We help wildlife charities around the world, says Colin Seddon
This year marks the Scottish SPCA’s 175th anniversary and we have a remarkable story to tell. We recently reported that 2013 had been our busiest year since we were founded, with more investigations into animal cruelty, pets rehomed and children reached through our prevention through education programme than ever before.
Another key area of our work, which is receiving international recognition, is rescuing and rehabilitating Scotland’s sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
It is just over two years since our National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Clackmannanshire opened and as we marked this anniversary we revealed a rise in the number of wildlife casualties being successfully returned to their natural habitats.
Last year, 2,795 wild animals which arrived in our care were able to be released fit and healthy, which is always our aim wherever possible. This was an 18 per cent increase on the number of wild animals we successfully released in 2011, which is hugely encouraging for our wildlife team and something that we can all be proud of.
We help every type of wild animal found in Scotland, from garden birds, water birds and birds of prey to seals, red squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, otters, pine martens, fox cubs and more.
Care can range from simply providing rest and recuperation, to round-the-clock feeding or arranging specialist veterinary treatment. Working with wildlife is certainly not a typical, nine-to-five job and it is not the type of occupation from which you can easily switch off. If a wildlife casualty arrives late at night, we are here to help.
Our dedicated team provides expert care for wildlife casualties and it is very positive that we are being approached by other organisations for advice.
Recipes specially devised by our team to feed weak and injured birds are requested by other wildlife charities around the world and it is great to know we are helping many other animals in addition to those in our own care.
Opening our National Wildlife Rescue Centre was vital as, due to the increasing demands on our services, our former site at Middlebank in Fife was being stretched to cope with the volume and diversity of animals we were rescuing. Originally designed to clean oiled birds, Middlebank was soon taking in a huge range of wildlife species.
Our new £3.5 million centre at Fishcross, which was funded entirely through public donations, has given us the much-needed and increased capacity to rescue and care for many more wild animals.
We heralded the centre as a major step forward for wildlife welfare in Scotland and it is wonderful to see the figures reflecting this.
The rise in the number of wild animals we are rescuing is likely due to an increased awareness among the Scottish public about how we can help.
We undertook independent research last April and again this spring, asking the Scottish public if they were aware the Scottish SPCA rescues wildlife and positive responses rose from 73 per cent to 90 per cent.
Every year more people are calling our animal helpline when they come across a distressed wild animal and this goes hand in hand with a growing understanding that the public should call the Scottish SPCA rather than the RSPB, a conservation charity, if they find an injured bird.
It is crucial that people are aware of the correct organisation to contact if a wild animal needs help and it is encouraging that recent research has shown we are making such progress in this area.
Although not without its challenges, it is extremely rewarding to care for wild animals and help return them fit and healthy to their natural habitats.
While it is very hard work, we are incredibly privileged to be able to do this every day. Watching an animal which may have suffered and died without our help being released into the wild really does make everything worthwhile.
• Colin Seddon is National Wildlife Rescue Centre Manager at the Scottish SPCA, www.scottishspca.org