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Platypus Rehabilitation

As August 30 is Frankenstein Day, we thought of an animal that checks all the boxes for being unorthodox and nature’s most unique specimen – the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus).

platypus
Photo by Wikipedia

The platypus is a monotreme and one of the two that are only found in Australia, the other being the short-beaked echidna. The platypus has water-repellent fur, webbed feet and a leathery bill similar to a duck’s. They are difficult to observe in the wild because of their aquatic and nocturnal nature. Platypuses hunt underwater and are bottom feeders. Hence, one of their biggest threats is pollution and rubbish clogging the waterways especially in urban areas.

According to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital veterinarian Dr. Claude Lacasse, wildlife rehabilitators in Australia require a specialized permit with appropriate training and facilities to rehabilitate platypus. Because they are heat-sensitive and have a low body temperature, they do not thrive in temperatures higher than 30°C/86°F.

Platypuses can get very stressed in care because of their shy nature. They tend to expend their energy looking for means to escape in captivity. A quiet and stress-free environment with minimal disturbances is needed to ensure they do not experience complications from stress. Platypuses do not bite as they have no teeth, but adult males have venomous spurs on their hind legs, which can cause severe pain in humans that even powerful pain relief medications cannot alleviate. However, infant and juvenile platypus are generally easier to handle and can be managed similarly to other mammal species.

platypus1
Photo by flickr.com/people/trevira1/

According to Dr. Paul Eden, senior veterinarian at Healesville Sanctuary in Zoos Victoria, platypuses can be picky eaters as they rely on their ability to sense electrical activities from their food items in order to locate food. Water access is provided to platypuses in rehabilitation for them to perform their natural behaviors of swimming and food foraging. This also aids them to groom and maintain the health of their coat themselves.

Dr. Lacasse points out that Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital usually receives only 4-5 platypuses in a year, mostly when the young disperse from their maternal burrows and hunt by themselves. The hospital rehabilitates young platypuses that become anemic and weak because of ticks. According to Dr. Lacasse, sometimes the platypuses are too far gone for rehabilitation, but anti-parasitics, vitamins and good nutrition strengthens them enough to be released eventually. In Healesville Sanctuary, an average of 2-4 platypuses are rehabilitated because they often get entangled in discarded fishing lines and nets and elastic bands, according to Dr. Eden. These items can restrict their movements, preventing them from feeding and causing infected wounds.

Although the platypus is not an endangered species, wildlife experts are concerned that their populations are waning due to habitat destruction and illegal trapping. Run off of fertilizers and pesticides into waterways can affect invertebrate organisms living in creeks and dams, which in turn affects the platypus because these are important food items. Changes in flood patterns can cause erosion to river banks and sometimes flooding burrows, affecting the waterways. Also, entanglement in litter is an issue for platypuses that live in urban waterways. According to Dr. Eden, Zoos Victoria encourages people who fish to discard unwanted fishing lines by installing bins along popular fishing spots. Waste items such as rubber bands and plastic bottle rings should also be cut through to prevent animal trappings.

For more information on platypus ecology and conservation, read this informational guide by the Australian Platypus Conservancy.

Peer-Review Process

Why do we have peer review?

As wildlife rehabilitation is a fairly new profession, the credibility of the field and the work of wildlife rehabilitators are constantly questioned. IWRC’s courses are science-based with live classroom courses and online training options to choose from. In order to meet minimum knowledge standards, IWRC’s courses, journals and books are peer-reviewed and developed by professionals from different aspects of wildlife rehabilitation and medicine. These resources are both single- or double-blind reviewed and addressed to a scientific audience as well as individuals who are not from a science-based background.

However, webinars and web content are reviewed differently and are mostly evaluated by professionals or volunteers prior to publishing online, instead of undergoing a full peer review process.

 

What are the different types of peer review?

1. Single-blind review process: The reviewers are not identified to the author but the reviewers are aware of the author’s identity.

The advantage of this process is that it allows unbiased decisions by the author that are free from influence as the reviewers are anonymous. However, the authors may be concerned that reviewers from the same field may delay the review in order to delay publication as this enables the reviewers to publish first1.

2. Double-blind review process: The identities of authors and reviewers are concealed from each other.

This method is the most effective for journals with material that is free from referencing geographic study areas to ensure that research authors are not easily identified when a study area is described in a manuscript. However, reviewers can sometimes identify the author through the paper’s style or subject matter1.

 

The Peer-Review Process
Adapted from The Wildlife Professional
Adapted from The Wildlife Professional

Peer reviewers are not perfect — as humans, they make mistakes too. However, peer reviewing verifies that the best science and practices are used. It is also “the best system we have been able to devise in order to maintain the integrity of the scientific publication process,” according to Leonard Brennan, former editor of the Wildlife Society Bulletin2.

 

References:

1White, G. More than 50 shades of gray. The Wildlife Professional. 2014;8: 22
2Brennan, L. Editorial guidance and wildlife science: the role of wildlife society bulletin associate editors and reviewers. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 2012;36(2):396

Jay Holcomb

Jay Holcomb: 1951 – 2014

 

On June 10th the wildlife rehabilitation community said farewell to Jay Holcomb, executive director of International Bird Rescue.

Fly free. Photo credits: Robert Elko
Fly free. Photo credits: Robert Elko

The first evidence of Jay and IWRC getting together is in March 1974 Board meeting minutes, noting his attendance at that meeting, but not his status. Jay’s association with the organization started before IWRC was even incorporated (this happened later in 1974). Its not clear from the records when Jay officially came on the board, but he was there by 1977 and spent at least 12 years on the board. Jay was president from 1981 to 1983 and again from 1988 to 1991.

Jay’s first tenure as president began auspiciously with the lovely editorial you see below, reprinted from Volume 5(3) of the Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation and featured again in the soon to be published Volume 34(2). Jay maintained his strong relationship with IWRC through four decades and countless changes to the field. Most recently he stepped in to participate in the 2011 Symposium when the scheduled International Bird Rescue speaker was called out to the Rena Spill in New Zealand.

Jay’s influence was felt far and wide; demonstrated by the diverse award acknowledgements he received, from NWRA’s lifetime achievement award in 1996 to John Muir Conservationist of the Year and Oceana’s Ocean Hero in 2010.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Jay Holcomb Memorial Fund at International Bird Rescue. IWRC extends condolences to Jay’s family, colleagues, and the entire wildlife rehabilitation community.

 

Excerpt from Jay’s 1982 President’s Message

 

Jay Holcomb, picture circa 1982. JWR 5(3).
Jay Holcomb, circa 1982. JWR 5(3).

As president of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Council*, I feel a need to share some of my thoughts on the work that we are all involved in. I have been racking my brain to find the words of wisdom I wanted to say. Instead, I should have been searching my heart, for it is love that connects me with the animals. With this in mind, I want to share these thoughts with you.

One thing all rehabers have in common is a great love and compassion for the wild creatures of the earth. This is why we work incredible hours for little or no money, suffer from physical, emotional, and mental burn-out and sacrifice our personal relationships. It is our constant energy that has nurtured the field of wildlife rehabilitation to the point of becoming a respected and acknowledged profession and a necessary service in our communities.

Wildlife rehabilitation is a pioneering field. We are one of the first groups of people giving back to the earth what many have selfishly taken for years. With every creature we release to the sky or forest, we return a little of what we’ve been blessed with: the earth with all the trimmings.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Council was formed by a group of people who believe in the freedom for all creatures. We owe it to the animals in our care to investigate new ideas and innovative rehabilitation techniques. Sharing is the only way to maintain excellence and build a strong foundation of knowledge.

The full letter can be found in the archived Volume 5(3) and in the upcoming Volume 34(2).

*At the time this was written, IWRC was still known as the Wildlife Rehabilitation Council.

 

For additional in memoriams visit:

Jay’s Blog

International Bird Rescue

SANCCOB

Daily Breeze

Thank You Rachel Carson

Thank You Rachel Carson

A voice for wildlife

Today is the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s death. Carson brought issues of bio-accumulation and pesticide toxicity to the attention of the general public with her seminal work Silent Spring. Carson gave voice (a voice the public listened to) to disturbing emerging problems using her expertise as a biologist and notoriety as a popular science author. Thanks in part to Rachel Carson we have witnessed the amazing recovery of bald eagles, peregrines, and osprey and the resurgence of songbirds voices. We do not suffer from silent springs bereft of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Celebrate the voice of science; its power to provide information, knowledge, and understanding. Celebrate the people that bring the voice of science to us all, from Rachel Carson to Neil Degrasse Tyson. Celebrate the wildlife rehabilitators that are a voice for wildlife in this generation; observing, recording, and communicating.

How better to remember a hero like Rachel Carson than to acknowledge that we too can be heros.

 

Post-Release Monitoring of Hand-Reared Songbirds

This guest blog post is a short paper on an ongoing research project. Enter the world of creating and executing a research project. The authors describe their set up, the frustrating lack of initial results, and changes made to improve the study. I’m looking forward to seeing what this year will bring! – Kai

Guest writers Halley Buckanoff BS, CVT, CWR and Lynn J. Moseley, BS, PhD

The Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (VHS WRC) at the North Carolina Zoo, in partnership with faculty at Guilford College, has been conducting a post-release survival study of commonly rehabilitated backyard, non-migratory songbirds for four years to date.  A search of the literature revealed few studies on post-release survival and/or behavior of hand-reared and rehabilitated songbirds (Berger 1966; Dunning 1988; Ferguson and Ludwig 1991).  Anecdotal comments suggest that the behavior of hand-reared wild birds is sometimes distinguishable from that of their parent-reared counterparts as they act inappropriately for their sex or species, are unafraid of humans and/or continue to come to humans for food.

Seven species of birds were chosen for the study based on admission numbers at the VHS WRC and the potential for re-sighting released birds near feeders or around homes. All have non-migratory populations in North Carolina.  The species chosen were American Robins (Turdus migratorius, AMRO), Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata, BLJA), Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus, CARW), Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis, EABL), Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura, MODO), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis, NOCA) and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus, RBWO).

All study birds were admitted in their hatch year at fledgling stage or younger, and were hand-raised within the guidelines of the VHS WRC by trained staff, volunteers, and interns following standardized protocols for veterinary care as needed, husbandry, nutrition, and pre-release conditioning.

Robin with leg bands being held and examined
Banded American robin

Prior to release, birds were banded with a numbered metal band and three colored bands in a unique combination for specific identification of individuals. Bird-banding is regulated by the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) and requires a federal permit; both authors possess federal licenses for bird-banding.

All post-release data was compiled through periodic observations of banded birds. If a released bird was re-sighted, we recorded behavioral data according to the following categories: Feeding (F), preening/bathing (P/B), carrying nesting material (CNM), resting (R), other comments (O).  If feeding was observed, we noted whether it occurred at an established feeder.  We also recorded whether the bird was with other banded or non-banded birds.  We used this information to help determine whether a released bird demonstrated appropriate species-specific affiliations. 

During 2010, the study’s first year, we attempted to engage the public to be “Citizen Scientists” and participate in the study.  Birds were predominately released by the person who had rescued the bird and brought it to the VHS WRC.  Birds were transported to their original capture site in vented paper bags and hard released.  A total of 43 birds were banded with metal and color bands and released (Table 1). Unfortunately, no members of the public who released the birds reported any data, and upon inquiry the participants stated that they had not looked vigilantly for the banded birds.

Table 1.  Species of birds and numbers of individuals of each species rehabilitated, banded, released, and re-sighted in each year of this study. 

YEAR AMRO BLJA CARW EABL MODO NOCA RBWO TOTALS # birds resighted
2010 18 3 3 13 1 2 3 43 0
2011 8 4 14 6 6 0 4 42 0
2012 12 1 5 2 1 5 2 28 1 NOCA
2013 15 6 13 7 0 1 3 45 5 CARW
TOTALS 53 14 35 28 8 8 12 158 6

The following year, in 2011, Volunteers/Interns at the VSH WRC conducted releases. Birds were again transported in vented paper bags to appropriate habitats and hard released. A total of 42 birds were metal and color banded and released (Table 1).  But, once again no data was acquired due to lack of surveying for released birds.

Explorarium hanging with robins ready for prerelease.
Psuedo-soft release

In 2012, study birds were released and monitored by the two authors only, and only at two locations.  Sites chosen offered suitable habitat for study birds (those species had been observed routinely at each site) and could be easily monitored. Feeders were maintained at both locations.  In the first half of the season birds were transported in vented paper bags and hard released; at the second half of the season birds were transported in Exo Terra Explorariums® soft-sided hanging enclosures.

The enclosures were hung in visual distance of a feeder and left, depending on time of day, several hours to overnight.  The door to the enclosure was then unzipped and the birds were allowed to leave at their own will.  We referred to this release type as pseudo-soft release.

Of the 28 banded and released birds, one pseudo-soft released Northern Cardinal was repeatedly observed for 5 months post release. The ethogram results suggest that it exhibited appropriate behaviors for a normal wild bird.

Released banded Carolina wren perched on railing
Re-sighting of released Carolina wren

Due to the encouraging results of 2012, the same techniques were used in 2013.  Of the 45 birds banded and released, five Carolina Wrens (CARW) were seen repeatedly (Table 1).  The first 4 CARW were released as a group and were seen on an almost daily basis for up to 3 months.  The activity log included reports of interactions with non-banded CAWR, feeding at feeders as well as foraging in brush, and bathing/preening. The birds gave alarm calls when observers approached.  The fifth wren was released at another date approximately 10 weeks later with another group of CARW and was seen almost daily for up to a month.  Ethogram comments were the same as for the four wrens released earlier, but also included molting, at which time it was caught by a dog and succumbed.

This study is still in its early stages, as we continue to refine our techniques, and does not have enough data for statistical analysis at this point.  However, as our techniques improve, we hope to increase the number of resightings, and possibly to include telemetry in the future.  We believe that understanding the impacts of hand-rearing songbirds on their post-release survival will provide critical information for wildlife rehabilitators, and may serve to test the effectiveness of different techniques for successfully raising songbirds.

References:

Berger, A.J. 1966.  Survival in the wild of hand-reared passerine birds.  Condor 68:304-305.

Dunning, J.B. 1988.  Significant encounters with marked birds.  North American Bird Bander 13: 110-112.

Ferguson, Bruce and Daniel R. Ludwig.  1991.  Post-release behavior of captive-reared American Robins (Turdus migratorius).  Wildlife Rehabilitation 9: 193-205.

Product Information:

Explorarium®, Exo Terra,   Rolf C. Hagen (U.S.A.) Corp., Mansfield, MA. 02048

 

Authors:

Halley D. Buckanoff, BS, CVT, CWR

Halley is the Lead Veterinary Technician at the North Carolina Zoo’s Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center overseeing rehabilitation practices, center operations, and volunteers/interns. She graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology.  She is a Certified Veterinary Technician with 10+ years of emergency, exotic, zoo and wildlife medicine and husbandry experience.  She has completed graduate level course work in animal population management and animal nutrition.  She has worked as field biologist mist-netting, trapping, banding, tracking and radio-collaring birds.  She is also the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s North American Regional Studbook Keeper for Perodicticus potto (a small African monkey).  She became a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator in 2009 and has been a contract instructor for IWRC since 2010.

 

Lynn J. Moseley, B.S., Ph.D.

Lynn is Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.  She teaches courses in Ornithology, Animal Behavior, and Vertebrate Field Zoology, among others.  She received her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary, and her Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Her main areas of interest include social behavior and communication of vertebrates, especially birds, and behavioral ecology.

New IWRC Board Members

Welcome Kim Poisson and Kelly Donithan, recent additions to the IWRC Board. Kelly has been on the board since November, when she was appointed by the 2013 board to finish out a departing member’s term. Kim joined the board January 6th, elected by the IWRC membership. She will serve a three year term.

 

Kelly Donithan

Kelly Profile Head ShotKelly is currently the Wildlife Rescue Program Officer for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, based at the international headquarters on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. IFAW’s wildlife rescue projects span the globe and include grizzly bear cub rescue and rehabilitation in Canada, orphan brown bear rehabilitation in Russia, Amur tiger rehabilitation in Russia’s Far East, raptor rehabilitation in China, an elephant orphanage in Zambia, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in India, and rescue and sanctuary placement of displaced big cats in the U.S. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and a Master’s of Science in Conservation Medicine from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. During her graduate studies, she completed a case study on the health and conservation concerns of international wildlife trade and investigated zoonotic disease risks at U.S exotic animal auctions. At IFAW, Kelly is also looking at the welfare concerns of live wildlife seized from trade and the potential of increasing rehabilitation and release efforts of such animals when feasible. She has been involved with wildlife rehabilitation and care in Arizona, Florida, and New England.

Kim Poisson, CWR

kim photoKimberly Poisson is the executive director of A2 Raptor Rescue, a non-profit organization in Washtenaw County.  A life long Michigan native, she resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and three children.

Kimberly has been working with wildlife since 1994 and holds state and federal permits for mammal and raptor rehabilitation as well as education.  Her work with wildlife, along with the weaning and fledging of her children,  eventually brought one of her long term goals of starting her own facility to fruition.  In 2011 she founded A2 Raptor Rescue, an non-profit organization focused solely on raptor rehabilitation, with a strong emphasis on public education.  As part of A2′s educational programing, a pilot program was started aimed at young children.  Wings for Literacy began as a test project to see if first graders would have any interest in reading to the resident screech owls, much like the reading assistance dogs that provide similar services.  The program was a huge success and now is in its third year and growing steadily.
In 2009 Kimberly was awarded her CWR by IWRC.  Having long been a steadfast believer in IWRC’s mission to develop and provide quality courses and materials to rehabilitators internationally, she eventually joined the IWRC course development committee, which works to peer review, edit and keep current, all the IWRC curriculum and courses.

Call for Papers

PetriNoBack

The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association are proud to bring the annual IWRC Symposium to Cincinnati, OH December 1 to 6, 2014.

This symposium provides a platform to discuss how wildlife rehabilitators, researchers, legislators and conservationists can work together to promote the survival of species at risk of extinction. Each surviving individual in a declining population carries a greater proportion of the genetic heritage of that population. We as rehabilitators assist in the survival of these individuals and so can contribute to the conservation of endangered species. Join us in Cincinnati and become part of the discussion.

~Dedicated to the memory of Martha, the last passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorious) on the 100th anniversary of her death.

The abstract should include:

  • —— TITLE
  • —— AUTHOR(S)
  • —— AFFILIATION
  • —— ABSTRACT (Summary of the presentation in 250 words or less)
  • —— BRIEF BIOGRAPHY (100 words)
  • —— TYPE OF PRESENTATION e.g. Paper, round table, workshop
  • —— PROPOSED DURATION OF PRESENTATION

Presentations can be one of the following:
Paper presentation – 45 minutes
Round table – 90 minutes to 2 hours
*Workshop (class) 2 – 4 hours *deadline is April 30, 2014

The deadline for submissions is July 31, 2014
Please submit your Abstract to Kai Williams director@theiwrc.org

Printable Version Available

What is WildHelp?

Recently, IWRC was able to interview Rebecca Dmytryk on the new animal rescue app, WildHelp she is working on:

IWRC: The description on kickstarter mentions that the app will provide safety tips and basic instruction on first aid to help save the animals life. Does this take into account the fact that most people that find injured wildlife don’t have any experience in animal first aid?

Dmytryk: Most people who find a wild animal in trouble will have little experience handling wildlife and for their safety and the welfare of the animal they should keep their hands off. There will, however, be instances when a very basic, very simple thing can help extend the life of an animal until it reaches a professional. For example, placing a cold hatchling on a warm rice-sock in a small cardboard box could save its life.

 

IWRC: What type of additional information will be given to the finder after the data has been sent besides basic first aid information? And will it be general information or specific to the type of animal and injury?

Dmytryk: Depending on the information the user gives, the app will respond with information specific to the type of animal or situation.  If it’s a beached seal or sea lion for example, the app will offer the user tips on what not to do, instructing them not to pour water or sand on the animal or chase it back into the water, explaining that these animals haul out of the water to rest and get warm. If it seems the user is reporting an uninjured fledgling, the app will provide information on this stage in a bird’s development.

 

IWRC: If the finder of the animal is, for some reason, not able to identify what type of animal it is or what type of injury it has sustained, will there be a list of people/organizations that the finder can contact in order to better classify the type of animal/injury? 

Dmytryk: The app will offer very basic questions, starting out with identifying what type of animal it is. After making the basic selection between bird, mammal, marine mammal, reptile or amphibian, the user is asked to refine their answer down to the species if they know it, or they can skip along to the next question. As for the animal’s condition, here, too, the user can provide details if they’re able to, or skip forward. Let’s say the user gave a very general description of an injured bird about the size of a football, then the app will still route them to the nearest wildlife hospitals or nearby responders.

 

IWRC: If the initial goal amount is reached, how long do you expect it will take to complete the database of first responders and wildlife professionals before the app can be launched?

Dmytryk: The database of wildlife response organizations, and categorizing them, is what will take time. The more we raise, the faster we can produce it. If all goes well, we should have this up and running by February, in time for the 2014 season. If we don’t reach our initial goal in pledges, we get nothing – we’ll have no money to complete the app’s development, so we really need people to make those pledges, even if it’s only $1., and then spread the word far and wide. I feel confident that if enough people know about it, we’ll be successful. People want this.

 

IWRC: Were there any experiences you or someone you know went through that inspired the creation of this app? And if so, how would this app have helped or improved the situation of the finder and of the injured animal?

Dmytryk: I’ve been involved in wildlife rescue and rehabilitaton since the earl 1980s, and back then this was an issue. It’s not like the system is broken, there’s never been anything in place to help people connect with wildlife experts. There has always been a major gap – a missing link. You know, you have 911 for people emergencies and animal control and police handle domestic animal calls, but injured wildlife? Unless the animal is a threat to public health and safety, it seems like the calls just slip through the cracks. We sure hear about it though – the wildlife hotline operators – don’t we? Just about every caller tells me of the difficulties they had in finding the right number, and such delays can be costly. Last year, a woman tried desperately to find help for an injured goose. It had line around its leg. Calling various agencies, she kept getting the runaround, until, get this, three months later she finally got through to an organization that helped rescue the bird. By then, though, it was too late. The bird lost its leg. Its life. So preventable. If she’d had the WildHelp app, the bird would have been saved in time.

I hope the rehabilitation community sees this as a valuable tool and supports its development. Remember, pledges through Kickstarter are just that – promises – no money exchanges hands until we are successful at reaching our goal. That’s when backers will be asked to make good on the amount they pledged. Safe and securely through Amazon Payments.