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IWRC and BruWILD to Host Wildlife Rescue Class in Brunei

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JULY 12 2016

IWRC AND BRUWILD TO HOST WILDLIFE RESCUE CLASS IN BRUNEI

BANDAR SERI BEGEWAN, BRUNEI DARUSSALAM The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) and the Brunei Biodiversity & Natural History Society (BruWILD) have teamed up to provide wildlife rescue and rehabilitation training in Brunei. IWRC instructors will travel to Brunei July 25th through 30th to teach courses to 30 participants consisting members from BruWILD, the Wildlife Division (Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism), Universiti Brunei Darussalam and International School Brunei at the Faculty of Science laboratories, Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Funded by the US Embassy and supported by the Brunei Wildlife Division (MPRT), Universiti Brunei Darussalam, and International School Brunei, this training event is the culmination of a year’s collaboration between Liaw Lin Ji, founder and president of BruWILD, and Kai Williams, executive director of The IWRC.

Expanding human development and loss of forest habitats in Brunei Darussalam have forced many wild animals to encroach onto the human environment. The public encounters more wildlife – often in situations of distress from cars, windows, and other human infrastructure, plus greater prevalence of poaching. Animals found dead by roads or caught in the possession of poachers include the silvered-leaf langurs, otters, slow loris, pangolins, among others. This is a matter of concern as some of these species are of conservation significance and regarded as IUCN ‘Endangered’ or ‘Critically Endangered’.

“The increased encounter of injured wildlife in  Brunei requires the urgent need of a proper wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center and a team of trained wildlife rescue and rehabilitators. Realising this necessity, BruWILD has engaged IWRC for their kind assistance in the training and the Wildlife Division for their long-term support in this endeavour.” Through this training, Brunei is equipped with at least 30 trained individuals who can work towards the rehabilitation of Brunei’s wildlife. “We are thankful for the good support from the US Embassy Brunei whose funds enable the realisation of this project, and to UBD and ISB for their support and assistance.”

“We are thrilled to assist BruWILD with their enormous undertaking to provide a trained and effective wildlife rehabilitation team in the country of Brunei” says Williams. “These are some of the best possible circumstances for a training; where we can combine in situ knowledge of wildlife with our instructors’ expertise in wildlife rehabilitation”.

IWRC instructors, Dr Kelli Knight and Lloyd Brown, both Certified Wildlife Rehabilitators (CWRs) are excited to teach Brunei’s conservation biologists the skills and techniques of wildlife rehabilitation while in turn learning about the local ecosystem.

The week will begin with IWRC’s two day flagship course, Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation and will continue with courses in pain management, wound management, parasitology, and zoonoses all geared towards the particulars needed in wildlife rehabilitation. Friday brings special sessions on disaster management, an area of expertise for Brown who has worked in human and animal disaster management for over [x] years, and the public/wildlife interface, an area both instructors are active in every day. In all, participants will gain over 40 hours of continuing education.

Located on the island of Borneo, Brunei is a resource rich country with a vibrant diversity of tropical wildlife ranging from inhabitants of the ocean and mangrove swamps along the coast to primary forests in the hilly inland stretches. We are proud to be working towards the protection of these invaluable habitats for the benefit of the country and its people.

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BruWILD is a local non-government organisation officially formed in April 2014. BruWILD consists of graduates who are biologists with numerous backgrounds of expertise; including botany, herpetology, ornithology, mammal specialist, biochemistry, ecology, and marine life specialist. BruWILD’s aim is to build a future for Brunei where people and nature, sustainable development and natural heritage can coexist and thrive to mutual benefit. It is our mission to provide the best educational support to all local institutions in Brunei Darussalam. Our foundation that is built on the diverse experience and expertise of biologists allow us to also engage, participate and collaborate with government institutions and other non-government bodies in solving, mitigating numerous environmental related problems.

 

The IWRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that protects wildlife and habitat through training and resources on wildlife rehabilitation. The organization’s mission statement is “providing science-based education and resources on wildlife rehabilitation to promote wildlife conservation and welfare worldwide.” 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 protection worldwide.

 

International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council
   Contact: Kai Williams, Executive Director  
   Office:  (866) 871-1869
   Fax:     (408) 876-6153
   Email:  director@theiwrc.org

BruWILD
   Contact: Liaw Lin Ji, President
   Office:  (673) 886-9729
   Email:  bruwildorg@gmail.com

PDF of Brunei Press Release (no Images)

Images for Press Release

Pangolin walking through leaf litter. Photo Credit Mahdi Hussaimiya
Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica). One of the most important mammals to conserve as it is categorised as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN Red List. This species is highly exploited, poached for their skins, scales and meat. Their decline requires urgent attention for protection. Photo Credit Mahdi Hussaimiya
Tarsier. Photo credit Jungle Dave and Hakeem Julaihi
Western Tarsier (Tarsius bancanus). This species is considered ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN Red List. Tarsiers suffer from habitat loss due to forest conversion for agriculture and oil palm plantations, as well as illegal pet trade. Photo credit Jungle Dave and Hakeem Julaihi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monique Pool: Sloth Rehabilitator

Globe with country of Suriname in green (north coast of South America)
Country of Suriname (in green) Photo Credit: Artwin Wikipedia

Monique Pool is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Green Heritage Fund Suriname, a nonprofit organization that, among other activities, fosters and rehabilitates orphaned and injured sloths. She was recognized as one of CNN’s Heroes in 2015, a massive accomplishment for not only herself and organization, but as a representative of the wildlife rehabilitation community. Monique graciously allowed IWRC to interview her recently in light of her tremendous recognition and important work in Suriname. To learn more, please go to http://www.greenfundsuriname.org/en/.

1. How did you originally get involved in wildlife rehabilitation?

What I remember is that I was compassionate from a young age in respect of animals that were hurt. I have a vivid recollection of a bird I found, of which the top part of the beak was missing, undoubtedly because of a cat attack. I kept it in a box, and was giving it water, trying to keep it alive. I may have been 9 or 10 years old. I also remember always having liked animals. Then there was a long period in which I was not really all that involved in this type of activity. I studied linguistics, which has no relationship at all to this field, and I never contemplated it as a professional goal to rehabilitate wild animals.

Pre-release examination. Photo Credit: Monique Pool
A sloth physical examination. Photo Credit: Monique Pool

It was purely a coincidence in the beginning with the baby sloth put in my path. This experience made me realize that if you do not teach a baby animal the right skills, you have to look after it for life – just keeping an animal alive and in captivity is not enough. At least in my world it is not. To rehabilitate, you have to teach it skills that it would learn from its mother so that it is able to go back and survive on its own in the wild. For me it was a conscious decision to care for Xenarthrans (mammal group including anteater, sloth, and armadillo species) that would cross my path, because I realized it is a responsibility that is not to be taken lightly. It is a commitment, a sort of a promise to myself, that I keep doing this. I also have set myself a condition for continuing this work, which is that the day I no longer feel emotionally involved in the fate of an animal, I will stop this type of work, because it would mean I have become jaded.

2. What do you think it means about the perception of wildlife that you, a wildlife rehabilitator, were chosen for CNN Hero award?

It shows the increased awareness society has of our responsibility for the animals we affect through deforestation and other human activities.

Heavy equipment removing trees
Equipment removing trees in a Suriname forest.

3. Were you recognized locally for your award, and if so, did it have an impact on the attitudes towards wildlife and rehabilitation in your area?

Yes, for putting Suriname in a positive light in front of a global audience. Now, indeed no one can even try to sell a sloth through Facebook because of the online public in Suriname. They will immediately start reporting it, attacking these people on the online platform, saying it is illegal to sell a protected species, they start calling, etc. People phone asking about what to do when they see one crossing the road. People realize they need specialized attention and so do not try to care for them themselves, but report it to the Zoo or animal protection society and then it comes to us.

4. What is the greatest threat facing the wildlife you rescue and rehab in your region/country?

Deforestation/urbanization for housing and raising cattle. And then hunting.

5. What are the biggest challenges to rehabilitation and successful release in your region/country?

Lack of a natural environment to slowly rehabilitate the animals to ensure they are capable of surviving on their own. That is why we are now building the center to do this in a natural environment.

6. When the job and needs of so many animals becomes overwhelming and seemingly endless, how do you cope and find motivation to keep going?

I have South American friends who have said they also get depressed sometimes, so I know I am not alone in this feeling. The other thing is I want to be certain I have done everything I can for the animals, that they have had the best help, got second opinions and anything we can do. It still surprises me that there is seemingly no end to this and that is a big challenge. Support from my family, friends, and the wonderful volunteers I work with keep me going.

7. Sloths have become popular on social media sites in the form of photos, videos, and memes. There is also a demand for them in the pet trade and for tourist photo opportunities. How do you think wildlife rehabilitators can best address or consider the risks of promoting our necessary hands-on work with wildlife, especially popular or attractive species, without unintentionally supporting a desire within the public to be hands-on with them as well?

Monique Pool holds a sloth under its armpits as she carries it to release tree. View of Monique and sloth faces.
Readying a sloth for release. Photo Credit: Monique Pool

Always have a clear message that wild animals belong in the wild and that the reason you are keeping them in a unnatural environment and handling them is just a stage in the rehabilitation process to get them back in to the wild and never compromise on this. Keep promoting that wildlife belongs in the wild.

8. Assuming wildlife rehabilitation will always be needed to some degree and play a role in the welfare and conservation of wild animals, what would you like to see change for field of wildlife rehabilitation?

I would like to see a platform, maybe species specific – which may exist but I am not aware of – for wildlife rehabilitators to talk and contact each other. I am only now being contacted by other rehabilitators because I have been recognized, and they have questions about how to care for an animal.

A definite change I would like to see is more funding is made available for this type of work, also from an international level like the UN or GEF, for wildlife rehabilitation, because it is a worldwide problem caused by humans. This means that humanity takes on the responsibility for funding this type of work, because most rehabilitators do it out of their love for animals, and often fund themselves, although they are clearly providing a social benefit.

Sloth with long red fur climbing a tree - view of back of sloth.
A just released sloth climbs a tree. Photo Credit: Monique Pool

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.

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.

A new tool for bat rehabbers

White-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal pathogen caused by Pseudogymnoascus (formerly Geomyces) destructans, was first identified in 2006, and has since been associated with the deaths of over 6 million bats here in North America. This devastating fungal infection may be present even when no obvious signs are seen. Therefore, we as rehabbers must be aware of any potential infection and act accordingly with isolation and care to prevent the build up or spreading of the fungal spores within our facilities. The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center has tested the use of UV light to detect WNS in bats. The good news is that by simply evaluating the bat using a UV light, nearly 99% of WNS cases were detected, and 100% of bats that tested negative, were indeed, negative for the disease. 1 That means that we can use this tool with confidence as we admit bats to our care.

Buy an appropriate UV light. I checked and there are suitable models ranging from about $20 to several hundred dollars on Amazon. Be sure that the unit you buy works at the required light range of 385nm. Use this in a darkened area and explore all surfaces of the bat for signs of orange-yellow fluorescence indicating microscopic lesions associate with WNS as seen in the following photo.

USGS White Nose UV image
Bat wing lit with hand held UV light showing fluorescence of lesions in yellow. Image Credit USGS1.

If you have a positive result, your bat care should include isolation and appropriate cleaning to ensure you do not have a build up of these spores. The https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/ website has a decontamination section which offers some great information, however, your standard cleaning agents may also be effective against fungal spores. So simply check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for your cleaning agent’s range of action.

The care and rehabilitation of animals infected with WNS are well covered in the following two documents; Rehabilitating Bats with White Nose Syndrome, and Protocol for Wildlife Rehabilitator Response to Hibernating Bats Affected with White-Nose Syndrome.

So in summary, this fungus is extremely widespread and any bat admitted, especially during the winter months, may be contaminated with microscopic lesions, which means every bat should be screened for WNS. Many of these bats are now members of shrinking populations and each animal represents an increasing percentage of the gene pool of that species, so we as rehabbers must do the very best for these animals as individuals. Also get to know your local researchers and become involved in the monitoring of the local bats. You will be able to bring your skills to the team and help when impacted animals require professional care. Finally, buy a UV light so you can simply screen your patients, not just on intake, but during the period of their care to ensure that if there are indeed developing lesions, you can act promptly, reducing any build-up of spores, and preventing it’s spread to others in your care. This is a great new tool for the rehabbers kit.

Reference:
1Gregory G. Turner, Carol Uphoff Meteyer, Hazel Barton, John F. Gumbs, DeeAnn M. Reeder, Barrie Overton, Hana Bandouchova, Tomáš Bartonička, Natália Martínková, Jiri Pikula, Jan Zukal, David S. Blehert. Nonlethal Screening of Bat-Wing Skin With the Use of Ultraviolet Fluorescence to Detect Lesions Indicative of White-Nose Syndrome. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 2014; 140522114529005 DOI: 10.7589/2014-03-058

Surviving an Emergency

A fire incident that occurred on the afternoon of August 7 near Spencer Butte, Eugene, Oregon caused a gutted house, several burnt vehicles and charred trees. Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire and firefighters managed to prevent the fire from spreading. Located northeast of Spencer’s Butte, Cascades Raptor Center (CRC) decided to execute their evacuation plan the moment Executive Director Louise Shimmel saw a billowing plume of smoke a quarter mile away from the center.

How important is it to have a disaster preparedness plan?

“Extremely important,” said Shimmel. CRC’s detailed emergency action plan was put together by a graduate student at the University of Oregon who had past work experience with Red Cross. The Eugene Fire Department also inspected the center and gave their feedback, such as regulating parking spaces onsite for emergency vehicles and installing a staging area for staff and volunteers to meet and decide the next course of action during an emergency. According to Lane County’s Fire Safety Standards for Roads and Driveways, driveways should be at least 20 feet wide to allow access for fire fighting vehicles and turnaround as well, which CRC already has.

“In general consideration of state fire prevention guidelines, there were some things we could do and others we could not. We try to maintain a 13-foot high ceiling for fire trucks to get in but we don’t have a 30-foot perimeter around the buildings,” Shimmel said. “We want a comfortable habitat here for birds but that puts us more at risk.

Emergency transport boxes ready to go. When not in use they are stored flat in the emergency shed. Photo credit: Cascades Raptor Center
Emergency transport boxes ready to go. When not in use they are stored flat in the emergency shed. Photo credit: Cascades Raptor Center

As part of implementing the action plan, CRC’s volunteers helped build an emergency shed (generously funded by one of their volunteers) that stored supplies such as walkie-talkies and collapsible carriers for animals; marked drawers containing vital information and set up a backup procedure for their computers. Quarterly assessment checks on all batteries were carried out as well.

“It’s kind of hard to do a fire drill when you know that it isn’t real. But in this case, it was real,” Shimmel explained.

On the day of the fire, there were only eight people at the center; after activating the phone tree, another 19 volunteers and staff were there within 20 minutes to help with the evacuation. CRC’s Education Director, Kit Lacy, directed the evacuation plan: sprinklers on the side of the property toward the fire were turned on; with some 100 birds on site, dozens of carriers and transport boxes were put together and set up with towels and with sheets to cover them; any equipment with gasoline and any combustible items like oxygen tanks were moved away from the buildings; critical file and medical supply drawers were emptied, packed, and loaded into vehicles; computers were backed up.

Shimmel was grateful for the efficient fire and police response during the incident, and particularly their understanding and support of the magnitude of CRC’s evacuation requirements.  Some of the roads leading to the butte were blocked to prevent traffic from entering, but police allowed responding volunteers through.  A police officer was stationed near the driveway to CRC, keeping staff and volunteers in contact with the fire response effort.  Just as volunteers were about to start loading birds into carriers, the police officer informed them the fire was contained, and staff decided to stand down.  From start of activating the phone tree to the finish of putting away all the carriers, files, equipment, the whole exercise took about two hours.  Staff had previously estimated – though without a fire drill to be sure – that it would take about two hours to get everybody ready to leave, depending on how many birds were on site and how many staff and volunteers were here to assist.”

What could have been done differently?

“Part of our plan is to, if necessary, simply release any flighted bird.  When it came down to contemplating that, it’s clear that we would need to install release hatches on bird cages, instead of opening the doors and expecting them to fly down from 20 feet to 8 feet and then fly out,” Shimmel said.

What should all wildlife centers have in place?

Shimmel stressed the importance of a disaster preparedness plan for other situations (not merely fires) and having supplies set aside for emergencies – supplies that are not for daily use, but only for emergencies, even though that requires duplication. Regular checks should be done on batteries for electrical equipment such as walkie-talkies. A reciprocal agreement with other rehabilitation centers within the same area should be planned in case animals need to be held at another shelter if the center is not safe or has been damaged. Smoke detectors should be installed in all buildings along with frequent checks on the batteries.

The next imperative step is to have designated organization staff that are aware of the emergency plan and who know how to initiate it during an emergency. “We have staff here all the time along with volunteers, so they will know our plans and how to put it in action,” Shimmel said. Prevention is always better than cure – she contacts the non-emergency police and fire dispatch whenever she or anyone from CRC hears sirens nearby or a helicopter in the area, just to make sure it is not a hazardous incident that will affect the center.

CRCFireOver
Fire alert over! The Cascades Raptor Center staff and volunteers resting before getting everything back in its place, post emergency alert. Photo Credit: Cascades Raptor Center

At the end of the day, Shimmel was thankful that the fire did not affect the center directly and that the preparedness plan worked out despite not testing it out previously – post-event evaluations collected from everyone who assisted have also led to some good suggestions on how to improve the plan. “We had a good crew here who knew what to do. Everyone was so shaky afterwards. Adrenaline is tough,” she said. “It was, in the end, a good experience.”

 

 

Wild Within – A book review

official high-res book coverMelissa Hart’s Wild Within is an engaging text that loosely intertwines the stories of her work with Cascades Raptor Center and her quest for an adopted child. Melissa sneaks in snippets of natural history and wildlife rehabilitation ethics, bringing this little known profession to a popular audience. The text provides a new volunteer’s view of wildlife rehabilitation, making it a valuable read for the seasoned professional as well as the general public.

One section which mentioned a volunteer storing human food in the carcass freezer, never a good idea. But overall the book portrays wildlife rehabilitation responsibly; an expert author’s skills applied to the passion of wildlife rehabilitation, penning the successes and failures of this emerging field in wildlife conservation.

 

What’s your favorite wildlife rehabilitation memoir?

Platypus Rehabilitation

As August 30 is Frankenstein Day, we thought of an animal that checks all the boxes for being unorthodox and nature’s most unique specimen – the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus).

platypus
Photo by Wikipedia

The platypus is a monotreme and one of the two that are only found in Australia, the other being the short-beaked echidna. The platypus has water-repellent fur, webbed feet and a leathery bill similar to a duck’s. They are difficult to observe in the wild because of their aquatic and nocturnal nature. Platypuses hunt underwater and are bottom feeders. Hence, one of their biggest threats is pollution and rubbish clogging the waterways especially in urban areas.

According to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital veterinarian Dr. Claude Lacasse, wildlife rehabilitators in Australia require a specialized permit with appropriate training and facilities to rehabilitate platypus. Because they are heat-sensitive and have a low body temperature, they do not thrive in temperatures higher than 30°C/86°F.

Platypuses can get very stressed in care because of their shy nature. They tend to expend their energy looking for means to escape in captivity. A quiet and stress-free environment with minimal disturbances is needed to ensure they do not experience complications from stress. Platypuses do not bite as they have no teeth, but adult males have venomous spurs on their hind legs, which can cause severe pain in humans that even powerful pain relief medications cannot alleviate. However, infant and juvenile platypus are generally easier to handle and can be managed similarly to other mammal species.

Adult platypus in water. Photo: Healesville Sanctuary
Photo: Healesville Sanctuary

According to Dr. Paul Eden, senior veterinarian at Healesville Sanctuary in Zoos Victoria, platypuses can be picky eaters as they rely on their ability to sense electrical activities from their food items in order to locate food. Water access is provided to platypuses in rehabilitation for them to perform their natural behaviors of swimming and food foraging. This also aids them to groom and maintain the health of their coat themselves.

Dr. Lacasse points out that Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital usually receives only 4-5 platypuses in a year, mostly when the young disperse from their maternal burrows and hunt by themselves. The hospital rehabilitates young platypuses that become anemic and weak because of ticks. According to Dr. Lacasse, sometimes the platypuses are too far gone for rehabilitation, but anti-parasitics, vitamins and good nutrition strengthens them enough to be released eventually. In Healesville Sanctuary, an average of 2-4 platypuses are rehabilitated because they often get entangled in discarded fishing lines and nets and elastic bands, according to Dr. Eden. These items can restrict their movements, preventing them from feeding and causing infected wounds.

Although the platypus is not an endangered species, wildlife experts are concerned that their populations are waning due to habitat destruction and illegal trapping. Run off of fertilizers and pesticides into waterways can affect invertebrate organisms living in creeks and dams, which in turn affects the platypus because these are important food items. Changes in flood patterns can cause erosion to river banks and sometimes flooding burrows, affecting the waterways. Also, entanglement in litter is an issue for platypuses that live in urban waterways. According to Dr. Eden, Zoos Victoria encourages people who fish to discard unwanted fishing lines by installing bins along popular fishing spots. Waste items such as rubber bands and plastic bottle rings should also be cut through to prevent animal trappings.

For more information on platypus ecology and conservation, read this informational guide by the Australian Platypus Conservancy.

Post-Release Monitoring of Hand-Reared Songbirds

This guest blog post is a short paper on an ongoing research project. Enter the world of creating and executing a research project. The authors describe their set up, the frustrating lack of initial results, and changes made to improve the study. I’m looking forward to seeing what this year will bring! – Kai

Guest writers Halley Buckanoff BS, CVT, CWR and Lynn J. Moseley, BS, PhD

The Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (VHS WRC) at the North Carolina Zoo, in partnership with faculty at Guilford College, has been conducting a post-release survival study of commonly rehabilitated backyard, non-migratory songbirds for four years to date.  A search of the literature revealed few studies on post-release survival and/or behavior of hand-reared and rehabilitated songbirds (Berger 1966; Dunning 1988; Ferguson and Ludwig 1991).  Anecdotal comments suggest that the behavior of hand-reared wild birds is sometimes distinguishable from that of their parent-reared counterparts as they act inappropriately for their sex or species, are unafraid of humans and/or continue to come to humans for food.

Seven species of birds were chosen for the study based on admission numbers at the VHS WRC and the potential for re-sighting released birds near feeders or around homes. All have non-migratory populations in North Carolina.  The species chosen were American Robins (Turdus migratorius, AMRO), Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata, BLJA), Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus, CARW), Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis, EABL), Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura, MODO), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis, NOCA) and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus, RBWO).

All study birds were admitted in their hatch year at fledgling stage or younger, and were hand-raised within the guidelines of the VHS WRC by trained staff, volunteers, and interns following standardized protocols for veterinary care as needed, husbandry, nutrition, and pre-release conditioning.

Robin with leg bands being held and examined
Banded American robin

Prior to release, birds were banded with a numbered metal band and three colored bands in a unique combination for specific identification of individuals. Bird-banding is regulated by the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) and requires a federal permit; both authors possess federal licenses for bird-banding.

All post-release data was compiled through periodic observations of banded birds. If a released bird was re-sighted, we recorded behavioral data according to the following categories: Feeding (F), preening/bathing (P/B), carrying nesting material (CNM), resting (R), other comments (O).  If feeding was observed, we noted whether it occurred at an established feeder.  We also recorded whether the bird was with other banded or non-banded birds.  We used this information to help determine whether a released bird demonstrated appropriate species-specific affiliations. 

During 2010, the study’s first year, we attempted to engage the public to be “Citizen Scientists” and participate in the study.  Birds were predominately released by the person who had rescued the bird and brought it to the VHS WRC.  Birds were transported to their original capture site in vented paper bags and hard released.  A total of 43 birds were banded with metal and color bands and released (Table 1). Unfortunately, no members of the public who released the birds reported any data, and upon inquiry the participants stated that they had not looked vigilantly for the banded birds.

Table 1.  Species of birds and numbers of individuals of each species rehabilitated, banded, released, and re-sighted in each year of this study. 

YEAR AMRO BLJA CARW EABL MODO NOCA RBWO TOTALS # birds resighted
2010 18 3 3 13 1 2 3 43 0
2011 8 4 14 6 6 0 4 42 0
2012 12 1 5 2 1 5 2 28 1 NOCA
2013 15 6 13 7 0 1 3 45 5 CARW
TOTALS 53 14 35 28 8 8 12 158 6

The following year, in 2011, Volunteers/Interns at the VSH WRC conducted releases. Birds were again transported in vented paper bags to appropriate habitats and hard released. A total of 42 birds were metal and color banded and released (Table 1).  But, once again no data was acquired due to lack of surveying for released birds.

Explorarium hanging with robins ready for prerelease.
Psuedo-soft release

In 2012, study birds were released and monitored by the two authors only, and only at two locations.  Sites chosen offered suitable habitat for study birds (those species had been observed routinely at each site) and could be easily monitored. Feeders were maintained at both locations.  In the first half of the season birds were transported in vented paper bags and hard released; at the second half of the season birds were transported in Exo Terra Explorariums® soft-sided hanging enclosures.

The enclosures were hung in visual distance of a feeder and left, depending on time of day, several hours to overnight.  The door to the enclosure was then unzipped and the birds were allowed to leave at their own will.  We referred to this release type as pseudo-soft release.

Of the 28 banded and released birds, one pseudo-soft released Northern Cardinal was repeatedly observed for 5 months post release. The ethogram results suggest that it exhibited appropriate behaviors for a normal wild bird.

Released banded Carolina wren perched on railing
Re-sighting of released Carolina wren

Due to the encouraging results of 2012, the same techniques were used in 2013.  Of the 45 birds banded and released, five Carolina Wrens (CARW) were seen repeatedly (Table 1).  The first 4 CARW were released as a group and were seen on an almost daily basis for up to 3 months.  The activity log included reports of interactions with non-banded CAWR, feeding at feeders as well as foraging in brush, and bathing/preening. The birds gave alarm calls when observers approached.  The fifth wren was released at another date approximately 10 weeks later with another group of CARW and was seen almost daily for up to a month.  Ethogram comments were the same as for the four wrens released earlier, but also included molting, at which time it was caught by a dog and succumbed.

This study is still in its early stages, as we continue to refine our techniques, and does not have enough data for statistical analysis at this point.  However, as our techniques improve, we hope to increase the number of resightings, and possibly to include telemetry in the future.  We believe that understanding the impacts of hand-rearing songbirds on their post-release survival will provide critical information for wildlife rehabilitators, and may serve to test the effectiveness of different techniques for successfully raising songbirds.

References:

Berger, A.J. 1966.  Survival in the wild of hand-reared passerine birds.  Condor 68:304-305.

Dunning, J.B. 1988.  Significant encounters with marked birds.  North American Bird Bander 13: 110-112.

Ferguson, Bruce and Daniel R. Ludwig.  1991.  Post-release behavior of captive-reared American Robins (Turdus migratorius).  Wildlife Rehabilitation 9: 193-205.

Product Information:

Explorarium®, Exo Terra,   Rolf C. Hagen (U.S.A.) Corp., Mansfield, MA. 02048

 

Authors:

Halley D. Buckanoff, BS, CVT, CWR

Halley is the Lead Veterinary Technician at the North Carolina Zoo’s Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center overseeing rehabilitation practices, center operations, and volunteers/interns. She graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology.  She is a Certified Veterinary Technician with 10+ years of emergency, exotic, zoo and wildlife medicine and husbandry experience.  She has completed graduate level course work in animal population management and animal nutrition.  She has worked as field biologist mist-netting, trapping, banding, tracking and radio-collaring birds.  She is also the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s North American Regional Studbook Keeper for Perodicticus potto (a small African monkey).  She became a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator in 2009 and has been a contract instructor for IWRC since 2010.

 

Lynn J. Moseley, B.S., Ph.D.

Lynn is Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.  She teaches courses in Ornithology, Animal Behavior, and Vertebrate Field Zoology, among others.  She received her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary, and her Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Her main areas of interest include social behavior and communication of vertebrates, especially birds, and behavioral ecology.