I work with non-releasable birds of prey for a living– owls, eagles, hawks, vultures, and falcons. These birds cannot survive in the wild, either due to imprinting or permanent injury. They are not zoo animals, or pets. They are educational ambassadors in environmental programming which teaches the public about human impact on habitats, and about natural history.
When members of the public meet the birds, they take home a memory of an up-close encounter with charismatic and breathtakingly beautiful wildlife. Ideally, they also carry away lots of information that will help raise awareness for sensitive habitats and sensitive creatures.
Behind the scenes of all this is a different story. One that involves the day-to-day hustle and bustle of a large raptor centre, and all of the care and training and blood and tears that goes into making sure these amazing animals have a healthy, long, enriched, and low-stress life.
…It also involves a disturbing amount of rat intestines.