We all have that one instance or person who got us involved in wildlife rehabilitation. Let’s take a moment today to celebrate them; whether it was a person, a situation, or a single warbler. For Karen, that person was Di Conger. The rehab community is saddened by Di’s recent death. Let us remember all of the animals who went back into the wild due to Di’s care, and all of the people she influenced in her life. Di did not want an obituary, so instead Karen has offered to share her story of jumping into rehab.
Update 8/28/12: A memorial will be held for Di in Maryland on October 20th at 12 noon in the Manor area of Cunningham Fall State Park off Route 15. Email Roxy at email@example.com with any questions.
I first met Di in 1994. I was working as an officer manager at an Invisible Fence dealership and Di was one of our clients. Our work crews always referred to her as the “squirrel lady” because she always seemed to have a kazillion of them either in her house or in her pre-release cages. I had talked to her many times on the phone but didn’t meet her in person until the spring of 1994 when we had a huge old tree cut down outside the corner of our old farmhouse. The tree was so big and old I couldn’t put my arms a fourth of the way around the trunk! Sure enough, when a main branch was cut – the workers cut right through a squirrel’s nest full of tiny pinkies. They had no way of knowing it was there! One baby was killed and two more fell a LONG way to the ground. We put some of the nest material around the base of the tree, put the two little ones down and went in the house to watch. Momma squirrel picked up one of the babies immediately and took it somewhere else. She picked up the second one several times, turned her every which way and cleaned her thoroughly, and then left – and never came back. PANIC TIME!!!! I remembered talking to “squirrel lady” at work and immediately called Di! She was so packed she couldn’t take another squirrel — but immediately told me exactly what to do and arrived about an hour later with an incubator, formula, and everything I needed to raise my little girl! Next thing I knew, I was on Di’s Board of Directors!
By Karen Tannenbaum
Karen is a California rehabilitator who usually volunteers at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in the US but is spending the summer as a volunteer at an Israeli wildlife rehabilitation and education center, Hai Bar Yotvata. Since IWRC currently has no Israeli members (hopefully we will soon) I thought the membership would be interested in the current state of rehabilitation in the country. Regardless of where we are, we always regard our animals and practices as normal, be that kangaroos and possums, raccoons and redtails, or pandas and cincerous vultures. By sharing each others “normal” we learn things that benefit us all.
Today I spent some time with the resident reptiles of the Hai Bar. My supervisor drove by me as I was cleaning the outside of the poisonous snake terrariums, and instructed me to jump in the front seat of his truck. He had an Arabian Horned Viper in a tank in the back seat and was on his way to release the snake. We drove out to a reserve in Elifaz, about fifteen minutes from Hai Bar, and I got to witness the release of the beautiful, side-winding serpent. I kept a safe distance, as the snake seemed to have completely disappeared from sight in a matter of seconds following his release. I returned to the snake enclosures after the release and upon approaching the cages I noticed a wild, loose snake sitting right on top of a viper’s terrarium. My presence startled the snake as it slithered away through the rocks near the enclosure. By examining the pictures, I assume this was an Egyptian Sand-Racer. I was also lucky enough to catch a picture of a sunbathing gecko. In summation, my day was essentially dedicated to the reptiles of the Arava.
About three and a half days ago, there was an on-site birth of three Wild Cat kittens at the Hai Bar. One, unfortunately, had been neglected by her mother for over an hour and was confiscated by the Hai Bar staff for hand feeding. I was given the opportunity to watch one of her feedings. She was too adorable…I was left speechless. Hopefully she will make a promising animal ambassador for the Hai Bar’s educational sector.
Tonight we had a staff barbeque. After the festivities I was invited to attend a night feeding for the predators of the Hai Bar. Photographing was difficult, but what was even more difficult was making sure all of the predators were in sight before continuing with the feeding (of course, we never entered the enclosures for the larger predators). Namely, the elusive cheetah had us searching for at least 10 minutes before we found her sitting only 5 feet away from us! The best part of the night was hearing the Barn Owls’ screech. They sound marvelously pre-historic; they definitely count as one of my favorite inhabitants of the Hai Bar.
Today was my last (and also most incredible) day of work so far at the Hai Bar. I was invited to attend an annual Dorcas Gazelle count administered by workers of the wildlife reserves in Southern Israel. We had to be out of the apartment by 4:30 AM and were picked up by our supervisor, Zohar. He took us to the meeting point, where about 15 wildlife reserve trucks manned by park rangers congregated to begin the gazelle count. Here’s how it works: the 15 cars line up horizontally at the start of a territory in the Arava. Each truck is equidistant apart, about 100 feet. A note taker is seated in the passenger seat, and is in charge of keeping tally of the sex and number of gazelles. The drivers all move at the same pace through the territory and the drivers keep in contact by use of walkie-talkies. As soon as gazelles are spotted, the truck’s neighboring drivers are notified. The gazelles are then counted as they run between the cars, and the driver (in our case) reports how many males/females there are in the group. Everyone in the truck participates in trying to count each gazelle that passes the car. The experience was completely unmatched. Everyone worked as a team. The resident wildlife ecologist (one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met) gave us the final tally of 226 gazelles! While this was a slight decrease from last year, it was a satisfactory number overall. Our truck counted around 29 gazelles. After the gazelle count, our driver (Gil, a park ranger for a neighboring territory) took us to visit the salt channels–home to numerous birds, including flamingos! The other volunteers and I had a blast taking pictures of the resident sea birds of Israel. I could not have possibly had a better final day of work here at the Hai Bar.