What we do
Our wildlife department has four main roles:
- To build the RSPCA's knowledge about wildlife welfare issues, including the health, management and trade of wildlife. We also look at the main issues affecting wildlife in captivity, from those kept as pets to circus animals.
- To advise the rest of the RSPCA, the public, non-governmental groups and the government.
- To lobby decision-makers, including governments, for the protection of wildlife.
- To support our four wildlife centres and ensure animals receive the very best care possible.
A large proportion of our work involves underpinning the RSPCA's wildlife work. For example,
- We help train our inspectors and advise them when they're on duty in the field.
- Through the wildlife centres, we conduct research into the best possible ways to treat wild animals that come into our care.
- We provide advice on wildlife kept as pets.
- We help our Special Operations Unit (SOU) and prosecutions department deal with wildlife crime.
- We supply information for the RSPCA's enquiries service, website, education packs, magazines and our National Call Centre.
But we work externally as well.
Influencing decision makers
This is a very important part of our job. Much of what we do involves sitting on government committees arguing our case, producing submissions to consultations, discussions with civil servants, and providing input wherever else required.
Often the results are more evolutionary than revolutionary - for example, a proposal is modified, a Bill amended or a government Code of Practice altered, although we've had some high profile successes too. In this process we act as a brake on those who want to kill or use animals and help steer processes in a more animal welfare friendly direction.
Our scientists are members of various external committees, including:
- The Deer Initiative
- British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council steering committee
- Species Survival Network board
- Wildlife and Countryside Link
- The Mammal Society
- Marine Animal Rescue Coalition
Some of the high profile meetings we attended recently:
- Eurogroup wildlife experts' meeting
- Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) symposium on wild bird care in the garden
- 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna in Doha, Qatar
- Meeting with Minister of State for Agriculture and Food on badgers and bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB)
- Meeting with Parliamentary Undersecretary of State on wild animals in circuses
- Deer Management Conference 2010
- International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council conference (co-sponsored by RSPCA)
- Compassionate Conservation Symposium, Oxford University
We responded to a number of consulations in 2010, including:
- The use of wild animals in circuses
- A badger control policy in relation to bovine TB
- An issue paper on wild deer management in Wales
As a result of our input, we've had some notable successes. For example:
- We provided most of the scientific evidence and welfare arguments that secured the Hunting Act and defended it against three separate legal challenges.
- We played a major role in bringing about the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.
- We had major influence in stopping the keeping of dolphins in captivity in the '90's.
- We create and lead strategy for the Society's casualty wildlife work. 17 new protocols have been written, which provide guidance on best practice for the care of various species. There have been a number of research projects - many of which have received wide media attention, such as a study on playing birdsong to rescued nestlings.