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Anna Morris, Lead, Environmental Educator
Last May, we acquired two new members from St. Louis, Missouri for our Environmental Education team at VINS.
A female Barn Owl, hatched at the World Bird Sanctuary, and an Eastern Screech Owl, from the Illinois Raptor Center, were each barely six weeks old and had been bred to be education ambassadors. In joining our team, these tiny fluff-balls would receive skillful care, socialization, and training in order to become successful representatives of their species in our programs.
Historically, our ambassador raptors came from the Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation or other rehabilitators as injured, non-releasable wild birds. The welfare of VINS ambassadors is paramount; we strive to never put our birds in stressful situations, and we are constantly assessing their comfort. Experts agree that owls raised carefully by humans from a young age are known to be more confident and healthier in an education setting.
We know we elevate visitor experiences when we ensure our ambassadors have the choice to participate in programs.
The past year with these young owls – St. Louis and Decatur – has been delightful. Decatur’s habit of hooting mid-flight while he flaps his way over small audiences, and St. Louis’s fascination with every one of her enrichment items shows us that we have succeeded in our goals. Because we value these birds’ unique ability to connect people to the natural world, just as highly as we value their comfort and welfarein our care.
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