While rising up, Olivia LoBalbo preferred taking part in in the woods and bringing dwelling turtles, frogs, and child birds. When she grew up, her love of animals led her to work in vet clinics, however finally, she realized her true calling was to work with wildlife.
“People would carry wild animals into our vet clinics, and no one actually knew what to do with them. Often, they had been euthanized, and I assumed this could not be the solely possibility,” stated LoBalbo, who lives in Gainesville. She sought out a community of wildlife rehabilitators and have become licensed. In 2013, she based the nonprofit Animal Education and Rescue Organization (AERO) to assist rescue, rehabilitate, and launch native wildlife who’re sick, injured, or orphaned.
AERO is a small, all-volunteer group made up of people like LoBalbo who’re devoted to working with Virginia’s wildlife. The work is rewarding, however some circumstances are more durable than others. “Not all the animals survive,” stated LoBalbo. “The most memorable cases are those that come full circle, when we’re able to take the animals in, rehabilitate them, and release them with the person who found them.
Box turtles will come in completely crushed from a car, and we work with vets to place their shells and get them the medication they need. It sometimes takes six months to a year to rehabilitate them. So a year later, we contact the people who brought the turtle in and say, ‘Hey, do you remember that turtle you brought in? It’s ready for release.’ The people who rescued the turtle can pick it up and release it back where it came from.”
LoBalbo tries to hold the people who rescue the animals up to date with posts on the AERO web site and Facebook web page, but it surely is not simple with so many animals. In 2020, she and her colleagues rescued 1,010 animals, a quantity she expects will double subsequent yr when AERO grows from three rehabbers to 5.
One of AERO’s targets is to make it simpler for people to grow to be wildlife rehabbers and get the coaching they want. Next yr, as well as to its two new rehabbers, AERO may have 20 apprentices and 10 caregivers. When LoBalbo first determined to grow to be a wildlife rehabilitator, she found that the certification course of was difficult. It requires a two-year apprenticeship and 200 hours of hands-on work. “I found that rehabbers are busy people, and so they aren’t at all times prepared to tackle apprentices. They consider it is simpler to do it themselves than to prepare somebody,” she stated. “We actually wished to concentrate on the schooling of new rehabbers. We additionally wished to get people concerned and change the approach people look at wildlife.”
AERO’s rehabbers get contacted immediately by people who discover animals in addition to by veterinarians. At any time, LaBalbo or one of her colleagues might obtain a name about an animal. “If it’s a wildlife emergency, the best thing to do is try to contact a rehabilitator directly to get the animal help quickly,” said LaBalbo.
AERO rescues and rehabilitates all kinds of native animals, including foxes, groundhogs, squirrels, turtles, frogs, snakes, birds, and more. Some animals they legally can’t take, like coyotes and deer older than fawns, because they are considered nuisance animals. AERO’s volunteers also do not rehabilitate raptors, such as hawks and eagles. However, they will take them in and stabilize them before transferring them to others for care. This year, LoBalbo worked with bats for the first time.
“I got a northern long-eared bat, which is an endangered species. It was found in a campground, and the owner said we could come and do whatever we needed to do to make the area safe for these bats,” said LoBalbo. “We inspected the campground and made a month-by-month directory of what the owners could do and avoid doing to help the animals.” Her suggestions included not eradicating bushes in the center of fall when the bats are mating and never spraying pesticides, which stick to the bats.
“It’s very rewarding getting to spend time with the animals, especially when the process comes full circle and we’re able to get those animals back out,” stated LoBalbo. “It feels good.”
AERO Needs Your Help
A nonprofit volunteer-only group, AERO depends one hundred pc on donations to present the meals, shelter, and veterinary care the animals want whereas they recuperate. Whatever donations don’t cowl, the rehabbers and apprentices pay for out of their very own pockets. To make a tax-deductible financial donation or a provide donation through AERO’s Amazon want checklist, go to the group’s web site at AEROAnimalRescue.org.
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