Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wildlife Rehabilitation Meetup at the ASPCA

I have removed the hurtful comments from this post. I welcome fact-based debate (opinions must also be backed up by facts in order to be convincing), however, the comments I have removed are not rooted in the statements of this post. 


I am temporarily adding moderation for comments on the blog in order to promote a fact-based debate on this topic - I will approve all comments that are based on my article (including opposing arguments) unless they contain vulgar or insulting language.


Dear Readers,


I was deeply saddened while reading the recent comments on this blog post. I feel as if there has been a disconnect between how this post paints me and my true opinions and personality. I will do my best to respond to the comments and to clarify any misunderstandings that have resulted from my review.

To start, I believe there may be some misconceptions on my background. I am a senior in high school and started this blog as an independent project. I have been interested in the environment since a young age and have taken the last few months to immerse myself in the environmental movement, trying to learn as much as possible. I take every situation as one to learn from - including the response to this post - and will work very hard to be more careful about my phrasing and controversial statements in the future. I would like to add that I have written 68 posts on this blog and only 2 of them have been negative reviews. I learn something from every event I go to, but I will not agree with everything I hear.

The goal of my blog is to learn and to start a discussion. I believe in fact-based debate and that is why I left comments completely enabled (unlike most bloggers who use some type of moderation). I added the moderation because many of the comments on this post were not based on my writing.

I will respond to the comments that were based on my actual writing:

First, I would like to clear up any confusion on the section I generally put at the end of my posts - Questions for Consideration. There are solely questions I think of while at the event or writing my article. Unless I answer them, they do not imply my opinions. I see that my comment on the course of nature was not understood as I intended - and I apologize for the poor wording. I believe, however, that it is a question that many people would think of when learning about orthopedic surgery for squirrels. One must consider the overall impact and whether it will cause the animal more pain and suffering (this is something that was discussed at the event.) and whether there is something else that we could invest in that would have a broader impact.

I think that wildlife rehabilitation is incredible and the gift some people have to work with animals is really special. In no part of my original piece did I put down or criticize the great work that rehabbers do or try to tell anyone to stop their work; I simply challenged the community to look at a broader picture.  My main point was that we need to look at the big picture in addition to individuals and decide where our resources will have the greatest impact.

As far as the claim that water bottles just aren't that big of a deal…I think we can all now agree that it is important to focus on both the details (individual creatures, etc.) and the big picture (entire species, ecosystems, etc.). Despite which category you think water bottles fit into, why create more waste?
Here is an article with some good statistics: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/enough-with-the-plastic-water-bottles-already.html#.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding that arose from my post.

Best,
Sara

_________________


To be quite honest, I was a little wary heading over to the ASPCA office for this meeting tonight. In general, I tend to believe that the ASPCA is too concerned with very specific cases of the well-being of domesticated animals and not the bigger picture of ecological wellness. Don't get me wrong, the ASPCA helps many animals in need, but seriously, we're talking about entire species going extinct, in fact, here are some statistics (each fact links to its source):


Tonight's Meetup was concerning the rehabilitation of squirrels:

I was relatively appalled when they mentioned orthopedic surgery, casts, and splints for squirrels who had been injured in the wild. Then I cringed when the first speaker mentioned "Feng Shui" to minimize stress and help the squirrels heal. Wildlife rehabilitation is incredible and the gift some people have to work with animals is really special.  However, I think it is necessary to look at the big picture in addition to individuals and decide where our resources will have the greatest impact - whether we should be spending the money on orthopedic surgery or on awareness and prevention of the harmful human actions humans that endanger the wildlife. Although the human soul makes it difficult to resist trying all you can to help a cute animal, which action will have a bigger impact? It is a hard decision to make. [I inadvertently deleted a fantastic comment and have added it at the bottom of this piece - It really shows how hard these decisions can be.]


To make it even worse, THEY SERVED BOTTLED WATER! Yes, the ASPCA, animal advocate, served those insanely wasteful mini Poland Spring bottles.
At one point, almost ready to shout something at the speaker who kept taking sips from her mini bottle [while talking about the risk of oil spills…], I turned to the person next to me and we had the following conversation:
Me: How can we drink bottled water while talking about wildlife conservation?
Her: What?
Me: You know, bottled water is just so horrible for wildlife.
Her: What? In what way?

Wow. I just stopped talking at that point. I couldn't even believe that this woman was concerned enough about wildlife to trek to the Meetup, yet doesn't know the dangers of bottled water….


Speakers:

Sorry, I didn't catch the name of the first speaker. She spoke about the rehabilitation process for squirrels, both newborn and adult.

Kelly Pile: Who read an ode to the first speaker, her mentor.

Maura Mandrano: She spoke about rehabilitating 104 squirrels total to release and how she now rehabs about 15 in her 900 square foot apartment.

Dr. Alexandra Wilson: Vet for the Wild Bird Fund and Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine.


Questions for consideration:

1.             What ecological impact do squirrels have on our local environment?
2.             How can we improve the overall ecological health of NYC and limit human impact on the few remaining natural species?
3.             How can we increase education of the topic of nature to students in NYC, being in such an urban environment? [because if they don't know, then they can't appreciate, and if they don't appreciate then they won't care or want to help]
4.             Should one ever consider letting nature takes it course and using resources to help the bigger picture, even if it is extremely difficult to let an individual slip away? [I don't really think anyone has a perfect answer to this...]
5.             How can you serve bottled water at an ASPCA meeting?


As always, please comment if you have something to say.


This Meetup took place on Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the ASPCA Midtown Manhattan Office (520 8th Ave) and was hosted by the Mayor's Alliance for Animals.

If you are at all interested in finding out more about this Meetup, here's their page: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/NYCWildlife/


Anonymous: Only days ago my employment was terminated when an injured squirrel came in and I begged the owner to let me find a rehabber to care for it rather than have its life so thoughtlessly terminated. I know a number of rehabbers that would have GLADLY taken on this case. But instead, she refused - and when the police officers who brought him in asked what his fate would be and I told them, truthfully, that he would be euthanized - I apparently "offended" the emergency vet owner by "speaking poorly" of the establishment. Apparently she would rather I lie to the police becase the truth is offensive. If the truth is offensive then something is innately wrong with that truth - that is the point where people who give a damn would make a policy change. Instead, I was let go due to the offensiveness of that truth and her inability to face not only the facts, but her own twisted internal pride for the "wrongness" of the system. And the truth is - I would do it again in a heartbeat. Would I go about it somewhat differently, knowing the outcome? Certainly - but it probably wouldnt make any difference. The facts are the facts and the facts are WRONG. We have no right to play God and to treat and rehab one animal, while we refuse to give another even the scrap of a chance. And you will never understand the passion involved in squirrel rehab until you do it yourself. I went about my life as if they were merely a part of the background scenery until two helpless little babies were dropped into my lap. I was told by everyone in my area in charge of rehabbing to have them put down because they were too young to survive. I refused to accept that answer and today they are two big, beautiful, healthy young adult squirrels wilding up to get ready for their release and I will never again brush off, ignore, or take another squirrel for granted. There may be a lot of them, but their intelligence, affection and their passion for life have completely won me over. You will never comprehend the beauty of these little critters until you experience it first hand - until you see that mischevious twinkle in their little eyes, or you get a grateful, formula-whiskered kiss once their helpless little tummies are full and they curl up in your lap and doze into a happy little milk coma.

I believe all animals have souls - and the soul of a squirrel is a beautiful thing to know.

18 comments:

  1. I agree with you sara! I think you bring up a lot of really good points.

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  2. Maura J Mandrano, Licensed NYS Wildlife RehabilitatorApril 21, 2011 at 3:07 PM

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  8. Here are some "thoughts" from a wiser perspective than mine....-- STOSH in Costa Rica

    An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language.
    >>>> Martin Buber
    The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
    >>>> Mohandas Gandhi
    Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.
    >>>> His Holiness The Dalai Lama
    The fate of animals is of greater importance to me than the fear of appearing ridiculous; it is indissolubly connected with the fate of men.
    >>>> Émile Zola
    The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.
    >>>> ~Henry David Thoreau

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  14. I THINK THIS INDIVIDUAL MISSED THE ENTIRE POINT OF WHAT THIS MEETING WAS ABOUT.

    HERE IS HOW I WOULD LIKE TO ANSWER HER QUESTIONS...

    1. What ecological impact do squirrels have on our local environment?
    SQUIRRELS ARE A PART OF A COMPLEX FOOD CHAIN FROM BACTERIA, TREES AND FLEAS ALL THEY WAY UP TO COYOTES, HAWKS, FALCONS, AND OWLS. SQUIRRELS ARE NOT JUST ENTERTAINING TO WATCH BUT THEY ARE ALSO IMPORTANT TO AN URBAN ENVIRONMENT SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY CAN EXIST IN ONE. THEY ARE AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT WILDLIFE IS IN A STARK URBAN ENVIRONMENT. FOR PEOPLE THAT CANNOT SEE OR RELATE TO NATURE OUTSIDE OF A CAGE THEY ARE THE URBAN EQUIVALENT OF A BEAR IN THE WOODS.
    THEY ARE COMPLEX SENTIENT BEINGS WITH SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND EXQUISITE DESIGN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH THEY LIVE. YOU HAVE TO ADMIRE SOMETHING SO WELL ADAPTED!

    2. How can we improve the overall ecological health of NYC and limit human impact on the few remaining natural species?
    EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION...EVERYONE MUST DO THEIR PART. THIS IS REALLY A COMPLEX QUESTION AND REQUIRES A FORUM OF IT'S OWN.
    WASTE MANAGEMENT IS A BIG PIECE HERE. PROPER DISPOSAL OF TOXIC CHEMICALS, ELECTRONICS, NON BIODEGRADABLE ITEMS IS ON THE TOP OF THE LIST. EACH INDIVIDUAL MUST DO THEIR PART. PROVIDING SAFE AND UNDISTURBED HABITAT IS ANOTHER.

    3. How can we increase education of the topic of nature to students in NYC, being in such an urban environment? [because if they don't know, then they can't appreciate, and if they don't appreciate then they won't care or want to help]
    THIS PARTICULAR MEETING WAS JUST THAT. ONE SPECIES IN FOCUS.
    IT SHOULD ALSO BE TAUGHT TO ELEMENTARY STUDENTS. LIVING IN A NATURAL WORLD IS ALSO ABOUT COMPASSION AND EMPATHY. IF WE CANNOT SHOW THAT TO THE CREATURES THAT EXIST AROUND US HOW CAN WE SHOW IT TO ANYONE?

    4. Why not let nature take its course? [I thought I might get shot for asking this at the ASPCA, but if there was more time for debate I still might have tried] Squirrels are not endangered and it is natural for them to die in nature. Sometimes it is, in fact, worse to interfere - we can throw off the delicate balance between competitive species.
    LET NATURE TAKE IT'S COURSE?
    WHAT'S NATURAL ABOUT BEING RUN OVER BY A CAR OR HAVING SOME GUY WITH A CHAINSAW CUT YOUR HOUSE DOWN?
    WHAT'S NATURAL ABOUT SOMEONE LETTING THEIR DOMESTIC PET RIP YOU TO SHREDS?
    ALL IMPOSED ON WILDLIFE BY HUMAN INTERVENTION.
    ALSO
    THE ONLY SPECIES COMPETING WITH THE INDIGENOUS SQUIRREL POPULATION IN MOST URBAN ENVIRONMENTS ARE HUMANS. ASIDE FROM THAT SQUIRRELS REMOVE PARASITES AND INSECTS FROM TREES, THEY CONSUME AND RETURN TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND PROVIDE FOOD FOR OTHER SPECIES SUCH AS FALCONS, HAWKS, AND OWLS....SO WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF HERE?
    I COULD GO ON AND ON HERE BUT YOU CATCH MY DRIFT...I HOPE.

    5. How can you serve bottled water at an ASPCA meeting???
    BECAUSE IT'S CHEAPER THAN BEER AND YOU DON'T REQUIRE A LIQUOR LICENSE...THE BOTTLES ARE RECYCLABLE AND THIS QUESTION IS UNENLIGHTENED AS IS YOUR FIXATION ON BOTTLED WATER...DO YOU CARRY A METAL WATER BOTTLE? THINK OF THE ENERGY COSTS THAT IT REQUIRED TO MAKE THAT BOTTLE. iT HAD TO BE MINED FROM A HUGE GAPING HOLE IN THE EARTH AND THEN SMELTED WHICH SENDS TONS OF POLLUTANTS INTO THE ATMOSPHERE AFTER WHICH IT RAINS DOWN IN THE FORM OF ACID RAIN WHICH KILLS THE TREES AND POISONS THE RIVERS AND GOES BACK INTO THE WATER IN YOUR BOTTLE

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  15. I think its very important to make sure that animals are not made extinct because of our interaction with our environment. Some would state that certain animals would go extinct regardless of out interaction with them. That may be true. However, We need to realize that it has taken so long to make sure we have this perfect balance on our planet of just the right kinds of life in the right proportions. In all honesty without humans this planet would thrive. With humans ... well thats still up for debate. I would say that animals that are injured in the wild well, it is the wild. Its more the animals we are directly and indirectly hurting that I am most concerned about. I do work with organizations trying to save the rain forest in South America. I feel like we are ensuring our own extinction. Here we have plants. They produce oxygen. They literally keep us alive. And there are so many species of animals and plants that we destroy with in the amazon without even knowing existed. Not even a footnote in a book somewhere. Some families loose a dog and they get a plot at a cemetery, a memorial and countless of pictures. I get it you build an attachment to your pet. But there are really some really serious problems. I like the blog totally agree.
    Will

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  16. Hi Sara, I want to start by saying that I strongly agree with the need for aid in regards to endangered species that you emphasize in this article, however, I feel I am a bit confused by some of the other points you've made as well. I will give my opinion on this article as an answer to some of the questions you asked in the end. And note that I am not a rehabber, and I am not from New York, but I live within a couple hours distance in my homestate of New Jersey, I do have a degree in Ecology, and I have done some extensive research on many of the local species you feel aren’t as worth saving as the more endangered species.

    As for letting nature take its course, if we are to just let nature take its course, does that mean we're to not send aid to the victims of natural disasters? Because “nature” clearly took its course on them, did it not? Especially given the fact that humans are one of the most populous multi-celled organisms on the planet, and will likely never face the endangered status? I understand how you think the resources going towards saving local wildlife are wasted because they are not saving the species that in the long-run are in the most need of aid, but sadly and realistically, we can’t all save the Giant Panda or Iberian Lynx. And while it is both admirable and naïve to think that one person can significantly help or save a species as many ad campaigns like to claim, the reality is that many of these species in need of assistance are very far away and beyond our immediate reach and aid. In today’s society and given the current state of the economy, very few people can afford to send financial aid to save a species thousands of miles away. Another major problem, even if majority of these endangered species were closer, there is unfortunately a very small percentage of people that would be willing to help these animals to begin with. But here you have a small group of everyday people who are willing to help what animals they can, where they can, and by their own financial means, even if that means helping squirrels and other local wildlife, is that not beyond laudable? You mentioned one of the speakers raising so many squirrels in a 900 square-foot apartment. That is beyond impressive in my opinion and shows real dedication to promoting life, even if the species that life belongs to isn’t in immediate danger…yet.

    As for the ecological value of the local wildlife, I will use squirrels as my example since squirrels seemed the focus of much of your article, you would be surprised the actual status of many of our nations squirrels. One of the most striking examples is the Delmarva Fox Squirrel, which was once rather abundant in my state and is now completely extinct here. In fact, it is an endangered species now. Unfortunately I was too late to have witnessed this squirrel during its existence here, but I have witnessed the near extinction of another local squirrel species first-hand unfortunately. This species may not be in trouble globally but locally, is that not a start? When I was younger, red squirrels were nearly impossible to miss here, they were everywhere. They are now completely extinct within a 37 mile radius of the area where I live and had done research. The only reason they are not listed as endangered in my state is because of a few select areas where the numbers remain substantial. This alone shows how quickly a species, even a local abundant species, can go from being very numerous to gone when it’s not protected. Flying squirrels are now endangered in multiple states, and in many others, the exact status is unknown because of their nocturnal and secretive nature. Ground squirrels are also endangered in some states, which is unfortunate because it is a species that only exists in a limited number of regions to begin with.

    I hope you won’t take my opinion as an attack, I’m merely trying to share with you both my opinion and the additional facts of the matter, especially given the fact that our two states are so similar.

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  17. Hi Dani, I appreciate your comment :)

    1. I greatly agree with supporting local wildlife - and think it's often much better than sending your money to some far away place where it's much harder to see the direct benefits. And I definitely think the work of these rehabbers is laudable.

    2. My question on the ecological impact of squirrels on the local environment was sincere - I do wish to know more about our local ecosystem and appreciate the information you have provided. I think it would be great if more people knew about all the different types of squirrels (as I admittedly did not know many of the interesting facts you stated in your comment). - And that type of education programs is more of the big-picture sort of thing I was thinking of. Not necessarily WWF big picture, but big picture on a local scale, if that makes sense.

    Again, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. If I may ask, how did you find the article/my blog?

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  18. http://www.helium.com/knowledge/11447-when-to-help-an-injured-wild-animal-and-when-to-let-nature-take-its-course

    This is more what I had in mind when i posted my question about letting nature take its course.

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