Oct 26, 2012

History of Wildlife Rehabilitation Part I

Rachel Carson with pet cat, Moppet. 
In 1936, Rachel Louise Carson, became the second woman to fill a full-time position with the Bureau of Fisheries (now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). She became chief editor of publications in 1949, but left the agency in 1952 to focus on writing. In 1962, Silent Sprint was published. This book was a milestone for the environmental movement, generating widespread concerns over pesticide use and pollution, and inspiring grassroots activism.

By the late 60s and early 70s, the Save the Whales campaign was gaining momentum and the concept of rehabilitating wildlife began taking shape. 

According to Holcomb, a pioneer in the field, "There was a real shift in consciousness, and people started asking, 'Okay, we want whales to be free, well then why not these other species?', so, we started rethinking our methods of dealing with injured wildlife, but," he recalled "there were two major incidents that really brought us all together."

On January 28,1969, a Union Oil drilling platform located six miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, suffered a blow-out. An estimated 4 million gallons of crude oil surfaced, causing an 800-square mile slick.

With 35 miles of coastline marred and thousands of birds in peril, the community came together in force. Despite heroic efforts by self-trained volunteers, few oiled birds survived.

As President Nixon noted, the incident "touched the conscience of the American people" and fueled the environmental movement.

Months after the spill, at a United Nations conference in San Francisco, John McConnell introduced the idea of Earth Day, suggesting the vernal equinox for its global spiritual significance. "The first day of Spring, a day that historically has been celebrated by people of every creed and culture - is a day worthy of being a holiday of all of Earth's people."

McConnell also designed the Earth Flag.

March 21, 1970, marked the first official Earth Day, even though a month later, Senator Gaylord Nelson proclaimed April 22, as "Earth Day". Over the years, Senator Nelson's date has seemingly championed McConnell's, though the true Earth Day is always celebrated on the vernal equinox with the ringing of the Peace Bell at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Over 20 million Americans participated in first Earth Day rallies across the United States. People were engaged and ready to take action for a cause...

Earth Day 1970
New York City: Union Square. Earth Day 1970
In Walnut Creek, California, a relatively small natural history center, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, was known for taking in injured wildlife - animals that were found by the public. Due to an increased need, in 1970, under the direction of curator Gary Bogue, the museum started one of the first formal rehabilitation center in the United States. Months later it would play a key role in helping massive numbers of oil-soaked birds.

On January 18, 1971, two Standard Oil tankers collided under San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, releasing 840,000 gallons of oil into the bay. Once again, citizens joined together in record numbers to help save their wildlife. Click HERE to read a firsthand account from one of the responders.

Lindsay Wildlife Museum was one of the dozen or so emergency bird centers set up throughout the Bay Area - another one was called the Richmond Bird Care Center. Alice Berkner, founder of International Bird Rescue (IBR) recalls the events leading up to the formation of her nonprofit in April 1971, HERE.

Poster made for International Bird Rescue Research Center in 1971.

Also in April 1971, the famous Keep America Beautiful PSA, People Start Pollution, People Can Stop It, aired for the first time.

The 1970s were very powerful times. People were impassioned, they felt empowered, and they took action - making things happen...

1 comment:

Anne Miller said...

The early pioneers like Jay Holcomb, Gary Bogue, and Alice Berkner in California played a big role in helping people start wildlife rehabilitation efforts elsewhere in the country. I depended heavily on their work as I started a rehab project in Alabama in 1977, using xeroxed, black & white sheets of information on different species from Alexander Lindsay Museum and elsewhere. I loved Gary Bogue's book on raptors, though so badly printed you couldn't even make xerox copies. We've come a long way in sophistication of our information sharing, but I'll always be grateful to the California wildlife rehabilitation community for leading the way for us all. Anne G. Miller, founder, Alabama Wildlife Center, Birmingham, AL