The work in a rescuing an animal can involve several institutions, from wildlife organizations to university and environmental departments within the local, state and federal government depending on the species.
Scope of Work
This work involves:
- Catching and restraining - escaped, abandoned, neglected, dangerous or injured animals
- Relocating - transporting to or from a treatment centre, a temporary refuge, or permanent home
- Providing care - veterinary care, handling, restraining, rehabilitation; even euthanasia if needed.
If a wild animal is not fit and healthy enough to be released, or it's natural environment has become inappropriate (eg. due to clearing); it may need permanent relocation to a different wilderness area, or perhaps a zoo or other wildlife park.
Wildlife rescue jobs may include:
- rehabilitation specialist
- animal hospital attendant
- first aid and initial responder
- biologists; animal researchers; park rangers.
Many have a strong background in ecology, animal behaviour and biology.
What You Need to Learn
- Understand the basics of animal psychology and behaviour – nutrition, life cycle, feeding mechanisms, how to recognise behavioural cues indicating distress, how to calm an injured animal in the field or minimise risk in the approach
- General animal welfare theory – animal psychology, rescue centres, free and captive animal welfare,
- How to recognise illness, disease, and injury – animal behaviour, gins of illness, treatment, rehabilitation procedures
- Animal first aid - how to triage animals in the field, how to transport rescues safely
- Principles of animal conservation - animal biology, habitat, types of interaction
- Zoo keeping – captivity nutrition, reproduction, behaviour, enclosure design, human-animal interaction
- Population and community ecology – fundamentals of ecology, sampling, population monitoring, ecological relationships (intra- and interspecific)
- Communication skills -- how to communicate effectively with treating vets, concerned citizens, and animal carers
- How to effectively manage people - to progress to working as team leader or manager, how to manage a team, delegate, and encourage
- Broad awareness of treatment options - mainstream and complementary practice, how to work with other health professionals
Starting a Career
- Start by getting experience, learning about animals and developing your contacts in the industry - you need all three!
- You may achieve this in many and varied ways; for example:
- Volunteering -eg. at an animal shelter or wildlife rescue service
- Join an organisation with an interest in animals - eg. RSPCA, conservation society, birdwatching club or other such group
- Attend seminars, conferences, workshops
- Get a part time job (if you are fortunate) -anything working with animals, directly or indirectly (eg. even sales in a pet shop or administration for a vet)
- Study anything that could help build relevant knowledge - start with achievable courses (eg. short courses or certificates). Small steps often succeed where big steps are never achieved.
Progressing a Career
You will learn through experience as you work in the organizations. Networking, professional development, and empathy are necessary to succeed in this field. There are many pathways to progress your career as an animal rescue worker, including:
- Team leader - managing or coordinating rescue teams on the ground
- Behaviour specialist - working with a particular type of animal (domestic or non-captive) and educating handlers on approach and strategies for improving care
- Vet assistant - working with rescue teams in general care, first aid in the field, assisting in treatment
- Furthering your studies on the job or with books and courses
- Documentary film-making and recording rescues for community advocacy and education
- Attending professional development seminars, specialist behaviour seminars, and more
- Research assistant, field assistant
Spend time networking. Get to know people involved in different organisations, those in the relevant government departments, and people involved in research. The more information you gain about the animal or ecosystem you are fighting for, the stronger arguments you will have to share when you interact with people. There is a constant need to diversify and innovate the services you have to offer; but still your passion for protecting wild animals must be your priority.