Rescure centre launches Eco-Warriors club
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
AN animal shelter is to start a new education club which it hopes will ultimately put it out of business.
Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Centre, near Greta Bridge, is starting an “Eco-Warriors” club each Saturday to teach children about the illicit trade in exotic pets and other welfare issues.
Many of the creatures rescued by the centre are exotic pets, including bosc monitors and royal pythons, both from West Africa, and eliminating demand for the animals would decimate the trade, making animal shelters redundant.
Centre operator Terry Bowes said the problem was that many exotic pets are marketed as “captive farmed animals”.
Using the pythons as an example, he said pregnant snakes are caught in the wild by rural villagers before being sold on to traders for a pittance.
As they are captive when they give birth, they are classed as farmed animals and are exported to Europe and America.
The problem is the snakes feed instinctively, which they need to do within hours of birth, before being exported, he said.
Mr Bowes added: “Out of those, 92 to 93 per cent sent to this country are dead in a year.
“The female royal pythons are then sold into the bush meat trade. That is the kind of thing eco-warriors needs to be teaching.”
Volunteer Sharon Dixon has been appointed as the centre’s education director who will be taking on a young apprentice to offer the Saturday sessions. Mr Bowes said: “Sharon’s job is to do the rest of us out of a job.”
Ms Dixon said the club would be aimed at children aged between seven and 15 and would run from 10m to 1pm.
She said: “We want to teach the kids about conservation values. We will be doing things like building bug hotels and bat boxes.
“We will have various themes like farm animals, mini-beasts and recycling.”
Arts and crafts will also be offered, she said.
Children will also be interacting with the shelter’s many animals, which is currently enjoying a spate of births.
These include goats, guinea pigs, sheep, alpacas and donkeys. Mr Bowes said: “We are hoping to have two new Mediterranean pygmy donkeys this year.”
Anyone wanting to sign up to the Eco Warriors club can call the centre on 01833 627444 between 10am and 4pm.