THE PURPOSE OF THE CHARITY IS TO ESTABLISH HOSPITALS FOR BIRDS OR OTHER SMALL WILD ANIMALS, BUT PARTICULARLY FOR WILD BIRDS, WHICH HAVE SUFFERED INJURY AND NEED CARE AND TREATMENT, TO ENABLE THEM TO RETURN TO, AND LIVE A NORMAL LIFE IN, THEIR NATURAL SURROUNDINGS.
Ethics of Wildlife Care & Release
Wild animals are as they are, because of the continuing process of natural selection of those best-adapted to the environment in which they live. When caring for wildlife Brent Lodge is mindful of this. All creatures are behaviourally and anatomically adapted to the environment in which they live, though the ongoing process of natural selection.
However, many of our wildlife patients that arrive in our hospital as casualties are due to man's changes to the environment. These may be caused by road accidents, poisoning by contaminants, and spillages at sea for example.
Our concern for the welfare and conservation of wildlife underline our efforts to treat wild animals and release them back into the wild. In most cases the rehabilitation of an animal and its release back into the wild if of huge benefit to both the species and the individual animal. However, sometimes there are circumstances when both neither the individual animal nor the conservation of the species is benefited by attempts to rehabilitate.
Much thought and consolidation go into each case, and the purpose of our ethical statement is to provide guidance about any ethical aspects of wildlife care and rehabilitation.
The Ethics of Wildlife Treatment & Rehabilitation
This is a difficult subject with many different opinions. These vary massively on what is a justifiable level of intervention, with many variable factors such as the dynamics and population of a species.
There are many ways which rehabilitating an animal may be inappropriate, and may cause more harm. Both to the individual animal, or far worse to the species relating to that animal. It is important that all possibilities are considered.
A few examples of possible considerations are listed below.
- If the animal is not fit when released and suffers as a result.
- If a released animal carries an infectious disease, which could spread into the wild population of its own or other species. An example of this consideration is Trichomoniasis (Canker) in Pigeons.
- If it is a genetically distinct strain from those in the area where it is released, in which case its offspring may be less adapted to the local environment and suffers as a result.
- If it is non-indigenous species which may damage the ecosystem.
- If it displaces a resident of the same species, to the latter's detriment.
The first and second points are perhaps the most immediate and the most easily judged. As stated in this document, careful consideration must be given in each case.
The potential for introducing a patient back into the wild population which may be carrying an infectious disease does demand huge thought and consideration. This is because of the possibility, and the opportunities for cross-species disease, which could be spread in both the hospital and back into the wild population.
The point of genetics has small relevance in most cases which involve common species. This is because the percentages of rehabilitated animals are likely to make up small amounts of the breeding population.
The care and rehabilitation of wildlife can be for the above reasons very harmful. These considerations must be addressed seriously by both our Animal care staff & Managers and by our qualified veterinarians.
The law allows the taking of sick and injured animals for treatment. However, in the case of birds only if the intention that they are released when fully rehabilitated.
These paragraphs point out that the care and rehabilitation of injured or sick wild animals is sadly, not in all cases the kindest action. Practical and economic constraints dictate that not all rescued individual animals can be treated. If a patient has been assessed by a qualified veterinarian, then euthanasia and employment of our euthanasia policy are a humane alternative when sadly necessary.
Fortunately, there are many circumstances when treatment and rehabilitation may benefit the individual and its species. At Brent Lodge, we have been striving to give the best possible care for each and every one of our patients for over 45 years. Our staff and volunteers work hard to care, treat, rehabilitate and release as many of our patients that it is ethical right to do so.