Mystic Jungle Educational Facility, is not only an educational facility focused on the conservation of many endangered species, especially the Asian/Indian Leopard, but we are also wildlife rescue and rehabilitator’s. And while I will NEVER call myself an expert in ANYTHING, as that is in my opinion to pompous and self righteous (we are learning each and every day, so to think you know everything is just arrogant) I do know a few things that are just common sense.
One misconception is that wildlife rehabbers are funded by the state in which the do the rehabilitation in. This is a fallacy. At least in the state of Florida we run it off of our own dime. And here, we cannot refuse any animal brought to us. We can re-direct them if possible for the reasons of not enough space at our facility, or not a species that we are comfortable with taking, or one that we are not licensed to handle (such as to take in bobcats you must have a class II felidae license such as us otherwise you cannot take a bobcat kitten in or if you do you must call FFWC to send it to a facility that DOES have the license.
The easy part of rehabilitation is actually getting them to survive. The hard and ETHICAL part is to NOT ALLOW THEM TO IMPRINT on humans! And I see time and time again, pictures on the web, Facebook, etc where you see people handling these babies, holding them, touching them, hand feeding them etc for photos, and taking “selfies”. Well, in this person’s opinion that is just selfish.
An older rehabbing animal is easy. They have a natural fear of people, such as the bobcat we just released yesterday and we reinforced that fact by talking and making him as uncomfortable (without really stressing him out, but enough that he has been left with a memory that people are BAD) as possible. He was caught in a live trap after having wiped out an entire flock of ducks as well as starting to work on the man’s chickens. He had no fear of the human scent or being in close proximity of humans. Upon his release, he hauled his hiney off in a hurry! We know that the memory of being trapped, the hauling away and then his release will remain with him, and he will have a healthy fear of humans. We WANT THAT. I LOVE bobcats! Enough so, that I want them to be free if they were born to be free!
I also took in a baby skunk. During the time of his rehabilitation, I fed him, with gloves on and never let him see my face, skin etc. I never spoke a word, nor did I offer any affection. Do I sound cold? YES. To HIM I was and it was NOT because I did not care. I DO care! And that is why I wanted him to FEAR PEOPLE. I wanted him to run the other way! I want him to SURVIVE!
While that photo holding that baby animal up close to the face of the human may look cute, it can easily lead if it has not already to the animal associating people with safety, care and dependency upon humans for food. This will NOT help ensure their survival.
So here at the jungle you may see the intake picture of the rescued wild life (we are one of maybe FIVE in the state of Florida that is licensed to post pictures on the web or other media websites of animals in rehabilitation status as it requires a separate license to do this) and maybe even some during the rehab process, and of course the release. But you will NEVER see us playing with, or taking selfies with them. It is not in their best interest.