Board Treasurer Dani Nicholson shares tidbits of her journey in wildlife rehab

photo of Dani NicholsonPlease share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.

My father and mother were active and adventurous, respected all animals and nature in general. We loved to be outdoors. I remember stopping the car to watch snakes and tarantulas cross the road. The brown bears were understood to be beautiful and respected for their power and intelligence. For a time, we lived on our grandparents property outside of Yosemite and were taught that a particular outcropping of rocks was to be avoided because the rattlesnakes lived there and came out to sun themselves. No one would have ever killed them, we simply learned how to avoid confrontations with wildlife, which I’ve carried my entire life. I remember being mesmerized by spider webs and the list goes on and on.  We were only allowed to watch programs on television about nature, other than the occasional sporting events. My father was especially curious about nature and was my greatest influence, but my mother’s side of the family is Native American which I believe also influenced the way we lived.

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

I had begun transporting for Pacific Wildlife Care after being introduced to the organization when I found 7 young opossums on our property. I helped raise them until they went to a rehabilitator. I joined, and at my first training with PWC, I heard from the instructor that there are two organizations we should join, IWRC and NWRA. I joined both immediately.

I had a conversation with Kai Williams, IWRC’s Executive Director, about my history, and when I mentioned that I had been an accountant, Kai’s eyes lit up while she explained that their current Treasurer was going to be stepping down due to other commitments. We discussed my joining the board, and I was happy to be able to support IWRC in this way.

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 feel that having been a mother has brought me a sense of selflessness when faced with a vulnerable animal who needs help; my history of owning a retail business has helped me to understand how to work with the public and with volunteers within our center, and my profession of accounting has helped me to understand the needs of running a business, even a non-profit rehabilitation center and now in helping IWRC as Treasurer.

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

I feel that I accomplished what I have dreamed of my entire life, working with animals and living in the country. I am proud of the many steps I’ve taken in life to get here. Helping animals makes me feel vital and alive.

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?

Dr. Jane Goodall has always been my idol. I believe she came along at a time when I was young and impressionable. She made me think that I wanted to do something like she was doing. I didn’t know where that would lead, but the fact that she was doing what I admired, inspired me.

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

I love what I’m doing and wouldn’t do anything different; however, I also love art and would love to paint and make more pottery.

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

I would love to be a brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) - to be able to fly over the ocean. Being in love with brown pelicans and loving the ocean has informed that choice.

What is the thing for which you have waited in line the longest?

For a train in India. I don’t mind waiting in lines - you are in a perfect position to watch people, which I love to do.

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

I would say that worrying about an animal’s health is the #1 cause of sleepless nights; however, on a positive note, it would have to be interactions with wildlife such as my recent whale excursions in Baja California.

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

I have 3 rescued domestic geese (2 were attacked by dogs at a local lake, and 1 was obviously a hand raised pet that had been dumped at a lake); 8 Rhode Island red chickens; 4 dogs (2 border collie mixes who protect my other animals, 1 lap dog and 1 black and tan coon hound); 1 rescued black cat and 2 budgies who were found hatched this year at a friend's aviary (not a rescue, but also not purchased).

Ulrike Streicher: Primate Veterinarian in Vietnam

One of IWRC’s fabulous volunteers is Dr. Ulrike Streicher DVM, a wildlife veterinarian and currently Courtesy Research Associate at the University of Oregon. Dr. Streicher has spent many years in Southeast Asia rescuing and rehabilitating a variety of wildlife and will be sharing some of her story through a series of blogs with us. Enjoy the first segment on her time in Vietnam, a country that was then and still is now an epicenter for illegal wildlife trade.

I started my wildlife career in Vietnam in 1997 as the zoological advisor of the then newly established governmental wildlife rescue center at Soc Son near Hanoi. In 1992 the country had issued its first laws to protect wild animals. Shortly after they realized that through this step they ended up with lots of animals confiscated from illegal keeping and trade, which they needed to take care of. Responding to this need, the Vietnamese government opened an all species rescue center near Hanoi in 1996. Having no technical capacity to deal with the incoming load of animals, the government looked for an international zoological advisor and through a couple of lucky coincidences I ended up in this position. It was a challenge to say the least.

Having little more than four cages, we received up to 4000 kg of animals in a single day.  Macaques, bears, civets, pangolins, porcupines, monitors, turtles, snakes and birds arrived in an endless row and in large numbers. To provide very basic emergency veterinary care, ensure at least roughly species appropriate husbandry and prevent disastrous releases was the entire scope of my work. But still the majority of animals died. After nine months I wrote an open report about the situation at the center and the incoming wildlife trade to the government. The intended project duration was one year, but we decided that lots had to change in the way the law was implemented before it would make sense to continue this project.

At that time there were no wildlife veterinarians in Vietnam, and I had over the last year already acted as on call veterinarian for the Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) at Cuc Phuong National Park, a rescue center run by Frankfurt Zoological Society. So I left Soc Son and moved to the national park and for the coming eight years I worked as the center’s veterinarian. In 1998, it was home to about 40 langurs and gibbons, most of them representatives of species kept nowhere else in the world.

Vietnam is home to 25 different primate taxa and more than 70 percent of them listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Taxa as Endangered or Critically Endangered. The goal of the center is to establish a captive breeding population with trade confiscated representatives of these rare species and later on release captive-bred offspring into the wild in order to re-enforce depleted wild populations. The EPRC focuses its attention on the large group of leaf eating primates of the country – the langurs. Langurs are very sensitive primates and notoriously difficult to keep.

Wildlife Officer holding gibbon while Dr Streicher administers first aid.
Emergency wound care in the field during a confiscation.

They feed solely on leaves and seeds, which they digest in their large stomachs with the help of bacteria.  There was little experience with their keeping and veterinary care, and only very few species had been bred in captivity. On my arrival, the available veterinary equipment consisted of a box full of donated drugs, syringes and instruments and a quarantine building was under construction. So I had the opportunity to set up a proper veterinary station and establish the necessary protocols. Aside from langurs, the center cared for gibbons and the nocturnal lorises. We received about one animal per month, confiscated from hunters or traders by the authorities. The primates were often severely injured from traps or by hunting dogs, and had spent days or weeks in the trade or on transport. After capture they had received either no or entirely inappropriate food and usually no water. The most difficult part of work was to treat the inevitable metabolic problems and re-establish functional digestion. The stress of being separated from their groups was also considerable.

Red shanked douc langur (Pygathrix nemaeus) with chain and rope around neck with injuries to right hand eating a vegetable.
Red shanked douc langur (Pygathrix nemaeus) before confiscation.

In particular the colourful douc langurs kept dying within days after their arrival. Adult females initially almost never made it; not an ideal start if one intends to set up a captive breeding population as the center aimed to. I started to conduct regular necropsies and this helped us learn from each failure and the survival rate increased over the years dramatically.

Having no television, Internet, or telephone left us all with lots of time; night came in the tropics shortly after six all year round and evenings were long. The head of the rescue center was a passionate scientist, and always encouraged others to study wherever there was an opportunity. A result of these long evenings, I ended up writing a PhD on pygmy lorises. After all, they were awake and studying them was a great way to fill empty evenings, and to date they remain probably my favourite primate species. In contrast to the langurs, lorises pose no major veterinary challenge, but they were until recently a poorly known species. These nocturnal animals weigh only between 250 and 350 g, live largely solitary, feed among other items on gum and insects, display hibernation and torpor, have a venomous bite and are a very specialized primate. Their cute appearance makes them a popular item in the wildlife pet market and local beliefs assign various medicinal properties to their different body parts. I implemented the first monitored release of pygmy lorises and the nights spent in the forest observing these secretive animals were very special. Aside from the work in the primate rescue center, I assisted a number of other projects in the country, which dealt with the rehabilitation and placement of confiscated wild animals.  As the awareness and law enforcement in the country slowly increased, so did the number of confiscated animals requiring care. Training local staff in the handling of animals and basic rehabilitation methods was an urgent need, so there was always a lot to do. I had to find funding for the veterinary work myself, and for many years it was generously provided by the Eva Mayr-Stihl Foundation.

Stay tuned for more blogs from Dr. Ulrike Streicher!

Close up image of face and shoulders of red shanked douc langur (Pygathrix nemaeus) eating leaves
Red shanked douc langur (Pygathrix nemaeus) eating while in care at rescue center.

Board President Sue Wylie shares tidbits about her life with wildlife

 

Sue in green scrubs examining a gull.
Sue Wylie

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

I have always preferred being outdoors and loved nature. My parents brought me camping every weekend May to October starting at the age of two weeks until I was a teen. My most memorable moment was when I was 8 years old seeing my dad jumping out of the car to capture an injured Canada goose that was running in one of the fields. He captured the bird, brought it to the car and plopped it on my mom’s knee (she was less than amused). We then found a facility to care for the bird.

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

Eight years ago I came onto the board as its youngest member at that time. My goal as a board member was to represent new rehabilitators in the best way that I could. This gave the board a fresh perspective on what novice rehabilitators were facing and what services and programs were most needed from IWRC for those in the field.

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

One of my main interests is focusing on animal welfare and the science behind rehabilitation to ensure that we are respecting the wildlife that we are caring for and that they are surviving once we release them. As Development chair, I have the opportunity to promote IWRC and sensitize people to the work that we do.

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 actually love working with people. I enjoy coordinating projects, working in teams and encouraging others to get involved. It can be a lot of fun!

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

For my career, I would say becoming President of IWRC has been my biggest accomplishment. It honestly has been an amazing experience that has allowed me to meet many great people as well as contribute to the rehabilitation community. As Executive Director of Le Nichoir, I’m also proud of the construction of our new wild bird conservation centre based in Quebec in 2016.

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?

That is a hard question because I have had many important mentors in my life, but I’d have to say, definitely David Attenborough. I just love his accent!

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

I would either work with children with learning disabilities or in wildlife enforcement. These are two things that I hold close to my heart. Helping animals and people in need is very important to me.

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

A chimney swift.

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

Waiting for chimney swifts to be brought to Le Nichoir in July. I literally dream about it!

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.
I shared my home with Touli, a crested gecko.

Board member Kim Poisson shares some tidbits with us

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Kim Poisson

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

My father found an injured crow when I was a child.  We helped him recover from his injuries and when he was released he lived near our house for years, bringing me trinkets and creating a desire in me to help injured wildlife.  

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

I joined the Course Development Committee and was asked to join the board by a past board member.  I felt that IWRC was heading a very positive direction and wanted to be a part of it.

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

My passion is course development.  I am very excited to be a part of the growth in this aspect of IWRC.  The future promises many new and varied courses!

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

The revision of the Basic Course and Manual and being an IWRC course instructor

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?

Jane Goodall

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

A veterinarian or zookeeper.  Anything with animals :)

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

A Redtail hawk

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

Symposiums

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

Three dogs, a cat, and a Meyer's parrot named Olive

Recent Journal Abstracts Issue 36(1)

The full papers can be found in the Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation 36(1), available to all IWRC members.

Strategies for captive rearing and reintroduction of orphaned bears

John J. Beecham, I. Kati Loeffler, and Richard A. Beausoleil

Abstract: Placing orphan bears in captive-rearing facilities and releasing them back to the wild is a management option that has been used for decades. This option has conservation implications that extend beyond obvious welfare benefits, including public support for management programs, maintenance of genetic diversity, and restoration of bear populations. However, the method is infrequently used because of concerns about survival, ethics, and that captive-reared bears may become involved in conflict with people. As a result, many orphaned bears are unnecessarily euthanized. The objectives of captive-rearing and reintroduction are to liberate animals with the necessary physical condition and life skills to survive in the wild, avoid conflicts with humans, and minimize disease and genetic risks to indigenous wildlife populations. Approaches to achieve these objectives vary among rehabilitators, geographic areas, and bear species. We identify components of captive-rearing and reintroduction practices that can be applied across the range of ursids. Releasing orphaned bears back to the wild is a defensible management alternative, and we advocate for agencies to implement the proposed strategies.

Trends in wildlife intake at a rehabilitation center in Central Alberta: A retrospective analysis of birds, mammals, and herptiles, from 1990 through 2012

Dawn Doell and David A. Locky

Abstract: Using patient data from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton,
we assessed reasons for admission, overall success of rehabilitation, and compared temporal trends with human population growth in the region. Over the survey period 13,375 individuals from 271 species were admitted. These included 11,637 birds (87%), 1,727 mammals (13%), and 11 herptiles (<0.1%). Outcome data were not reliably collected from 1990 through 2007 so it is not possible to provide a valid rate of the rehabilitated animal release for those years. However, starting in 2008 outcome data was collected for the majority of animals with the average release rate of 45.7% from 2008 through 2012. There was a strong relationship between Edmonton’s population growth and the annual intake of wildlife (R² = 0.84, F = 104.6, P = 0.001). This study provides an overview of wildlife intake trends from 1990 through 2012 and is the first known published retrospective of wildlife intake in Alberta.

Practicing Wildlife Rehabilitation Within Legal Restrictions

BIO  Dr Elizabeth Mullineaux BVM&S, DVM&S, CertSHP, MRCVS

Liz is director at Capital Veterinary Services, science advisor at Secret World Wildlife Rescue, and a veterinary surgeon with Vets Now. She is also an active member of the British Veterinary Association and editor of numerous BSAVA Manuals, including Wildlife Casualties.
This post is a revised version of the paper Liz presented at the 2014 BWRC Symposium.

Legislation affecting the care of wildlife can be a minefield for both vets and rehabilitators, risking prosecution for both if not followed correctly. Legal responsibilities are not always clearly outlined in all countries, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the relevant legislation that might apply. For example, in the United Kingdom (UK), the main pieces of legislation to be most concerned about are the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (as amended 2002) (VSA), Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2014, and the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Remember, that there are many others affecting both animals and people associated with wildlife centres and this should be considered when writing centre policies and guidelines. Here are a few key areas to consider for those caring for British wildlife, although they are applicable in most places around the world:

Veterinary surgeons

You need to have good veterinary involvement with the wild animals you care for. In most countries only vets can legally diagnose medical conditions, prescribe drugs, carry out surgery and have animals legally under their medical care. It is important to have a good relationship with your vet and best to have one main veterinary practice that is responsible for the animals at your centre. You may occasionally involve other vets, but you still need a main veterinary practice. If you don’t have a vet on site, then your main practice vets need to visit on a regular basis, ideally at least once a week. These visits also allow them to understand how you work, know what animals are on site and provide general advice. If you chose to employ a vet, then remember you will need adequate facilities in which they can work and you will still need to provide 24/7 veterinary care for your centre, which may mean employing a second vet or making use of an additional local practice. Have a written policy (formally agreed upon with your vet) for triage and first aid treatment of admitted animals that don’t immediately see a vet. If your vet allows you to make any decisions about treatments, these need to be written down clearly in a policy. Ensure that anything written follows the law, and remember only vets can ‘diagnose’ and ‘prescribe’ so avoid using these terms. Make use of the telephone (or email) to get veterinary advice, and document all correspondence. This advice is usually free and helps ensure that you (and your vet) cover yourself legally when making decisions and that the best treatment is provided.

Veterinary nurses

In the UK a Veterinary Nurse is a professional person with appropriate qualifications and training that is registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Relevant qualifications from overseas may allow RCVS registration (e.g. some North American ‘tech’ qualifications). Veterinary nurses may be employed by vets, volunteer at wildlife centres, or be employed by centres. In all instances, even if you employ them, a Veterinary Nurse’s work must be under the direction and supervision of the centre’s vet. Veterinary nurses in the UK receive little formal training on British wildlife (these species are not in the RCVS occupational standards). Legally this means that they are not suitably trained to carry out ‘Schedule 3’ procedures under the VSA on wildlife species and must receive this training first from the vet who is responsible for them. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association Nursing Merit Award in British wildlife was the first attempt to formally fill this knowledge gap for veterinary nurses. Vet nurses are not ‘mini vets’. Specifically, they are not legally able to make a diagnosis (e.g. based on an examination, x-ray, or laboratory report), prescribe medication, induce anesthesia using gaseous anesthesia, or perform surgery that enters body cavities. They are allowed to take blood, administer intravenous fluids, give medication and suture minor wounds, however all these must be ‘under the direction’ of a veterinary surgeon. Wildlife centres should have an agreed and written policy for veterinary nursing activities. If they employ a veterinary nurse, they should ensure that both job descriptions and employment contracts make it clear where duties start and end. RVNs are legally liable for the work they do and should have professional indemnity insurance.

Wildlife centre policy

In general, it is important for you to have written policies regarding all the activities at your centre. It is useful to have an admissions policy that allows animals to be signed over to you, which can protect you legally in terms of ‘ownership’ and at least helps finders to appreciate that the animal is now your responsibility. It is important to agree which of your staff can do which tasks (e.g. give medication) and keep records of this. Ensure that adequate training has been provided for any tasks performed, record this training and ensure that it is kept up to date. Ensure that there is a policy for any storage of drugs left on site and who has access to these. Drugs should always be in a locked cabinet with restricted access. Records of drug use should be kept. Agree on a written policy with your vet regarding euthanasia of animals, including: which cases, under what circumstances, and how euthanasia is to be performed. Any phone conversations or emails regarding euthanasia of individual animals should be carefully recorded. Keep good records of each animal, the treatment they receive and their progress.

Records help to protect you legally, allow the progress of individual animals to be monitored, and allow for reflection on the success (or not) of treatments. Lastly, have good written policies for people (staff, volunteers and members of the public) and for the maintenance of the site itself. Common areas of litigation against centres relate to health and safety and waste disposal.

While these are some important guidelines, it is vital to research and understand the current, relevant legislation to wildlife rehabilitation in your country and ensure that your operation is always acting within the law.

Research Byte: Post release survival of rehabilitated Eurasian badger cubs (Meles meles)

BIO  Adam Grogan

Adam is on staff at the RSPCA, IWRC Board Vice President, Vice Chair of The Mammal Society for Britain and Ireland, and on the Executive Committee of the British Council for Wildlife Rehabilitation (BWRC). He has experience surveying and radio-tracking a number of mammal species, including badgers (Meles meles), polecats (Mustela putorius), mink (Neovison vison), and water voles (Arvicola terrestris).

This post is a summary of the paper Adam presented at the 2014 BWRC Symposium.

The RSPCA has been interested in the survival of rehabilitated wildlife for over 10 years and has conducted a number of post-release projects on a variety of species. This is a brief summary of a radio tracking project investigating the survival of released juvenile badgers after being reared in captivity in artificial groups.

There is little known about rehabilitated badgers post release. Prior to 2013, the RSPCA radio tracked four groups of badgers and found poor survival rates for the fifteen animals collared. In all four groups, the badgers dispersed into different areas. Of the collared animals, nine were known to have died, either as a result of road mortality or failure to thrive. The radio signals were lost for the remaining animals except one, who was tracked for an excess of 200 days before she shed her collar. During this time, she had settled in to a local, wild badger group near to where her artificial badger group was released.

In early 2013, another group of rehabilitated badger cubs was ready for release. A site was offered from the West Surrey Badger Group (WSBG), which they had monitored extensively for a number of years. An artificial sett (or badger den) was also available and so with the enthusiastic support from the landowners, plans were drawn up to release the badgers in summer of 2013.

Juvenile badger (Meles meles) peaking out of an artificial sett. Photo credits: Jan Reen
Juvenile badger (Meles meles) peaking out of an artificial sett. Photo credits: Jan Reen

The WSBG examined the suitability of the site by checking the artificial sett and other setts close by for signs of use by resident badgers and found no visible signs of badger presence. An electric fence was installed around the artificial sett, putting in bowls for water and straw for bedding. The five cubs, 3 males and 2 females, were released into the sett in July 2013.

For the first two weeks, the WSBG conducted morning check visits and evening feeding visits. Unlike previous releases done in late autumn, these badgers were active right from the start and were out the first night. They had one encounter with the electric fence; dug a dung pit; polished up all the food that had been carefully scattered about and hidden under logs and stones; dug a new entrance directly into the back of the sett; and dragged in the straw that had been left outside for them.

A camera trap was set up to record activity occurring when observers weren’t present and found that all five badgers were exhibiting normal species-specific behavior. The electric fence was removed at the end of the 2-week settling-in period, which coincided with the arrival of a student from Swansea, Owen Bidder, who tracked the badgers at night for the next two weeks. The badgers were now free to explore their new environment.

Camera trap image of juvenile badgers (Meles meles) in a soft release enclosure.
Camera trap image of juvenile badgers (Meles meles) in a soft release enclosure.

After one night, only one badger was still sleeping in the artificial sett, while the other four were all in an empty sett 100 metres up the hill. Within days they had discovered another sett about 100 metres down the hill away from the artificial sett.

WSBG members continued to provide food and water during the summer although the amount offered was reduced as time went on. During the first two weeks, Owen reported increased exploration by the badgers, finding and exploiting more setts in the area. Early on, one badger lost his transmitter, which was found detached from the collar on a footpath almost a kilometer from the release site. Over several weeks the badgers discovered a total of 8 setts that the WSBG knew about in the area, as well as one sett that had not been recorded previously. All of these setts were empty as far as the WSBG knew.

While badgers did disperse, often two or three were found in one sett and on the odd occasion, all four. Some mating behavior was recorded on camera before the electric fence was removed so some alliances may have developed while they were still in the enclosure. They seem to regularly move from sett to sett, sometimes using a different sett each day. One badger moved off to the sett that was previously unknown to the WSBG, about a kilometer from the release site. Since he seemed to have selected a permanent home, the WSBG set up a camera and discovered that he was with an un-collared badger that they believe to be a local resident.

The badgers were tracked until late December 2013, which is when the transmitters all seemed to stop transmitting. The cameras have been deployed a few times since and have recorded some activity so now the RSPCA plans to use different equipment to see if the badgers are still present. All the badgers were fitted with microchips, so a feeding station with a chip reader and data logger will be set up to hopefully record the badgers coming and going.

What have we learnt?

  • After 18 months of captivity, rehabilitated badger cubs can quickly start a natural wild life.
  • When released they will find and utilize existing local setts.
  • They may disperse from the release groups or remain together.
  • They may integrate with local badgers provided there are only a few around.
  • It is well worth rehabilitating orphaned cubs.
  • It is a rewarding thing to do.

Consider Animal Welfare When Generating Center Income: Part 1

BIO  Fran Bell

I am a wildlife rehabber from Perth, Western Australia. Over the last 6 years I have practiced wildlife rehabilitation in Australia, South Africa, and the UK; and worked with marsupials, placental mammals, birds and reptiles. I have undertaken several internships, including a year with penguins and other seabirds at SANCCOB in Capetown. I am a member of the IWRC and the West Australian Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. I hold two certificates in Wildlife Management, have been trained in venomous snake capture and release, have Certified Wildlife Rehabber status and am also a certified Marine Mammal Medic. In my free time I work on animal rights and welfare causes around the world.

 

In my time as a rehabber, I’ve seen wildlife centres who operate at different levels. I’ve seen those staffed by paid vets and rehabbers, outfitted with beautiful surgeries and stocked with a wide range of drugs as well as top quality food and supplementation. I’ve seen those who can’t afford paid staff but who have access to enthusiastic staff at nearby vet clinics, and can provide adequate nutrition and housing. And at the other end of the scale, I’ve seen those who operate on a shoestring and can’t afford a consultant vet, antibiotics for treatments, or remotely appropriate food.

What this mostly boils down to is funding.   Some centres are wizards at getting government grants, having corporate sponsors, and partnering with universities or the very wealthy. Other centres develop creative ideas for community fundraising. The question is, where do these places draw the line in their quest for money, and how do they balance that with animal welfare?

I’ve seen one under-funded centre use student and public “training days” as a way to bring in funds.

  1. Bring in veterinary students from the local university.

Students were given lectures in their morning session. After that came a “practical”. The practical consisted of the senior rehabber having up to 20 vet students crowded into the small hospital, all surrounding one terrified animal. Tube feeding was demonstrated. A new bird was then taken from a cage and a complete novice – a tube-feeding virgin, you might say – was invited to practice on a live animal. The next in line were young birds who did not require tube feeding, but who were able to swallow. They were subjected to potentially damaging diets and feeding techniques and as I looked at the faces around me, I realised that even some of these naïve vet students were not so convinced that what they were being shown was of any value.

The practical finished up by the students being invited to cuddle barn owl chicks and young fox kits.

  1. Bring in the public.

Training days with the public were more of the same, but with more people and less lectures. In hindsight that may have been a good thing as less misinformation was passed on, but I still worried that members of the public would leave the centre thinking that there was nothing much to wildlife rehab, and that they would all be fully competent to commence wildlife rehab operations under their own roofs.

Every single component of the training day gave me grave cause for concern regarding the welfare of the animals. Noise levels were completely unacceptable. Prolonged, incompetent and unnecessary handling was also completely unacceptable. As wildlife rehabbers, we know that both these factors add up to a lot of stress. We know how badly stress affects an animal’s ability to heal and thrive. I’m sure we’ve all, at one time or another, seen birds who literally drop dead from stress.   We also know that habituation of a wild animal to human contact severely limits the likelihood of a successful release.

Every animal handled or fed by a member of the public or an untrained vet student ran the risk of being seriously injured. Proper techniques for restraining animals were not demonstrated. Appropriate techniques for feeding were not taught. Mammals and birds aspirated after being incorrectly fed. Birds refused to eat because rough feeding had damaged their throats. Birds died from head injuries due to rough handling.

Every animal handled and fed ran the risk of disease. Hands were not washed. Gloves were not worn. A single tube was used for every crop feeding, regardless of age or presenting condition. Animals were passed from person to person with no thought of what could be transmitted from one to the other.

On training days every animal handled also had to wait for the appearance of the trainees to be fed. The normal routine was abandoned. Birds were left hungry for upwards of an hour because the public had paid to be “trained”.

With the quality of information and ‘training’ being so poor, attendees were likely to cause unintentional harm to animals they came across in the future. The interactive training days increased admissions and infused the centre with ready cash. Ultimately the centre’s mission could be hurt much more than helped, and any funds raised swallowed up in increased care costs.

Training days in other centres I’ve worked with are solely for those who have already made a commitment to helping wildlife. They mostly focus on theoretical knowledge in a classroom well away from patients with “hands-on”, if appropriate, on a strictly supervised one-on-one basis. There may be a small fee to cover costs but the focus is not on raising funds – it’s on professional development. I remember when I attempted my first tube feeding. It was after a lengthy lecture, a couple of demonstrations by rehabbers with many years experience, and then the small class was invited to practice on deceased animals who had been kept solely for teaching purposes. Even when I began tube feeding live animals, I worked under the supervision of a suitably experienced mentor.

Training days are one avenue of raising funds but, when animal welfare and perhaps even survival is severely compromised, the question is – should they be? 

 

 

Board Member Christopher Boykin Shares Some Tidbits with Us

Chris Boykin with bird

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

I grew up on an old one classroom school yard property in central Mississippi that abutted a 500-acre peach farm. I remember the first time i happened upon a three-toed box turtle and wondered with delight at all of her colors on her head and forelimbs. I also recall the day I was walking under the oak trees and came face to face with the web of a spiny orb weaver. I raised my hand to tear it down (I was a little boy) and then hesitated. I thought, “what has the spider ever done to me”? Upon realize “nothing”, I lowered my hand and forever forged a bond with spiders that day.

 

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

The Pelican Harbor Seabird Station has a long history with IWRC. I attended the 2014 annual conference and was very impressed with the staff, board and sessions. It was an honor for me to join the board to expand my repertoire and network within the wildlife rehabilitation profession, as well as contribute to the fundraising committee.

 

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

Science based education has always been important to me and will forever be a passion of mine.

 

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’d like to think my fundraising and marketing skills have been helpful in telling the stories of what we do in order to bring in the revenue needed to accomplish our mission(s).

 

If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?Photo of Christopher Boykin in Florida swamp

Run full time eco-tours to Latin America and Cuba

 

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

Definitely a river otter, as they are so graceful in the water and get to enjoy land too.

 

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

4 chickens, 3 tortoises, 2 chestnut-fronted macaws and a one-eyed tuxedo cat named Pedro.

Lets #GetTheLeadOut of Our Wildlife

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Let’s Get the Lead Out of Our Wildlife

Eugene, OR August 24, 2015

This month The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) published a position statement advocating for the elimination of lead released into the environment via lead based ammunition and fishing tackle. Effective alternatives, such as steel shot, copper bullets, and tungsten fishing weights, are available in North American and European markets and becoming more widely accessible elsewhere.

Raptors and scavengers, including vultures, condors, and eagles are unintentionally poisoned when they eat the remains of animals hunted using lead ammunition. Loons and swans directly consume lead shot or fishing tackle while feeding. Changing to non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle can prevent scavenger poisonings and decrease the chance of aquatic poisonings. Because of lead shot and sinkers left in the mud of ponds and rivers, stopping future use will not completely resolve the poisoning of water birds.

The World Health Organization has listed lead exposure as unsafe at any level. Even sub lethal levels may cause immunological and neurological problems, biochemical and behavioral changes, and physiological disorders that may affect immune response and reproduction. Over 500 peer-reviewed papers demonstrate the deleterious effects of lead on wildlife.

“Wildlife rehabilitators are the first responders of the lead toxicity epidemic and we need to relate what we are experiencing every year”. IWRC Executive Director, Kai Williams comments. Ms Williams sits on the HSUS Lead-Free Wildlife National Advisory Council, along with hunters, scientists, and biologists.

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Media Contact: Kai Williams director@theiwrc.org @malkahkai @theiwrc 866-871-1869 x1

Twitter hashtag: #GetTheLeadOut #leadpoisoning

Lead Poisoning Position Statement https://theiwrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/lead-statement.pdf

Photos (click individual photos for captions and version downloadable by press. Use only with this story)

About The IWRC (The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council)

The IWRC is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that provides science-based education and resources on wildlife rehabilitation to promote wildlife conservation and welfare worldwide. IWRC was founded in 1974 and has spent the last 41 years helping wildlife by training and supporting wildlife caretakers through our peer reviewed journal, classroom and online courses, standards, and manuals. IWRC training programs include course topics such as basic wildlife rehabilitation skills, nutrition, pain management, parasitology, and have been taught in over 10 countries.