HART Wildlife Rescue, based in Medstead, Hampshire, is celebrating 20 years of saving local wildlife this month (December). But managers are calling on the public for increased support to help ensure the charity can continue, following a fall in income and a growing demand for the rescue and rehabilitation service it offers for all native wildlife.
The charity was founded by Bob and June Gibbs in a single shed in their Overton back garden when they realised there was nowhere for the RSPCA or members of the public to take wildlife in need of care, and as a result many animals were suffering or being put down unnecessarily. Many people believe that vets and the RSPCA will treat and rehabilitate injured wildlife, but that is rarely the case, and HART receive a considerable number of animals each year directly from local vets and the RSPCA, whose alternative option is usually to euthanaise injured wildlife. Originally, they looked after some hedgehogs too small to hibernate in the wild to help the RSPCA. But then they got to work erecting an insulated shed and soon started taking in other wild animals. Now the charity has a purpose-built unit in Medstead and staff treat over 1,400 wildlife casualties a year including birds of prey, bats, and deer.
Peter Mart, Chair of Trustees, said: “The charity’s made a huge difference so far and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. But the need for our services is greater than ever, and sadly this year we had to close to new admissions on several occasions because we were full. This comes at a time when our costs are rising and our regular sources of donations are no longer enough to pay all the bills for several reasons. The squeeze on the economy has affected people’s disposable incomes, and the pressures on retail have also affected sales in our charity shops. Applications for grants are increasingly competitive, and our staff and volunteers have had to focus on treating animals rather than raising money which has led to a fall in our income over the last 3 years. While we’ve done all we can to keep our costs low, these financial pressures are leading to an unsustainable position where we are relying on our reserves to get through the year We’re calling on the public to help support us so we can continue to save our local wildlife.
“Over the last 20 years our native wildlife has faced greater and greater challenges. Key habitats has been lost as more houses and roads are built, pushing wildlife into ever closer contact with people. Farmers are struggling with decreasing profits, putting wildlife friendly practices low down the list of priorities, resulting in key changes in our landscape like hedgerows being removed.
“Our gardens have become less wildlife friendly as we add decking and patios, remove ponds, and make them low maintenance and tidier. Roads have become busier, and protecting our wildlife has been given lower priority by successive governments.
What’s more, an ongoing pressure on wildlife is caused by pets, especially cats. The majority of animals seen in our hospital are directly as a result of some sort of interaction with people and their pets, whether caught by cats, nests disturbed during gardening or building work or road traffic accidents, or orphans whose parents are likely to have been killed as a result of one of these, and so helping these wild animals is really everyone’s responsibility.”
The charity, which needs to raise £150,000 every year to keep running, is also facing new challenges, such as changes in legislation that affect its use of veterinary medicines. This now limits some of the treatments it can provide on-site. But referring animals for treatments off-site significantly increases costs – and stress to the animals themselves.
The charity is seeking a new patron to help raise the profile of the charity, two extra trustees with skills and experience of media, marketing or fundraising as well as committed volunteers to help care for the animals, or support the day-to-day management of the charity. The charity is run entirely on donations, and so any donations are always very gratefully received.
Members of the public can help by donating time, money, goods or expertise, such as:
• Donating quality items to HART shops in Alton
• Using easyfundraising.co.uk for all online shopping to raise funds for free
• Buying items from HART’s Amazon wishlist, such as cat food for feeding hedgehogs, or Anigene to keep the hospital clean and safe for all our patients.
• Donating money via our website or by texting HART11 £10 to 70070 to give £10
• Becoming a member for just £20 a year to support HART’s work and keep up to date with its activities.
• Donating used newspaper to the hospital to be shredded for hedgehog bedding