Hope Swinimer wants to create Nova Scotia’s first marine wildlife rescue, and she’s looking for local support to help make it happen.
The Marine Wildlife Rescue Centre project is one of many initiatives seeking funding through the national Aviva Community Fund.
From Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, Swinimer is hoping for as many daily online votes as possible to ensure the project gets to the next round of voting. The facility would be Nova Scotia’s only purpose-built facility for the rehabilitation of injured, orphaned and oiled marine wildlife.
“We are in Atlantic Canada ... We currently get a lot of sea birds, for example, that are sick, injured or blown off course,” said Swinimer, founder/director of the Hope for Wildlife Society in Seaforth.
Having separate facilities to treat land-based and marine wildlife is important to prevent the transmission of deadly diseases that can spread between land-based and marine animals, including distemper that can spread from racoons to seals.
In addition, a separate marine facility would be critical in the event of a disaster that required them to care for oiled marine animals.
“We want a marine animal rehabilitation centre because although we’ve always done it (rescued marine animals when the need arises), we want to do it well and separate from the main facility,” she said.
Members of the Hope for Wildlife team travelled to marine wildlife rescue facilities in California and Vancouver to learn techniques for the rehabilitative care of seals and other marine animals. Swinimer is currently drawing up plans for the facility she would like to have operational this coming spring.
“I think it could happen. It’s not going to be that difficult. It (the planned facility) is nice and functional, not huge and fancy,” she explained. “Since we had the training, we know what we need, and it’s not hard to put together if we had the financial means to do it.”
While there are final details to be worked out, the likely site is located just across the street from the Hope for Wildlife facility and is on the ocean.
“Because it’s just across the street from Hope for Wildlife, it would be an educational facility people could visit at the same time,” said Swinimer.
“It is a big part of what we do. It’s different from going to a zoo. It teaches people how to live with the wild world around them ... It’s all about education and getting the community involved.”
Supporters are encouraged to vote once a day until Oct. 15, when the first round of voting ends. Online votes can be cast at https://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf13800 .
Over the years, Hope for Wildlife has been called upon to rescue seals, oiled seabirds and tired, wayward migrating seabirds. These have been managed on a case-by-case basis, but the last few years have shown that Hope for Wildlife needs to be able to care for a larger number of these types of cases, and needs the proper facilities to do it.
The new Marine Wildlife Rehabilitation facility will be purpose-built specifically for marine wildlife.
It will include seawater pools, proper pumping and filtration systems and purpose-built washing stations for oiled seabirds.
A dedicated team of staff and volunteers will be trained to care for these animals. Having a dedicated team for the marine rehab will further reduce the risk of disease spread and allow Hope for Wildlife to keep up with its increased capacity.