Island aficianados can probably tell you all about CROW’s unique “Animal Ambassador” program for critters who are unable to be released back into the wild. The ambassadors have become an integral part of the hospital’s educational outreach programs for up-close experiences with wildlife.
CROW currently has six animals in the program: Lola, the American kestrel; Talon, the red-tailed hawk; Mina, the great horned owl; Billy, the nine-banded armadillo; Gigi, the Virginia opossum, and Biscuit, the gopher tortoise, the most recent addition.
Biscuit came to the clinic at just a few months old after he sustained rear leg damage caused by a dog attack.
According to CROW Rehabilitation Manager Breanna Frankel, “Biscuit cannot use his leg appropriately – it drags behind him. This would lead to significant issues in the wild with abrasions and potential infection. Due to the difficulty, Biscuit was added to our program because our previous gopher tortoise ambassador healed enough over a few years to be fully rehabilitated and released back to the wild. They are a keystone species, so they are incredibly important for people to learn about.”
She added, “Some of our live animal exhibit animals have had food names over the past few years, and Biscuit fit right in with Pancake, Waffle and Chip (aka, chocolate chip). Apparently, we like breakfast foods!”
The rehabilitation staff spends countless hours training and building trust with these animals so that they can remain relaxed around crowds.
“These animals teach us something new every single day. Watching their training progress, watching them interact with people and watching them change minds across the country is the greatest feeling in the world,” said Frankel. “The bonds you can create with the animals is astounding, and earning their trust is a very high honor. Some of our favorite days are ones spent with our ambassador animals.”
To take a peek at some of the animal ambassadors and other critters featured on various CROW webcams, click here!