The Cost of Self-Deployment:

Deciding how to help during the Australian Brush Fires (and other similar emergencies) 

Since news of the devastating Australia bush fires broke in late December there has been an outpouring of support as well as a wave of global horror and sorrow. For many, including those involved in wildlife rehabilitation or care, this crisis evokes a strong need to contribute or help the animals affected by the fires. This altruistic urge is not surprising as many people feel a strong connection to the wildlife of Australia because it is so unique, with many species that are imperiled or endangered.  Others have useful skills that are relevant to the situation and this disaster may also be viewed as a rare opportunity to physically do something in the face of more impalpable or seemingly insurmountable problems such as climate breakdown and the extinction crisis. Some have chosen or are considering making the journey to Australia, to offer their support in the form of on-the-ground assistance. While this might be the logical choice for a few, in many cases, and despite the best intentions, this decision may hurt more than it helps. The IWRC urges all of those considering self-deployment to assist with wildlife care in Australia to weigh the cost and benefits of such an action and think about alternative ways to help.

The first costs to consider are monetary ones. According to an article in the Harvard Political Review, “Can Help Hurt?”, the price of volunteering abroad may outweigh the amount of help you are able to provide. The article offers an example of a child care volunteering opportunity in Rio. In this case they calculate that the money spent on three days of volunteering was the equivalent of the cost of 4 months of schooling for one child 1. In many cases, the money a person might pay out for housing, food, insurance, and transportation would go further as a donation. Much of the actual money being spent is paying for the experience of the person volunteering rather than the needs of those they aim to help. 

 Other costs to consider are the environmental ones. This is of particular relevance as the scientific evidence points to climate change as a definitive factor in the severity and scope of these Australian fires.  As stated in an article by Yu, Pei, et al., “The ongoing bushfires (wildfires) have confirmed researchers’ warnings several years ago about increasing bushfires due to climate change in Australia”2. Lecturer in veterinary pathology Dr. Andrew Peters averred, “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”3. With this in mind, it is important to acknowledge the carbon cost of a flight to Australia as well as the use of currently scarce resources upon arrival. The carbon calculator on myclimate.org estimates that a roundtrip flight from the IWRC office in Oregon to Sydney produces 4.4 tons of C02 per passenger4– that is only slightly less than the average emissions of a passenger vehicle for the entire year of 2019 at 4.63 tons5. Although there may be compelling reasons to get on that plane, we must also decide if doing so coheres with the need to mediate a “climate change future” like Dr. Peters describes. 

The final cost to consider is the potential toll international relief work can have on local populations. In Ilan Kelman and Rachel Dodds’ paper “Developing a Code of Ethics for Disaster Tourism”, they highlight the importance of only offering assistance and donations with the local context in mind. They stress that, “in a disaster-affected location, any additional people further tax a community”6. Kelman and Dodds convey that emergency workers discourage self-deployment because of safety hazards, reduced accountability and because it diverts scarce resources, even when volunteers are qualified to help (282). It is for these and other reasons that organizations such as the Red Cross have created codes of conduct for international or Non-Governmental Organizations in disaster relief situations. The sixth code of conduct item in their document states “All people and communities – even in disaster – possess capacities as well as vulnerabilities. Where possible, we will strengthen these capacities by employing local staff, purchasing local materials and trading with local companies”7

The urge to help those in need, human or animal, is great, particularly for those in fields that require compassion and empathy as wildlife care does. However, we must always ask ourselves, do they need our help? In discussions with IWRC staff, rehabilitators in Australia have repeated that they do not need more volunteers. Instead they need financial aid and encouragement from the global community. The wildlife carers in Australia are facing one of the most devastating wildlife disasters in recent history but they are also knowledgeable about the local wildlife, invested, and already on the ground. With this in mind IWRC recommends that individuals only deploy when invited to ensure that your help is really helping. 

Watching disaster unfold from the “sidelines” can elicit feelings of helplessness, idleness, and even frustration or anger. It is critical, however, to ensure that our efforts to help have the results we intend. Flying to Australia may bring the satisfaction of acting in the face of catastrophe but before booking a plane ticket we must first weigh the monetary, environmental and local costs. In many cases other means of solidarity or aid may be more appropriate. You may consider donating to an organization who is doing work you support. You might also think about how you can support those fighting to protect and save wildlife in Australia on an emotional level— for example you could participate in our letter writing campaign or make a video of support. Finally, you could take action in your own patch of the world to protect wildlife, your local ecosystem or the global biosphere. 

In Solidarity,

The IWRC Staff

 

Works Cited

  1. Brown B. Can Help Hurt? Harvard Political Review. [Internet] MA. 2018 Jun 11. [2020 Jan 10]. available from harvardpolitics.com/online/can-help-hurt/.
  2. Yu P, Xu R, Abramson MJ, Li Shanshan, Guo Y. Bushfires in Australia: a Serious Health Emergency under Climate Change. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2020; 4(1). 2020 Jan 1. [Cited 2020 Jan 10]. Available from doi:10.1016/s2542-5196(19)30267-0
  3. Williams K. IWRC Works to Support to Wildlife Carers Affected by Australian Bushfires. Eugene (OR): IWRC; 2020 Jan 15 [accessed 2020 Feb 12]. available from theiwrc.org/archives/75979.
  4. Calculate and Compensate for Your Emissions! Myclimate. [accessed 2020 Jan 10]. www.myclimate.org/carbon-offset
  5. Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator – Revision History. Washington (DC): Environmental Protection Agency. [accessed 2020 Jan 10]. www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator-revision-history
  6. Kelman I, Dodds R. Developing a Code of Ethics for Disaster Tourism. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters. [Internet] 2009; 27(3)272-296. available from http://ijmed.org/articles/499/
  7. IFRC. The Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief. Geneva: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. available from https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/who-we-are/the-movement/code-of-conduct/

 

 

 

IWRC and NWRA Oppose Changes to Migratory Bird Treaty Act

March 6, 2020        

JOINT STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      

[Eugene, Oregon]

Button saying take actionThe National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) and the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) are writing to comment on the scope of Opinion M-37050 (M opinion) proposed by the DOI US Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service). The M opinion on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) interprets the take of a migratory bird, its nest, or eggs that is incidental to another lawful activity as not in violation of the MBTA, and that the MBTA’s criminal provisions do not apply to those activities.

The IWRC and NWRA are international not-for-profit organizations based in the United States, with memberships extending to Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India. Our 2,000+ members include wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitators, wildlife biologists, animal behaviorists, government officials, and academicians from institutions across the world. Our members provide expertise in migratory bird conservation and welfare, often at the forefront of where humans and wild animals interact.

NWRA and the IWRC commend the Service for their work in the delivery of the vision of those who enacted the MBTA. The achievements seen over the past 100 years of guidance by the Service on this foundational bird conservation law are well-documented. The increased numbers and distribution of many species—including snowy egrets, peregrine falcons, California condors, brown pelicans, and Kirtland’s warblers—once threatened with extinction, are success stories of which the Service should be duly proud. The bald eagle is a fine example; a species with a success story that is recognized by every American. The bald eagle has been allowed to recover and recolonize much of its former territory, so that it is now a common sight in many areas where it had once been extirpated.

The benefits from reasonable enforcement of the MBTA have resulted in protections leading to population recovery and benefits for the communities in which these birds live. The Service recognizes the financial benefits provided by wildlife tourism1. Data collected on the economic benefits of wildlife tourism, and birdwatching in particular, show that:

  • 45 million people watch birds around their homes or elsewhere. Wildlife watchers contribute $80 billion to the US economy;
  • Birders spend $41 billion annually on trips and equipment, with local communities benefiting to the tune of $14.9 billion, with 666,000 jobs being created in one year (2011).
  • One example is the $300 million contribution made by wildlife tourism to the Rio Grande Valley economy, leading to economic benefits in terms of income and jobs for the communities in that area.
  • Birds also consume 98% of certain insect pests, resulting in benefits to farming communities.

While wild birds have inherent value, we recognize that they are also an important economic and social driver, engaging people with nature and the environment. The 2009 State of the Bird Report, issued by the U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI), of which US Fish & Wildlife Service is a report partner, stated that “[B]irds are bellwethers of our natural and cultural health as a nation—they are indicators of the integrity of the environments that provide us with clean air and water, fertile soils, abundant wildlife, and the natural resources on which our economic development depends…It is imperative that we redouble our efforts now, before habitat loss and degradation become even more widespread, intractable, and expensive to solve.2 The 2016 State of the Birds report states that conservation success requires that policies be “…based on sound science” in order to “implement effective on-the-ground conservation actions.3 IWRC and NWRA support these statements.

The proposed changes to the MBTA threaten to undo these important, hard-earned successes. The Service’s long history of minimizing risk to migratory birds through the development of guidelines and best practices has been key to reducing sources of bird mortality. Incidental take through destruction of nesting habitats without the requirement of alternative sites being made available threatens to reduce the breeding success of many species and could result in some extinctions, with long-term ecological consequences. The removal of adult birds and/or nests with young will have welfare impacts for these animals, leading to species declines. 

The destruction of nesting and roosting areas without requiring replacements to be created will likely result in a reduction in sites where these birds can be seen. This will have negative consequences for local community businesses that depend on wildlife tourism and result in a loss of income and jobs in areas where alternative employment is limited.

Wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitators see the direct impact on wildlife populations in our work. The impact to the wildlife rehabilitation community will also be great. The M-opinion has already increased the number of otherwise healthy birds admitted to rehabilitation facilities due to the destruction of nests or roosting areas, such as the 101 young cliff swallows presented to wildlife rehabilitators for care after their nests were destroyed during a single bridge renovation in Wisconsin in the summer of 2019. We anticipate this trend will continue and perhaps further increase as federal executive administration documents show that even voluntary mitigation is being discouraged.

The 2019 State of the Birds report4 records population declines in many species, and the peer-reviewed paper, Decline of the North American Avifauna by Rosenberg, et al,5 shows that declines are not restricted to rare and threatened species—many species once considered common and widespread are also diminished.

The threats birds encounter today—rapid industrialization and habitat loss—are not those faced by birds when the MBTA was adopted. The M-opinion no longer requires bird deaths to be reported to the Service, functionally eliminating the ability to measure the impacts of the rule change. The scale and extent of the impact of the M-opinion will be largely unknown. 

By reducing the protection of our native wild birds, the proposed rulemaking will add to their decline. The role of the Service and the MBTA is to protect the precious resource of wild birds; the M-opinion and its codification into law reverses this protection, placing bird populations at higher risk.

The NWRA and IWRC are opposed to the proposed MBTA rule-making change due to the negative impacts it will have on wild birds, their habitat, and the communities that value birds as a critical natural resource. We ask you to consider these comments as part of the review and we would be happy to discuss this further, if that would be of assistance.

 

 

 

Lisa Smith                                   Adam Grogan

President NWRA                         President IWRC

Button saying take action

 

 

 

References

1  https://www.fws.gov/birds/bird-enthusiasts/bird-watching/valuing-birds.php

2 https://archive.stateofthebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/State_of_the_Birds_2009.pdf

3 https://www.stateofthebirds.org/2016/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/SoNAB-ENGLISH-web.pdf

4 https://www.stateofthebirds.org/2019/

5 Rosenberg et al, 2019 https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6461/120

 

 

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Media Contacts:

Kai Williams, Executive Director, The IWRC Office:  (866) 871-1869 x1 Email:  director@theiwrc.org 

Lisa Smith, President, NWRA Email: president@nwrawildlife.org

The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council

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.

 

National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association

The NWRA was born in 1982 at the first National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium in Naperville, Illinois. The rich diversity of expertise and interest represented at the symposium provided a firm foundation for a national organization designed to meet the needs of wildlife rehabilitators. As the mission statement says , NWRA is “dedicated to improving and promoting the profession of wildlife rehabilitation and its contributions to preserving natural ecosystems.”

Spotlight on Max Lipman

Q&A with Max:

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

New barn owl patient

I was very fortunate to have outdoorsy parents. However, until my first internship with a wildlife hospital, I was completely naive to the field of wildlife rehabilitation. When I found out about it, I was instantly intrigued. I always knew I wanted to be a non-domestic veterinary professional, but wasn’t sure how exactly… My internship helped solidify my interest after seeing the diversity, passion, and dedication of the amazing individuals within this field.

 

 

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

During the course of my career, the one thing I’ve enjoyed the most (aside from helping my wildlife patients, of course!) is working with the dedicated people who embody what it means to be an advocate for wildlife – not just on a population scale, but on the individual scale as well. Throughout my career, however, I learned about compassion fatigue and burnout the hard way. Because of this, I have become not only an advocate for excellent, progressive wildlife care, but also an advocate for exemplary ‘people care’ as well. To me, this isn’t just about maintaining positive mental health, but also encouraging camaraderie and collaboration.

 

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

Barn owl receiving an exam

I believe my ability to work and sympathize with others has helped me become a better wildlife professional, given that our work would simply not be possible without the support, collaboration, and dedication of others!

 

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

Early in 2019 I received an amazing opportunity to move from California to Oregon and open a new, state-of-the-art wildlife hospital. Despite having to leave a job I loved, it was quite the unique experience to use what I’ve learned worked (and perhaps most importantly – what didn’t work!) to design a modern wildlife hospital and comprehensive rehabilitation program from the ground up!

 

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

This is a tough question… Part of me wishes I could be a sea otter because watching them dart through the water like flexible torpedos is so fascinating (the great ‘free’ healthcare they’re receiving thanks to the amazing wildlife rehabilitation facilities on the coast is an added bonus) but after seeing how demanding their lives can be in a rapidly changing environment (as well as how they bounce in the waves in combination with my lack of enthusiasm for roller coasters) that’s probably not a great idea… 

 

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

I remember when I first started as a young intern in the field of wildlife rehabilitation… I would be so nervous and excited at what the unique challenges and learning opportunities the next day would bring, I would have difficulty falling asleep. I’m happy to say (after some hard work) I still get that feeling today!

Raccoon under anesthesia

IWRC works to support to wildlife carers affected by Australian bushfires

January 14, 2020        

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE        

[Eugene, Oregon]

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.

How you can help:

Create a video message of support to the wildlife carers in Australia. https://gathervoices.gv-one.com/?gId=1133&rId=3125

Write a letter/card, facilitate a letter writing campaign with youth, or donation cards. More info on our letter 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.

Message guidelines:

  • 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.).
  • Add personal touches, have fun, and be creative!

 

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Media Contact: Kai Williams, Executive Director Office:  (866) 871-1869 Email:  director@theiwrc.org 

The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council

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

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 at www.gathervoices.co

IWRC Australia Letter Writing Campaign

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.

Donate to the affected wildlife centers (list of centers needing support)

Letter writing guidelines:

  •     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 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 office@theiwrc.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 office@theiwrc.org or call 866.871.1869

Australia

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.

Rufous scrub-bird illustration (C) P. Latas

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.

Noisy scrub-bird illustration (C) P. Latas

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.

Facebook user Renae Bruce posted this photo of her brother-in-law holding one of the seven koala’s he rescued in the bush after the fire passed in Mallacoota.

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.

Twitter user @LuckayyLucario maps showing Sep-Dec burned areas comparing 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 using NASA data as of Jan 1, 2020.

 

IF YOU CONTINUE TO SCROLL DOWN, YOU WILL SEE DISTURBING IMAGES OF WILDLIFE AFFECTED BY FIRE

 

 

 

From CentralTelegraph.com.au A young girl looks at the burnt body of dead kangaroo while walking her dog along a scorched property at Mallacoota. Picture: David Caird

 

Facebook user Luke McCrone posted this photo, saying “Just went for a walk along the beach at #Mallacoota literally hundreds of dead birds washing up. The toll these fires has taken on our wildlife is devastating.”

 

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

1. Kookaburra
2. Rainbow Lorikeet
3. unidentified
4. Top Knot Pigeon
5. unidentified
6. New Holland Honeyeater
7. Whipbird
8. Gang-gang Cockatoo
9. Silvereye
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. 

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, kookaburra.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, rainbow lorikeet.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, unidentified (pigeon/dove family).

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, topknot pigeon.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, unidentified.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, New Holland honeyeater.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, whipbird.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, gang-gang cockatoo.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, silvereye.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, barn owl.

 

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   

 

Spotlight on Aya Cockram

Aya joined the IWRC staff on December 2nd, 2019.
You can find short bio’s on each of our staff members here!

Q&A with Aya:Staff member Aya Cockram standing in front of a waterfall.

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

IWRC staff member Aya in a red sweater sitting on a dune in sunllight

 

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.

 

Mindful and Thankful of our Journey for Wildlife

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.  

 

Suzanne Pugh

On behalf of the Development Committee and Board of Directors.

In memory of Gary Bogue, an IWRC founding board member & JWR editor

Image from an old copy of the Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation. Copyright IWRC JWR 5(3)

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.

Gary Bogue at the IWRC 1997 symposium banquet

 

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!

 

– Kai Williams, Executive Director

Gary’s sentiments remain unchanged here at IWRC. Copyright IWRC JWR 5(3)

Wildlife Disease Association 68th Annual International Conference (Part 3)

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.

Herring gull at the Truth or Consequences Landfill, Sierra Co., NM, 110127. (Larus argentatus) “CAB00669a” by jerryoldenettel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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.

Vaccine news
White-nose syndrome gross lesion; multi-factor presentation

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.

Herps

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.

Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans image from a Ghent University (Belgium) study published in 2015  “File:Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, clinical signs and pathology.jpg” by Cimbail is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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!

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.

Chlamydia

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.

Chlamydia species in native parrots, people and chickens can flow in all directions…

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.

Climate change

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.

Winner of the most uncomfortable award:
Nasopulmonary acariasis (Halarachne sp.) in southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis)

Colleen Shockling from Columbus Humane made a lot of the attendees squirm in their seats with descriptions and photos of nasal mites in southern sea otters.  (NCBI link here) © 2019 The Authors – This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

Tick world

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.

Anticoagulant rodenticide exposure in bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in the United States

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.

– Pat Latas, board member