Rehabilitation and release

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The aim of this chapter is to set out the criteria by which rehabilitated wild animals may be assessed prior to release and to discuss some methods for release and post-release monitoring so that questions regarding the effectiveness of the rehabilitation and release process can be addressed. Reviewing these processes is an essential component of wildlife veterinary medicine and rehabilitation. Only through such assessment can important questions regarding animal welfare and the costs and/or benefits of the rehabilitation process can be truly assessed.

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9.1 Sectional rehabilitation and release flight cage with solid back and sides. Dimensions, mesh size and furniture will depend on the species being housed.
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9.2 Aquapen with two isolation cubicles to allow cleaning without stressing the residents. The design also allows two groups or species to access the water independently.
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9.3 Cross-section of a circular enclosure suitable for reptiles and amphibians. It includes dry-stone walling, plant cover, log piles and open areas to maximize foraging potential and temperature gradients for recovering casualties.
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9.5 Bat flight cage. This allows bats to fly free and forage on wild prey before release. The mesh allows for small insect prey (e.g. midges) to enter and the cage contains items to attract insects, such as water and vegetation. When ready for release, the bat boxes used by the bats for roosting are placed outside the cage. (© RSPCA Photolibrary)
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9.6 Soft-release enclosure for otters. (a) Construction of the pool and artificial holt. (b) The fence used for the enclosure. The fence comprises an electric mesh fence (such as that used for chickens) with a plastic windbreak on the outside, so that the otter cannot see outside the pen. (© RSPCA)
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9.7 Preparing a soft-release cage for polecats. (a) The wire mesh cage is transported to the site in sections. The cage contains cut vegetation and other items such as plastic pipes and logs for enrichment. (b) Food can be left in the pipes or hollow logs to reduce the chances of attracting corvids or other scavengers. These animals have been fitted with collars with very high frequency (VHF) radio transmitters attached. (© RSPCA)
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9.8 Soft-release aviary for passerines. This is a standard aviary used for passerines. The aviary should contain a number of natural perches constructed from branches and cut vegetation. The hatch is opened when the birds are ready for release. (© RSPCA)
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9.10 (a) Juvenile herring gull with aluminium BTO ring and plastic Darvic ring. (b) Pipistrelle bat with aluminium ring and very high frequency (VHF) radio transmitter. (© RSPCA)
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9.11 Polecat with very high frequency (VHF) transmitter on collar. (© RSPCA)
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9.12 Common seal with Argos CLS satellite transmitter. (© RSPCA)
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