As animal lovers across the world collect veterinary supplies to send animal rescue organisations in Australia, the IWRC is working with Gather Voices and the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council to collect messages of support for those working to rescue wild animals caught in the Australia bush fires.
In the wake of the devastating fires in Australia an outpouring of support has come from the international community. From large scale organizations collecting veterinary supplies, to individuals donating funds to the animal rescue organizations in Australia, support for injured and displaced wildlife has been profound. The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) is lending support by collecting messages of support for those working to rescue wild animals caught in the Australia bush fires.
The IWRC’s President Adam Grogan stated
We have reached out to wildlife rehabilitators in Australia to offer any support that we can help with at this difficult time. They have replied saying that all messages of support are gratefully welcome. So we are working with local schools in Eugene to provide thank you cards and partnering with Gather Voices to solicit video messages of support. Our members are also working to gather cards globally in order to send as much support as we can.
According to executive director, Kai Williams
Rehabilitators all over the world have been reaching out to help; people are heartbroken at the images of dead animals and the enormous swaths of land burned. They are looking ahead and realizing this isn’t a short term problem. The after effects of these fires will dictate our Australian colleagues’ work over the next few months and years and the messages or support are necessary to keep them motivated. Remembering that there is all this love for Australian wildlife all over the globe, is a great motivator.
Adam Grogan explains, “We all share a passion and dedication for wild animal welfare and we have felt inspired to stand with wildlife rehabilitators at the other side of the world. Our colleagues in Australia are enormously grateful for the international support and it has helped many of us feel a bit more hope in this dark time.”
Dr Andrew Peters, a lecturer in veterinary pathology at Charles Sturt University also stresses “It is really really important that the world knows that these fires are not normal. Areas that should only burn once a century are burning again after only 15 years, the scale and intensity of the fires has never been seen before, and even areas of rainforest that have not burnt in more than 1500 years have burnt during this crisis.”
The IWRC urges anyone wanting to help, to donate to one of the many fundraising appeals that have been set up in Australia.
As much as 30% of the koala population on the New South Wales mid-north coast along with 30% of their habitat has been destroyed. There have been similar levels of destruction in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.The destruction of habitats means that not only have many wild animals been displaced, injured or killed in this catastrophe, many more will starve over the next few months due to lack of food and water. It is estimated that one billion animals may have died in wildfires.
Queensland wildlife carer Linda Barret “I believe the next few months will be especially challenging in relation to mass starvation which we have already experienced in flying fox colonies due to drought and which will be compounded by the fires.”
Our thoughts are with those dedicated animal carers battling each day to help rescue and rehabilitate the animal victims of this tragedy.
Dr Peters emphasises “the most important thing the international community can do, is recognise this for what it is – it is our climate change future, and to take individual and community action now to prevent a much worse future for all of us, including the wildlife that we share this planet with.”
Notes to Editors:
Readers, please join us or start your own campaign.
We encourage people to donate to the affected wildlife centers. We’ve compiled a partial list and add to it as we are made aware of fundraisers. However we have not independently verified their qualifications.
Be encouraging and/or thankful
Please stay positive (these people are surrounded by devastation and need a boost!)
Address them generally (For example Dear Wildlife Carers in Australia; To our friends in Australia etc.).
The IWRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through training and resources on wildlife rehabilitation. The organization’s mission statement “We provide evidence-based education and resources on wildlife rehabilitation to move the field of wildlife rehabilitation forward; to promote wildlife conservation and welfare; and to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts worldwide, through better understanding of wild animal ecology, behavior, and welfare.” Wildlife rehabilitation is the act of providing temporary care for injured, sick or orphaned wildlife with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. By providing unique insights into issues affecting wildlife populations, species, and habitats, wildlife rehabilitation contributes to wildlife conservation and welfare worldwide.
Gather Voices makes it effortless to dramatically increase the amount of video that organizations create and share, with an intuitive set of software solutions that automate the creation, management and publishing of video – plugging seamlessly into existing technology. Gather Voices’ purpose is to strengthen human relationships for organizations; one video, one community, at a time. Learn more and schedule a demo atwww.gathervoices.co
The issue: As you may know, the wildfires in Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia have consumed large areas and devastated local wildlife populations in the millions — with estimates of the animal death toll at over a billion individuals. Wildlife rehabilitators are working tirelessly to triage, aid, and hopefully rehabilitate these animals. This work is challenging because of the sheer volume of animals and limited resources. It is also emotionally overwhelming to see such death and destruction, to lose many patients or not be able to get to animals in time.
What can we do?: The IWRC aims to support those on the ground in Australia with a morale boosting campaign. We are soliciting letters from youth (or anyone wishing to participate) to send to the rehabilitators, vets, and wildlife workers in Australia. This is a simple act but one that may make a significant difference for those dealing with this crisis first hand.
How you can help:
Write a letter/card, facilitate a letter writing campaign with youth, or donate cards or shipping.
Create a video message of support to the wildlife carers in Australia.
Please stay positive (these people are surrounded by devastation and need a boost!)
Address them generally (For example Dear Wildlife rehabilitators in Australia; To our friends in Australia etc.).
Add personal touches, have fun, and be creative!
Delivery Instructions: The IWRC will send all physical letters in bulk. If you are located near our office location (anywhere in Eugene Oregon) we may be able to pick them up. Otherwise they can be mailed to PO Box 3197 Eugene, OR 97403. If you have digital items to send please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delivery times: We will send the first batch of letters on Thursday, January 16th. Thereafter we will send them out on Thursdays, dates TBD.
If you have questions please feel free to email email@example.com or call 866.871.1869
There are no words in any human vocabulary to describe the unimaginable horror as Australia burns. There are emotions, deep-stabbing pains of grief, voids and the vacancy of loss, infinite vacuum of pain, but no words. Not one living thing consumed by this hell brought on by human greed and antipathy deserves this fate. I write this now, as my Australian colleagues have much more important things to do. I hope to voice some of their feelings, but I do not speak for them; I understand there is no possibility that I can ever know the pain they suffer.
Looking on the holocaust from afar is devastating. In the field, you put your head down, go to work, do your best and continue on. The personal pain and suffering comes later. From far away, helpless horror and despair takes over. I cannot weep, I cannot rage, I am numb. The tearing rip through my soul does not yet sear.
I have been an Australiophile since I can remember. On my first trip, the first view from the airport on hitting the soil of this fabulous continent took my breath away. I knew I was there. The airport, the people, the industrial aspect –all familiar–but there were galahs, right there. And magpie larks and noisy miners and funny-looking pigeons with crests. I was entranced and filled with wonder! Of all the places in the world to burn to nothingness, the loss of Australia is unfathomable. It is a continent already at the brink, and so susceptible and fragile to anthropogenic damage. The impact on the unique and ancient flora and fauna is beyond the scope of human understanding. There is nowhere else in the world these ecosystems and organisms exist. The fires are needless, preventable squandering of irreplaceable, priceless treasures. The Earth has been violated and robbed. So fortunate have I been, to have visited for several extended tours in regions that now are visions of hell. I vividly remember that stunning individual bowerbird who is now surely ash and his lovely bower rendered to molecules. I remember the first wild koalas I saw, on Kangaroo Island, smelling of chewed eucalyptus, whose remains now intermingle with the charcoal of their favorite gum trees.
Reading the news that Kangaroo Island was aflame dropped the bottom out of my heart. I remember Australia: the first goanna, the first mallee trees; the first brown snake; the first bulldog ant; the first voracious leech; I remember them all and I know they are gone, dead in the most horrible fashion. Gone are half a billion wild animals. Half of all animals in Australia. Countless livestock and pets. Indigenous communities, lands and people. Death of entire ecosystems. Death of a continent. Death of biological record so important to evolution and systematics. Death of history.
Australia is the lesson to the world of what is to come. It is not a surprise. In the late 1970’s I was a fresh young college student working in ecological studies, some of which were predicting the course of human impact on global ecosystems. For 50 years humans have known what would happen, yet little was done to change the course of destruction. Governments have refused to acknowledge or implement policy to prevent disaster. Australia is the result. The rest of us are next.
As a wildlife veterinarian I know there is little to be done. Skills in euthanasia will be the most valuable at this point. Yet valiant and dedicated people give their all and rescue the animal fire victims, of which each individual will now be more important than ever to any remaining population. Wildlife rehabilitators are always heros; but this is a new level of courage.
How can we help? I know that everyone of you would jump on a plane tomorrow with a bag of supplies, but that is not what our friends and the burn victims need most.
The easiest answer is money – providing money so rehabilitators can buy what they need.
Morale support – we are there if needed. Spreading the word, for help and for prevention.
Educating ourselves and others about our local ecological regions and how humans fit into our world, and how deeply we damage it.
Advocating for change and awareness.
Being political and outspoken when needed.
Acknowledging the imminent climate crisis and preparing for the impact on our own turf.
Be the best wildlife rehabilitator you can be – in the future you will be needed more than ever!
Pat Latas, DVM
IWRC Board of Directors
Editor’s note: University of Sydney Ecology professor Chris Dickman is estimating 1 billion animals have been killed thus far by the record-breaking wildfires in Australia, as of Jan 8, 2020.
IF YOU CONTINUE TO SCROLL DOWN, YOU WILL SEE DISTURBING IMAGES OF WILDLIFE AFFECTED BY FIRE
On Jan 2, Facebook user Nick Ritar posted the following ten photos taken at Bastion Beach in Mallacoota, Victoria and said:
“Birds of Eastern Australia 2020
2. Rainbow Lorikeet
4. Top Knot Pigeon
6. New Holland Honeyeater
8. Gang-gang Cockatoo
10. Barn Owl
This is what climate change looks like.”
Editors note: specimen identifications were his, and frankly – there’s really no need to publicly speculate or correct them at this point in time.
Editors note: The act of compiling this post has been enough shake me to my core. Just like you, I feel utterly devastated and every image actually feels like someone is trying to pull my heart out of my chest. I have cried, wanted to punch someone (preferably a climate denier) and seriously considered screaming into a pillow as a release. But none of those things will help the people and animals that are suffering and I know the only thing I actually can do to help them is to donate. This is yet more reason for me to get back to work on IWRC’s Disaster Preparedness project so that we – all wildlife rehabbers -can all be ready to respond to these events in the future. I’ve lived through several big fire outbreaks here in southern California and I can honestly say that the only thing the local rehabbers needed from the outside rehabbers was money and moral support. So please, choose one or more of the rehab affiliated links that we have listed on this Facebook post and donate. – Brooke Durham
You can find short bio’s on each of our staff members here!
Q&A with Aya:
Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.
When I was twelve years old my neighbor rescued a baby squirrel from the jaws of her dog. She gave the little one to me and my parents to care for. The process of researching squirrel care, building her an environment, getting to enjoy her presence and then, the bittersweet experience of releasing her had a significant impact on me during a formative moment in my life. It helped me comprehend that wild (or domestic) creatures, and the natural world itself, has an intrinsic value completely distinct from human valuations. At the same time we all live within systems that inextricably connect us. The act of rehabilitating a creature that, hopefully, will never look back upon its release, seems a significant way to respect their value and those systems upon which we all depend.
How did you initially become involved with IWRC?
The first time I encountered the IWRC was through the job posting for my current position. I was immediately drawn to the blend of wildlife protection and education and love the office culture and passion of the employees!
Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC’s mission.
I have a great affinity for bioregionalism which, among many other things, asserts that knowing ones bioregion not only allows us to live within our environments in an informed way but also creates a deep sense of belonging to a physical place. This knowledge and sense of belonging is believed to naturally lead to pro-environmental behavior. I view the IWRC’s focus on education and their work to continually build on the field of wildlife rehabilitation as critical for improving the welfare of individual wild animals. However, this educational component also creates an important awareness and an ethic of care that is much needed given the current climate and extinction crises.
Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I am particularly proud of what some of my past students have accomplished. One such student cited my Islam and Nature course as an important factor in her decision to pursue a JD in environmental law. Another student from the Environmental Ethics course I TA-ed went on to become a prominent member of the Sunrise Movement and was very informed by this course as well. These are not my accomplishments but they make me feel incredibly fulfilled and part of something larger. I love working in education because you never know how your work will affect your students, they can go on to do things you yourself could not have imagined.
If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?
Aldo Leopold! Leopold is a particularly incredible conservation trailblazer because of the ecocentric view of the world he developed and that he was able to do so long before others came to the same conclusions. Through his writing Leopold is able to uncannily express what I feel but cannot myself put into words. Besides all this, he was a dedicated parent and partner, a knowledgeable forester, scientist, and conservationist!
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise”
– Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 262
If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?
While going to school I really enjoyed my research studying Muslim and Islamic environmentalists in Senegal. Although I ultimately don’t see myself as an academic, I still think it would be amazing to continue that research and write a book on the topic.
With just a month or so to go before another year closes out, the team at the IWRC have been reflecting on our past couple of years’ accomplishments which are accelerating year on year. Front of mind is that none of our work is possible without the generosity of our supporters around the globe, and equally, that all of our work should be accessible, for all wildlife professionals, around the globe.
Sincere thanks to all our members and industry supporters who recognise the value of the education we provide and believe in our mission; to provide evidence-based education and resources on wildlife rehabilitation to move the field of wildlife rehabilitation forward; to promote wildlife conservation and welfare; and to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts worldwide, through the better understanding of wild animal ecology, behavior and welfare. By joining us you help to elevate our organization’s credibility which symbiotically helps us to generate funds to deliver current, relevant and informative education material.
Over the last 2 years we have seen a rise in demand and here are a few wonderful stats over the last few years;
1300 members across 23 countries now utilise our Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation
1495 books ranging from animal behaviour, wildlife rehabilitation, wildlife nutrition, wildlife medical care, wildlife parasitology were delivered to professionals in 2018.
35 classes in basic wildlife rehab, pain and wound management, oil spill volunteering, parasitology, reuniting raptors, and zoonoses were delivered to 885 students in 5 countries.
As we move into 2020 we aim to start reaching out to the broader community, those not actively engaged with wildlife on a daily basis yet who are compassionate toward the work we do. Individuals and corporations who care about raising the standards within wildlife rehabilitation and are as excited as we are about making evidenced-based wildlife education accessible to more corners of the globe, for more humans and in turn for more animals.
Our field is constantly evolving and we see firsthand how science based information makes positive change for wildlife. We stand firm in supporting the protection and conservation of endangered wildlife and aim to prevent non endangered species from becoming threatened.
Wherever and however you engaged with us this past year, either through taking a course, joining or renewing your membership, approving a grant, signing a cheque, creating a fundraiser, or donating time to volunteer, we thank you for joining us on this journey, as we continue to generate the funds, to improve Wildlife Care Worldwide.
On behalf of the Development Committee and Board of Directors.
IWRC founding board member and former Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation editor Gary Bogue died at his Bay area home this September at age 81. In December of 1974, Gary, curator at the Alexander Lindsay Junior Museum, was one of eight individuals to sign the articles of incorporation for IWRC, at the time called Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. He had been involved with IWRC since the earliest of board minutes – January 17, 1974, and although I have no records, likely as early as a 1972 consortium of rehabilitators where the gem of IWRC began.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s Gary had a column in the Wildlife Journal (Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation). In Fall of 1982 he took over as Journal Editor. By all accounts, Gary was heavily involved with the founding and development of IWRC.
Gary, we are grateful for your passion and perseverance on behalf of wildlife!
The following is the third in a short series of posts from IWRC staff and board members who attended the WDA Conference at Granlibakken Resort in Tahoe City, California USA in August 2019
Multiple-drug resistance in wildlife
From the 2019 Wildlife Disease Association Conference, several presentations gave great cause for worry. The number of documented multi-antibiotic resistant infections in wildlife is increasingly more serious. Anthropogenic exposure is causing never-treated wildlife to host serious pathogens that will require specialized and aggressive antibiotic therapy; these organisms also could endanger rehabilitators and staff.
Wildlife as diverse as the kodkod, also called güiña (Leopardus guingna) in Chile and the California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) in California have microbial flora with multiple antibiotic resistance, reflecting the urban and agricultural environments in which they live.
Irene Sacristan and her team investigated antibiotic resistance genes in the güiña in Chile. PCR testing was used to identify genes associated with antimicrobial resistance; and since these genes are considered to be environmental contaminants, the results could be used to compare anthropogenic impact. The felines most exposed to human disturbance had the highest drug-resistant genes (including MRSA), but even pristine environments showed influence. The use of affordable PCR testing will become more and more important to diagnosis and characterization of diseases in our wildlife, and rehabilitators should be ready and educated for the time it actually happens.
Peter Sebastian and his team at UC Davis working with California condors examined cloacal E. coli (Escherichia coli) patterns of multiple-drug microbial resistance. The variation in the E. coli resistance depended upon the food source, and it is possible that those birds feeding on livestock carcasses may reflect antimicrobial resistance in livestock; and thereby environmental contamination.
Gulls in Alaska were shown to have multiple-drug antimicrobial resistance when their E. coli genome was sequenced. Christina Ahlstrom and collaborators found that trash-dump birds traveled locally and, by satellite tracking, were shown to travel as far south as southern California and East Asia. The potential of acquisition and dispersal of multi-drug resistant E. coli has many ramifications for human, environmental and animal health.
Marine mammals of the Salish Sea are being evaluated for multiple-drug resistant E. coli by Stephanie Norman and her collaborators. Seals and porpoises are showing evidence of such, and studies are on-going.
It is a lesson to all of us in wildlife rehabilitation to base antibiotic use on evidence: bacterial culture and antibiotic sensitivity should direct treatment, rather than just reaching for that vial of “xyz” for every animal. And a reminder that wildlife from urban and agricultural areas are highly likely to have resistant infections even if they never had antibiotics ever in their life! It is also a lesson for wildlife rehabilitators to collect good data and so contribute to research, disease survey and surveillance. And speaking of good data: every wildlife rehabber is important and can contribute significantly to both specific and overall knowledge bases. Early detection of disease or issues is at the doorstep of first-responder wildlife careers. Who are the boots-on-the-ground in the beginning of an outbreak, mortality, stranding, poisoning or other event? Several speakers mentioned the value of biologist/One-Health/disease surveillance collaborations with wildlife rehabilitation centers. It was gratifying to hear that the disease professionals value contributions from our community.
Pox viruses (Poxviridae) are an important disease for rehabilitators to understand. Amanda MacDonald and her team investigated pox viruses and found that different pox isolates are restricted to different taxa, but sporadic and evolving strains have the potential to infect more than one species. This information of extreme importance to managing outbreaks. For the rehabilitators, knowing these facts will help with bio-security and isolation policies.
A lot is happening on the wildlife vaccine front. Real progress has been made on a White-nose syndrome with an oral, mass application carrier-virus vaccine for bats, and gives hope to the eventual protection of threatened populations and hibernacula.
Investigation into an effective oral formulation of anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) vaccine may be a good approach to protect wildlife in anthrax-endemic areas. Allison Fricht from Texas A&M University discussed the development of an oral anthrax vaccine for ruminants, wildlife and livestock. This is an important development to protect animals in regions where anthrax is endemic. The problem with ruminants is their many stomachs will denature oral vaccines and render them inactive or digested. Having a formulation that can be incorporated into feed or forage is a great advancement.
Vaccine trials in roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) with a tick vaccine show promise in controlling tick infestations in Spain, as described by presenter Isabel García Fernández de Mera.
Reptiles and amphibians were well-represented, with some great presentations on very frightening emerging and new diseases. Rehabbers especially in the southeast USA, but in reality, all across the globe, should be on the look-out for unusual oral and skin lesions in their herps. The diagnostic trail can usually start with a simple swab and finding the right lab. Fungal lesions are increasingly common, and some of the amphibian diseases thought to be ONLY in salamanders are now known to have the potential to infect anurans (frogs and toads). And sadly many of the novel diseases are likely related to the pet trade and trafficking, and “exotic” disease can appear anywhere and cause epidemics in local fauna.
Bunyavirus in turtles (softshells and cooters) – oral lesions and ulcers and plaques on other soft tissues along with severe internal organ lesions were examined by Lisa Shender and her team along the St. Johns River in Florida, USA. They discovered an underlying, new virus affecting all of them. The infection is similar and the virus is identical to one found in farmed turtles a number of years ago. Lethal new and emerging diseases are a serious threat to any vulnerable species and chelonians in general are under great threat and pressure.
It may seem esoteric, but having tissue culture cell lines from amphibians and reptiles is absolutely essential for detecting and diagnosis of diseases. Cell lines are very difficult from herps, and for many years there were only a handful of them in existence. Cell cultures are used especially in viral diseases and difficult parasites and demanding bacteria. Tracy Logan and her research team at the University of Florida were able to develop a number of lines that will be integral to diagnosis in herp diseases.
Truly horrifying and associated with climate change and animal trafficking and the exotic pet trade: serious, fatal fungal diseases. The chytrid fungus is well-known for debilitating disease in frogs and toads, but the Bsal (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) chytrid, infecting salamanders in Europe, may appear in the New World at any time. A team from the University of Tennessee looked into the possibility that Bsal not only could infect salamanders but potentially could spill over into frogs and toads. The animals developed typical lesions. This fungus could represent a serious threat to non-salamanders. Both this fungus and the other chytrid mycotic diseases in amphibians have been associated with legal and illegal trafficking of amphibians for the pet trade. Rehabbers should be alert to amphibian diseases, take appropriate samples, submit for testing, and be prepared for and assume all are highly contagious until proven otherwise.
Nicola Peterson and team from Australia were involved in a real-life detective story, tracing severe fungal disease in water dragons (Physignathus). Until very recently, mixed fungal diseases were described only from captive/pet animals. A recent outbreak in a city park is now confirmed from multiple locations. There is evidence that the original “patient zero” was a sick pet that was witnessed being released into the park. More reason than ever for rehabilitators to be vigilant, be aware that the pet trade adversely impacts wild populations, and to be prepared for multiple layers of diagnosis.
Hair samples can be analyzed via spectrometry to reveal health status of populations. Hair is easy to collect, store, archive and identify. Jesper Moshbacher and many international collaborators analyzed trace elements from muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) and showed that hair analysis was practical and useful tool, especially in remote and infrequently sampled regions.
Several talks concerned sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes scabiei) outbreaks, which may have become a global crisis. From South America to California.
A team from the University of California Davis monitored a small population of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis mutica) and described potential routes of infection, den climate favorable to the mites, and proposed possible control measures. Another team from California Department of Fish & Wildlife compared various canid hosts and the genetic make-up of their mites, to determine if coyotes, foxes and dogs could be involved. They found the mites to be host specific and recommended treatment focusing on the kit foxes.
Some frightening news has come out of California and Australia. Chlamydia infections are quite complicated and more sophisticated testing may be required. Not all Chlamydia are the same and novel species have been found in in native pigeon species and in raptors.
Helena Stokes and her team from Deakin University in Australia have found that infection by “regular” Chlamydia species in native parrots, people, and chickens can flow in all directions, with all pathogens and affect the host species in different ways. A lot more work needs to be done, including testing for novel species of Chlamydia.
Michelle Hawkins lead an investigation into characterizing and describing a new species of Chlamydia associated with severe disease in raptor species in California. It may be important to test sick birds for chlamydia by PCR and in addition request genome sequencing. Collaboration with investigators could be valuable.
It was nice to hear from the world of invertebrates. We rehabbers may be asked to gain skills with invertebrate care and release in the near future, as climate crisis impacts more biodiversity. Ania Majewska from the University of Georgia investigated the protozoan parasites in Monarch butterflies in relation to urbanization.
Having been a fan of @WhiteAbalone since they started their Twitter account, I was thrilled to attend Blythe Marshman’s talk on white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni), an endangered species, and the rickettsial withering Syndrome. The presentation tied together the impact of overfishing, stress, changing water temperatures, and pathogen interactions. The care and compassion shown for the animals in their care was very inspiring.
Environmental conditions that favor algal overgrowth can be related to mass casualties in waterbirds. Corinne Gibble and her co-authors showed the brain pathology associated with both acute and sub-lethal toxin exposure.
Vectors and vectors-borne infections were the subject of a number of the talks. Francisco Ruiz-Fons and his team investigated Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) associated with ticks of the genus Hyalomma and red deer (Cervus elaphus) in southern Europe. This virus represents a possible threat to hunters and other humans who handle the animals (rehabilitators, veterinarians, etc). The disease may be widespread and rehabilitators should be aware of ticks, tick bites, and animals suffering from vector-borne disease.
Climate change and human activities may be influencing the distribution of ticks and their pathogens. In Norway, Carlos das Neves sampled many species of ungulates for hepatitis E and tick-borne encephalitis virus, both of which can infect humans and livestock, and demonstrated ungulates as valuable sentinels for early detection of emerging disease.
Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) in upland game birds was detected in wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus), and American woodcock (Scolopax minor) from Pennsylvania, USA, and Christopher Cleveland from University of Georgia suggested these species may act as a reservoir for Lyme disease and the tick vector diseases.
Speaking of vectors, West Nile virus may be implicated in declining population numbers of the ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus). Climate conditions may become more favorable to mosquito vectors. Julie Menotti with Michigan Department of Natural Resources and her team investigated the presence of West Nile virus in dead and ill birds and recommended further studies. A study from Pennsylvania presented by Dominica Dec Peevy from Penn State covered landscape and mosquito characteristics and how they may influence risk factors for West Nile epidemics.
Sub-lethal exposure to rodenticides is common in bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), as reported by Kevin Niedringhaus. Exposure was detected in about 83% of golden eagles and 76% bald eagles, but mortality was about 4%. The effects on the population, and on individual birds, needs to be evaluated. As rehabilitators, you may be able to record exposure levels and contribute valuable data to the ongoing inquiry. We know, in other species, that sub-lethal exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides can have drastic impact on individual animals, and the more data we gather, the more we can assess and mitigate the impact.
An exciting study on post-release monitoring in hummingbirds using RFID (radio-frequency identification) might inspire some creativity. Ruta Bandivadekar from the University of California, Davis described a study of hummingbirds in rehabilitation and what methodologies impacted survivability. Post-release monitoring was integral to the study, and showed that RFID and PIT tags can contribute significant value to the available data.
Moral of the story, WDA 2019: we are a team!
Collaborations are incredibly important, valued, and sought. Wildlife rehabilitators can contribute directly to the knowledge base of wildlife disease and should be active partners in investigations.
The study of wildlife disease has matured and evolved. In order to implement effective solutions policy-makers, community leaders, sociologists, socio-economic experts, economists and other experts need to be engaged and invited onto teams. Discovering and describing diseases should be based on impeccable scientific inquiry, but successful implementation of change, mitigation of problems, and practical solutions will require outside help. Wildlife health workers must not be afraid of engaging outside experts and pushing their own comfort zones. Teamwork, engagement, and empowerment of professional networks, local communities, and colleagues is the only way that we will all mitigate the current climate crisis and anthropogenic catastrophe. Wildlife rehabilitators need to embrace scientific method, sharing, and collaboration in order to protect the precious creatures and environments we love; and to which we owe a debt and duty.
The following is the second in a short series of posts from IWRC staff and board members who attended the WDA Conference at Granlibakken Resort in Tahoe City, California USA in August 2019
Q&A with Julissa Angius
What were your favorite talks/papers?
(in no particular order)
“They’re always there”: Characterizing rat exposure and its consequences among residents of an impoverished, inner-city neighborhood in Vancouver, Canada presented by Dr. Chelsea G. Himsworth
This not not only gave an interesting look at how urban rats live and socialize, it gave commentary on the human aspect of those living around and with the rats. This goes into the human and social inequalities in a rather affluent modern city.
White Abalone (Haliotis sorenseni) resilience in the face of extinction: mitigating disease impacts on endangered abalone in a captive breeding program presented by Ms. Blythe Marshman
Just cool because sometimes you don’t think about animals such as these! AND they are going extinct! We just need to be aware of those animals outside of our normal scope.
Integration of Wildlife and Environmental Health into a One Health Approach presented by Dr. Jonathan Sleeman
I am interested on how to integrate the One Health approach into our classes and make it relevant to wildlife rehabilitators. Jonathan is a great speaker and gave some great insight into this subject.
Modeling land-sea transmission of Toxoplasma gondii presented by Dr. Tristan Burgess
Goes into how toxo is transmitted from the land to the sea and those marine creatures affected. Nothing is too big or small to cross-contaminate! Yikes!
Development of a killer whale health database to assess individual and population health of southern resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) presented by Dr. Forrest Gomez
Illustrates how different organizations can work together with some technology to create an amazing tool that is organized and full of detail to track the health of these animals.
Early detection of health events through temporal anomalies in wildlife admissions at rehabilitation centers presented by Dr. Pranav Pandit
Whoot! Go Rachel and Devin! Excellent study on how rehabilitators can be an alert system to other wildlife professionals through an accessible database for all! Bringing the ‘little people’ to the big people table!
Did you learn something that wildlife rehabbers should really be aware of or concerned about?
Yes, rehabbers should really invest in going to conferences such as these, not just rehab type conferences, to broaden the mind on what is out there! This is definitely my favorite conference because of its diversity on every level!
Were there old friends that you ran into or reconnected with? Did you meet new acquaintances?
Yes! Especially all the IWRC types! We don’t get to see each other in person so much and it’s so beneficial, socially and work wise!
Definitely got to meet and engage with new people that I never would have outside of this conference!
Who did you talk about IWRC or wildlife rehabilitation with that perhaps you would only ever have a chance to talk to at a Wildlife Disease Association event?
There is the lovely forensic veterinarian from the forensic lab in Ashland. The new vice-president of WDA and USGS person Tom DeLiberto.
The following is the first in a short series of posts from IWRC staff and board members who attended the WDA Conference at Granlibakken Resort in Tahoe City, California USA in August 2019
I’ve recently returned home from the 2019 Wildlife Disease Association Conference, my first one. I highly recommend this meeting to any academic or disease minded rehabilitator (2020 Spain, 2021 Madison, 2022 Georgia, 2023 Australia). The first keynote, by Dr Pieter Johnson focused on community ecology as a tool for understanding parasite interactions and anticipating disease risk. Traditionally these scientific ways of thinking had little overlap. This talk set an excellent conference tone of collaboration across artificial boundaries and a true One Health view of the world.
The attendees were diverse in field, location, language, and age. I was able to spend time with IWRC staff (Julissa), board (Brooke Durham, Mandy Kamps, Pat Latas), members (several!), and instructor (Rob Adamski) and our NWRA colleagues. I was also able to meet with rehabilitators from South Korea (전북야생동물센터 Jeonbuk Wildlife Center) and Chile (Refugio Animal Cascada) researchers in South Sudan, Bangladesh, India, Norway, and Australia, and bend the ear of regulators in several countries about the benefits of wildlife rehabilitation.
It wasn’t just me talking about wildlife rehabilitation, though I certainly did enough of that in the corridors and at meals. Several speakers wove wildlife rehabilitation into their talks, even more obtained data from animals brought in to wildlife rehabilitation. Most thrilling was the work that Terra Kelly, Pranav Pandit and their team did, collaborating with WRMD to create a first of its kind early alert system. With buy-in from multiple California rehabilitators, they integrated with the data wildlife rehabilitators were already entering to see trends in disease that spanned beyond a single rehabilitator. Imagine, 2 murres here, 5 there, another 6 over there, and pretty soon a pattern emerges (or doesn’t).
Wildlife rehabilitation centers are “uniquely poised to advance knowledge of threats to wildlife health and populations”
My takeaway from the 2019 Wildlife Disease Association Conference “Fostering Resiliency in a Time of Change” was that we need a true One Health approach to disease management for the good of all species, and that wildlife rehabilitation must be a player on the ‘big stage’ of global health.
Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship with wildlife.
As a child, I LOVED wildlife. I would find toads, salamanders, snakes, bumble bees and hold them all! I was fascinated by their behaviors and could watch them for hours. When I was about 7 years old, I would visit two swans across the street – my home was in an area with a large marsh and wooded area. I would whistle for them and the pair would fly in with a big swoosh. They even allowed me near their nesting area and would approach me as I sat on the seawall and playfully nip at my sneaker tips. I never touched them, I simply watched them for hours. When I was about 8 years old, I brought a snake home and convinced my mother that I needed her/him for my science project. She allowed me to keep the snake for several weeks until the project was completed. The snake would sit in my hand and wrap around my fingers. Unfortunately, my Uncle came by and identified her/him as a baby Copperhead. I begged him for a 10-minute head start before telling my mother, so I could run out to the marsh and woods to release her/him, safely! The snake never attempted to bite me.
I wanted to be a veterinarian from the time I learned to say the word!
How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?
I became a member of the IWRC after seeing them at my first NWRA Symposium. I Purchased the Book Wildlife Rehabilitation: A Comprehensive Approach, and found it to be easier reading than the NWRA manual. I have served on the CWRA Board of Directors for a number of years. I have considered submitting an application to the NWRA or IWRC but was on the fence about which one. I will most likely relocate out of state at some point and I was looking for a responsible organization to continue to serve. I believe the IWRC is emerging as a viable (and valuable) resource for wildlife rehabilitators. The IWRC won out over the NWRA, although I appreciate both organizations, immensely!
Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC’s mission.
Increasing the demographic of the IWRC and the continuation of the dissemination of accurate information, as we learn more about wildlife and that information changes.
Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator? (or as an IWRC board member?)
My communications training has been a huge asset. Client service skills were developed during my time in retail management. I was fortunate to have been a communications and benefits manager for Time Warner. This allowed me to hone my skills as an educator, coach and presenter. These skills enable me to assist other rehabilitators and the community with regard to wildlife (Put the rabbit back!).
Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I can learn anything. That is why my professional experience covers an array of industries. The most significant accomplishment would have to be my transition from retail into corporate. I had all of the skills for retail and almost none of the technical skills required for Corporate. I was sent on a “practice” interview and met with a VP of Human Resources. After the interview, I was to report back to the temp agency and they would compare notes with the VP. The VP requested me as her new temp employee and argued with the temp agency who had the client’s interest in mind and wanted a good match. The VP won and I began working for her. Two weeks later, Time Warner purchased the company. I completed my temp assignment and was contacted by Time Inc.’s VP of HR who requested that I take on another temp assignment implementing a new call center during open enrollment that year. Once completed they refused to let me go and I was promoted several times during the next 10 years. It was a great place to work during those years!
If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?
I appreciate all of the Board members, but I know I asked whether Dani would be available. I was delighted when she agreed to be my mentor!
If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?
Wildlife or Forensic Biologist.
If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?
What is the thing for which you have waited in line the longest?
Concert tickets – Bruce Springsteen
What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?
Knowing that I will be travelling to see my family!
Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.
I have a 10 lb rabbit named Ollie. He is nine years old and a big love. He loves to simply hang out and take in whatever is going on around him.
I share a couple of rabbits with friends because mine was boarded and bonded with their pets. It did not seem fair to pull them when so happy!
I have a rescue Chihuahua who was left abandoned in an apartment in CA with her sister, for two weeks before Animal Control found them. She was emaciated and near death and brought to a kill shelter for humane euthanasia. She was pulled at the last minute by a rescue organization (She was not even a year old!) and flown to CT.
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