There are very few wildlife centres that are prepared to work with oiled seabirds. Our centre is one of only a handful in the whole of the UK. We aim to provide the very best service to our seabird casualties, and to assure those finding a needy seabird, that it will receive the best attention.
Our work has always been conducted in South Devon, however, our reputation for excellent results has meant that oiled sea birds have been brought to us from all along the south coast of England.
In 1997 the Trust was presented with a 'Best of the West' award from Westcountry television, for rescue and rehabilitation of oiled seabirds.
The demand for our services increased year on year, and in order to accommodate a growing number of oiled seabirds, the decision was taken by the Trustees in 1996 to open a second rehabilitation centre.
From left to right - Cllr. Fred Symons, Chairman of Teignbridge District Council, The Mayor of Teignmouth, Alan Norsworthy, Mrs Jill Hepworth, Jean Bradford, Roger Bradford
The new centre was opened to the public in 1997. The two centres were capable of caring for up to 350 oiled auks at one time, besides other seabird casualties.
This additional facility was also equiped with a visitors viewing room from which members of the public could watch the birds in the 'release' aviary, without disturbing, or being seen by the birds. Emphasis was placed on the fact that our birds were wild and would be returning to the wild, therefore, quiet observation was essential.
Being able to view birds just prior to their release was a great benefit to our work since the majority of visitors had 1) never seen a guillemot before, and 2) were under the impression that these birds could not be saved, as had been alleged in two damning reports. The comment from most visitors was "we had heard oiled guillemots could not be rehabilitated, but there is nothing wrong with these". Many of our visitors are now Friends of the Trust who receive an annual Newsletter.
We were able to keep the two centres operational from 1997 to 2004, but decided to close the larger centre due mainly to the fact that there were insufficient funds to be able to employ help. The Trust is run entirely by volunteers. Most the volunteers kindly patrol beaches for us and bring any birds they find to the centre for treatment. The volunteers who undertake the work of rehabilitation are on duty 7 days a week throughout the year.
We should like to have kept both centres open, because the demand for our services was still as high as ever. However, having the additional capacity, even for a relatively short time, meant we could achieve one of our goals which was to be able to accommodate and ring a sufficient number of guillemots to form a good basis from which we could provide evidence to substantiate our claim that these birds, with the correct treatment, could be rehabilitated successfully and survive after release. And thereby counter the negative publicity that was rife at that time concerning guillemots in particular.
Over 1,000 guillemots had been ringed (as well as a good number of other seabirds) and the data now being gathered from these birds has proved to be critical in supporting our claim and providing the evidence we needed to contradict some negative reports, which had led to hundreds of guillemots being needlessly slaughtered.
In other words our findings are that there is no mystery surrounding the care for oiled auks, they just need to be treated properly by people who really care.