UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 10 | Aug. 1 , 2002

Helping Those Who Help Wildlife

Ag Sci student survey set for fall release.

By Michelle Cook

The attempt to re-unite an orphaned killer whale with its family pod off Vancouver Island earlier this summer caused a big splash in the media, but the baby Orca is only one of an estimated 20,000 injured or orphaned animals that will be rescued in British Columbia this year. Most are taken in by wildlife rehabilitators who treat them and then release them, often with little fanfare and a lot less funding than the US$500,000 it cost for the Orca family reunion.

Sara Dubois wants to change that.

The Agricultural Sciences graduate student hopes to draw attention to the valuable but largely overlooked services provided by B.C.'s wildlife rehabilitators by conducting the first-ever academic survey of their work.

"Generally, these are very capable, skilled people and they play a valuable role in wildlife management in non-traditional ways," Dubois says. "But their work is very isolated. They have few resources and few opportunities to share information with each other, and they need more support in order to do their jobs better."

Dubois' goal is to produce a province-wide picture of current practices for rehabilitators to use to standardize their work and create more awareness about what they do. With the government increasingly taking a hands-off approach to wildlife distress calls, Dubois says her survey is a timely one.

There are 30-40 individuals and non-profit centres rehabilitating wildlife in the province. Although these caregivers are licensed annually by the provincial government, and by the federal government if they treat migratory birds, they don't receive any government funding, operating largely on grants, donations or voluntarily.

They spend their days examining, feeding, cleaning and medicating their patients, consulting with veterinarians and wildlife control officers, answering public inquiries and filling out reports on every animal they treat.

Now in her second year of Animal Welfare studies, Dubois, 25, saw a need for more academic study on the management and coordination of rehabilitation efforts after attending a meeting of the Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of B.C. in 1999.

For her survey, Dubois collected 30,000 rehab records and conducted 40 interviews, mostly with rehabilitators, to identify their major concerns. Many told her that they want to be considered professionals, but because there is little formal training or certification for the job, they often aren't.

Dubois' other major finding is that, although rehabilitators submit records for each animal treated, data collection techniques aren't formalized and the information isn't pooled to provide province-wide data on the number of animals brought in and the causes of injury, poisoning or disease that can yield valuable clues to problems in the wild.

Dubois plans to present her research to rehabilitators this fall, and the community is eagerly awaiting her findings, says Elizabeth Thunstrom, president of the Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of B.C.

"This is a fairly new profession that's only come into its own in the last 20 years, but there still is a public perception that we are bunny huggers, and many don't see what we do as valid," Thunstrom says. "Sara's study will give us a boost by showing us how we can measure this as a profession and standardize it, formulate policies and set up public education programs. She's helping to give us credibility academically and publicly."


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.