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What’s more metal than wolves? A benefit for a wolf center

For many people, conservationists and heavy metal fans may not seem to have much in common. But for Simon Koch, they're a natural combination. 

That's why for the third year in a row Koch has organized a “Winter Wolves: a benefit for the Endangered Wolf Center.”

This year, he’s pulled together more than 10 metal bands to perform at the Fubar nightclub in Grand Center to raise awareness and money for the center in Eureka. This year’s bands will come from across the Midwest to play the show. Koch said he hopes to raise more than the $1,500 brought in in the first two years.

The Endangered Wolf Center works to preserve endangered wolves and reintroduce them to the wild. The organization is almost solely responsible for saving the Mexican gray wolf and repatriating it into its native habitat. The center is home to African painted dogs, swift foxes, Mexican wolves and six North American red wolves, of which only about 45 remain.

St. Louis Public Radio asked three people involved with the concert about their work and the concert.

The Organizer

Simon Koch moved to St. Louis in 2005 and has long been involved in the area’s metal scene. An amateur conservationist who’s worked at other animal sanctuaries, he quickly found the Endangered Wolf Center and began volunteering. He’s quick to emphasize the mission behind the concert: raising money for the center.

Simon Koch - not pictured, guitar and leather jacket.

“The focus is the endangered wolf center and spreading awareness and educating the public as to why these wolves are so important to our ecosystems,” Koch said. “With the wolf being on the top of said ecosystem it affects everything that’s below it — its prey, the vegetation, wolves can even affect the course of a river.”

Koch said he hopes the concert grows into a festival that draws people from both the music and conservation communities. 

The Volunteer Coordinator

Mat Fox has been the volunteer coordinator at the Endangered Wolf Center for just over a year.  Previously he studied small rodents in Mongolia and worked to protect bears in South America.  He was drawn to the center’s work and history.

“The Mexican wolf was brought back from the edge of extinction here in 1971 by Marlon Perkins who started our center and was the director of the Zoo at the time,” Fox said.  “So this place is as St. Louis as the arch or the beautiful zoo or the beautiful parks that we have.”

The center is funded primarily through donations. Fox said $700 or $1,000 can go a long way at the center.

“Whether it’s towards directly taking care of the animals as in feeding them, building new enrichment for them to make their lives more exciting, building new den boxes for them in the winter,” he said. “All of these things can be done with just a small amount of money.”

The Musician/DJ

Kirby Ray is a DJ and program director at Real Rock 99.3 in Cape Girardeau. A friend of Koch, Ray will be playing the Winter Wolves concert for the third time with his band.  He said being surrounded by nature in Southern Missouri contributes to his interest in conservation.   

“I think that probably we’re all so closely living in areas where you can get out and explore nature that it’s probably a big reason why we care so much about it,” he said. 

Ray hopes the concert also introduces people to the varied types of metal played by musicians.

“You know for heavy metal, if you haven’t engaged with heavy metal and you think ‘well, it’s all just noise or whatever’ I say give it more of a chance,” Ray said. “My word about checking it out is just search around, give it a chance, and give all genres of music a chance.”  

If you go

What: Winter Wolves: a benefit for the Endangered Wolf Center

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis

Follow Willis on Twitter: @WillisRArnold