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August 4, 2011

Lions Spotted at Wild Basin

The St. Edward’s University Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve experienced a recent lion invasion — hosting 29 international high school students at the preserve who were travelling as part of the Lion’s Club exchange program. Hailing from around the world ­— including South Africa, India, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Belgium and France — the students were nominated by their local Lion’s club to attend the annual five-week trip to Texas. Hear what the students expect to see on the trails at Wild Basin.

The Julien C. Hyer Lions International Youth Camp, which began in 1973 "to foster and create a spirit of understanding among the peoples of the world,” completely sponsors the students with the exception of airfare. The students stay with host families near Denton and spend four days in Austin, a highlight of their trip.

“They seem to enjoy learning about the European influence in Texas,” said Scott Hendrix, a Lion’s Club volunteer.

The staff and volunteers at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve presented lectures about local geology and urban wildlife management followed by a guided hike of the preserve. Wayne Orlowski, Wild Basin volunteer and Austin Lion member, gave the main portion of the lecture.

When asked what she expected to see on the hike, Hannah Betts from England said she was looking forward to seeing the wildlife.

“It’s obviously very different from where I’m from,” she said.

Martha Blank from Austria anticipated seeing some Texas insects, as well.

“I’m expecting to see a lot of beetles,” she said.

Exposing young people to other parts of the world is just one of the goals of the Lion’s Club which, with 45,000 clubs and 1.35 million members, is the world's largest service club organization.

Their causes also include eradicating blindness and supporting local children and schools through scholarships, recreation and mentoring. The student’s trip to Austin included stops at Barton Springs, the Texas School for the Blind, Bob Bullock Museum and the Broken Spoke. Exploring the city was a success, even with the weather topping 100 degrees.

“It was a big culture shock,” said Hendrix. “Most of them were in the U.S. for the first time, so they’re adjusting to the heat, much less five weeks in Texas in the summer.”

Want to explore one of Austin’s gems for yourself? Wild Basin’s gate is open every day from light to dark. Trail maps are available at the trail heads. More information about Wild Basin.

Special note: This article was written by Hannah Hepfer as a special to the Westlake Picayune. The story was published in the Aug. 4 issue of the Distinct section of the newspaper.

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