Happy National Zoo Keeper Week! What does this have to do with wildlife rehabilitation?

This week (July 19th through 25th) the American Association of Zoo Keepers celebrates National Zoo Keeper Week (NZKW), focusing “on the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats via conservation messages created by their institutions.”

The debate about wildlife in captivity is a complicated issue that is being talked about more and more (link 1, link 2, link 3). Long term captivity is under constant scrutiny by those involved in the rehabilitation and zoo fields. Of foremost concern is the fact that animals placed in zoos via rehabilitators are in fact, wild, and unaccustomed to the challenges of long term captivity. Rehabilitators and zoo staff recognize that placement may pose significant risks to an animals long term health and mental well being. However, solutions to evaluate, monitor and resolve these risks vary and can be a source of contention. Despite this debate, we and our zoological institution colleagues have quite a bit in common, as can be demonstrated in the following Venn diagram:

Venn diagram showing where the spheres of wildlife rehabilitation, zoos, and USFWS overlap.
Venn diagram created from NWRA attendee responses to the question, ‘what are the roles/characteristics of each group’.

To help bridge this gap, the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) hosted a working group at the 2020 National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium back in February with over 30 professionals from the IWRC, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and representatives from Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoological institutions. The goal of this working group was to discuss our missions and how we can better work together. After all, regardless of one’s opinions on the matter of wildlife in captivity, we all have a similar goal at our very core: saving wildlife

So, what does working together and aligning our missions look like? We’d love to hear your thoughts. While this meeting was just the tip of the iceberg, we hope we can continue to encourage the collaborative spirit for the sake of our world’s wildlife…

For more information:

National Zoo Keeper Week and the American Association of Zoo Keepers

Building Bridges….and visiting the Zoo – Presentation

Building Bridges… and visiting the Zoo – Resource Handout

Connections… Wildlife Rehabilitation and the Zoo – Presentation

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