- S. K. Basu
Lethbridge AB Canada
Conservation efforts across the globe have undergone massive transformation and a paradigm shift in concept, attitude, outlook and application. Conservation efforts are not just restricted now to the reserved and protected forests, national forests and sanctuaries or biodiversity areas, or to zoological gardens, artificial breeding and reintroduction centers only. Conservation efforts have spread far and wide and reached new dimension in the form of city- or town-based wildlife rehabilitation and interpretation centers, too. These are not only centers for conserving and/or protecting endangered or threatened species only; but any species that have undergone an accident or an anthropogenic or pollution-related incident that threatened or challenged their existence can find refuge in such centers. This could mean birds or mammals that are accidentally hit by cars, animals recovered from poachers in need of temporary shelter before they are being taken back and released into their natural habitats, live animals or wildlife species or wildlife body parts that have been confiscated through customs channels at different ports of entry into a country or any injured animal that is collected by a volunteer or ordinary citizens for immediate veterinary attention and care; and then released into their natural habitats.
Furthermore, such centers also serve as important educational and awareness centers for the ordinary citizens, school going children and students regarding the importance and appreciation for modern conservation, promoting the needs and importance of protecting biodiversity, exhibiting different animal and plant species and highlighting their role in the respective ecosystem to which they belong and in generating education and awareness about ecosystem values, green and sustainable living, learning to share our living space with wildlife and to be appreciative and respectful towards nature and natural ecosystems and environments. Thus modern wildlife rehabilitation and interpretation centers play a significant role in conservation and protection of wildlife as well as providing education and awareness regarding nature, ecosystem, environment, biodiversity, forests and wildlife in a comprehensive manner. Such centers have huge impact both in local micro scale or level conservation, and also in building local and/or regional level environmental and ecological awareness.
Modern wildlife rehabilitation and interpretation centers in most developed nations have transformed into centers of excellence and have been serving the nation both as micro conservation and rehabilitation units as well as in building successful mass awareness programs regarding ecology and environment. Furthermore, a face to face interaction with different wildlife species in such centers with young children, senior citizens and enthusiastic public could establish stronger bonds and love for the rich diversity of our wildlife in different corners of the planet. It is cheaper, accessible and embedded within the community, rather than major zoos that are located mostly outside city limits, making the visits by kids and their parents and enthusiastic public much easier, affordable and even more interactive than regular zoos and botanical gardens.
The centers are becoming extremely popular as a family can afford to visit a local zoo or botanical garden maximum twice or thrice a year, whereas, wildlife rehabilitation and interpretation centers being located in one’s own community and neighborhood is visited multiple times by the same family to cater to the needs of their kids who are excited and enthusiastic about nature and wildlife. They can build more successful long-term and interactive relationships with students at various levels of education with the local district school boards, schools and colleges compared to a far-away zoo and is cheaper and easier to develop, maintain and run by a limited number of highly trained and dedicated staff members.
Increased public participation with wildlife rehabilitation and interpretation centers have helped them to supplement their income to continue their important role in treating and caring for the sick, diseased or animals (wildlife) hit by accidents and injuries by selling affordable tickets to the public, through political and corporate patronage and sponsorship, donations, service to schools and colleges in ecological and environmental education and awareness programs, running paid lecture series on nature and wildlife and conservation-related themes in their auditoriums and in conducting wildlife shows that are extremely popular among the kids and the public. Furthermore, patronage of celebrities, renowned wildlife enthusiasts and prominent members of the public also help running these centers.
Some centers also have their own licensed aquariums and aviaries where they breed legally accepted commercial and ornamental pet species of fishes and birds for sale. Some of the centers have research or survey programs sponsored by government and/or non-government organizations for training and education of the public. Many such centers run year-long seminars, conferences, symposia, colloquium and workshops for public education and awareness and are a source of funding for running their programs. Many school and college students, senior citizens and enthusiastic members of the public also donate their time as volunteers to help running such community-based organizations.
In short, modern wildlife rehabilitation and interpretation centers have been serving as an extended hand for conservationists in catering towards local conservation and protection of wildlife in an urban environment, and at the same time, performing an important role in educating and sensitizing the public and students in matters related to conservation of local forests, wildlife and biodiversity. It is important that we develop such model centers across various states and union territories as they hold great promise and opportunity for local conservation efforts and more importantly for their role in mass education. Countries, such as India, need to play a pivotal role in local conservation efforts being a megabiodiverse country. Hence such centers could help greatly in adding and substantiating the attempt of nationwide efforts in building a successful conservation model for protecting forests, wildlife and biodiversity. Furthermore, wildlife rehabilitation and interpretation centers could contribute towards successfully building our future citizens with the necessary sensitization for respecting nature and wildlife from the core of their heart.