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CROW meets with African wildlife center manager

By Staff | Dec 24, 2009

“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth.” -Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe, letter to President Franklin Pierce

Perhaps one of the greatest challenge as human beings is to be able to connect to each other and to the animal kingdom and environment. The challenge to help people connect to other lives outside of themselves is an ongoing struggle for political leaders, teachers, social workers and clergy. But one other category not listed in this batch – animal care takers and wildlife rehabilitators – seems to need to work a bit harder to make people understand the necessity to feel connected to the world.

One Sanibel wildlife care facility’s staff just got a chance to feel a little more connected to a fellow rehabilitation center a few continents away.

Dr. PJ Deitschel, Clinic Director and Staff Veterinarian for, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc. (CROW), met with Lee Stewart, the project manager for the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre in Malawi, Africa during an American tour for Lee last week.

Judy Cadman, a volunteer for CROW, met Stewart while spending time in Africa. She suggested he visit the U.S. and specifically check out CROW.

Deitschel and Stewart – who is from the United Kingdom – toured CROW’s grounds which include a rehabilitation clinic and education center and shared experiences and stories about working to save wildlife.

Both Deitschel and Stewart hold similar philosophies in treating the patient as an individual and working hard to rehabilitate wildlife and set them free. Both shun animals being used for entertainment purposes as well.

In Malawi, a very poor African country, Stewart must deal with wildlife being killed and used for bush meat. The babies of the killed animals – too little for food – are often put into the illegal pet trade, Stewart said. CROW staff contend more with injured wildlife due to human recklessness and lack of consideration. Fishing lines caught in the bills and wings of birds and wildlife hit by cars are the norm at CROW.

Primates comprise most of the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre’s patient load and birds and small mammals such as squirrels and opossums fill cages and beds at CROW.

The two also discussed and learned about some of their differences and similarities in caring for their sick and injured patients. For instance, at CROW, medical care is a blend of western and eastern methodologies. At the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, only western medicine practice is used – for the time being. But as more exchanges between rehabilitation centers happen that could change, Stewart said.

But with all of the differences some things remained the same – passion, hard work and devotion to treating and caring for wildlife.

Right now the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre does not have the ability to be able to have a state-of-the-art clinic such as CROW. Many of their medical procedures are performed on a table in the great outdoors.

“Our clinics are not quite so fancy,” Stewart said as he scanned the monitors and tutorial screens at the CROW education center.

But CROW didn’t always have up-to-date equipment.

“It took us 40 years to get this,” Deitschel said.

But for the wide-eyed wildlife director from Africa, a facility like CROW is something to dream about and work towards.

But in the mean time, Stewart has a much greater challenge: getting people in Malawi to understand the need to help wildlife. Most of the residents see animals as one thing only – food. Though Stewart said the majority of folks in Malawi are peaceful, the connection between man and animal needs work.

Though island residents and Southwest Florida residents generally don’t see wildlife as merely something to eat – there is still a disconnect between people and animals.

Compassion is the key needed to help people connect and ultimately care about wildlife. In the US it’s a bit easier because many people have pets and have learned to connect on some level with their furry, feathery and scaly friends.

“Every life has value – whether it’s an elephant or chicken,” Deitschel said. “i think the key is to not have arrogance or judgement.”

Stewart is trying to work with the Malawi in helping meet there basic needs with the hopes that sometime in the near future, the connection between them and their wildlife will be made. And Deitschel and her staff at CROW will continue giving presentations and talking to people about having compassion and understanding for the native wildlife.

The two clinic directors hope to work together more in the future and learn from their experiences. In the mean time, a dialog has been initiated between the two.

“It’s always wonderful to have people visit from other rehabilitation centers,” Deitschel said. “There is value in the sharing of information.”

To learn more about Lilongwe Wildlife Centre in Malawi, Africa go to www.lilongwewildlife.org. To learn more about CROW or to volunteer go to www.crowclinic.org or call 395-0050.