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Make stand to secure creature comforts; ENVIRONMENT Editor TONY HENDERSON on a wildlife rescue charity which is itself struggling to survive.

Byline: TONY HENDERSON

AWILDLIFE charity which has dealt with 600 calls for help this year is appealing for backing so that it can carry on its work.

Blyth Wildlife Rescue was set up three years ago by John Anderson and his mother Vicky.

Operating from their home in the Northumberland town, they answer wildlife emergency calls across the county and also on Tyneside and in County Durham. But costs this year have totaled pounds 3,000 while donations and fundraising have brought in only a third of that amount.

"This amount of donations isn't going to keep us afloat or give us anything to work with in the coming months," said John, a Northumbria University graduate in information communications technology.

"The difference is being made up with savings, but that approach only lasts so long.

"We need to find more funding before we reach the disaster stage. We rely on the public's support to sustain the care we provide.

"But people have to realise the financial cost of this sort of work. The message we want to get out is the real cost of providing such care."

That includes transport, food and accommodation bills for recovering wildlife and equipment such as heat pads for over-wintering hedgehog patients.

"The winter is going to be costly, with hedgehogs being our main patients. We are inundated with young hogs that are too small to release during the hibernation period, so they have to be kept in captivity until spring," said John.

"The cost of keeping animals over such a long time is very costly."

The list of most-wanted items over winter includes cat food, mixed bird seed, dried mealworms, kitchen towels, unshredded newspapers, hay, sawdust, and towels.

John said that the charity was reluctant to impose a call out charge.

"People may say they aren't prepared to make a donation and may put an injured creature back into the open, which would be counter to what we are trying to achieve."

John said that the level of calls proved there was a need and demand for the wildlife service.

"The demand is in some ways a big pat on the back for what we do, but we are struggling to survive."

Patients range from animals hit by cars and hedgehogs suffering from lawnmower and strimmer injuries to birds of prey and owls which have been shot and cruelty cases.

The venture began as a hedgehog rescue operation but grew so much that the charity was set up in 2006.

"What began as more like a hobby developed into something in a way we never envisaged," said John.

"But if you see a creature suffering then you have to do something about it. We have always been interested in animals - it's in our blood."

If more support can be found, John's long term plans include locating a building for rent to accommodate a larger aviary.

"Large, lockable buildings would be ideal so we could build aviaries for our bird patients to be housed until they are fit to be released.

"One thing that birds need before they are released is space to fly around properly to build up their muscles before they go back out into the wild.

"Although we would love to establish a purpose-built rehabilitation centre, this is still very much a dream," said John.

Anyone who can help should contact John on 01670 353338 or www.blythwildliferescue.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

FEATHERED FRIENDS Birds rescued by the Blyth charity include, from left, a puffin, barn owl and a goshawk. PRICKLY PATIENT John Anderson with a young hedgehog patient.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 2, 2010
Words:597
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