Charity tackles wildlife ‘crisis’ and bird flu in East Sussex

The East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) said hundreds of birds were suffering as a result of the crisis.

Charity found Trevor Weeks MBE said: “We are currently working with restrictions on gulls due to the case of avian influenza and any other potential virus that may currently target gulls.

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“It is still not clear if all gulls die from avian influenza. We have some that the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) have deemed non-avian influenza.

East Sussex WRAS (Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service) founder Trevor Weeks MBE

“We are also legally restricted in what we can do in the Bexhill and Hasting area due to the 10km exclusion zone.

“The situation is in crisis in East Sussex right now and the birds are suffering as a result as people struggle to get help for injuries.”

Mr. Weeks MBE said people are giving up trying to help abandoned, sick, injured and orphaned gulls because it has become too difficult to get help.

The charity said that demand for nearby services has increased due to the closure of local rescue operations or reduced operating hours.

Mr Weeks MBE added: “We are all exhausted at the moment and the situation is on the verge of collapse.

“The organizations were already struggling every year.

“On an annual basis, WRAS has expanded its facilities to help deal with the situation.

“Wildlife rescue services in East Sussex are in a crisis phase and this is before bird flu started to cause problems, and now wildlife victims are suffering because the resources are far less than what is needed.”

The charity said wildlife rescue services are often “underfunded and underappreciated”.

Mr Weeks MBE added: “There is a huge demand for our services and I am not surprised that many birds are now suffering as a result.

“We are getting call after call from people with sick and injured birds right now, and everyone including some veterinary centers – not just WRAS – is struggling to deal with it.

“The rumors and misinformation circulating around this has not helped.”

Mr. Weeks MBE said some veterinarians’ practices reject euthanasia of birds because this must be done outside.

He said: “We have been confirmed by an APHA vet that it is acceptable to take suffering birds to the nearest vet for euthanasia rather than letting them suffer.

“Even the Royal College of Veterinary Medicine on its website states that veterinary surgeons need to bear in mind the provisions in the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct that they must not unreasonably refuse to provide first aid and pain relief to any animal of the species treated by the practice during working hours. Ordinary” and “do not unreasonably refuse to provide first aid and palliative care for all other species until such time as a more appropriate emergency veterinary service has accepted the responsibility of the animal.”

“Although we appreciate that some practices do not have suitable sites for euthanizing victims outside their premises, especially if that means doing so on the sidewalk in front of passing shoppers, they can at least recommend another practice that can do so.

“There are many who have a proper side or rear entrance and it can at least help stop the suffering of some of these birds – which are left to a terrible death as a result of being kept away.”

WRAS said it has more than 225 victims in care right now and annually deals with about 5,000 victims.

Mr. Weeks MBE added: “We are caught between a rock and a hard place as if we brought bird flu into our center and the mammals will probably be euthanized. At the same time we don’t want birds in the wild to suffer. This is a no-win situation.”

“WRAS has introduced additional personal protective equipment so that rescuers can safely return gull chicks to rooftops where possible. But there is currently no space left for gull chicks as well as sick and injured gulls who have nowhere to go for treatment.

“WRAS staff and volunteers have been in tears because of this.

“We can hear the frustration of our callers and understand why so few callers are yelling the phone at us, behaving rudely and aggressively at times, even though we’re all frustrated with the situation and are working so hard to do everything we can.

“We hate the fact that so many birds have to be killed right now.”

This year, WRAS said it had absorbed more than three times the normal number of casualties from the Brighton and Hove area due to the shutdown of another rescue.

Mr Weeks MBE added, “We are doing everything we can to make up for the loss of facilities in the county as much as we can, but it all comes at a cost, which is really draining our money.”

East Sussex WRAS plans to build a new trauma center in the heart of East Sussex.

The founder said: “We currently need an additional £150,000 to achieve our first target so we can purchase the land and begin the next step of setting up a new centre.

“We ultimately aim to be one of the largest wildlife hospitals in the country with veterinary science and compassion at the forefront of what we do.

“This facility will have proper isolation facilities so that there is no risk to injured people in care in times of crisis like this, and we will still be able to accept and ensure that infected people are treated without threatening to kill all of our infected people.”

Subsequent donations may also be made to PO Box 2148, Seaford, BN25 9DE payable to “East Sussex WRAS”.

Weeks MBE said the charity is not in danger of closing.