Fa La La for Local Wildlife

“Think globally, shop locally.” It’s a maxim that can apply to environmentally-mindful gifts as much as it does to goods purchased to support neighborhood shops and farmers markets.

So, Ho Ho!!, if your holiday giving includes supporting big name national and international wildlife organizations, why not also consider the gifts available from your local and regional wildlife centers?

Because, let’s be honest, if you are visiting Cry Wild, chances are you’re somebody who has either brought injured or orphaned wildlife to your local sanctuary … or scrambled to find a rehabilitator able to accept an animal you’re determined to help.

And, if you are just such a person, you might be interested in knowing many local sanctuaries rely on fundraisers similar to the symbolic adoptions their larger counterparts promote.

Except, instead of generally contributing toward the conservation of an entire endangered species, their adoption kits are usually more uniquely personal, pairing a gift recipient’s name along with the name, photograph and backstory of the specific animal their gift is benefiting.

Here’s an example of an adoption package, this one offered by the Missouri Wildlife Rescue Center in Ballwin, MO.

The personal nature of such an “adoption” represents the reality that wildlife requiring sponsorship are either temporary charges undergoing expert care before release — or permanent residents whose circumstances preclude a return to the wild.

Birds in particular populate that permanent resident category as the injuries that land them in a local wildlife clinic, damaged wings from car collisions for instance, reduce their chances of surviving a return to the wild. But that doesn’t mean such birds are destined to languish in bored confinement. No indeed, these feathered friends in need are often trained to work as Animal Ambassadors.

For example, the Mountsberg Raptor Center operated by Halton Conservation of Burlington Ontario reports it is “home to more than 15 species of birds of prey.”

The Halton Conservation authority’s Raptor Trail in Burlington Ontario. Images: Halton Conservation

The center’s greeting page states: “Many of these birds have permanent injuries, often caused by human activity, which have left them incapable of surviving on their own in the wild. In addition to caring for these raptors the Raptor Centre provides educational programs so that people can learn more about birds of prey, how to share our environment with these birds and how to reduce our impacts on them.” 

Meanwhile, the funds raised through Halton Conservation’s Adopt a Raptor program help enable its raptor center to continue vital “conservation through education” work.

“Educate, educate, educate.” *

In addition to featuring more personalized adoption packets and “release ride-alongs,” many community-based conservation centers enable their supporters to give interactive gifts. Facility tours, seasonal camping, nature classes and arts and crafts programs… all further the community outreach aspect of their work. Even these currently Covid-curtailed times see education programs carrying on, albeit in modified ways.

Image: The Wolf Conservation Center of New York: “Activities for Kids”

For instance, along with its traditional Adopt-a-Wolf programs, The Wolf Conservation Center of New York also offers distance learning sessions, webinars and backyard Nature Activity Guides for children. All proceeds benefit the center’s wolf conservation and public education work.

Locating Local Groups Online

Wondering how to be sure your gift is benefiting an authorized wildlife rehabilitation centre or conservation group near you? The Human Society of America offers this excellent state by state search tool. And the US Fish and Wildlife Service does, too. If you live in Canada you can search Good Works Canada’s directory of environmental groups, organizations, networks and associations.

Make a habit of reviewing the Home and or About US pages of the websites of the U.S. based organizations you’re considering. Those that are authorized and licensed to perform the work they say they’re doing will clearly note that in a visible location. It’s also a good idea to run the credentials of any unfamiliar charities through Charity Navigator. Mind you, it’s worth knowing many worthwhile organizations are simply not set up to file the particular IRS forms this charity evaluator requires. Even so, Charity Navigator is a generally useful way to confirm transparency, accountability and results.

Search tools at the ready open, I was curious to see who might be helping wildlife in the state I grew up in. A quick search of: “Wildlife Rescue Organizations in New Jersey” and discovered this entirely new to me endeavor: Woodlands Wildlife Refuge.

This state licensed wildlife rehabilitation and release refuge, founded in 1986, seeks to educate New Jersey’s residents about the “habits and habitats” of the state’s local wildlife. As it operates as a non-profit charitable corporation with no state or federal funding, items like the plush bears available at its online gift shop help fund success stories like the one featured in this video…

If searching wildlife organizations populating the state I grew up in turned up such an interesting new to me find, I wondered who might be beavering away where I live now and wouldn’t you know it? There’s a rambling great preserve dedicated to “conservation, education and environmental literacy” not more than five miles from my house.

Not wanting to give away my home address, let’s just say I’m delighted to discover I can support my local conservation center by taking (or giving as a gift) animal tracking and birding classes. It’s also good to know this center’s bricks and mortar nature shop is matched with an online version offering guides to local flora and fauna, children’s books, wildlife hand puppets and holiday ornaments. The same charming wildlife-themed fare you can find at almost any online nature shop but that’s not the point.

The point is, if you think to search locally, that children’s book or plush toy puppet you might purchase elsewhere can lend a hand to the good people working to benefit the wildlife living in or close to your own backyard.

Making Wishes Come True
photo (c) kjurgens

The practical minded recipients on your gift list might appreciate knowing you’ve made a tangible contribution in their name. Donating food, bedding or litter or any number of necessary every-day items can be an especially helpful act.

Monika Melichar, founder and director of the Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary in Minden, Ontario feels it’s important to remind people there are very helpful options beyond symbolic adoptions and sponsorships.

WWS is a non-profit charity founded to care for and return orphaned and injured wildlife back to their natural environment. All 45 acres of its secluded wilderness setting, including its treatment facilities and temporary holding shelters, are dedicated to that rehabilitation and release mandate. “We do not ask people to sponsor animals because we are not permitted to keep them,” said Melichar. “Nor do we have the facilities to house wildlife permanently.”

What WWS does have, and greatly appreciates, are people who volunteer their time, talents and resources, whether they’re stepping up at the sanctuary, helping with logistics from home, ferrying wildlife in need of transport or ticking off the items on its WISH LIST.

Volunteering on behalf of someone on your holiday list makes a great alternative gift. Image: WWS.

Be assured that while this list happens to be hosted by Amazon Smile, any and all wishes fulfilled directly benefit the sanctuary.

It’s also worth noting that as WWS is an all volunteer organization with no paid staff, monetary donations are a critically helpful gift option.

“People have been very generous to us this year,” said Melichar, “knowing we are facing hardships and more animals than ever. This year people have sent us donations in lieu of gifts for someone.”

And every time someone does, Melichar sends a Thank You Card along with a charitable receipt to the person the donation was made on behalf of. “That way they get a charitable receipt and a personalized gift card saying a donation was made in their honour.”

Personable ~ and to the point.

Happy Gifting.

* “Educate, educate, educate.” R.D. Lawrence

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