Why we rehabilitate
Sometimes we are asked why we rehabilitate injured and orphaned wild animals.
The following are answers to those questions.
"Injured animals are the weaker of their species, we should just let nature take its course."
Human activity is the primary cause of injury to wild animals that arrive at rehabilitation centres. From being hit by a vehicle, attacked by a domestic cat or dog, entangled in a fence or fish line, hitting a window or building, to being electrocuted, poisoned or shot - these are the reasons why wild animals are brought to us. Orphaned babies are generally the product of the parents being killed or disturbed from their nest or den. These activities are not natural obstacles for these animals and we believe in trying to compensate for all of the negative impacts humans have on wildlife and nature.
"Saving one wild animal will not do anything to help the population."
We know. But this individual animal's life is as important to it as yours is to you. Our mandate is to improve the welfare of individual wild animals and not to save a species. However, in some cases we do treat rare or locally threatened wildlife that does make a difference to the population. At the same time, we are developing expertise and knowledge in wild animal husbandry that may one day be needed to help care for future species at risk or in emergency situations like oil spills. After all, it was falconers and rehabilitators who had the knowledge of how to care for Peregrine Falcons in captivity, which helped the endangered species begin to re-establish and be re-classified as a "threatened species."
"Money is better spent on habitat protection and species conservation."
Concerns for species and habitat protection have dominated traditional wildlife management practices and significant government resources are allocated to these efforts. We agree that more needs to be done to protect species and habitats, as there is no purpose in treating injured and orphaned wild animals if there is nowhere to release them afterwards. However, wildlife rehabilitation is not funded by government resources and does not deter these funds from conservation efforts. Members of the public fund wildlife rehabilitation through donations, which indicates that they desire the activity. Wildlife rehabilitation is also a tool of conservation by acting as an environmental indicator for what is happening in the environment - look at the research we are currently involved in.
"Rehabilitation doesn't do anything except make the rehabilitator feel better."
Wildlife rehabilitators do feel good that they are improving the welfare of wild animals. However, not every case is heart-warming - some are very difficult. Across North America, the average release rate for rehabilitation is 30-40% for the types of species we treat. This means that 30% of the animals die in care within hours or days of being admitted or before they even reach the center, and there is nothing we can do for them but provide a safe and warm environment. The remaining animals suffer from severe injuries, illness, or emaciation that they will never recover from to function in the wild again, and therefore they are provided with humane euthanasia - another form of release - that from a very painful life. This definitely does not make a rehabilitator feel good, although they know that this is the best option for the animal. At the same time, if we did not rehabilitate wildlife, many well-intentioned people would take injured and orphaned wildlife home and without the proper knowledge and training they could potentially cause more harm.