Why We Do What We Do
Our Staff, Volunteers, and Animals—Including Wildlife Patients—Came FirstPosted on: April 17th, 2020
Sheltering-in-Place Blog Entry #2
A car pulls up to the Lindsay wildlife hospital’s gate. The gate is open, so they drive into the parking lot. A blue-masked person carries a box with eight juvenile opossums found orphaned after a dog killed the mother. At the end of the parking lot, there are signs on the door directing the rescuer to an outside drop-off area. Clear instructions guide the delivery of the little opossums. There’s a new box with a clean towel, a blue card to write intake information, and an envelope for leaving a donation. The instructions say to ring the bell at the door and go. The car pulls out of the parking lot, and the hospital staff jumps into action, picking up the opossums and taking them to the examination room for the usual thorough triage. This sequence happens a dozen times a day, some days more, others less. Wash, rinse, and repeat. It is the life of the wildlife hospital seven days a week.
In another section of the building, you can hear Red calling in her insistent way and the occasional flapping of wings. Instrumental music plays from a speaker setting a peaceful mood to the exhibits hall. The animal keepers come in and out of the building, going from the redwoods grove to the aviaries to the AAA. Their voices carry a bit of an echo in the tall-roofed hall. The animal ambassadors continue to receive their daily care, their routines as intact as possible, their training regular so they don’t forget what they already learned how to do.
After a whole month of uncertainty, shelter-in-place mandates, and remote working for a portion of the staff, the onsite team—all 8 or 9 of them depending on the shift—have managed to find a rhythm to their work. Long days, 10 or 11 hours, doing every task in the routines, many of which were done by volunteers before. We found the best possible balance to an impossible situation, a combination of strategies that kept our volunteers and our visitors safe, our staff protected as much as possible, our animals well kept, and still fulfill our mission of serving the community in caring for our wildlife.
We didn’t close. We didn’t fire people. We didn’t stop working. We pushed on because what we do is vital for nature, wildlife, and people. We are engaged in a global social experiment of unimaginable scale and consequence, where lives are a stake, with real casualties. Our conservation work is an integral part of that experiment. Do we abandon hard-won accomplishments in the protection of wildlife? Do we stop caring about injured animals while we address the threat of a pandemic that affects our society? What are we learning from this “experiment” that will make us better citizens, more just, more sensitive to the needs of wildlife beyond our use of them for food, medicine, or entertainment? The lessons are so valuable that we’re willing to invest our time, hard-earned—and currently diminished—funding and effort to articulate those lessons and share them with our community. How we relate with wildlife matters to us as humans, as a society. Wildlife is not a commodity to profit from or to consume. Wildlife and the nature that sustains it is a critical part of our human ecology, of our environment, of our health and wellbeing.
Carlos L. de la Rosa