Hello and good morning fellow biologists, naturalists, wildlife lovers, writers, bloggers, and everyone in general! I know i promised exciting pictures and a new article on ocean acidification and coral reef conservation but the dive trip I was planning to take has been post-poned until further notice. I had a meeting/workshop that Saturday and it forced me to cancel the trip. I am pretty bummed out but i know that trip will happen in the near future, while the waters are still warm.
Today’s topic is going to focus on wildlife rehabilitation, what it is, who these people are, and what they stand for.
Wildlife rehabilitation is defined as “the process of removing from the wild and caring for injured, orphaned, or sick wild animals. The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to provide the food, housing and medical care of these animals, returning them to the wild after treatment”. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildlife_rehabilitation) Wildlife rehab centers are amazing places where wild animals can get a second chance of survival. Unfortunately by law, it is required for wildlife rehab centers to euthanize injured NON-native wildlife. Any animal native or non-native deserves the right to be treated but unfortunately it is a complicated ethical issue. In one hand, you want every animal to be treated and survive, but on the other hand, treating and releasing non-native animals back into the ecosystem just promotes more harm to the overall balance of nature. My personal opinion to this subject is not so black and white, I have mixed feelings and I’ll gladly share them with you. First, I personally believe every animal has the right to be treated for injuries and be given a second chance at survival. On the other hand, our own ignorance and selfishness started this problem to begin with. I live in south Florida and little did I know how many invasive species we have living among us! Ex: Muscovy ducks, many species of pigeons and doves are all competing with our native wildlife for habitat and food and guess what? the invasive species are winning. Their numbers are skyrocketing while our natives are barely hanging on. So, releasing non-native wildlife back into the wild after care is not helping the situation, in fact, it is making it worse. It is from our mistakes as humans that have caused these complicated conflicts. In the end I really can’t agree with either side because it is such a huge ethical issue concerning the welfare of animals.
Pelican Harbor Seabird Station is a wildlife rehab center in Miami, Fl and it is where I intern. The staff includes: the director ‘Brian Fox’, the wildlife rehab manager ‘Jessica Cline’, a wildlife rehabilitator ‘Theresa’, and a part time wildlife rehabilitator ‘Jan’. Among the staff, many volunteers and interns work and help out this small organization. It is the dedication of the staff and volunteers that makes this organization successful. The South Florida Wildlife Rehab Center, which is located in Ft. Lauderdale has 60 staff and 3 veterinarians, and also has many volunteers who help run the organization. The main difference is that the South Florida Wildlife Center is funded by the Humane Society, the salary for someone just starting there is $12.06/Hour. That is a pretty nice pay check for someone just starting out in this field. Pelican Harbor is not funded by any organization, not even the state funds them. They’re profits are strictly from donations. They only have 3 full time staff including the director. That means two of the full time staff members are on their own taking in and rehabilitating injured wildlife all year round. They work 365 days a year, including holidays too. I cannot give enough praise to the volunteers who help them out daily for free. They show such determination, dedication to what they are passionate about. Just this year alone, Pelican Harbor took in nearly 1600 patients, and the year hasn’t even been over yet. For 3 full time staff members and one part time staff member, that is a lot of work and a lot of effort to treat all 1600 patients; that is why volunteers and donations are such a crucial part to the success of these small organizations
Pelican Harbor takes in a variety of wildlife, from egrets to herons to squirrels, to racoons, to owls, to hawks, to even turtles, but their specialty are (you guessed it), pelicans! The center is filled with pelicans and it is what they specialize in. Many wildlife rehab centers specialize on a certain species of animal and I mean “specialize” as in having the tools and special techniques to better assist that type of animal
A year ago, I interned at Florida International University at a marine ecology lab and worked under a Ph.D Student. She was a very nice girl but never taught me much about the job. She just used the volunteers and interns to do the dirt work so she can concentrate on more important things. I enjoyed doing the lab work but never quite understood the reason why we did the things we did. On top of feeling like I wasn’t part of the team, every time I would ask this Ph.D student on career advice, she was no help, whatsoever!! Toward the end of the school year, the team goes and scuba dives the Florida keys and studies fish behavior and feeding habits.The last day working in the lab, the Ph.D student offered to let me join their team and scuba dive with them in the keys. I was more than ecstatic and finally felt appreciated, and little did I know, she would never call me back the days they would go diving. By the end of the summer I was done with this internship, I felt under appreciated and extremely upset. My girlfriend knew about the situation and helped me look for other internships. She found me Pelican Harbor, and even though it wasn’t a research lab and did not specialize in ecology, it did have something relating to wildlife and conservation. A couple of emails here and there and a few weeks later, I was meeting the wonderful staff of Pelican Harbor.
After a few days working in Pelican Harbor, Jessica (the wildlife rehab manager) told me she wanted to get me involved as much as possible with everything. It started off as just cleaning the pelican pens and feeding the birds. I started to branch out, cleaning the inside pens and feeding the inside birds. Eventually I started assisting in administering medication and holding the birds while the wildlife rehabilitators would perform the procedures, to even use a stethoscope and make sure the bird was in good condition while under anesthesia. After interning for a little more than a month, I am doing all this wonderful work and attending workshops that specialize in: species identification, knowing which medications to administer, performing a physical to determine cause of injury, age of animal, and wrapping of wounds.
I could not be more grateful to be part of this organization. Even as just an unpaid intern, I feel so involved with Pelican Harbor that it feels as I am a full time employee. From getting out of such a bad experience with my previous internship, I was a little hesitant in interning. I have learned so much from this experience and I have yet to have scratched the surface of knowing it all. In the past, I never looked into wildlife rehabilitation, but I have had such a great experience working for this organization, that I wouldn’t be surprised getting into this field, professionally in the near future.
Wildlife rehabilitators make such a great impact on the world that we need more of these organizations in our society. It is such a shame that these places are mostly low budget and can barely pay they’re employees. Their website is http://www.pelicanharbor.org and any donations are more than greatly appreciated. These people deserve all the support they can get. They are passionate of what they do and they are good at it too. There are so many newsletters, articles, symposiums, workshops, and other things that prepare you for the field and help you share ideas with other wildlife rehabilitators. Let us hope that in the future, more funding will be provided to these organizations and more people will contribute to their goals; for these are nature’s hospitals.
Below you will see pictures of present patients at the facility.