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Wildlife rehabilitation is the treatment and care of injured, orphaned, or sick wild animals so that they can be released back to the wild.
Rehabilitation begins when an animal is found and reported to a wildlife rehabilitator, or seized from the illegal wildlife trade or a poacher. The rehabilitator will examine the animal to determine the extent of the injury and the probability of successful rehabilitation. If it appears that the animal can make a sufficient recovery to be able to return to the wild, the animal will be fed, nurtured, provided safe temporary housing, and medically treated as necessary.
Animals that cannot be rehabilitated are usually euthanized humanely, although animals are occasionally placed at facilities appropriately licensed for educational exhibit or brought into appropriate lifetime care in a wildlife rescue center.
A non-releasable animal may sometimes be kept by the rehabilitator (under separate permit) as a surrogate parent for orphaned or injured young wildlife.
The field of wildlife rehabilitation varies from small scale operations of individuals working from their homes, usually working with a veterinarian; to professionally staffed wildlife hospitals. Some organizations are teaching wildlife hospitals: Tristate Bird Rescue, Paws Wildlife Center, the Wildlife Center of Virginia, and The Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife provide training to veterinary students from around the world, and offer one-year postdoctoral internships in clinical wildlife medicine. Other facilities are affiliated with universities, such as the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.
Another type of wildlife rehabilitator is the Senkwekwe Centre in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which cares for the only two orphan baby mountain gorillas in captivity. Their rescue and subsequent survival is considered an important contribution to the conservation of a critically endangered species.
Many wildlife rehabilitators and centers are also committed to improving the well-being of wildlife though public education; focusing on how humans can safely and peacefully coexist with native wildlife, and on wildlife’s importance to humans and the environment. Wildlife rehabilitation clinics can also often offer advice and guidance on humane solutions for "nuisance" wildlife concerns.
In many countries, including the United States and Australia, wildlife rehabilitation requires a license and/or permit. In these countries, it is against the law to rehabilitate (or in some cases possess) a wild animal without permits. In the United States, rehabilitation permits, requirements, and procedures for all animals other than birds vary from state to state.
Rehabilitation of birds in the U.S. requires, per the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, that a permit be obtained from both the state wildlife agency and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The only birds rehabilitators can admit without a federal permit are common birds considered to be introduced invasive species: rock doves, European starlings, and house sparrows; although some licensed rehabilitation facilities cannot accept introduced species as a condition of their licensing.
Services provided by wildlife rehabilitators
- Lessens biologists workload.
- Ensure humane and professional care of injured animals.
- Provides great help to professional wildlife handlers to help WDFW with wildlife cope-up with emergencies.
- Provides data and staff-power for areas of wildlife research and retrospective studies.
- Specialized in threat and endangered species recovery.
- Assists in monitoring disease and domestic animal protection and public health.
- Provides self-regulation and self-enforcement within the wildlife rehabilitator community.
- Provides valuable public education and clear understanding regarding securement of wildlife community and its necessary motives.
- Wildlife rehabilitation and conservation centers
- Among The Great Apes With Michelle Yeoh (documentary film about the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary)
- For example, Wild Things Sanctuary: Living with Wildlife
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Wildlife rescue organizations
- Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center (Pennsylvania)
- Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Center-Maryland
- National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association
- International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council
- British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council
- Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary (Florida)
- St. Tiggywinkles
- Tri-State Bird Rescue (Delaware)
- California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators
- Lindsay Wildlife Museum and Wildlife Hospital, Walnut Creek (N. California)
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota
- PAWS Wildlife Center (Washington)
- C.R.O.W. Wildlife Clinic
- Center for Animal Rehabilitation and Education, South Africa
- Carolina Raptor Center (North Carolina)
- Wild Things Sanctuary (New York)
- Animal Advocates Wildlife Rehabilitation
- Second Chance Wildlife Center (Maryland)
- Wildlife Center of Virginia
- Free Again Wildlife Rehabilitation (Illinois)
- Blue Ridge Wildlife Center (Virginia)
- WildCare BayArea, San Rafael (N. California)
- Valley Forge Native Wildlife Refuge (Scotland)
- Directory of British Wildlife Rehabilitators
- Directory of Australian Wildlife Rehabilitation Associations
- Volunteer South Africa Endangered Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre
- Red Creek Wildlife Center, Inc. (Pennsylvania)
- Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C.
- Genesis Zoological and Wildlife Rescue (Florida)
- Wild Baby Rescue Center (New Jersey)
- Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team - Wildlife Alliance
- Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association
- Vermont Institute of Natural Science
- Florida Wildlife Hospital & Sanctuary
- Center for Wildlife (Maine)
- Sacred Friends Inc (Virginia)
- Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) National Wildlife Rescue Centre (Scotland)