You can find wildlife sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers all over the world. From gorilla sanctuaries in Africa to bird sanctuaries in Florida, there are many nonprofits working to help and protect a variety of wildlife. These centers are important for the conservation of a multiplicity of species.
A sanctuary is a place where injured, abused and / or abandoned wild animals live the rest of their lives in peace. Some sanctuaries keep the animals until a place opens in a zoo, where the keepers can look after them for the rest of their time. Animals that live in sanctuaries are not used in commercial activities such as entertainment, sport, sale or trade.
True sanctuaries do not breed their animals either. The main objective is to respect individual animals and give them a place of refuge. Sanctuaries dedicate their time to the safety and health of rescued wild animals; enclosures are designed with the specific animal that will live there in mind.
There are also wildlife reserves born out of a government mandate. These sanctuaries are also called wildlife refuges in some areas. These sanctuaries are usually guarded by park wardens or other employees to make sure that no one (or thing) is hunting or harassing the animals. These areas are mapped and protected based on where wild animals roam or already live.
Although wildlife sanctuaries share several qualities with rehabilitation centers, there are some differences. Rehabilitation centers usually focus on the end goal of releasing wildlife back into the wild. These centers care for injured or orphaned wildlife and are required to comply with local, state and federal laws.
Michigan State University Faculty of Law said many states “regulate wildlife rehabilitation by requiring people who carry out rehabilitation activities to be licensed with their natural resources department or fisheries and wildlife department.”
Rehabilitation centers include exams, treatments, diets and physiotherapy. As said before, most rehabilitation centers focus on conditioning injured, sick or orphaned animals before their release. Usually their staff will include a veterinarian in case an animal needs medical treatment.
Although such centers exist, they do not guarantee the return of an animal to the wild, especially when these animals were born in captivity. Many times, human care can affect how an animal should react to humans in the wild. If they get used to interacting with humans, they lose their natural fear of them; this can prevent them from getting bored of poachers or people who wish to harm them in the wild.
Being in captivity can also prevent wildlife from learning essential survival skills such as hunting. Most animals are taught by their parents to survive and thrive in the wild, so when an animal spends too much time in captivity, it loses this natural instinct.
Captivity also breeds dependence on humans. It has to do with the natural instinct to hunt – if animals are taught to rely on humans for their food, water, and shelter, they won’t do what is necessary to survive. Keiko, a male orca captured off the coast of Iceland, is a good but tragic example. The general population knows him as the killer whale that starred in the movie “Free Willy” in 1993.
After the film started, activists and fans worked to get Keiko released and released back into the wild. Unfortunately, release is not always the best solution for animals in captivity. After several unsuccessful attempts to reintroduce Keiko into pods of wild killer whales, he swam into a harbor – actively seeking human company. Nothing came of that, unfortunately. Because he was ill-equipped to survive in the wild, he failed to hunt and died of pneumonia only three years after his release.
This story shows the need to understand an animal’s needs, which is why sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers are an absolute necessity. Without situational awareness, more harm can come from an already unhappy situation. Sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers provide a very valuable service for environmentalists and activists.
Wildlife reserves and rehabilitation centers do a lot of good for the planet. Sanctuaries protect animals in their natural habitat, which means there are no stressful relocation plans. Most of these places are created for endangered species to help them grow and hopefully bounce back from their classification as endangered.
Many sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers allow biologists and researchers to enter their operations. This can help with education and other measures to protect these animals in the wild without the need for sanctuaries or centers.
Wildlife centers are certainly up to the task of caring for a variety of species in detail. While many of the people who work in these kinds of places are volunteers, almost all of the centers have vets, environmentalists, biologists, and even dentists. These people work hard to make the transition from the wilderness to captivity a smooth and safe one. Almost anyone can work for a sanctuary as long as they really want to put in the time and effort to learn more about the type of animal they care for.
Wildlife reserves and rehabilitation centers are mostly non-profit organizations. This means that their main goal is not financial. Grants, fundraisers and donations keep these centers running. Help from volunteers is also a big part of the operation.
If you want to get involved in wildlife safety and rehabilitation, there are plenty of open doors. The main way to get involved is to volunteer. Volunteers do everything from cleaning the enclosures to active animal care. Although this is not a paid position, it is a great experience and plays an important role in the ability of a sanctuary or rehabilitation center to stay afloat.
Another way to help your local sanctuaries, rehabilitation centers, and even zoos is by donating. From medication to basic needs, finances are always a major factor in the quality of animal care. Many organizations rely on donations from their local community to be able to purchase the necessary supplies for their animals. These donations help organizations continue their work to protect, treat and release wildlife.