Trevor’s Week - January 18, 2012: How things have changed over the last 26 years

THIS is a depressing week for me, on Sunday I will be 40, however I feel a lot older!

It’s amazing how things have changed over the past 26 years since I started doing wildlife rescue and conservation work.

I can remember thinking while walking along the beach at Seaford looking for oiled seabirds, that in 2012 I will be 40, and thinking “that’s a long way away”, but it’s now here!

There is one person to thank for WRAS and that is a lady in Seaford called Meta Mann, who used to run the Seaford Bird Hospital from her home.

She inspired me and gave me a purpose in life, which has stuck with me through some tough times and has been the one constant in my life, and I have changed much since those early days of helping Meta and running Eastbourne Conservation Volunteers.

WRAS too has changed, I started by catching the bus and train from Hailsham to Brighton, Newhaven, Seaford, Eastbourne and walking stretches of the coast looking for oiled birds.

When I first started it was not unusual for there to be 2-400 oiled birds washing up on the East Sussex coastline each winter, these days there are nowhere near as many, mainly due to changes in the law and as a result cleaner seas – one major success story for our wildlife.

Until five years ago, WRAS did not have an established hospital but relied on volunteers taking casualties into their own homes, and to neighbouring groups like Folly Wildlife Rescue, Rogers Wildlife Rescue, RSPCA Mallydams, Kit Wilson Trust, Southdowns Badger Group and more, who used to ask us to attend rescues and we would deliver the casualties to these groups for the hospital care.

When I started there were at least 11 individuals in Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne, Seaford, Peacehaven, Brighton and Lancing who were taking in wildlife casualties, only Roger’s Wildlife Rescue and RSPCA Mallydams exist today.

Most of these people did not last more than 10 years burning themselves out due to the stress and workload and round the clock care needed.

An important influence in WRAS’s start was veterinary surgeon Robin Hooper at Downwood Vets in Horam, who was very kind and understanding and would charge me the minimum costs, but after running up over £1,000 of vet bills he offered to cut the bill in half if I looked at setting up a voluntary group to help raise funds and increase our ability to rescue casualties.

This saw the start of East Sussex Wildlife Rescue as a voluntary group in 1996, and it has grown from there.

We have had our ups and downs, made some mistakes on the way, but always managed to pick ourselves up and move forward and upwards.

Our first hospital was at Horsebridge which gave us great experience, but became extremely expensive and we were forced to move as a result in order for the charity to survive. We have been at Whitesmith since 2009 and in September 2010 we moved into our current bigger hospital in a new part of the same building.

In 2009 we were only able to take in 25 casualties comfortably at any one time, but now we can house over 70 casualties depending on species and condition.

In 2009 more than 75 per cent of the casualties we dealt with had to be taken to other organisations, now less than 15 per cent of casualties are taken elsewhere.

We now have four veterinary ambulances, although we are finding it harder to find suitable people to undertake rescue work than ever before, due to people’s work commitments, making it difficult for people to find enough time to be on call with WRAS. We are looking for people to spend one day a week at the centre from 9am till 6pm on call helping WRAS.

If you are interested please get in touch. The support that WRAS and I have received from so many people over the years is amazing.

WRAS would not exist if it was not for the volunteers who support us and the donors who give their hard earned money to support our work and the many casualties we rescue.

I am very grateful to everyone for supporting WRAS, helping me, helping the casualties and helping to prevent suffering to so many wild animals and birds. Where will WRAS be in 40 years’ time? I’ll be 80 in 2052, I have no idea what I’ll be doing then, I just hope that WRAS is still alive and helping many more casualties.

I wonder if I’ll still be writing Trevor’s Week then?

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• East Sussex WRAS is a voluntary organisation which relies on donations, receiving no funding from government or the RSPCA. Anyone wishing to make a donation should contact the treasurer at PO Box 2148, Seaford, BN25 9DE.

24-hour rescue line: 07815 078234