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Free flight aviary to rise in Northern Rivers NSW for birds of prey

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free flight aviary

Injured Australian birds of prey will soon be rehabilitated in a new free flight aviary located in Northern Rivers NSW and operated by Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife’s “Wildlife Heroes” program.

Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital’s (BBWH) expert wildlife veterinarians will partner with Ewingsdale landowners dedicated to wildlife conservation along with local wildlife carers to treat and rehabilitate Australian raptors including Kites, Hawks, Eagles, Kestrels, Ospreys and Owls that have suffered injuries, trauma or disease.

The facility has been modelled on the large round aviaries measuring over 30 metres in diameter and 6 metres in height operated at the Higher Ground Raptor Centre (HGRC) in the NSW Southern Highlands. In late 2020, BBWH Founder and CEO Dr Stephen Van Mil and Byron Bay ecologist Wren Mclean visited the HGRC created by Raptor rehabilitator and Churchill Fellow Peggy McDonald to research the project.

“We wanted this facility to be designed on the best practice principles established by Peggy McDonald. Her expertise and experience in this field are without parallel,” said Dr Van Mil.

“We’re incredibly grateful that the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife has seen the merit in our project by awarding us a $50,000 grant to construct the aviary through the Wildlife Heroes program.”

“This is our first serious collaboration, and we’re delighted to see that Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital has been inspired to model their facility on the large, round free-flight aviaries we use at the HGRC,” said Ms McDonald.

“Round aviaries allow raptors to generate enough speed to take off and land as they would in their natural habitat.” It’s a critically important factor in successful rehabilitation,” she said.

Australia is home to 35 species of raptors, 28 of which are species endemic to Australasia. Threats to raptors occur primarily through conflict with humans and the expansion of the built environment, causing destruction, loss or alteration of their habitat.

In NSW alone, over 1000 a year are hit by cars, caught in barbed wire, shot or caught in rabbit traps and suffer poisoning through pesticides, causing horrendous injuries and often death.

BBWH Foundation Veterinarian Dr Bree Talbot said “Appropriate space for monitored rehabilitation is a vital part of the recovery of any native animal before they can be released back into the wild.”

“We’re looking forward to working very closely with raptor carers from local wildlife care groups including WIRES Northern Rivers and Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers as part of this important process,” said Dr Talbot.

“Having the free-flight aviary located at just 2km away from the Wildlife Hospital means we can get them into rehabilitation very quickly, significantly improving their prospects of being released back into the wild.”

“The generosity of these conservation-minded landowners in gifting land on their 368-acre property will help us save these magnificent native birds,” said onsite ecologist Wren Mclean.

For his part, Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife CEO Ian Darbyshire expressed excitement about the project’s eventual completion.

“The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is delighted to support the fantastic work Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital is doing to keep Australia’s incredible environment wild and thriving,” he said.

“We’re aware that BBWH and local wildlife care groups and individuals put in countless voluntary hours and mountainous effort to care for wildlife. We look forward to seeing this exciting new wildlife rehabilitation facility in operation,” he said.

The Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital free flight aviary is planned to be completed in May 2021.

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