When Your Teacher is a Wild Animal
In most wildlife rehabilitation stories, a happy ending means the release of a fully healed animal back to its natural environment. But for an animal whose experience leaves it unable to safely return, there may be another kind of happy ending.
Some of these animals may become education ambassadors, teaching the world to care about wildlife and the environment. They live in comfortable captivity at a facility like the Wildlife Center of Virginia, where visitors can learn about each animal and its rehabilitation experiences. Some of these education ambassadors may even hit the road with wildlife educators from time to time, visiting schools, libraries and community events where people can learn from them.
While learning about each animal and its natural habitat, people can get a clearer picture of the wild world that surrounds us at all times. And by learning about the kinds of injuries that changed the course of these creatures’ lives, animal lovers of all ages can be inspired to make good choices for the wildlife around them.
Not every animal is well-suited for becoming an education ambassador. For example, if the animal is blind, or its sense of balance is severely compromised, it likely won’t be able to navigate around its enclosure or feel at ease when removed from it. And when an animal’s injuries will cause a lifetime of pain, the best course is to humanely end its suffering.
But those animals that do go on to teach offer an unforgettable learning experience for the people they encounter. It’s one thing to read about owls, or watch a program about opossums—it’s a much more memorable experience to see a breathtaking wingspan or an impressive set of teeth close up and in person.
What You Can Do!
Sponsor an education animal through a program like Caring for Critters. Your support can help to provide food, housing, and medical care for these helpful creatures.
Check with organizations near you about opportunities to learn from education ambassadors. Or see if your school, library or other community organization can bring a wildlife education program to you.
Make sure any organization that offers you an encounter with wildlife is doing so ethically. If it seems more like entertainment than education, or doesn’t align with the Wildlife Educators Code of Ethics, it’s best to steer clear.
Check out the Wildlife Center of Virginia to learn more about the wild animals around you, and how you can help keep them safe.