Something to CROW about
Last month, I toured the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel Island, Florida. CROW is a teaching hospital and visitor education center dedicated to saving wildlife through state-of-the-art veterinary care, research, education, and conservation medicine. All that being said, I wasn’t that keen to go. To be perfectly candid, I only went because Alison Hussey, a dear friend of mine, was recently was appointed their executive director.
I had a preconceived opinion about CROW. It seemed to me that going to extreme efforts to rehabilitate one injured bird/turtle/opossum at a time was – well how can I say this nicely – a bit much. To make the outing more “fun,” I invited another buddy of mine to join me. I figured after we toured the center, we could have lunch on Sanibel and catch up on some gossip. My goal was to get the “obligation” done. So once again, I am delighted to report, I was wrong! It was such a great experience! CROW is truly a multidimensional organization and the tour was both educational and heartwarming. Let me tell you why!
– CROW staff members are extremely friendly and knowledgeable without being pushy. From the receptionist to the veterinarians, they are infused with a genuine joy for what they are doing. There is something wonderful about when folks are passionate about their work.
– Their Visitor Education Center is a great way to become acquainted with CROW and their mission. The visuals, signage and videos are clear and informative. You can walk through at your own pace or attend a lecture (or both). Guided tours of the Wildlife Walks are available.
– CROW has a children’s learning center. It’s super cool. The learning tools are age-appropriate and kids can earn their veterinarian “certification” while they are there.
– There are animals appointed as “Ambassadors.” These Ambassadors are unable to be released back into their natural habitat (injuries too extensive) and serve as conduits between humans and animals. The Ambassadors are handled by trained staff and taken to community outreach events and into classrooms to educate children about Florida’s natural and precious wildlife.
– CROW operates as a working and teaching hospital where students from all over the world come to learn all aspects of conservation and wildlife medicine and rehabilitation. Each year, CROW helps to educate between 45-50 students from around the world. They’ve had students from 26 major U.S. veterinary schools, more than 135 colleges and universities, and 28 countries. Their student programs are designed to enhance the educational pursuits of natural science, veterinary technician, and pre-veterinary, and veterinary medicine students.
– They have over 200 volunteers. This says a lot about the commitment and energy in our community toward saving wildlife. It also tells me that the CROW leadership team knows how to treat their volunteers and help them find roles that are meaningful.
– CROW is countywide. In fact, 70 percent to 80 percent of the 4,800 “patients” (2018) are from outside of Sanibel Island. I had no idea the organization’s reach extended to such a broad geographic area beyond the island. If you find an injured animal, you can call CROW and they will help you safely secure the animal and/or send a volunteer to assist you.
Research is an important component to their work. It’s not just about rehabilitation for distressed animals. CROW considers and addresses root cause for the sources of distress. State-of-the-art technology, techniques and processes are deployed to maximize space and efficiency, and to also minimize intrusion and trauma to the animals.
CROW’s approach to all – animals, people and the habitat – is reverent. The time and attention given to every animal is unique and specialized. At the conclusion of the tour, I asked Alison if the task of caring for so many diverse animals with very particular needs is overwhelming. She responded:
“It is an honor to do this work. If we don’t do it, who will? Our wildlife is such an important part of the delicate balance of our ecosystem. Our community was reminded of just how delicate that ecosystem and our wildlife is the past two years (Hurricane Irma and red tide). But, we’re also reminded of how resilient they are. Can you imagine sitting on your back porch and not hearing birds sing? Or what if there were no opossums to rid your yard of harmful insects and other things you’d rather not think about? I’m feeling a little John Lennon here, but really what would Southwest Florida be without our wildlife? Safeguarding the health of all is dependent on safeguarding the health of our wildlife.”
Well said, my friend! I encourage you to visit CROW either in person or online. Their website is full of content including video feeds of the rehabilitation cages and the hospital. Check it out at www.crowclinic.org and please consider making a donation. I know I was inspired – they are truly something to CROW about!
Carol Conway is the founder of Ask Grandcarol, a senior lifestyle blog. Her blog provides commentary, humor and resource for seniors who want to stay relevant and maximize every day. To read more from Ask GrandCarol, visit www.askgrandcarol.com.