In the ’60s and ’70s, Jamuna Llewellyn grew up near the Sinkyone Wilderness area along the southern tip of Mendocino County’s Lost Coast, with a family of “back-to-the-land Bohemians.”
“Everybody else lived miles away, so I was connected to animals and nature,” she said. “There were wild horses, and they were my friends. . . . I had a squirrel monkey, two goats and a dog.”
In her 20s and 30s, Llewellyn lived in Canyon, a tiny, eco-conscious community in the hills between Oakland’s Montclair district and Moraga. There, while working in high-end restaurants like LoCoco’s in Berkeley, she started trying to help other people, then went back to her first love, the animals.
“I used to rescue a lot of people in the Bay Area,” she said. “But they don’t always want to be rescued. Animals are immediately grateful, so it’s a win-win. . . . I started out trying to save the dolphins in the cove in (Taiji) Japan. Then I started rescuing horses, mules and donkeys.”
When she and her husband, professional musician Steve Parker, moved to a rural hilltop above Forestville 10 years ago, Llewellyn founded her own animal sanctuary and named it Sinkyone, after the wilderness area where she first learned to love nature.
From her hilltop perch, Llewellyn and the Sinkyone Animal Sanctuary have been reaching out to animals in distress since 2007, providing food and shelter for hundreds whose lives were deemed to be in danger. She finds out about them through a loose network of friends and colleagues as well as postings on Craigslist.
“Everybody here is a rescue,” she said while giving a tour of the small but tidy sanctuary nestled amid thickets of manzanita and madrone, toyon and oak. “I’m not out looking, but I’ll sometimes see a baby pig on Craigslist. It went to a beautiful sanctuary in the Sierra foothills. . . . We’ve relocated many dogs, an alpaca, a cow and three kittens.”
At the moment, Llewellyn has custody of 60-some animals, plus three horses and a pony that she keeps off Guerneville Road, where there is plenty of pasture to roam. The animals currently living at Sinkyone Animal Sanctuary range from doves, ducks and chickens to goats, chickens and sheep, plus two, frisky miniature donkeys and two terrified cats whose owner recently died.
Each animal has a name, a safe place to call home and a story to tell. Because Llewellyn is a Buddhist, many of the animals also have Buddhist names.
Alina, the first sheep of five to find a home at the sanctuary, has become like a pet to Llewellyn.
“She’s really dear,” she said. “She will come and put her head in my lap.”
Anaya, a miniature donkey, was rescued from a slaughter truck in Washington State with her two daughters, Lila and Leyla.
Lila died of cancer at UC Davis, but Leyla still frolics with her mom, kicking up her heels as she runs from the chicken house to the grassy “knoll” where she sleeps in a simple shelter made from hog panel, tarps and T-posts.
Then there is a cute, little black dwarf goat, Mira, who was born bow-legged and not suitable to be bred.
She is joined by four Nubian goats, all rescued from a breeder.