A long-standing wildlife rescue volunteer has died after a long battle with cancer.
Tributes have been paid to Monica Russell, East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) trustee, chairperson, rescuer, carer, fundraiser, cleaner, cook and friend of the charity and its many volunteers.
Monica volunteered to help the county’s wildlife for 20 years and the charity’s new orphan rearing unit was recently named after her.
Trevor Weeks, founder and operations director at WRAS, said, “Our thoughts are with her husband Brian and daughters Kirsty and Claire who have been so lovingly taking care of her during this difficult time.
“Monica worked behind the scenes at WRAS, and performed many roles.
“Her biggest role was hand rearing baby mammals especially hedgehogs and fox cubs.
“She would often be up through the night to feed the babies, who when very small are often in need of being fed every couple of hours.
“She would always encourage children around her to watch her feeding and felt that educating children to appreciate wildlife was important.”
Trevor said he and Monica started caring for animals in a similar way, after finding casualties and struggling to find anyone to help.
Trevor said vets usually only offer to put the animal down and he added, “Rather than wanting this for a poorly hedgehog she had found, Monica took it on and it recovered.”
She started working with Folly Wildlife Rescue but when she moved to Eastbourne, she started volunteering with WRAS.
Trevor said, “She was an absolute natural at hand rearing and would often take little creatures to work with her to ensure they got the continuing care they needed.”
Monica was also involved in rescues, on the committee and at fundraising events.
She also helped to build pens, clean and even stayed over at the casualty centre during snow to ensure the poorly animals would get looked after properly.
Trevor said, “Staying over at our old centre wasn’t exactly comfortable either.
“Sleeping on the cold floor was ok, but having hedgehogs snuffling, grunting and chewing their food through the night, as well as the owl flapping its wings, and then at first light the pigeons pecking at seed and flicking it through the bars of the cage at you.”
Trevor and the team of volunteers has put together a video tribute to Monica on its You Tube Channel www.youtube.com/user/eastsussexwras.
Trevor added, “Monica was a good all round person who got involved where ever she could due to her compassion and dedication to helping others.
“She is an inspiration to us all and we hope we do her memory proud and can live up to her dedication and commitment to help wildlife in need. We will miss you Monica and will never forget all you have done for WRAS.”
Instead of buying flowers a Justgiving page has been set up by her daughter so people can make donations in her memory.
Anyone can make a donation at www.justgiving.com/Claire-Martin33
WRAS is currently recruiting additional hard working and dedicated volunteers like Monica. Visit www.wildlifeambulance.org/volunteer-recruitment-days/