Miles Away From Home Living A Wild World

Here I come to share my wild experience, but first I would like to mention that I’ve been in the United States for three months and a half, I visited Florida for half a month and then I arrived at the green Waynesboro City Virginia, staying here for 12 unforgettable weeks. I would like to say thank you to everyone that put a little grain on my story at the Wildlife Center: thank you for the welcome, hospitality, patience, for showing me your culture and for letting me be part of this wonderful experience learning from each one of you even with the difference of the language.

I had such a great time working at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. I went from zero, and it wasn’t easy at the start but with the help of everyone, including our patients, I could finally said that I made it!! I enjoyed very much working with raptors; mammals such as fawns, foxes, opossums, squirrels, bats, and the lovely bunnies; but of course how can I not mentioned BABY BIRDS! I remember having 21 European Starlings all together in the aviary, in one of the sections where we keep our birds once they are healthy and in good body condition, ready to be released. All of the young birds gaping really loud and all flying to me -- it was such a new and great experience, I think they made me develop more my high capacity to work under pressure because we will have to be really efficient and fast to keep those birds satisfied.

One of the other tasks that I really liked and is impossible not to mention was exercising raptors such as screech-owls, Great Horned Owls, Barred owls, Red-shouldered Hawks, etc. We were always trying to be very critical in looking at the way they fly. We observed their breathing, limb position, stamina, soaring, manuevering, etc. It was scary at the start, but then you get more involved with them. I remember talking over dinner with my roommates and we all have this dreams about our patient birds, each one telling a different story -- so yeah, they definitely became part of our lives. I personally wasn’t a “bird lover” before working at the Wildlife Center but after all the experience I had at the Center, I can now say that I have a lot of respect of birds -- more than before because now I feel that I know them better. I discovered new things about their skills, and saw that each one has their own personality.

As for ICU and Extended ICU (intensive unit of care), it was a very demanding but fantastic job, having the baby mammals and birds since their very start of life until they get ready to be released. Release is such a rewarding moment, because we had put our time, passion, love, and all the effort that anyone can imagine to make that happen. It was so crazy how the hours passed so fast in ICU, always busy trying to replace their mom’s place. At the moment of feeding, we would try replacing mom’s beak or mom’s nipple for syringes with cannula tips, feeding tubes, syringes with plastic nipples, and sometimes even wearing some costume to avoid our baby raptors from being imprinted on humans. Hand-feeding each one of our patients, giving fluids to those little bodies, always hoping to see them the next day alive, but unfortunately not all the organisms respond the same way, and sometimes one is stronger than others. Losing a patient was a very hard moment, but that’s what life is about, it’s hard and a challenge, always a competition.

And fawns -- incredible mammals. I really enjoyed every minute with all of them, I fell in love with each one, even knowing that they are highly stressful, it was amazing to worked with them and learn from them.

Well, that was a little part of my experience, unfortunately I can’t find the words to describe all I have learned because there is so much to tell [that I will never end], but I’m very happy that the world has places where all think and feel the same about animals no matter race, language or religion! I’m proud of all of the Wildlife Center staff, a very competitive team with a great knowledge exceeding the expectations and needs of each of our patients. It is a hard and exhausting job for everyone, but at the same time always rewarding! I also want to thank my supervisors, for sharing your knowledge with me and for letting me be part of this, I have learned tons and you’ll hear me roar! I will be sharing all my knowledge about wildlife in South America, Peru, or any other place I go so we can keep changing wild histories and improving the wild animal’s life.

“Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.” -- Winston Churchill

--Jimena Molina Santibanez, “JJ”
WCV Class of 2014


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