AVC Wildlife fundraising for new space after avian flu halts rehabilitation work

AVC Wildlife fundraising for new space after avian flu halts rehabilitation work

This display board outside the wildlife hall shows the many animals and birds they were able to care for before the bird flu outbreak led to restrictions.  (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

This display board outside the wildlife hall shows the many animals and birds they were able to care for before the bird flu outbreak led to restrictions. (Shane Hennessey/CBC – image credit)

The AVC Wildlife Service is raising money for a new separate processing space after bird flu forced them to stop taking wild birds in March 2022.

This year, for the first time, the service will be the recipient of all donations UPEI receives for Giving Tuesday – the name given to the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday.

Dr. Lara Cusack, assistant professor of zoological, exotic and wildlife medicine at the Atlantic Veterinary College, said the need to restrict wild birds was disappointing for people like her who are passionate about rehabilitation work.

“The recommendations of the governing body have been [that] unless you have room to isolate these animals when they arrive to make sure they don’t show signs of bird flu, you’re not allowed to do wildlife rehabilitation,” he said. said Cusack.

“A lot of institutions would have the ability to do that – separate these animals when they arrive, sort them for signs consistent with avian flu.”

Cusack said the situation at AVC is difficult because client-owned exotic pets are being treated in a room away from the wildlife room. Exotic pets include parrots, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

Shane Hennessey/CBC

Shane Hennessey/CBC

“Right now, we’re really limited by the amount of space we have, in order to keep these animals separate and safe from exotic pets belonging to our customers,” she said.

“For example, a parrot against a wild goose really needs[s] be housed in separate places. This is to prevent cross-contamination of diseases that can spread between our wildlife and our domesticated species.”

“It’s devastating”

Cusack said the risk of spreading avian flu meant refusing wild birds that islanders wanted to bring to the wildlife service for processing.

Shane Hennessey/CBC

Shane Hennessey/CBC

“It’s been really disappointing for all of us, obviously, and a big challenge to figure out where these other animals are going because they can’t get into vet college right now,” Cusack said.

“It’s devastating. That’s why I became a veterinarian. Wildlife is very near and dear to my heart because it’s the animals that arrive without an owner, right? They have no one to look after. take care of them.

Submitted by Fiep de Bie

Submitted by Fiep de Bie

Not being able to do this, based on not having the ability to do this safely for all the animals in your care, is really, really hard.
— Dr. Lara Cusack, Atlantic Veterinary College

“We have good Samaritans who are more than willing to pick up these animals and get them treated.

“Knowing that you could probably fix an animal or save its life, and not be able to do so, based on not having the ability to do so safely for all the animals in your care , is really quite difficult.”

The road to healing

Fiep de Bie, a wildlife technician for the AVC Wildlife Service, also hopes funds can be raised for a new space so she can start treating wild birds again.

“It was devastating and heartbreaking, really… not just for us people who work there, but also for the students. They were also a bit disappointed.

“It’s all very understandable, the reasons why, but it also means we can’t really do our job.”

Shane Hennessey/CBC

Shane Hennessey/CBC

On the positive side, De Bie said the wildlife service was able to treat a very special wild bird: Eagle 450, which they have been in charge of since October 2021, before the bird flu epidemic took hold in the area. .

“He was probably hit by a car and had serious head injuries. And then we found a broken spine after doing a CT scan. He had surgery about a month later,” de Bie said. .

“He was able to stand within a week of the operation, which was wonderful. It’s a groundbreaking operation. It’s the second in the world that we’ve had, so that was quite an achievement.”

Atlantic Veterinary College

Atlantic Veterinary College

Due to bird flu, AVC staff have had to keep Eagle 450 alone since March.

“We had to keep other birds out of here because after everything he’s been through – it was a very long road to recovery – we didn’t want to compromise that.”

It was heartbreaking at the same time that we couldn’t accommodate other raptors or other birds.
—Fiep de Bie, Wildlife Technician, AVC Wildlife Service

De Bie said Eagle 450 will soon be heading to his new home, with a new enclosure being built for him at Hope for Wildlife in Nova Scotia.

De Bie said the eagle’s recovery has been a comfort to the wildlife service.

Shane Hennessey/CBC

Shane Hennessey/CBC

“It meant we could give this eagle a lot of attention and also involve the students on his journey of recovery, so that was a good thing,” de Bie said.

“But of course it was heartbreaking at the same time that we couldn’t accommodate other raptors or other birds.”

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