By Vern and Lori Gieger
A Second Chance
Oct 8th, we were fortunate to be invited to participate in a gov-ernment
wildlife release at the Quilla Reserve in Jalisco. Releasing a wild
animal back into its natural habitat, where it belongs, is a richly
rewarding experience. However far too often that is not an option. Many
factors determine whether an animal should be released or not. Sadly,
many times their fate is sealed long before they reach a rehabilitation
center. To be releasable the animal must have the skills, the instincts
and the physical capacity to use them in order to survive.
* Can wildlife raised in captivity be
rehabilitated so it can be released?
* Not always. If the animal has been raised
as a “pet” in all probability it will never be releasable.
Orphaned babies raised in captivity for release are managed accordingly,
human contact is minimal, ideally they would be fed with a “hand
puppet,” never see a human face or hear a human voice.
Contact with domestic animals such as
cats and dogs is never permitted. Predatory animals must have an environment
where they have the opportunity to learn to hunt; it is a skill that
must be learned. Normally, this would be taught by the parent(s).
* Are some animals more easily rehabilitated?
* Yes. Reptiles and amphibians; barring
physical disabilities, are almost always releasable. Animals that are
solitary and timid by nature such as opossums and barn owls are also
* Why are some animals more difficult?
* Animals who are social and/or curious
by nature tend to be more challenging. A good example; members of the
raccoon family. As they tend to imprint on humans very easily, even
under optimal circumstances.
* What does the word “imprint”
* When an animal does not recognize itself
as a particular species. This happens when it is raised by people. Although
“imprinted” animals may have no physical disability, they
cannot be released into the wild due to their fearlessness of humans.
* What about wild adult animals that are
* Much depends on the injury. Many can
be successfully rehabilitated. However, if the animal will have a permanent
disability as a result of the injury, it will not be releasable. Two
common examples are birds that have sustained broken wings, and animals
that have been caught in a steel jawed trap. Many times the leg must
Such was the case with a young crested
caracara (the national bird of Mexico) who was recently brought to us.
He is now in the process of being fitted with an artificial leg. Although
we were able to save his life, he will never be releasable.
* What are options for nonreversible animals?
* Just because an animal is not releasable
does not mean its life is any less important. Depending upon the species,
the animal may be used in captive breeding programs. Equally
important are educational programs.
The more people understand wildlife and
their importance, the more will strive to protect them and their habitat.
Non releasable animals give people an opportunity, to get up close and
personal; “get to know them,” so to speak. As a result a
new appreciation for wildlife is established.
If a picture is worth a 1000 words, imagine
the emotional experience of looking into the eyes of a wolf, or having
a bird of prey perched on your arm.