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Marge Gibson

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        Marge Gibson

"Become the change you wish to see in the world".

Mohandas Gandhi

 

Marge1.jpg (18195 bytes)

Saving eagles in Alaska - a tense plane-ride.

Marjorie Gibson is the current president of IWRC, and has held that position since 1997. A life-long conservationist, avid bird-watcher and lover of animals domestic and wild, Marge began her career as a wildlife rehabilitator at the tender age of eight. In the ensuing years, she has worked with many thousands of animals, created centers, been active with both IWRC and NWRA and educated countless numbers of people about the necessities of conservation, preservation and the rehabilitation of wildlife. She lives with her husband, Dr. Don Gibson, in Antigo, Wisconsin, where she is founder and director of the Raptor Education Group, Inc.

We spoke with Marge during a two-hour telephone interview, and were treated to the wonderful stories and the unique and intelligent insights of a truly remarkable person.


 


 online: How and when did you come into the world of rehabilitation?

Marge: I have been rehabbing for over thirty years now. In fact, I began rehabbing when raptors still had a bounty on them. I was a shy kid and not very forthcoming with opinion when I seized the opportunity to care for my first avian patient. I was eight years old and walking home from school one day when I saw some boys that were a year ahead of me in school. They were making a fuss over something. As I approached, I saw baby birds in their hands. They were pulling the legs off and laughing hysterically. A windstorm had blown down a tree limb with a bird's nest attached. I did something very uncharacteristic for me at that age. I ran up to the boys, told them off, grabbed the birds and raced the final two blocks to my home with the boys in hot pursuit. The chicks were very tiny and had just come out of the shell, in fact. Only one was uninjured. In those days, we didn't know much about such things as nutrition and thermoregulation. The chick that survived was fed a high-protein diet of egg yolk and insects, which I caught with the determination of any female feeding her young. The bird turned out to be a beautiful male Baltimore Oriole. We (Mom had to help when I was at the age of eight, although it was my responsibility) did something right, because he not only lived to be released, but we "banded" him with a colored wire and he returned for ten years to my parents' yard. He reared young with his mate and the only thing different about him was a strange chirp in the middle of his song. He had been raised with my parakeet nearby and apparently took part of its chatter and incorporated it into his song. Researchers now would say that the song attracts the mate. I figure his mate was either very tolerant or he had such other wonderful aspects that it didn't matter to her that his song was a bit off!

Trumpeter Swan

The "Bird Girl" about to release a
Trumpeter Swan

From that point on, I became the "bird girl". Everybody brought birds to me to raise or help in some way. I was just a kid for much of the time. My parents were more than tolerant as I used the house, basement and garage as nurseries for every species you can imagine. I remember that one summer I rehabbed more than one hundred birds! My father was a Deputy Warden for the State Conservation Department at the time. Even the conservation officers would bring birds to me. They were always released, of course, and not kept as pets. I got my first raptor at age 10. He was a kestrel that was hit by a car. I was fascinated by him: thus began my love of raptors. When I was 11, someone brought me a Harrier (Marsh Hawk) that had been shot. I was horrified and took the bird to the conservation office, looking for help and support. The conservation officer looked at me with bird in hand and said, " I can't give you the bounty unless the bird is dead!" I walked out in shock. Here was someone I respected -an older, wiser person who dealt with the environment and he apparently had no idea that harriers were good. Those small feet are farmers' friends, not a threat in any way to farmers' financial well-being.

I always read as much as I could about the birds I raised. Little information was available on raptors. They received little respect and consideration for their part in the food chain. I remember the moment when, in my shock at the incident with the conservation officer, I thought "Don't they know?" "Why don't they understand?" and finally, "Somebody should let them know." As quiet as I was, I knew I had to be the somebody.

That was in 1959, and I have worked with raptors ever since. I founded the Orange County Bird of Prey Center in Orange Country, California in the mid 1970's. When I moved back to my home area of Antigo, Wisconsin in l990, I developed the Raptor Education Group, Inc. We rehab many raptors here, including many Bald Eagles each year, but the focus has never been off educating the public about the birds and responsible conservation efforts on their behalf.

While my center is a raptor center, I actually do almost as many passerines, ducks and other things as I do raptors. I end up getting the birds that are difficult, like the warblers, nighthawks, swallows and swifts. I get the things that are more difficult or a challenge to keep alive. I love to do birds like robins, because they're just pure joy and no stress.

online: What events and people impressed you to take up the cause of wildlife?

Marge: My father was a naturalist and I was his youngest. I would follow him through the woods, hunting and fishing. I was always with him. I looked up to him a great deal; he would constantly point out things, like a worm-eating warbler… he was a kind of encyclopedia of all things in nature. Flowers, mushrooms, trees… he seemed to know it all. I just grew up that way. Respecting the world around us was part of our life… a big part. It was like our religion.

There were also some negatives that influenced me. Birds of prey were not protected when I was a kid, and I remember the wounded harrier I mentioned earlier. Back in those days, we were always taught to respect our elders and not to talk back. I didn't, but I remember being so confused and befuddled as to why the man first of all didn't offer to help me and second, actually wanted to kill this incredible animal that I had in my arms. By the time I got home, I thought "Well, I guess I'm going to have to do this by myself and fix it". I did, and I released it; it was my first hawk. I was stimulated to do raptors, because no one seemed to care for them. I found that unfathomable even as a child.

online: When you took care of that harrier, you were an eleven year-old girl. What did you want to do when you grew up?

Marge: Medicine really interested me, and I loved chemistry, biology and anatomy. By the time I was a sophomore, I'd decided I wanted to be a medical technologist. I was told that going into biology you had to be a teacher and back in those days it was pretty much true, especially for a woman. I didn't want to do that; I was too shy to be a teacher. Medical technology allowed me to be involved with research as well as work with patients. I loved laboratory work. I worked in Southern Arizona. Part of my work was monitoring migrant farm workers and the pesticides used in the cotton fields there. When I married Don, I wasn't able to work in the laboratory anymore because he was a pathologist and at that point in time, it was considered a conflict of interest for us to work in the same laboratory. I started getting involved again in doing fieldwork with people, and hawks. I thought, "Hey! I can do blood work on them for pesticides"! It was a good combination, raptor fieldwork and my skills in the laboratory.

online: When did you decide to start your own centre?

Marge: It wasn't a decision. It just happened out of necessity. I was doing fieldwork, research on raptors in Southern California. The location was on the Pacific flyway. We had a lot of birds that would winter there; it's kind of the banana belt for red tails and others. A lot of them were shot or poisoned, and they didn't have a place to go. There was no appropriate place to take them, so I started doing it. It was, sort of, "If you build it, they will come". My own field of dreams, I guess (laughs.)   It went from a couple of birds that I took care of and then got right back out, to fifty birds almost constantly. They'd be released and others would fill their places. That started in 1978.

online: Have you worked with other centres, or has it always been your own?

Marge: No, I started the Orange County Bird of Prey Center, which is now operated by Dr. Scott Weldy in Orange County, California. I ran that from the late seventies until 1990. Then, I moved back to my roots in Northern Wisconsin. There, I began Raptor Education Group, Inc. As the name suggests, I really wanted to focus more on public education to try to prevent injuries as opposed to doing the actual rehabilitation. We are working toward that, but in a remote and rural area we do more rehabilitation than I thought we would. We do about 350 birds a year here.

online: Does your centre differ from any others you've worked with? Have you been able to incorporate what you've seen and thought perhaps could be done better, or adopted a different attitude towards people you work with?

Marge: I don't have a lot of people that work here. I am still basically really shy. That surprises people. In a conference situation or over the Internet, I'm not. Actually, where wildlife is concerned, either the animals or their rights… I'm not shy at all (laughs)! It's easier for me to work with the birds than it is for me to work with people. I find that with larger centers I worry about the stress… I worry about the stress that the birds go through. I just feel that a few individuals working with them gives them (the patients) more consistency. They get used to a routine, to one person feeding them, and they know you're not going to hurt them. A relationship of trust develops quickly and they heal quickly. I focus more on public education, using newspapers; rather than newspapers contacting you about a little story to give support to the organization, I try to use those opportunities and to send educationally sound messages. I try to make the message something that people can take home… something that will stimulate people to want to know more about the birds that we work with.

online: What do you hope to accomplish at your centre; what would you wish to leave behind?

Marge: A sense of wonder and respect for the natural world and the knowledge that is needed for that to occur.  With that firmly in place in our own species, the world would be a place I could leave comfortably and  in total peace.  It is a tall order.  I hope to make a beginning... a dent, at least, in that whole vision.

online: What are some of the highs and lows of running your own centre? We've heard stories about unrealistic building requirements and ensuing costs and other increasing difficulties. What's it like having a centre, going into the millenium?

Marge: The lows for me are dual: first and foremost paperwork! Ugh! I hate paperwork… it sets off my gag reflex! The second is that there is literally no time off. Twenty-four hours a day, everyday I am here with patients or helping someone on the phone or email with a problem case. When I hear people saying that they're taking two weeks here and there and that they will be unavailable, part of me gets very wistful (laughs,) because that would be really nice. We don't have that; I can't remember when my husband and I took a vacation. My vacations are going to a conference or going to a meeting or something like that, where we try to fit in a day around that. Some people actually get to go places and do things! It is a choice, of course. I am not a victim, except of my own choices. This is the only way our combined personalities, Don's and mine, allow us to run a center. My husband is a very private person, and having volunteers running around would make him crazy in about three minutes, tops! It's either him or volunteers. It's no contest.

The "highs" for me are the patients. For all the time, effort and financial outlay, releasing a bird… seeing it spread its wings to the sky to take its rightful place in its environment is the best! I am a hands-on person. I love the challenges of treatment, thinking things through, evaluating the situations, seeing the improvements and obviously the success of release. Because of the way we work, I really get to know the cases and there's something awfully enriching and fulfilling about seeing the animal from the beginning all the way through, knowing you've made a difference in its life. That's definitely a high. Of course, meanwhile, they affect you as well. Even the deaths are a shared experience… not joyful, certainly, but shared. I am so grateful for what they teach me.

online: One of the complaints we've heard from Walter Crawford, Tippi Hedren, Jane Schnelker and others is that because of administration, they've gotten further and further away from the animals that were the reason for going into this in the first place.

Banding a Bluebird in Wisconsin
Banding a bluebird.  Marge works with the Bluebird
Restoration Project in her area.

Marge: Ah, yes, that is one of the reasons I am overwhelmed. I refuse to do it. I get crazy and I readily admit I am overwhelmed. The reality of it is that I probably should turn over the work, but I don't ever want to get to the point where I'm just administrative. I couldn't do that. That's not what I'm doing this for. I do this because I love interacting and working with the animals… the day-to-day improvements that I see. I enjoy the hands-on, and I enjoy knowing each and every case intimately. I enjoy knowing each and every rehabber individually, too. I don't want to give that up. I don't want to get to the place where I don't know the details of the patients. I wouldn't be comfortable being only administrative. I have to be true to myself. I am busy now… even overwhelmed… but I am sane. Well… most of the time. Behind a desk with paperwork, I am not sane… check me out in January during year-end report time! You will have proof!

online: How long have you been affiliated with the IWRC, and in what capacities?

Marge: I've been on the board since 1990 and I've been president for three years.   I've just started my second three-year term in February, 1999.  I've been on the research committee, the nominating committee, the skills seminar committee and the journal committee. I love to write; writing is one of my passions. When I moved here from Southern California I wanted to write children's books and someday, I hope to be able to include that in the list of things I've done.

online: What have you and the board of directors accomplished since you were elected?

Marge: I think we've given IWRC a real sense of continuity. We have a great board, a close board and I really think we've opened our arms to the membership. I hope we give the idea that we care about what members want and that we do represent them and include their ideas. I hope we've created a very open communication with our membership. My volume of email says we have succeeded (laughs.)  One of the things I've disliked in organizations is cliques. I think that's wrong; I think everyone needs to be heard and have their ideas considered. It empowers people and it is one of the things that I always found unsatisfactory in the past. We've improved on that. Once basic communication improves, people are happier. They're more willing to bring you problems and I genuinely want to hear about problems as well as good things. You can't just hear about good things… let's hear it all. We listen to complaints and take them seriously. If we're going to strive to be a profession, we have to treat each other with the courtesy that we'd like to be treated with ourselves. Competition is a good thing if it encourages people to strive for the best, but competition for the sake of competition or ego is a disaster and destructive to the work we do and the animals we care for.

online: At this past conference, the board was complimented on the fact that they were so open, and I think that is a direct result of what you've done. You've made the board visible. At the conference, you pointed out the people with the little red ribbons as board members and said, "look, go see them". That has made the board approachable.

Marge: I hope so. I have never liked associations with a board that is pompous or that becomes unreachable. Why should our members? In the field of wildlife rehabilitation, the members… the people out there doing the work… have too many problems and too many issues that they, themselves, really can't handle without support from an organization. They need someone to say "this state does this, or this person is having luck with this"; they need guidance. We call ourselves a profession, and I think we're certainly reaching towards that, but to become stronger and to become a moving force, you have to have the ability to talk and for people to be heard, so that we know the problems that they're dealing with. Otherwise, we can't fix them; we can't attempt to correct wrongs we don't know exist.

online: What do you see as the future role of IWRC?

Marge: I think IWRC has a really bright future. We already have many international members and the amazing thing to me when I first started talking on an international basis… Europe, South Africa, South America, Thailand, China…was while the species differ, the problems, the joys and the situations remain identical. The feelings, the complaints… everything so similar, if not identical, to what we go through in North America. It is that sameness that binds us. People need to know that they're not alone. Years ago, without an organization, someone working in a rural place or in a remote area would really feel alone. They were alone! They'd have to make the decisions and have to do this and have to do that… I know I did that myself when I was young. It's overwhelming, and the burnout rate is tremendous. By sharing, hearing the international speakers such as Philip Dragoumis when he gave his presentation, you realized that for some people in the room that could be right here… that was exactly where they were at. We're not alone. There's a kinship with rehabilitators, no matter what their language, where they're practicing their craft on whatever species is indigenous to their region. There's a commonality that we can't ignore. I think it's only going to grow as we get an enhanced respect from the countries we work in and the states and the provinces that we work in, and as individuals. As the public begins to understand and respect what we do and as the population of the world increases, there's going to be more interaction with the animals. There's going to be more interaction and habitat loss. Rehabilitation is a very small part now compared to what, I think, it's going to be in the future. I foresee us as having many more roles; we're going to be more involved with habitat education for the public. We will be recognized as being the front line for many wildlife issues. We are that now, but the recognition is not yet being credited. We're going to be more involved with teaching people not only the rehabilitation of the animal but in prevention of problems. I see it as being expanded into a better-rounded rather than narrowly-focussed field.

online: How do you think  the increasing government regulation that we've been seeing recently will affect  rehabilitation?

Marge: Every profession has to have strict regulations and I hope the outcome is that the regulators are going to recognize that we have something to offer in our advice, our techniques and our abilities… much more, maybe, than they thought we had. I think there's going to be a greater respect for what we do. Maybe what began by looking as though we were going to be controlled may end in raising the standards and providing a better understanding of rehabilitation and rehabilitators by the regulators. I think they started this not having much of a clue. I think they're finding out, and I think it's surprising them.

online: Given the increase in regulations, specifically 501(c)(3) regulations, do you think that backyard rehab or private or small centres are threatened by this?

Marge: There's going to have to be more networking and in the long run, that's probably not a bad thing. I think too many people feel they can do it all, and maybe that aspect is going to change. There will probably be fewer people who "do it all."   With networking, people can specialize in just ducks or just raccoons or just deer, or some people could do another thing and therefore the facilities can be specific to those species. In many ways and many situations, this may actually increase backyard rehab because you can do that yourself. If you're raising only robins or only thrushes or only woodpeckers, you're not going to need a huge volunteer staff to help because it will be much more clear-cut. The expertise may be better. I don't see people as being pushed out… I think people are using the words "pushed out" because they fear change. The standards are going to be higher, and that's going to be better for the animals in general.  It will be better for the rehabilitators in general as well, because they'll be able to relax a little. When they know they have someone to network with in the end… when your bird needs exercise and you know you don't have a large enough facility, you can take it to another facility and your job is basically through at that point. It will take pressure off, but it will take some getting used to. One of the best outcomes will be that the ego factor will have to relax and cooperation will have to become a byword… again, maybe the best thing that can happen to wildlife rehabilitation in the long run. People can stop with the bravado and refocus on the problem at hand: the wildlife and solutions for those problems.

online: You have a  blend of warmth, compassion and professionalism which helps you interact well with rehabbers, the public and government agencies. You reach out to people, and you're known for your tact. We've all heard complaints about large egos, and how those egos can impact upon a group. What is your view on this,  how do you deal with it and how can this problem be addressed?

An immature Bald EagleMarge: First of all, you have me blushing. What you're seeing is that for a very long time, because I operate the center myself, I have felt like a backyard rehabber. I have felt like the little guy. It's kind of cute when people assume that I have a large center, staff, etc. ME, with staff (laughs)!

We do quite a bit of work here, that is true. Somehow, the years flew by without me noticing and I don't know how that happened. I consider myself a backyard rehabber, I really do, and I think that's why I feel so strongly that people need to be represented and that we have to listen, because I identify with that. Egos are a terrible thing, a waste of time and energy. I've certainly had the occasion to feel them used against me. It doesn't do anything except to create hostility, distancing and hurt feelings. All that is destructive. If we're trying to build a profession and we're trying to build something that's going to be better in the future for the people who work with wildlife as well as for the wildlife itself, we have to concentrate on the matters at hand, and not on personal ego gratification. We have to show compassion to one another. When we start to think that we're the only one who can do something right or we're the only one who feels this way, we're really in trouble. We're in more trouble than we know, because we're so wrong. You can get much more accomplished with reason and sensitivity than you can with screaming and yelling. I've seen so many organizations come apart, with egos playing huge roles. People have these very strong feelings, and they're not willing to compromise. Compromise is a very important thing. It's important that you stand up for the right thing, but you have to hear out people's ideas. Maybe, just maybe, you can pick up some things that will be helpful. If you're yelling, you're not able to hear those things. People don't respect people who don't respect them…and respect is the key word. We have to have this mutual respect with each other and with other facilities and agencies. In listening and in trying to understand other people's points of view, really you're saving time and you're saving lives. That has to be your focal point and if it's not, you're really in the wrong profession. You need to refocus on "Why am I here"? Am I here to get my way, or am I here to help this species or to help educate people about wildlife or habitat loss, or am I here to make a difference"? If your answer is that you're here to make a difference, then you will listen and you will compromise and you will treat people with respect, because otherwise you're going to lose.

online: Your husband Don is a retired pathologist. Have Don and your family been supportive of your work or involved with it?

Marge: Don has been the "wind under my wings" for many years now. Together we have raised three children, have added two terrific sons-in-law to the clan and have been blessed with one amazing grandson (his first animal sound was a Bald Eagle). Together,we've put thousands of birds back into the wild. While Don didn't "get it" right away, ("Why would anyone do that?",) he caught on quickly enough and as anyone in rehab knows, without the support of your family you aren't involved very long. I think my more than 30 years of involvement speaks well for my husband and my children. Many times they have been second or even third in line to an injured bird. I like to think the experience has made the children more tolerant and compassionate to all things. While there were definitely times when the "BIRDS" were spoken of with less than adoration around here, is was an accepted part of me and therefore of them, Don and the children alike. I joke with them now as I say: "Everyone in this world has an obstacle to overcome, a cross to bear! It's just that I am yours."

When Don and I were dating, we were driving down the road one day. I'm a country girl, and at this point I was living in Southern California, where Don had a practice. We were talking marriage and  future and children, and I said, "Do you know what I really miss about home, about Wisconsin? Chickens"! He said, "CHICKENS?"   I'll never forget the look on his face as he almost crashed the car. I said, "I really, really miss chickens". He said, "Chickens are stupid. They have the brain size of a pea… they're really dumb"!  I said, "But they're birds"… and he said, "I don't notice them."  I realized I had a choice to make here! I could go home right now and find someone else, or I could work on this poor man and surprise him. We married, and I think he's been surprised every day. He's developed a very deep respect, affection and understanding for birds. It wasn't long before Don would look at the bird in my arms and say, "It knows you are helping it."   Soon, that changed to: "How can we help other people understand that they are intelligent creatures"?  Don doesn't only support me financially, he lives and shares this life with me. That is more than I ever dared  hope would happen to the southern California boy who was clueless about animals on that freeway trip so many years ago. Now, he says that our life together has been enhanced by the animals we share it with. It changes you. It enhances you as a human. You have compassion, and you have a deeper understanding. I can't imagine our life without all these little bits of protoplasm with feathers flying around. We don't feel an ownership of them. We feel a sense of partnership, as if they're friends that we've known, and they've each left a little footprint on us. Recent studies have shown that people who have animals in their lives live longer than those who do not. I kid Don that if this is the case, he will live to be three hundred and fifty!

online: You've worked with oiled birds and were present at the site of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. What was that experience like?

Marge: It was an incredible time. I remember flying up there, not knowing what we were going to find. There were still such storms out at sea in the spring that the people from Fish and Wildlife hadn't been able to do any wildlife assessments, but the fear was that the population of eagles in the area would have been decimated. This area has the worlds' largest population of Bald Eagles. As I was in the plane flying to Alaska, I remember looking down at Canada and the incredibly beautiful shoreline. I was trying to imagine what might lie ahead. Alaska was a land so foreign to me, so rugged… it has the reputation of being unforgiving. I was terrified of water and boats, and I knew I was going to have to get over that very quickly. I was leading a team of researchers to do health assessments on the Bald Eagles and I knew that it would encompass living on a fishing boat on Prince William Sound. I also got violently seasick. I remember thinking, "You're crazy. What are you doing on this plane? Why are you up here?"  But it was so compelling, to do what I could. In the end, I wasn't seasick. I don't remember a fear of water. The work was far too important to allow myself the luxury of being afraid.

In Alaska during the Exxon Valdez spillonline: There is a picture of you in your hip waders in the water, and you are holding a bird. When you were standing there that day, what was in your heart?

Marge: Pure joy and a sense of success because the bird that I'm holding in my arms in that picture actually had a nine-week old chick in her nest. We had just trapped the female, banded her and taken some blood work. It was a real success story, because it was a formerly oiled area that had been cleaned. The chick had come through and the adults were both well. That was in August of 1989, just at the end of our tour there. Only two hundred Bald Eagle chicks fledged that year in the oiled area, from a population of five thousand adults… so we were delighted, standing at the base of that nest.

The area was a real mixed bag. Some areas were very clean. It depended on where the currents went and sometimes you would fly over and it looked like nothing was wrong. Then you would fly around the bend and there would be oil a foot thick. In those places, it was devastating and it was dead. It was frightening, that man had the ability to affect the environment and the innocents that occupy the environment. I felt such a sense of responsibility to do what I could to change that. That's affected a lot of how I view life since then. You somehow feel that you're a single person, and what can you do? Then, you have the opportunity to do a lot and you realize that yes, you are a single person, but it has to start somewhere. If you shirk a responsibility or decide not to go, the situation is that much farther behind. Actually, the eagles did do quite well, and that was an amazing thing. I was overjoyed for that species, but some of the water birds didn't do well and some of the other species didn't do well. The eagles were adaptable enough when they saw the oil to know not to fish there. They shared territories, even at a time when they were having young. There were high and lows… a roller coaster of emotions. One minute you'd be overjoyed because you'd trap a bird that you'd been trying to get for a long period of time and realize what you'd thought was oil was just a natural darkening of the feathers. Another time, you'd go to a nest that had been occupied to find that the chicks were gone. The adults survived, and they survived in an unusual way. They survived by cooperating, which is an interesting concept for a predator. We learned so much. We went up there full of assumptions, and many of them were proven wrong. The birds proved them wrong. We had to remain open-minded to really see what it was they were doing. They were sharing fishing territories, these adult predators. No territorial disputes… they were sitting next to each other, when at that time of the season they should not have been. The adaptability was amazing, while the oil spill was as all environmental pollution is: a disgusting human tragedy. I think, in some ways, the birds made it a success story. It was at once one of the most horrible things I'd ever witnessed and one of the most personal growth times that I've ever gone through.

online: What are your goals, prior to your completion of your term as president?

Marge: I'd like to see people feel more unified. I'd like to see a much stronger organization that is only growing skyward. I'd like to see people being more responsible with each other, members helping each other and being better about showing consideration and understanding not only for the animals in our care but for one another as well. I would like to see us feel bound or tied together with the organization and let that tie unify us and give us commonality. I see that as one of the roles that IWRC can play. Getting rid of these petty little differences is one of the things I'd really like to accomplish. I'd like to see it expand to fill more roles, not only of animal care itself, but a broader spectrum concentrating on habitat and prevention. I'd like so see a closer working relationship with other agencies: not only state or federal regulation agencies, which are the ones we automatically think of but with other agencies such as land management, that consider us a viable resource for them and for finding solutions for wildlife problems. I'd like to see the role of rehabilitator defined more clearly. I want to raise the level of respect for rehabilitation in the world. We're certainly on the way to doing that, although we have a ways to go. It will require all of us working together, not only the Board, but the Members.

online: During your presidency, IWRC joined the computer age. How will this impact on the direction of the group in the future?

Marge: It has been the thing that has allowed for faster change than any other element I can think of. What an incredible tool for communication! That communication has improved our ability to understand each other. I went down to the conference and met friends that I'd known for a year or more online. You walk into the room and see their name tags and you embrace them. This is a friend you have known and that you've shared many nights of midnight oil with over a case. Nothing is more binding than late night frustrations!

The Internet has done a lot to secure the bond that people feel with each other. They can call on each other and they can network better because it's there and available twenty-four hours per day. I can communicate easily with Brazil, Japan, Greece, Germany or Australia. All I have to do is stay up a little later or get up a little earlier… OR just stay up all night… and that has happened more times than I like to admit. You ought to ask a few of the members! THEY can tell you… but then of course my dear long-suffering husband can, too. His version may be less delighted, however. It is the biggest leap forward that we've made. Remote areas are as near as the touch of your computer keyboard. Advice from experts is right at your fingertips. There is no longer a reason not to have the correct information, diets, whatever… you can have it in minutes.

online: On to the whimsical animal question! Which animal do you relate to, and why?

Marge: People ask me what my favourite bird is, and I honestly don't know… probably a bird of prey. I like the presence; I like the way that they operate. They don't hurt anything unless they need to eat it. They're thoughtful. They mate for life. They're very family oriented. They're very peaceful in many ways, and there's also lots of humor in them. They play little tricks on each other. All those things are very important in my own life. I would probably be a hawk, or a golden eagle. Those are the ones that I would relate to, but I keep the hours of an owl! (laughs)

online: Leave us with a word to the wise… what's your philosophy?

Great Grey ready for releaseMarge: The word I keep coming back to is respect. We have to learn to truly value and respect everything and know that we have to share the world with the animals that were here to begin with. We have a responsibility to them, to make their environment safe and to allow them to live in peaceful coexistence with us. They are not here for our enjoyment. They are certainly part of our lives and they have to have respect. You can't fear them, you can't think they're amusement, but they're part of what we are and who we are. I feel that very strongly, and that's probably why I have done this all my life and why I continue to do it. It's what I can give back and how I can make a difference, not only for the birds I care about but also the people who will benefit from that knowledge.

online: With one opportunity to speak as a golden eagle, what would you say to the world?

Marge: Respect me. Respect me and let me teach you about me. Let me affect your world in a positive way. Let us help each other. The world is big enough for both of us, yet it would not be the same without either of us.

Too many people think they're doing this for the animal and they're almost angry because they give their time, money, whatever, to the animals. I don't "get" that concept. Our charges teach us so much… each and every one of them. We learn and are better people because of the experience. I think that's our payment. We're so blessed to share brief times, good times and bad, with these animals. You learn so much, if you allow yourself to learn. Stay open to them. That's the very best thing about wildlife rehabilitation. We are blessed with this time. Don't waste it.

  


 On behalf of the many rehabbers who have shared their stories about you as we prepared this interview, we would like to thank you, Marge. Your gentle guidance has moved us a long way towards the unification you so desire for the membership of IWRC. 

Astrid and Joe MacLeod,  Manitoba, Canada. March 5, 1999


"Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

George Bernard Shaw

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