The Wildlife Center of Virginia is announcing the establishment of the Wildlife Care Academy, a new training program that will provide comprehensive instruction on a wide array of topics, including wildlife rehabilitation, wildlife medicine and diagnostics, capture and restraint, as well as related disciplines regarding conservation education and organization management.
According to Wildlife Center President Ed Clark, “This has long been a dream of mine, but now we are really making it happen. The mission of the Wildlife Center is ‘... teaching the world to care about and care for wildlife and the environment’; through this new focused effort, we will be teaching more people to care for wildlife than ever before, including a full range of wildlife and veterinary professionals, and those who support their work.”
The Wildlife Care Academy will eventually be a “one-stop-shop” for both academic and practical instruction related to the care of wildlife in a variety of captive situations, with a focus on medical or management interventions. Initially, the Academy will offer both online and hands-on courses in wildlife rehabilitation, ranging from the most basic introductory seminars to advanced medical management of injured and orphaned wildlife. Eventually, the Wildlife Care Academy will offer training and continuing education courses for licensed veterinarians and veterinary technicians, animal control officers, biologists and law enforcement professionals, and others who may have reason to capture, transport, or care for any wild animal in a captive situation, either short- or long-term.
“One of the most exciting aspects of our new program,” continued Clark, “is that this Academy will offer competency certification in the various disciplines we teach.” Students will not only receive Academy documentation for the courses they complete but also assessment and certification for those who complete a full set of training and skills instruction in fields such as “Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation”, “Advanced Wildlife Rehabilitation”, “Raptor Rehabilitation”, “Wildlife Capture and Restraint”, etc.
Clark cited the types of certifications issued by the American Red Cross for various levels of first-aid training and CPR as a template for what the new wildlife academy will provide. “We will have a complete curriculum and comprehensive set of specific skills that must be mastered and evaluated for each level of competency certification. When someone receives credentials in Advanced Wildlife Rehabilitation, for example, a state or federal agency, or a future employer, will be able to depend on the fact that an Academy graduate has the knowledge, skills, and experience to get the job done.”
At the helm of the new Wildlife Care Academy will be Dr. Kelli Knight, one of the wildlife veterinarians on the staff of the Wildlife Center of Virginia. In addition to being a licensed veterinarian with years of wildlife experience, Dr. Knight is a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator and an instructor with the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Prior to serving as Director of the new Academy, Knight was the Assistant Director of Veterinary Services at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, where she was in charge of post-clinical care and rehabilitation for the Center’s thousands of wild patients admitted each year. She has taught wildlife rehabilitation courses across the U.S., as well as in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. At the Wildlife Center, she has trained students, externs, and interns from around the world.
In accepting her new post as Director of the Academy, Dr. Knight said, “I am very excited about this new program, and this new opportunity for me, to advance the mission of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, and to expand and improve the effectiveness and competency of the wildlife care community.”
While the new Wildlife Care Academy is a subsidiary program of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, and Dr. Knight will remain a member of the Center’s staff, the Wildlife Care Academy will operate largely as an independent training program. For the first year, it is anticipated that much of the training will be delivered through live, interactive classes taught online. There will also be practical, hands-on training courses, taught in various venues across Virginia and elsewhere, to impart the specific skills and techniques required for successful wildlife rehabilitation. As the catalogue of courses expands, the Wildlife Care Academy will call upon other members of the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s professional team to fill faculty roles and will tap outside professionals to share specific skills and expertise with Academy students.
Eventually, said Clark, “We’ll also be offering complementary courses in Wildlife Education and in the various aspects of management and fundraising that are essential for wildlife care programs and organizations to really succeed and be effective. During the last 35 years, the Wildlife Center of Virginia has become one of the world’s leading teaching and research hospitals for wildlife and conservation medicine. We have reached literally millions with our education and outreach programs. Obviously, we have learned a great deal about how to be effective. Now, through this new Academy, we are going to put more energy into sharing that experience and expertise with others in our field.”