific roles in our ecosystem, and the loss of any one can have a domino effect on other animals and plants, and even humans – which is why the Mellos continue to care for and breed these animals, while inviting guests to experience them first hand. •
B Bryan Preserve • 130 Riverside Drive • Point Arena
(707) 882-2297 • www.bbryanpreserve.com