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In bid to reopen, Kawartha Wildlife Centre launches ‘ambitious’ fundraising campaign

After closing its doors in the summer due to staff shortages, the Kawartha Wildlife Centre (KWC) is launching an “ambitious” fundraising campaign in a final bid to restart operations at the Ennismore-based animal rehabilitation hub.

KWC, a volunteer-run charitable wildlife rehabilitation organization founded in 2017, announced a temporary shutdown in June.

KWC, which took in injured and orphaned animals, cited volunteer shortfalls and the exit of a key staff member as the main catalysts leading to the closure.

Now, KWC is turning to community members and local businesses to help reopen the centre by raising more $200,000.

KWC, which aims to support conservation efforts through public education and the ecologically-responsible rehabilitation of native wildlife in and around the Kawarthas, operates a volunteer-only model — an approach that, with rising demand, has become “increasingly ineffective.”

“Wildlife care is both expensive and labour intensive and there is no government funding for wildlife rehabilitation in the province …,” states a news release from KWC. “All of our bills, treatment, medication and food are paid for by donations received from the public and our community.”

Increased demand — over the last three years, there’s been a consecutive 25 per cent rise in patient load — has put a strain on the volunteer-run model, and the impacts of the pandemic, coupled with socio-economic conditions, have led to less volunteers at the centre, according to KWC.

“Wildlife rehabilitation work is hard; there is physical and emotional toil, with constant stresses related to feeding, medicating, and treating patients (sometimes for 24 hours a day), all while interacting with the public in a positive and educational manner.”

All of these factors “created an additional burden” on KWC’s volunteer pool, leading to “burnout and compassion fatigue,” and ultimately resulting in the center’s temporary closure.

“We have the facility, the equipment, and the expertise to get back to helping wildlife in need; what we don’t have is the people to run it,” states KWC.

Following the shuttering of the centre, KWC says it has had time to “regroup” — pinpointing what needs to be done in order to get the organization up and running again. KWC has identified the need to bring in some paid staff to oversee rehabilitation efforts, while managing a group of volunteers.

To cover all operational costs and reopen the centre in a sustainable way, KWC is launching a fundraising campaign, aiming to collect $250,000 — or a minimum of $200,000 — by June 1, 2024.

The multi-pronged initiative will see KWC raise funds through two streams: one part, promoted via social media, will focus on personal donations, while the second will attempt to garner contributions from local business owners.

Funds from both streams will go towards KWC’s total fundraising goal.

It’s a last-ditch effort from the wildlife centre.

“If we do not reach our minimum fundraising goal, KWC will close its doors permanently, and all remaining funds will go to local wildlife rehabilitation centres.”

“Now we need the community’s help to get back to supporting the rehabilitation of local wildlife. The launch of this fundraising campaign marks a pivotal moment in our mission to reopen the centre and continue our legacy of wildlife conservation,” says KWC.

The goal is to reopen the centre with the “proper foundation to have a sustainable future that provides top-quality care to patients and is open and available to support the community with wildlife emergencies.”

KWC emphasizes that the road to reopening won’t be easy.

“We are in a tough spot. We cannot reopen the centre without guaranteed funding, as we do not want to be in a position where we have to close suddenly again and lose this valuable service,” states the news release. “We want to ensure that this service is ready and available for the community when it is needed, and that takes investment and support.”

Community members wishing to support KWC’s reopening can visit www.kawarthawildlifecentre.ca for more information.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner