Talk Report: 2017-05-10

Report on talk about the Work of Secret World

Rescue – Rehabilitate – Release! That is the aim and achievement of Secret World, the wildlife rescue charity based near Highbridge. On Wednesday May 10th Pauline Kidner came to talk to U3A members about the work done by Secret World, where both professionals and an army of volunteers are committed to protecting the wild animals of Somerset.

The charity is there to rehabilitate animals and birds that have been hurt by humans and not those that have been wounded by other creatures in the ordinary course of nature. Pauline gave us some impressive statistics: One in three creatures saved are members of endangered species; in 2016 over five and a half thousand animals and birds were rescued; at least 50% of the survivors were returned to the wild.

Humans, admittedly often unawares, are busy destroying “our” world: a roe fawn savaged by a mowing machine… animals wounded by traffic…. deer hopelessly entangled in fencing wire…. a swan caught up in fishing tackle…. hedgehogs caught in netting. We must realise that it is not only “our “world in which we live; it is also the world which belongs to animals and birds.

Day and night Secret World and its volunteers drive all over the county to collect wounded creatures, bringing bring them back for care and if possible eventual release into the wild. Pauline stressed that they will never return a creature to the wild which is in any way maimed, because it would be neither kind nor sensible; it would not survive back in the rough tough world of nature wherein the ordinary course of things two thirds of all species die in their first year. She makes no apology for the fact that seriously damaged creatures are put to sleep. Secret World doesn’t believe in unnecessary suffering and they know that euthanasia is the only solution to prevent this.

Orphans are often brought in to the rescue centre and where possible these are saved and nurtured. We saw some entrancing photographs of motherless animals: tiny badgers, hedgehogs, hares and foxes are patiently fed hourly by volunteers and watched tenderly as they grow able to fend for themselves. A baby fox is black when born, the fur turning from black to dark chocolate brown to red in the first three weeks of its life, after which time it will soon be able to eat solid food. Baby hares are covered with fur and have working eyes and ears from the very first, and we heard that hares leave their young not like rabbits in burrows but individually in hidden declivities in the ground. Hedgehogs are born with no spines; these begin to emerge within hours of their birth. They are at first without sight or hearing but have an advanced sense of smell. Last year two hundred baby hedgehogs were nurtured from infancy to adult state, microchipped and released to the area of country where they were originally found.

We were impressed at the immense care that is taken at every stage of rescue and rehabilitation and were told that the release is also approached with great care. Badgers, for instance, (three time checked that they are TB free) are taken to an area of woodland and kept temporarily in a secure compound whilst they acquaint themselves with the new surroundings. They are then slowly given a chance to return to full freedom. The same with owls, who live for a while in a specially erected pen of which a door is opened when it is thought that they are ready to fly free.

Secret World has a good website which tells you about their work and advertises Open Days when they talk about their work to children and the public.: https://www.secretworld.org
They rely on its volunteers to make their invaluable work possible and through the website you can also enquire about volunteering. If you find a wounded animal or bird, contact them for advice on 01278 783250.

Pauline was thanked very much for coming to Wells to give us such a fascinating talk.