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AWARE Wildlife Center Nurtures and Rehabilitates Georgia's Injured Native Animals

By Marina I. Jokic

Rehabilitating wildlife is an essential part of natural conservation. Thankfully, there are dedicated centers that are committed to accomplishing the gargantuan task of not only saving animal life, but also educating the public on best practices and environmental awareness in general. The aptly called AWARE Wildlife Center in Conyers, Georgia has been caring for injured and orphaned wildlife and teaching people since 2006.

"Education about the need for the preservation of habitat and peaceful coexistence is as important, if not more important, than the rehabilitation of individual animals," underscores Marjan Ghadrdan, Senior Wildlife Care Supervisor at AWARE.

The center rehabilitates injured and abandoned native wildlife, and tries to promote peaceful coexistence between humans and animals. Educating the public is one of the pillars upon which AWARE was founded since one cannot attempt to solve a problem without tackling its root cause.

To that end, AWARE engages the community through various programs and tours, which are geared toward children as well as adults. These activities are planned and conducted by expert naturalists with the help of several "Ambassador Animals" such as owls, hawks, reptiles, and squirrels. Children learn to be around wild life without irrational fear or the need to handle the animals. Teaching kids from an early age to respect animals and their space is one of the most important principles AWARE is trying to convey.

The programs are usually hosted in AWARE's amphitheater or external locations.  AWARE also offers free onsite tours at 1:00 pm every Saturday and Sunday. Donations make up a major portion of the center's revenue and are always welcome, Ghadrdan says.

Like the essential role of donations, the center values and needs the work of volunteers. AWARE is primarily staffed by volunteers and relies heavily on them to provide much needed care for wildlife, perform maintenance and administrative duties.

For instance, the animal caregiver position is designed to give hands-on experience in animal behavior, husbandry, wildlife medicine, and habitat conservation by allowing volunteers to be involved in almost every part of the rehabilitation process. In fact, Ghadrdan points out, there is a significant investment in training caregivers, as they are critically important to the operation of the entire facility.

Before becoming a caregiver, a volunteer must commit to at least six months of working the same five-hour shift every week. Learning is intensive and requires a highly responsible person in the role, which includes duties such as diet preparation, syringe and gavage feeding, husbandry, handling and restraint, assisting with exams and medical procedures as well as applying splints and dressing wounds among others. It's a rewarding opportunity especially for those considering veterinary school.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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