Perth Raptor Care

Philosophy of Raptor Rehabilitation

A large number of raptors (and other native animals) are injured or killed each year by human causes. There are many reasons for and against wildlife rehabilitation, depending on your point of view.

Many people claim that rehabilitation and release are important for conservation, and populations of wild animals- this is questionable. The number of animals that are successful after release is a tiny fraction of the whole population of that species. Other people argue that rehabilitation could harm wild populations by releasing animals that have picked up diseases while in captivity. This is possible, though less likely than wild ones bringing their own diseases to captive animals. Some argue that the released animals are carrying defective genes, and will 'contaminate' the gene pool. That argument is ridiculous, since if the animal is genetically defective, it won't survive to reproduce after release. The only case where releasing animals back to the wild will increase their population in the long term, is with some critically endangered or very rare species. This will only happen if the problem that caused the species to be endangered has been fixed.

Rehabilitation does help conservation in very important ways. It increases our knowledge of the needs of the animals, both in the wild and in captivity. Conservation is also promoted by generating awareness and appreciation for wildlife through education. Education includes the experience that members of the public receive when they find an animal, and talk to a rehabilitator. Conservation initiatives and lobbying of governments are often initiated by those 'picking up the pieces' when there are environmental problems.

So why rehabilitate the common animals at all? Why not put all the money and effort into public education and conservation efforts? The reasons why a person chooses to rehabilitate wildlife are complex, and they vary from one wildlife carer to the next. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

peregrine Falcon Humans are a little unusual in the animal kingdom in that we have an instinctive drive to help and nurture (some of us more than others). Other animals take good care of their young, and even those of other families. The difference is, they don't usually steal a 'baby' of a totally different species from it's home just to raise it. This is how we ended up with pets and domestic animals.

On the other hand, humans do a lot of thinking. We reason just for the sake of the thought that goes into it. This is how we have ended up with philosophy and cars and power lines everywhere. That thinking has also led many of us to reason that, if all of our things and activities have resulted in an injured or orphaned animal, it should be our responsibility to put it right, and make the animal well again.

There is a thrill to helping and putting something back the way it is supposed to be. Why else does releasing a wild animal give us such a 'rush'? Of course, being such curious and communicative creatures, we also get a great deal of pleasure from getting to know our patients on a semi-personal level. Can you see the falcon (above) "smiling"?

Unfortunately, not all wildlife carers are good wildlife rehabilitators. Some of them keep animals that just shouldn't be kept alive, because they can't face grief, or refuse to believe their animal is suffering. A few of them don't even care that much. Having a wild animal as a pet is just a status booster for some people. It is easy to spot these people when you know how the animal they have should be treated, and what it's body language is. A status pet keeper will handle the animal without consideration of the animal's wellbeing. The one that invites you over, and shows you their eagle, while they grab it, pet it, and show off the cowering, struggling bird. Of course, there are also the carers who really do care, but they just don't have a clue. We all start out that way, but the occasional ones who stay that way are frightening!

I rehabilitate raptors for a combination of reasons. I am fascinated by them, and I get a real buzz out of seeing a bird that would have otherwise died, go back to the skies where it belongs. It is rarely an easy task, though. The learning is constant, you never know everything there is to know. The birds certainly never thank you, and sometimes even "swear" at you on release! A lot of them are beyond help, and it is painful to make the decision to euthanise, or to watch them slip away while you are helpless. Somehow, for me, the enjoyment outweighs the sorrow.

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