Charity addresses wildlife ‘crisis’ and avian flu in East Sussex

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

Charity found Trevor Weeks MBE said, “We are currently operating with restrictions on gulls due to the avian flu situation and any other potential virus that may be targeting gulls currently.

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“It is still unclear whether all the gulls are dying from avian flu. We have had some which the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) have deemed not to have avian flu.

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

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

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

Mr Weeks MBE said people are giving up trying to assist abandoned, sick, injured and orphaned gulls because it is becoming so hard to get help.

The charity said demand has increased on nearby services due to local rescues closing or cutting back its hours.

Mr Weeks MBE added, “We are all run ragged at the moment and the situation is at breaking point.

“Organizations were already struggling every year.

“WRAS year on year has expanded its facilities to help cope.

“Wildlife rescue services in East Sussex are at crisis point and that is before avian flu started causing problems, now wildlife casualties are suffering because the resources are falling far short of what is needed.”

The charity said wildlife rescue services are often ‘underfunded and underappreciated’.

Mr Weeks MBE added, “There is such a high demand on our services and I am not surprised that so many birds are now suffering as a result.

“We are getting call after call from people with sick and injured birds at the moment and everyone including some veterinary centers – not just WRAS – are struggling to cope.

“This is not helped by the rumours and misinformation spread around.”

Mr Weeks MBE said some vet practices are refusing to euthanise birds as this has to be done outside.

He said, “We have had it confirmed by an APHA vet that it is acceptable to transport suffering birds to the nearest vets for euthanasia rather than let them suffer.

“Even the Royal College of Vets on their website states veterinary surgeons need to bear in mind the provisions in the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct that they should ‘not unreasonably refuse to provide first aid and pain relief for any animal of a species treated by the practice during normal working hours’ and ‘not unreasonably refuse to provide first aid and pain relief for all other species until such time as a more appropriate emergency veterinary service accepts responsibility for the animal’.

“Although we appreciate that some practices do not have suitable locations to euthanise casualties outside their buildings, especially if that would mean doing so on the pavement in front passing shoppers, they could at least recommend another practice which could.

“There are many which do have suitable side or rear access and could be helping to at least stop the suffering of some of these birds – which are otherwise being left to a horrible death as a result of being turned away.”

WRAS said it has over 225 casualties in care at the moment and annual deals with around 5,000 casualties.

Mr Weeks MBE added, “We are caught between a rock and a hard place as if we bring avian flu into our center the rest of the birds and potentially even the mammals will get euthanized. At the same time we don’t want the birds in the wild suffering. This is a no win situation.

“WRAS has introduced additional PPE so rescuers can safely return gull chicks to roof tops where possible. But there is currently no space left for gull chicks plus sick and injured gulls have nowhere to go to be treated.

“WRAS staff and volunteers have been in tears over this.

“We can hear the frustration in those calling us and we understand why a small number of callers shout down the phone at us, are rude and aggressive at times, despite us all being just as frustrated with the situation and working so passionately hard to do all we can.

“We hate the fact that so many birds are having to be euthanized at the moment.”

WRAS said this year it has taken in more than three-times the normal number of casualties from the Brighton and Hove area due to another rescue closing.

Mr Weeks MBE added, “We are trying our best to compensate for the loss of facilities in the county as much as we can, but it all comes at a cost, which is already eating into our funds.”

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

The founder said, “We currently need an extra £150,000 to hit our first target so we can procure land and start the next step in establishing a new centre.

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

“This facility would have proper isolation facilities so that in crisis times like this there would be no risk to the casualties in care and we would still be able to admit and guarantee casualties treatment without the threat of all our casualties being euthanized.”

Post donations can also be made to PO Box 2148, Seaford, BN25 9DE payable to ‘East Sussex WRAS’.

Mr Weeks MBE said the charity is not at risk of shutting down.

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