Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Importance of Rehab

We’ve often been asked why wildlife rehabilitation is important?  Why spend large sums of money on an animal nobody owns, to get it back into the wild?  Does saving one animal and returning it to the wild really make a difference?
 A Mississippi Kite admitted to rehab with an injured wing
At World Bird Sanctuary between 300-400 wild sick, injured or orphaned birds are admitted to our wildlife hospital each year.  Our hospital staff does everything they can to treat them and get them back out into the wild.  Our release rate is high – about 50% of these birds are released back into the wild.  The remaining birds either have injuries that they will not recover from and have to be euthanized, or they die during hospitalization. 

So why does World Bird Sanctuary spend approximately $55,000 per year to cover the costs of running our wildlife hospital?  Why do we continue to treat and release birds? 

Walter C. Crawford Jr., Executive Director and Founder of the World Bird Sanctuary is emphatic about the Sanctuary’s commitment to wildlife rehabilitation:
 Executive Director, Walter Crawford, and Liberty, a Bald Eagle who is alive today only because of rehab
“Rehabilitation is a highly controversial topic.  Many conservation professionals and wildlife biologists feel that rehabilitation is a waste of time and money, rather than a productive avenue to species preservation.  Others, just as qualified, feel rehabilitation is necessary.

“On one hand, we must provide a service to help solve the problems that humans have created.  But we must do so in a professional manner that minimizes concerns, monetary expenditures and the energy of those who are responsible for regulating this area of wildlife protection.  Many will say that the money spent to rehabilitate a Red-tailed Hawk would be better spent on habitat management and the purchase of land.

“Perhaps this is true, but who among you would tell a child or other concerned citizen that they should just kill an animal they’ve rescued?  Humans are responsible for causing the large numbers of injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife, so we should be held responsible for their care and treatment. 
 Our rehab team, Dr. Stacey Schaeffer, Roger Holloway and Joe Hoffman work to remove an arrow from a Hawk's chest
“For those individuals who say ‘let nature take its course’, this is not nature, but something we have created, are responsible for and must respond to in some way.  But this needs to be managed properly – with the right medical care, housing, nutrition, captive management and captive conditioning.  As much as we owe these creatures the treatment for what we have done to them, we also owe them the courtesy of preserving their integrity and quality of life. Mother Nature has created a unique system of life, but it is not the utopian state that many visualize.  All animals are born, struggle to live and then die.  We cannot change what evolution has developed.  Personal feelings must be put aside, and in many instances this can be difficult. 

 Sanctuary Manager, Joe Hoffmann, holding the arrow removed from this Hawk
“Most importantly, wildlife rehabilitation provides us with hard facts and scientific data on how humans are affecting the creatures that share the earth with us.  We also have a unique educational opportunity when rehabilitating wildlife.  Education is the key to the future and essential to our mission of preserving wildlife.  We have proof of humans interfering with the web of life.  What better way to get our message to the public?  Show them what is happening and explain what must be done to change it.”

The above article was originally printed in The Mews News in 2009 and we felt it was something we should share with our blog readers.

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