Beavers at the Refuge, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Canada goose, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Eastern mud turtle, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Red-tailed hawk, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Fungi on log, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Black rat snake, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Horned passalus beetle, photo by Dave Sauder
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Groundhog, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Spicebush swallowtail butterfly, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Black vultures, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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American bullfrog, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge is a protected natural habitat comprising 767 acres of pristine pine lands, forest, fields, bogs, streams and lakes. It provides a refuge to animals and plants indigenous to southern New Jersey; a place where wildlife can live freely and naturally without fear of being harmed at the hands of human beings. We began as the home of Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci and Cavit Buyukmihci, who dedicated their land to habitat preservation so that native wildlife and habitat could thrive. We are a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) entity, federal ID 23-7025010.
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Cavit and Hope's Legacy is Ongoing

Angi Metler, Executive Director, Animal Protection League of NJ; April 2011 PO Box 174, Englishtown, NJ 07726
www.aplnj.org

We animal advocates are generally swamped with work, chronically behind in our e-mails, and struggling to get everything possible done in each day. We tend to move from one project to another, rarely having the time to reflect. I was honored when Sarah Summerville approached me to share in the refuge's 50th anniversary. Not only did this give me the time to reflect on some wonderful memories, but to recognize what Unexpected Wildlife Refuge's Founders' Hope and Cavit's contribution meant to me and certainly countless others.

When I was a fledgling animal protection advocate in the early to mid 1980s, I met many people. Back then, I attempted to attend every seminar, meeting, and conference that was held to learn all I could. It was at a New Jersey Congress for Animals meeting, where I first met Cavit Buyukmihci. Although I'm sure he wasn't aware of it, I thought of Cavit as a mentor. At my first meeting, I sat next to him and during the meeting, I turned to him and made a derogatory remark about trappers. Without a beat, Cavit scolded me about my comment. I was astounded and rather embarrassed. However, in that moment, I learned the value of our work, how it impacts others, and how anything is possible. Cavit's life had been transformed by compassion, as mine was, and so would others.

It wasn't until after Cavit's untimely death that I first had the opportunity to visit Unexpected Wildlife Refuge and when I first met Hope, his wife. Like Cavit, Hope quickly became an important influence in my life. Her no-nonsense approach, her dedication to protecting animals, and her incredible personality drew me and many others closer to her. The refuge itself quickly became a sanctuary for our ideals, hopes and dreams. In December, during the "gun hunting" season, with walkie-talkie in hand, we walked the trails and perimeter to keep hunters off the refuge. Hope was fully aware of the danger this activity presented and kept in constant contact. Hope was light years ahead of her time and the most courageous person I've ever known.

Hope and Angi at Station Six
Hope and Angi at Station Six

In the spring, we planted trees, cleaned up, and helped Hope as best as we could. No one could keep up with her. After the work was done, we'd sit by the fire talking for hours. The volume of materials (papers, books, photos, articles, etc.) in the "office" part of the house spoke of a life lived like very few others. Hope spoke often of her children, Linda, Nermin, and Nedim. Nermin was usually there, so we spent lots of time talking about animal rights from soups to nuts. I didn't realize it at the time, but Nermin was actually the first Buyukmihci that influenced my life through her booklet, Animal Ingredients and Their Alternatives.

During one of these visits, I learned that I shared Hope's love of poetry. A few days later, in the mail, I received a book of 100 poems. To build upon this thoughtful gift, every night before bedtime, I would read one poem from the book to my daughter, Sarah. Over time, she too grew to love poetry. Everyone who helped at the refuge was recognized by Hope. I would get handmade cards with a refuge photo with a lovely note inside. Hope valued our natural world, but she also made everyone feel special.

To this day, whenever I do wildlife work, go into the woods, document the cruelty, I think about Cavit and Hope, and how their dignified resolve and dedication to our natural world commanded respect from everyone, including opponents. Cavit and Hope's legacy is ongoing. They live on in the hearts and minds of everyone who loves nature, respects animals, and appreciates life.