At the beginning of March, I spent an excellent week in Williamsburg, Virginia at the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium. The NWRA Symposium is a national conference for wildlife rehabilitators; with an extensive roster of daily talks, workshops, and social events. Attendees include agency representatives, veterinarians, and lots and lots of rehabilitators. There are home rehabilitators and center rehabilitators, paid and volunteer, single species and multispecies. Some attendees have been working in the field for decades upon decades, and some are preparing to apply for their very first rehabilitation permit.
Of course, it is always amazing to see friends and colleagues from all across the country–especially since it’s been years since some of us have run into each other. And I love meeting and helping other rehabilitators by teaching in the lectures and labs, not to mention having a chance to learn from others’ experiences and grow my own skills.
But this year my favorite thing was the program of speakers. It seems like the programming has gotten better and better over the 10 years that I’ve been attending the NWRA symposium (my first was 2008 in Cherry Hill, NJ–woot woot!). This year especially, I was struck by the knowledge and professionalism represented by the speakers. I know a ton of work went into the symposium (as is always true), and that really showed. I also think it reflects on how wildlife rehabilitation has grown and matured over the years, and hopefully this is just a glimpse of where we’re headed.
As a group, wildlife rehabilitators are already making a difference all over the world. But we’re also finding ways to move forward, by bringing new science to light, finding new ways to apply natural history to our care protocols, and incorporating solid ethics into our programs. With every step we take, we’re able to help more animals, and do a better job of it too.
I left Williamsburg full of hope and pride. I still see the long path in front of us–never be satisfied, right?–but I also see how far we’ve come. It gives me confidence that we’ll keep moving in the right direction, no matter what else is going on in the world. I’m really excited to be looking forward into that future alongside so many exceptional wildlife rehabilitators, many right here on the West Coast.
I hear that next year’s Symposium will be in California’s very own Orange County–if you have the chance to go, I think you’ll find it a fun and educational time!