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CROW unveils new ambassador enclosures

By Staff | Apr 9, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Former CROW Executive Director Linda Estep shares the background on the project.

Some of the most well-known and beloved representatives for the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel recently moved into a new spacious structure they will call home.

On April 2, CROW held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Animal Ambassador enclosures.

Funded by the Attardo family, the project to build the permanent structure began over two years ago, officials reported. However, numerous setbacks including Hurricane Irma and its impact on the availability of building materials also needed by storm victims pushed the project behind schedule.

“We worked our hardest,” former Executive Director Linda Estep told those in attendance for the ribbon cutting. “It just seemed as if we would take one step forward and two steps back.”

She explained that a committee and CROW staff assisted with the project, which encountered a few road bumps leading up to the tentative ground breaking, but eventually began “rolling along through.”

PHOTO PROVIDED CROW Board of Directors President Paul Ben-Susan cuts the ribbon along with Christine Attardo, whose family funded the enclosures, and Executive Director Alison Charney Hussey, right.

Finally, they were set to break ground in September 2017 about the same time Irma struck. The storm reduced the supply of needed materials, and when supplies could be found, their cost was too high.

“The price was like one and a half times what it would normally be,” Estep said.

So, CROW was forced to delay construction on the enclosures.

“I had a few sleepless nights over this project,” she said.

Estep added that in the long run, however, it worked out.

TIFFANY REPECKI Mina, left, and Talon check out their new permanent enclosures with CROW staffers.

“What you have here is a work of love, commitment, dedication and lot of collaboration,” she said.

The enclosures will house CROW’s Animal Ambassadors, which are animals that have sustained injuries or circumstances preventing their re-release into the wild. Incorporated into the education and outreach programs, the list includes: Mina, a great horned owl; Talon, a red-tailed hawk; Lola, an American kestrel; Billy, a nine-banded armadillo; and Bashful, a Virginia opossum.

During the ceremony, Mina and Talon were introduced to their permanent homes for the first time. Moved into his space a month earlier, Billy was already settled in and digging burrows, officials said.

CROW Executive Director Alison Charney Hussey explained that the Animal Ambassadors were previously being housed in enclosures needed for patients, reducing the rehabilitation space.

“This will give us the opportunity to free up space,” she said.


Hussey added that the permanent enclosures are bigger and offer more room.

“Now they have a little more space,” she said.

They also feature shelters from the elements and enrichment items, like things to climb on.

CROW Board Member and volunteer Christine Attardo, whose family funded the project, also spoke.

“We funded it because we feel it’s very very important to CROW,” she said of the new enclosures. “These Animal Ambassadors are incredibly important to the work done by the organization.”


Visitors to the AWC Visitor Education Center will get to view the ambassadors and the enclosures as part of CROW’s “Wildlife Walk” guided hospital tour. Currently, the tours are offered Monday through Friday at 11 a.m., with a second tour on Wednesday through Friday at 2 p.m. Registration is required.

“With homes for our ambassadors, we can ensure that they are happy, healthy and can continue to teach visitors about their species and CROW’s mission,” Hussey said.

For more information, visit www.CROWClinic.org or call 239-472-3644.

CROW is at 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road.