Summit Highlights Beaver Impact

Photo Credit: Cheryl Reynolds

This April I attended the California Beaver Summit, an event focused on the positive impact of beavers on the California landscape and their key role in ecological restoration projects.

As a wildlife rehabilitator the information on managing common human/beaver conflicts was especially useful. The full summit is available to watch.

I found these three presentations particularly interesting
as a wildlife rehabilitator:

IWRC Member Spotlight: Cyprus Wildlife Research Institute

Our Member Spotlights feature our incredible members across the world, rehabilitating baby penguins in South Africa, sea turtles in Cypress, bats in the United States, brown bears in Kosovo, and beyond. We invite you to visit our map to meet more members and click here if you are an IWRC member who would like to be featured.


Organization: Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (Cyprus Wildlife Research Institute)

Location: Kyrenia, Cyprus

A juvenile Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), which later returned to the nature, during flipper amputation surgery.

IWRC: Hello! So, tell us a little bit about your organization and the work you do.

The Cyprus Wildlife Research Institute (CWRI) was established in 2018, in Kyrenia, Cyprus as part of the Taskent Nature Park (itself established in 2016), in order to serve as a coordinating authority for our rehabilitation facilities. It consists of the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, the Cyprus Marine Life Center, and the Wildlife Hospital and Research Laboratory.

IWRC: What brought you into wildlife rehabilitation work? 

After we set up as a wildlife and nature education center, we started to get calls from people asking for help with wildlife. We answered the call and in a short time, we had a Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in our hands.

IWRC: What wildlife species do you rehabilitate?

We mainly deal with birds as our island’s reptile and mammal varieties are limited. We have approximately 150 different species of birds coming into our Center every year. We do snake rescues as well and accept all reptiles and mammals too. Our Marine Life Center was established in 2017 and we have also been accepting sea turtles since for treatment and rehabilitation.

IWRC: What is your fondest wildlife rehabilitation memory?

When we set up, there was a sea turtle, ‘unreleasable’ at one of the universities, kept in a small tank. It was there for about 2 years. We received the animal, and after another 2 years of intense rehabilitation, we managed to undo all the mistakes that were previously done and have the animal ready for release. It was released with a satellite tag after 4.5 years of captivity and to our surprise it began migrating immediately. Watching her swim from Cyprus to Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and then finally to Egypt day by day was a delight we cannot forget.

A Barn owl (Tyto alba) in minimum standard sized rehabilitation room prior to release.

IWRC: What challenges have you faced in your wildlife rehabilitation work?

We have no financial support from government. Being the only center in Cyprus, and not being able to share the load, we are the victim of our own success. The number of animals arriving at our Center has been increasing since 2016 and it has become challenging to cover expenses.

IWRC: Has the IWRC aided you in your journey as a wildlife rehabilitator? If so, can you explain how or give an example?

When we first decided to set up a rehabilitation center, we did our research and studied the Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation book. Our center is literally built around that book. From restricted to limited to unlimited cages, the whole center is built considering to the specifications established in the book.

IWRC: What common misconception about wildlife rehabilitation would you like to dispel?

People think when they hand over an animal to us, it’s 100% saved. It took us a while to get people to realize that we are achieving 45-50% success rate, and that rate is actually very good.

Hand feeding orphaned owl chicks.

A large whip snake (Dolichophis jugularis) being treated for open wounds that happened due to dog predation.

IWRC: How has your wildlife rehabilitation work been impacted by COVID-19?

We have lost much of the already very limited steady income that we had.

IWRC: What local, national, or international policy would you like to see that would support wildlife rehabilitation?

We are a small island; the Environmental Protection Department already gave us exclusive permission to handle all wildlife rehabilitation on their behalf. We would like them to back this up with some funding as well, but it is difficult.

Crop feeding of mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) during its hospitalisation phase.

A white stork (Ciconia ciconia) exhausted from migration receiving a medical check-up.

IWRC: What do you hope for the future of wildlife rehabilitation?

We always say, the day we will be most successful with wildlife rehabilitation is when our Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is empty and people reach the level of awareness so that no wild animal gets sick or injured from man-made causes requiring any assistance.

IWRC: What message would you like to share with other IWRC members and wildlife rehabilitators across the world?

Waiting for animals to get sick or injured so we can try to save them is not sustainable. Trying to save a wild animal we receive is very important. We should never forget that it is equally important to know why a wildlife is needing help and using that information for raising awareness in order to prevent future similar cases from happening in the first place.

Placement of a feeding tube (oesophagostomy operation) on a Loggerhead sea turtle
(Caretta caretta).

IWRC: Where can people learn more and follow your work?

Website: http://www.cwri.net/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cypruswildlife 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/taskentdogaparki

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/wildliferescue

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cypruswildlife/ 

IWRC: Thank you so much for everything you do and sharing your story with us! 


We want to hear from you! If you an IWRC member and would like to share your wildlife rehabilitator story with us, please click here.

 

Spotlight on New Board Member, Ashley Ihrke

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?

I started volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center in early 2017 and became a staff member shortly before

 going back to graduate school that same year. Once I became a staff member, I did more research and background around professional organizations in the wildlife rehabilitation field and discovered IWRC. I signed up as a member that year and have beena member since. Since graduating from school in 2019, I left my position at the rehabilitation center and have been involved as a volunteer helping sporadically when my work schedule allows with the center and other local rehabilitators. When the email came stating there were openings for the board, I found myself interested in the possibility of serving as a board member since I was not able to commit full-time to working as a wildlife rehabilitator and saw it as an opportunity to be involved and serve the rehabilitation community at another level.  

 

Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator? (or as an IWRC board member?)

I have a diverse background having switched careers 6 years ago. My education includes a BS in Ecology and Field Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Biology followed by a Masters in Environmental Health and Safety (heavily concentrated in occupational safety and industrial hygiene).  This masters served as my primary profession for about four years in both public and private entities before I decided that it wasn’t what I wanted.  However, with this education and professional experience, I have gained a wide range of knowledge on public health, emergency management, and occupational and environmental regulations that have become very helpful in other aspects of life from volunteering roles to wildlife rescue to engaging with general members of the public to rehabilitating.  Since obtaining my second graduate degree, I have felt that I am able to serve my fellow rehabilitation community in other ways than just animal care by aiding in understanding regulations and public policy at a local, state, and federal level, helping to identify ways to approach and engage with different populations within the community and be more active as an advocate for wildlife conservation and welfare.

 

Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

Completing a second graduate degree is one of the biggest accomplishments I consider significant in my career. I went ahead knowing that it was going to be a challenge and a significant change to my personal life as well. It also meant more to me as it was a subject I was passionate about since a young age. I managed to complete a Masters of Science in four semesters with a defended thesis and a GPA of 4.0. It was something I worked extra hard for and happily achieved.

 

If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?

I have a wide range of interests, but if I were to do something else professionally it would be to be a lobbyist. I enjoy the legislative process and actively engage in public policy at different levels. While in high school, I considered the environmental law school path to become more involved with politics for wildlife and natural resources.  

 

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

This is such a difficult question to answer because the first animal that came to mind was a skunk, and then a vulture. I know I would enjoy both as a wild animal in life. Skunks have such distinct personalities and a wide variety of colorings. They have this amazing ability to deter most species just from their scent!  For vultures, they are unseen and unwanted by many humans but they are such essential species in the role of maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Vultures are smart and resourceful birds with dynamic family groups.

 

What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?

Traveling excites me so much that it keeps me awake the night before. I am sure it is partially due to the stress of traveling: ensuring that the flight is on-time or no car troubles during the road trip, hoping for fair weather, and making sure I didn’t forget anything while packing. The excitement of heading somewhere new or somewhere you have been countless times before but always look forward to heading back to.  

 

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

Shelby is my 14-year-old yorkiepoo. She has a unique background and is considered a rescue. She was returned by her adopted family to the original breeder (they had one litter, and adopted all the pups out but one). Shelby was a shell of a dog, scared and shy when she came tome at 4.5 years old. It took a full year for her to feel comfortable with the human touch and want to be near you. She is spoiled now!  In the ten years she has been with me she has come to enjoy giving kisses, loves to cuddle on the couch or in bed, and isn’t afraid to voice her opinions. Shelby still has some fears: she is terrified over the smell of any kind of fire and smoke, a pan sizzling, and fireworks.

Spotlight on New Board Member, Lindsay Jones

Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.

From my earliest memories, I have always felt a close connection with all animals. As a young child, I was always bringing home stray animals and those in need of care, much to the dismay of my family. I started attending The Green River Preserve around the 3rd grade, which is a nature camp for gifted and motivated learners located in the mountains of North Carolina. There I was taught that our wildlife was to be respected, not feared, and I learned to walk through the forests as a mere visitor. Between the countless sightings, encounters, and education with wildlife at camp, I believe that this set me on a trajectory to become a wildlife biologist and rehabilitator. I have always felt that animals needed a voice, and I cannot imagine doing anything else. 

 

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level? 

Around the time I was graduating college with a BS in Animal Biology, I briefly spent time volunteering at Walden’s Puddle Wildlife Center in Joelton, TN, which turned out to have a dramatic impact on my career path. Shortly after arriving in Wyoming after college, I realized that there was a real need to provide care to injured and orphaned animals, especially considering that Jackson Hole’s economy relies heavily on our wildlife industry. I eventually co-founded the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (TWRC) which filled a much needed gap in the west for wildlife, where I served as Co-Founder, Executive Director, wildlife rehabilitation specialist, and Vice President from 2015-April 2020.

During my tenure, I exposed myself to as much education and training as I could possibly handle, which of course included rehabilitation classes taught by the IWRC. I am currently taking a break with wildlife rehabilitation to pursue other opportunities and get my bearings after separating from my non-profit. In lieu of not being in a position to help wildlife at the moment, joining the IWRC board is a great way for me to feel like I can still make a difference and stay connected with our wonderful wildlife rehabilitation community. I also wore many hats during my time at TWRC, and I believe that my well-rounded experience will be very helpful in furthering IWRC’s mission and goals.

 

Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC’s mission. 

I feel like I could be diving in head first here, but I truly feel a calling to contribute to building our membership base in addition to helping with development. Because I built my own rehabilitation non-profit from the ground up, I was extremely involved with our donor base, networking, outreach, and the building of our policies, just to name a few. These experiences are still very fresh in my mind and extremely vital to the success of an organization, so I can’t wait to jump in and offer my time in these areas to the people who have already established such an important and thriving organization.

 

Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

By far, I would consider the starting of my non-profit, the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, to be the most significant of my career. I always knew that I loved animals, which is why I chose to major in Animal Biology instead of going the medical route. However, I never knew exactly how I would utilize my degree until I spent some time at a rehabilitation center around the time of graduation. I had a Eureka moment after my brief time at Walden’s Puddle in Joelton, TN, and knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to the world of wildlife rehabilitation. 

Starting such a needed facility in the western U.S., not only in an intact ecosystem, but also amongst a sea of very established non-profits, really stands out among all of my other achievements. I will forever tout this as one of the most amazing accomplishments of my life and I am so proud to know that I contributed to the long-term well-being and survival of our wildlife.

 

If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?

In my next lifetime, I hope to be a forensic pathologist. I have early memories from high school, perhaps even earlier, of being fascinated with the cycle of life. I also have a predisposition for detective work and the minutiae of details, and I have always been intrigued with the events surrounding life and death. Who knows, there’s always room for multiple careers! 

 

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

I can’t say that I firmly believe that this animal has the best advantage in the wild, but I have an absolutely cosmic connection with owls (of all species). Perhaps not by choice, but by default, I would be an owl.

 

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

I share my life with my beautiful dog, Fern, and my two cats, Stanley and Jerry. I affectionately refer to them as my “roommates”, except I pay their rent. The cats are much more like dogs, where they love to go for walks and bike rides with Fern. They also get first priority on bed space, in case there were any questions. 

 

2020 Annual Members Meeting

IWRC held our 2020 Annual Members Meeting Oct 17. A full recording of the meeting is available to members (log in).

President Adam Grogan provided a brief presentation on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and our other activities this year.

Active committees, including Membership; Course Development; Executive; International; Finance; and Development, provided brief updates on their recent work.

We thanked our 49 volunteers!

Adam then introduced the member slate for our upcoming board election, which will begin November 2: Ashley Ihrke and Lindsey Jones. We gave thanks to outgoing board members Laurin Huse and Lloyd Brown.

Executive Director Kai Williams took a moment to reflect on our values

  • Work with passion
  • Pursue collaboration
  • Individuals matter
  • We value our members
  • Welfare and conservation work in synergy
  • Wildlife doesn’t recognize boundaries
  • Access to education
  • We practice professionalism
  • Science is our foundation

Katie provided an update on IWRC classes. IWRC started out the year of 2020 with a solid in-person class schedule. A few classes were held early in 2020, before COVID-19 became a fully realized pandemic. However, as we monitored the progression of the pandemic we quickly realized that we needed to move our classes to an online format to better serve our members and students, and ensure their safety. 

The spring and summer were devoted to creating an online version of our classic Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation class. The hybrid course includes live and recorded lectures from IWRC instructors, an interactive virtual lab or a socially distanced hosted lab, and online forums for student/instructor discussion. Our first class was hosted by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management in September, and the class received excellent reviews from students.  Currently we have scheduled online regional courses in Michigan, Alberta, Kentucky, and Indiana. As classes are still in high demand, we hope to schedule at least three others in the US/Canada in the coming months, and work to have an online international class early in 2021.

While the pandemic has posed great challenges for us, IWRC is committed to continuing to bring our classes to students. Our Program Coordinator, Aya Cockram, and all of our amazing IWRC instructors and hosts have done a phenomenal job in developing and advancing our online Basic Class. We are grateful to them and you, our members, for being committed to improving wildlife care worldwide.

Julissa reported that we currently have 1240 members spanning 23 countries.

There are currently 172 Certified Wildlife Rehabilitators (CWRs) active in nine countries on five continents. The CWR volunteer team is working to support and connect CWRs – Kai highlighted their continual promotion of CE opportunities – especially in the face of COVID-19.

We closed out the meeting with a short but lively ‘Coffee & Tea with the IWRC’ style session that focused on member needs and issues. The session provided staff with some great ideas to further support our members.

2020 National Veterinary Technician Week

In the United States, October 11th to October 17th, 2020 is National Veterinary Technician Week, which according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “provides an opportunity to recognize veterinary technicians’ contributions.”

Not every wildlife rehabilitator is or has a veterinary technician. However, technicians are certainly part of the wildlife rehabilitation process whether they are on your team as staff, volunteer, or a crucial part of the domestic animal veterinary team which assists rehabbers with the medical care of wildlife.

We want to take this opportunity to give a ‘shout out’ to veterinary technicians and nurses across the globe who dedicate their careers (and their lives) to the field of wildlife rehabilitation!

Missy Fox, CWR, CVT – Florida, United States

How long have you worked in the field of wildlife rehabilitation as a veterinary technician? 6 years 9 mos.

Where do you currently work? CROW: The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, on Sanibel Island, FL.

How did you first get drawn to the field of wildlife rehabilitation? I grew up in MN surrounded by tons of wildlife. I went to school for vet tech and immediately was drawn to wildlife medicine.

Describe an average day as a wildlife veterinary technician.Working at a wildlife hospital is very exciting and different every single day. You never know what animal may come in. The finder sheet may say duck and it is a cormorant. It may say rat and it is an opossum. Triaging and opening the boxes is like Christmas morning.One day you may be doing a blood transfusion on a rodenticide Hawk. The next day assisting in surgery on a 300 pound sea turtle. It is very exciting and rewarding when you see that animal head back into the wild.

Missy Fox, CWR, CVT monitoring anesthesia for a sea turtle.

Why do you work in the field of wildlife rehabilitation? What’s special about *this* field? As a vet tech in wildlife medicine, you get the excitement of emergency medicine coupled with conservation medicine. You are making a difference for that individual patient, but also keeping certain endangered or critically endangered animals around for the future generations.

Tell us about a case that stood out to you. Down in southwest Florida we have a world-famous eagles nest. We had Ozzie the male adult eagle twice in our care. He had been watched at that nest with his mate Harriet for 25 years or so. The second time he came in it was after fighting a male for his nest. He ended up passing in our care which was really sad. His partner Harriet obtained that new mate named M15. They had a baby named  E8. The eaglets are named in number. When that eaglet fledged he ended up getting hit by a great horned owl in the middle of the night. He went missing for a week and my co-worker Yvette, a volunteer and I went searching for him in the woods and we found him injured. He could fly, but luckily got stuck in thick vines and brush. He had a fractured femur. We pinned it at CROW. He was in our care for 3 months and got released back to his nest site. He was banded and was never seen again. That eagles nest will always have a special place in all of our hearts.

Pauline Nijman, vet tech – New Zealand

How long have you worked in the field of wildlife rehabilitation as a veterinary technician? I have been working as a technician for 11 years and was a marine mammal keeper prior and we did seal and seabird rescue/rehab (which was 7 years).

Tracie examining a duck while another individual holds the bird.

Where do you currently work? I work at Wildbase in NZ. We work within the NZ school of veterinary science and teach into undergraduate programs as well.

How did you first get drawn to the field of wildlife rehabilitation? Organically. I volunteered in a zoo from age 13, which is where I started learning many aspects of animal care. Since then I have become the operational manager for our dedicated wildlife rehab facility and was part of the design, build and direction.

Describe an average day as a wildlife veterinary technician.An average day for one of our techs:

Holding a penguin securely in a towel

Food prep for the resident native birds/reptiles as well as the rehab patients. Feed out which involves food/water and poop scooping, adding enrichment, waterproof assessment, adding browse etc. Clean up of food bowls and dishes then…. it depends on the day- might be aviary set up or break down, pool cleaning, fighting with a pump, soil changes, tutorials, office work- records and ordering/stock taking.

Why do you work in the field of wildlife rehabilitation? What’s special about *this* field? There is the altruistic appeal, being part of the solution, educating public about what they don’t see or notice. Then for me, I’m excited to research more ways to measure success so that an individual does not have to solely rely on experience and observations only. There are so many unique species and one shoe does not fit all when it come to rehab and I’d love to document some of the processes we have in NZ.

Tell us about a case that stood out to you. One of my faves was a falcon with a fractured tarsometatarsus. She was young and healed quickly but had a large callus which likely impinged on her tendons and/or nerves. She did not have great foot function initially. We were able to monitor her progress through our CCTV and create ways to exercise her feet without having to interact with her. By the time she was released she had near-perfect foot function and dexterity and that was a real win in my book!

Examining a penguin

Michelle Anderson, CVT – Michigan, United States

How long have you worked in the field of wildlife rehabilitation as a veterinary technician? I’ve been a veterinary technician for over 20 years but started working in the field of wildlife rehabilitation 12 years ago.

Where do you currently work? I am a home based volunteer rehabber with Upper Peninsula Wildlife Rehabilitation – Keweenaw Group, in Michigan and I specialize in birds.

How did you first get drawn to the field of wildlife rehabilitation? I’ve always had an interest in wildlife, especially birds. When I married my Coast Guard husband and we left Cleveland where I’m originally from, we were blessed to live in areas with lots of wildlife all over the country. I worked for a short time with seabirds at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and after that I experience I decided I’d try to get more into working with birds. At our next location in the Florida keys I was volunteering at a wild bird center down there and suddenly the rehabber at the Key West Wildlife Center left the position and I was asked if I wanted to take over. I was literally thrown to the fire with a small amount of bird knowledge and experience but through my years as a veterinary technician in other fields, I was able to take on the challenge and apply what I’d learned to birds and expand my bird training and expertise.

Describe an average day as a wildlife veterinary technician. No two days are alike that’s for sure! We are in a pretty spread out rural area, so it varies season to season what types of birds we get and the situations I have to deal with. The summer involves feeding a lot of orphaned, injured and ill baby songbirds from sun-up to sun-down. Physical exams upon arrival for each patient. Medications and treatments as needed. Running fecals and calculating doses of medications encompass the average day in the busy season.

Right now in the fall we get a lot of migrants coming through that get into trouble, such as striking windows or being hit by cars. My thought process is the same as a veterinary technician working in a big center, just tailored down a bit as most of my patients reside in a bird hospital I’ve created in part of our barn on our property.

Why do you work in the field of wildlife rehabilitation? What is special about *this* field? I want to try to help wildlife because I feel a responsibility to try counteract all the damage humans are doing to these beautiful creatures. The great majority of what we see is caused by humans. Hit by our cars, flying into our buildings, attacked by our domestic outdoor cats, the list goes on and on. Education is a huge part of our job as well as the hands on technical work with the animals. My hope is through our care of wildlife along with the education we do to help folks learn how to prevent these situations, we can do better by our wild friends and make a huge impact for our planet as a whole.

Tell us about a case that stood out to you. Oh boy! There have been a ton of awesome cases through the years. This past season was exciting because over the summer we built a large aviary on our newly purchased property. In the past we’d have to transfer larger bird cases to bigger centers because of the lack of appropriate-sized caging. We’ve had several herring and ring-billed gulls since I’ve been up here, every single one was either very very sick and died shortly after arrival, or had nasty wing injuries that couldn’t be repaired. Late summer we got a herring gull in with a fixable wing fracture! It was quite the struggle to do wing wrap changes and physical therapy as the bird was very aggressive (still have a scar on my leg!) but deep down I knew he’d recover with that sassy attitude. Such a delight to watch him fly around the aviary we worked so hard to build and later be released back into the wild. That was a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to provide the full span of rehab and recovery at my own little home based facility. The releases are just the BEST!!!

IWRC Member Spotlight: Kristina Madarang Stahl

Name: Kristina Madarang Stahl

Organization: Bear Sanctuary Prishtina and the Bear Care Group

Location: Prishtina, Kosovo  

Kristina with Gjina, a Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos), during an annual vet check, which includes weighing, dental, ultrasound, and tick removal.

IWRC: Hi Kristina! So, tell us a little bit about yourself…

Kristina: I’m a bear biologist, philanthropy and communications officer, editor, and board member of the Bear Care Group. I received my MS in environmental science and policy from Johns Hopkins University and have professional certificates in environmental communications, project planning and management, animal behaviour and welfare, animals in disasters (preparedness/planning), livestock in disasters, and fundraising & development from UC Davis, UVA Darden School of Business, Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, and the UEdinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. I am an avid student of the IWRC curriculum and have completed the zoonoses, pain management, and oil spill volunteering courses. I produce a podcast centered on bear behavior, management, and conservation called “Bear with Me: Let’s Talk Bears”. When I’m not working, I sing, play piano, box, play tennis, and train my standard poodle, Jackie, using operant conditioning.

IWRC: What brought you into wildlife rehabilitation work? 

Kristina: My move to Prishtina, Kosovo for a diplomatic tour brought me into wildlife rehabilitation work with Bear Sanctuary Prishtina and a local veterinary clinic, though my academic background in conservation biology and wildlife management serve as the foundation for this experience.

IWRC: What wildlife species do you rehabilitate?

Kristina: We have rescued and actively rehabilitated twenty Eurasian brown bears, abandoned and stray dogs, cats, and a Eurasian buzzard.

IWRC: What is your fondest wildlife rehabilitation memory?

Kristina: My fondest wildlife rehab memory was releasing a Eurasian buzzard who had presented several months earlier with extensive damage to its wing. It took almost an hour to convince it to fly, the moment that it pitter-pattered, flapped its wings, and disappeared into the woods was extremely satisfying – a long-awaited display of the dignity of this creature.

Kristina gives gives Stivi, a Eurasian brown bear, pain medication disguised in honey for the eye injury he acquired before he was rescued from life as a “restaurant bear.” A few months after this was photo was taken, Stivi got his bad eye removed, is no longer in pain, and easily maneuvers around his natural enclosure.

IWRC: What challenges have you faced in your wildlife rehabilitation work?

Kristina: Acquiring enough funding to allocate to the psychological aspects of the animals’ rehabilitation – finding cost-effective ways to enrich the animals and keep their natural behaviors sharp is extremely challenging.

IWRC: Has the IWRC aided you in your journey as a wildlife rehabilitator? If so, can you explain how or give an example?

Kristina: The IWRC is a wealth of resources and the courses are crucial to staying up with best practices and globally-recognized standards for rehabilitation.

IWRC: What common misconception about wildlife rehabilitation would you like to dispel?

Kristina: Misconception: all members of a species will act predictably the same. In my work with bears, it is apparent daily that each has his or her own personality and behavior traits. Many people with whom I have spoken try to generalize bear behavior, especially related to the topics of bear attacks, livestock predation, and habituation/development of nuisance bear behavior. While there are absolute truths about the preventative measures people can take to avoid both of these things, I try to drive home the point that each interaction can and will be different, so people should learn as much as they can from reputable sources, prepare for everything, and be adaptable.

Monitoring Oska’s heart rate and reactivity during a procedure addressing urethral inflammation. Oska recovered after a few days.

IWRC: How has your wildlife rehabilitation work been impacted by COVID-19?

Kristina: Limited access to the bears has limited enrichment opportunities.

IWRC: What local, national, or international policy would you like to see that would support wildlife rehabilitation?

Kristina: Passing the Big Cat Welfare Act and an addendum regarding other large charismatic megafauna like bears would help wildlife rehabilitation by making breeding for non-reintroduction/extinction prevention purposes illegal. This would decrease the number of poached cubs and mistreated restaurant, circus, and bear bile bears from around the world from ending up in sanctuaries and rehab facilities.

IWRC: What do you hope for the future of wildlife rehabilitation?

Kristina: I hope that wildlife rehabilitation can garner more public support and consistent government and private funding.

IWRC: What message would you like to share with other IWRC members and wildlife rehabilitators across the world?

Kristina: Great job! Keep up the good work. You are heroes in a well-respected trade with a great reputation.

IWRC: Where can people learn more and follow your work?

Website: https://www.four-paws.org/campaigns-topics/sanctuaries/bear-sanctuary-prishtina 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PylliiArinjvePrishtina/

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/kristina-madarang-stahl

IWRC: Thank you so much for everything you do and sharing your story with us, Kristina!


We want to hear from you! If you an IWRC member and would like to share your wildlife rehabilitator story with us, please click here.

IWRC Member Spotlight: Frances Bell RVN, DipVNZS, CWR

Name: Frances Bell RVN, DipVNZS, CWR

Organization: Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB)

Location: Capetown, South Africa

Frances with an African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) requiring debriding and suturing due to suspected seal predation in Capetown.

IWRC: Hi Frances! So, tell us a little bit about yourself…

Frances: I’ve been rehabbing wildlife for the last ten years in Australia, the UK and South Africa. I work mostly with birds but have also helped out with antelope, dassies, kangaroos, turtles, skinks, mongeese, tortoises, servals, bandicoots, hedgehogs, bats (of all kinds), vervet monkeys and…. did I mention birds? Including penguins? I went off to get my vet nursing qualification and after working for a couple of years in small animal practice, am now back in Capetown with my beloved penguins.

IWRC: What brought you into wildlife rehabilitation work? 

Frances: A desire to give something back.

IWRC: What wildlife species do you rehabilitate?

Frances: Any one I’m presented with! There are so many on my bucket list that I want to work with – sloths, pangolins, bears, manatees and and and… the list is endless.

IWRC: What is your fondest wildlife rehabilitation memory?

Frances: Releasing the first lot of penguin “blues” I’d reared from eggs. There’s nothing like the bitter-sweet feeling when precious babies who I’d poured so much love, time and effort into took their very first swim in the ocean, where they belong. It made all the heartbreak of a nightmare run of infection and dead chicks worthwhile.

Frances holding an echidna (Tachyglossidae) being treated for bumblefoot in Queensland, Australia.

IWRC: What challenges have you faced in your wildlife rehabilitation work?

Frances: Working with organisations who just want to keep doing what they’ve always done and are not open to even good change.

IWRC: Has the IWRC aided you in your journey as a wildlife rehabilitator? If so, can you explain how or give an example?

Frances: The IWRC helped me lift my rehab game… I learnt a lot in preparation for the CWR exam and realised that to provide gold standard care, I have to be committed to learning for the rest of my life.

IWRC: What common misconception about wildlife rehabilitation would you like to dispel?

Frances: That it’s about cuddling animals!!! That it’s appropriate to treat them like we do our non-human companions. That it’s easy and never has an emotional cost.

Frances hand-rearing grey headed flying fox pups (Pteropus poliocephalus) after their mothers died of tick paralysis in Queensland, Australia.

IWRC: How has your wildlife rehabilitation work been impacted by COVID-19?

Frances: It hasn’t. I’m still working with an endangered species because wildlife rehab orgs are deemed essential services. I have no idea when I’ll get home but it doesn’t matter – because right now I’m where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing.

IWRC: What local, national, or international policy would you like to see that would support wildlife rehabilitation?

Frances: Uniform international standards for wildlife rehabber accreditation and ongoing education just like the other animal professions – vets and vet nurses. Compulsory accreditation and registration of anyone who wants to call themselves a wildlife rehabber to ensure that everyone works to the highest standards. Recognition for wildlife rehabilitation as a profession in it’s own right, instead of, as in so many countries around the world, something that’s done on a voluntary basis by dedicated individuals who give their time, effort and money to help the helpless. Government funding for wildlife rehabilitation orgs so that what we do is not so constrained by a lack of funds.

IWRC: What do you hope for the future of wildlife rehabilitation?

Frances: That every rehabber realises the value of continuing education for the sake of the health and welfare of every animal that comes into care.

IWRC: What message would you like to share with other IWRC members and wildlife rehabilitators across the world?

Frances: What you do matters, whether you’re saving critically endangered species or common species such as pigeons. All are worthy of our best efforts regardless of their IUCN status. And our best efforts sometimes require stepping out of our comfort zones and learning new skills, new treatments, new ways of thinking.

IWRC: Where can people learn more and follow your work?

Frances: I’ve been to a lot of wildlife rehab places – the good, the bad and the ugly – but right now I”m here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SANCCOBSavesSeabirds/ 

IWRC: Thank you so much for everything you do and sharing your story with us, Frances!


We want to hear from you! If you an IWRC member and would like to share your wildlife rehabilitator story with us, please click here.

IWRC Member Spotlight: Michelle Watson

Name: Michelle Watson

Organization: I’m between posts at the moment but run my own “Wildlife Rescue Johannesburg” Facebook page.

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

IWRC: Hi Michelle! So, tell us a little bit about yourself…

Michelle: I’ve doing rehab since 2007, have worked for all the local rehab centers at some point, now permitted to do rehab at home. I am one of only four IWRC CWR rehabilitators in South Africa but dream of opening my own center. We have a huge diversity of species in South Africa so networking with specialists is imperative. I am passionate about what I do and strive to improve the level of rehab here.

IWRC: What brought you into wildlife rehabilitation work? 

Michelle: I first became interest in wildlife rehabilitation in 2002 while working as deck crew on private yachts. In the middle of the Indian Ocean an exhausted marine bird landed on the yacht during a severe storm. After tending to it and hand feeding it for 2 weeks, it flew off the deck near the Maldives.

When I returned to South Africa in 2007, I worked at the Free Me Wildlife rehabilitation centre where I dealt with around 300 different species. The huge diversity of urban wildlife in Johannesburg means that an average day could include anything from handling venomous snakes to dealing with roaming brown hyena. I am especially partial to genets which I have raised from new-born to release back into our leafy suburbs. But the highlight of my career was having the opportunity to work with pangolins at the Johannesburg Wildlife Vet Hospital. This elusive, charismatic and highly threatened species has a special place in my heart.

IWRC: What wildlife species do you rehabilitate?

Michelle: I have dealt with over 300 different species in my time as a rehabber. South Africa has a huge diversity so in one day I could deal with anything from a venomous snake to a baby genet, to raptors and larger animals. Currently I am limited with space but hope to open my own center soon.

IWRC: What challenges have you faced in your wildlife rehabilitation work?

Michelle: Currently I face issues with space and finance of course, but generally speaking we face the bigger problem of country-wide poverty and lack of wildlife education. Our urban wildlife is persecuted as bush meat and traditional Muti [medicine].

IWRC: Has the IWRC aided you in your journey as a wildlife rehabilitator? If so, can you explain how or give an example?

Michelle: YES, greatly! Having the certificate has given me some standing as a certified rehabber, and the information available sets the ground work for the standards I would like to see as the norm here one day. The IWRC courses and online support has been instrumental in helping my career along. Since passing the Certified Wildlife Certification (CWR) last year I have had the opportunity to network and assist various centres in and around Johannesburg and am currently permitted by the South African Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

IWRC: What common misconception about wildlife rehabilitation would you like to dispel?

Michelle: That you get to cuddle cute and fluffy animals! Haha, but seriously, the misconception that you can actually make a living from it in South Africa!

IWRC: How has your wildlife rehabilitation work been impacted by COVID-19?

Michelle: South Africa has some of the strictest lockdown rules. Movement has been seriously restricted. I cannot go out without a dozen valid permits and, even then, the cops stop you demanding bribes! It’s a nightmare.

IWRC: What local, national, or international policy would you like to see that would support wildlife rehabilitation?

Michelle: Locally I would like to see our own department of environmental affairs implement some sort of minimal standards for rehab centers! Of course policies need to change internationally to curb wildlife trade and prohibit hunting as a “sport”!

IWRC: What do you hope for the future of wildlife rehabilitation?

Michelle: In South Africa we desperately need a rehabilitation center that meets international standards. I hope that I can be the person to do that.

Rampant loss of habitat and persecution through hunting, superstition and fear has put a lot of our urban wildlife in peril. My dream as a rehabber is to use my skills to help “flatten the curve” for threatened wildlife species in South Africa.”

IWRC: What message would you like to share with other IWRC members and wildlife rehabilitators across the world?

Michelle: Supporting each other gives us strength and hope.

IWRC: Where can people learn more and follow your work?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/adviceforrescuers/

IWRC: Thank you so much for everything you do and sharing your story with us, Michelle!


We want to hear from you! If you an IWRC member and would like to share your wildlife rehabilitator story with us, please click here.

IWRC Member Spotlight: Letitia Labbie

Name: Letitia Labbie

Organization: Acadiana Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation

Location: Youngsville, Louisiana, United States

Letitia releasing a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).

IWRC: Hi Letitia! So, tell us a little bit about yourself…

Letitia: I am one of four federally permitted Rehabilitators in the state of Louisiana. I founded Acadiana Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation in 1998.

IWRC: What brought you into wildlife rehabilitation work? 

Letitia: I started rehabbing wildlife at ten years old when my fifth grade teacher would bring babies to school.

IWRC: What wildlife species do you rehabilitate?

Letitia: I specialize in birds of prey but end up doing all birds.

IWRC: What is your fondest wildlife rehabilitation memory?

Letitia: Every release is rewarding. But, I guess educating people about how important it is to rescue wildlife is what keeps me going.

Six Mississippi kites (Ictinia mississippiensis) rescued after Hurricane Barry hit in July 2019.

IWRC: What challenges have you faced in your wildlife rehabilitation work?

Letitia: Lack of funding is my biggest challenge. My center building was flooded in August 2016 during a state-wide catastrophic flooding event and I’ve been trying to get donations to renovate it. The number of birds increase each year but I have no volunteers or space until I can rebuild the center.

IWRC: Has the IWRC aided you in your journey as a wildlife rehabilitator? If so, can you explain how or give an example?

Letitia: I’ve always relied on the IWRC for information and training.

IWRC: What common misconception about wildlife rehabilitation would you like to dispel?

Letitia: That we get paid to “do our job!” I haven’t received a penny of income since I started.

Letitia holds a great horned owl rescued from an oilfield pipe yard.

IWRC: How has your wildlife rehabilitation work been impacted by COVID-19?

Letitia: My number of intakes and phone calls have increased due to people being home and finding baby birds and injured birds. I’m actually working harder since I’ve been out of work from my high school job as an assistant teacher.

IWRC: What local, national, or international policy would you like to see that would support wildlife rehabilitation?

Letitia: Funding for rehabilitation centers. 

IWRC: What do you hope for the future of wildlife rehabilitation?

Letitia: I hope that more people will see the growing need of centers in each state. Louisiana has none. Only individual rehabilitators.

IWRC: What message would you like to share with other IWRC members and wildlife rehabilitators across the world?

Letitia: Hang in there! 

IWRC: Where can people learn more and follow your work?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/acadianawildlife/

IWRC: Thank you so much for everything you do and sharing your story with us, Letitia!


We want to hear from you! If you an IWRC member and would like to share your wildlife rehabilitator story with us, please click here.