The RSPCA is recruiting volunteers ahead of Big Help Out for the Coronation weekend/
Superhero volunteers helped the RSPCA collect, transport and release nearly 2,400 wild animals last year – and now the charity wants people to give a little bit of time this summer to do their bit for wildlife, as part of the Big Help Out.
The huge contribution made by the animal charity’s animal rescue volunteers is highlighted as the RSPCA is urging people to sign up as a ‘Wildlife Friend’ and join thousands of others making a difference as part of the Big Help Out on 8 May – a mass volunteering initiative to mark King Charles III’s Coronation celebrations.
By generously offering their time and expertise, animal rescue volunteers (ARVs) provide invaluable support for the RSPCA’s frontline officers, freeing them up to focus on the animals who are victims of cruelty and neglect who most need their specialist skills. The volunteers collect sick, injured and orphaned wildlife and transport them to RSPCA wildlife centres, external wildlife rehabilitators or veterinary establishments.
They also help release rehabilitated wildlife back into the wild and have now started transferring some small domestic animals from centres and private boarders to vets.
Last year the RSPCA’s army of animal rescue volunteers played their part in a combined total of 2,376 animal collections, transfers and releases and devoted 4,020 hours of their time – demonstrating the impact volunteers can have in helping wildlife and other animals.
Those assignments included 462 transfers of animals to RSPCA wildlife centres, 404 trips to approved wildlife centres and 497 visits to veterinary surgeons. The volunteers also released 88 animals back into the wild after they had received care and rehabilitation at centres.
Now the RSPCA wants more animal lovers to take action for wildlife and follow in the footsteps of our animal rescue volunteers. By becoming Wildlife Friends they can make a pledge to volunteer their time on the 8 May and beyond to complete small tasks to support, nurture and protect the wildlife with which they share their communities – with even small contributions potentially making a big difference.
Wildlife Friends includes a choice of simple ideas to help wildlife on the doorstep either on your own, or as part of your family or group of friends, or even the wider community.
For example, volunteers could:
Organise a litter pick
Plant wildlife-friendly plants in gardens and window boxes
Build nest boxes for wild animals
Put food out for hedgehogs or create a hedgehog highway
Get together with their neighbours to start a wildlife project
Join ‘No mow May’ and make a habitat for butterflies, bees and insects in gardens
Recreate wildlife-friendly ideas from RHS Chelsea
Join online social media groups and signpost RSPCA advice about wildlife
RSPCA head of volunteering Brian Reeves said: “Volunteers are critical to the RSPCA. We have some 10,000 volunteers including a network of about 140-branches across England and Wales which help tens of thousands of animals every single year. That work is made possible thanks to people who care generously by giving up their time to make a kinder world.
“But we can all do our bit for animals and Wildlife Friends is great for anyone who can spare a few minutes, or a couple of hours. Could you get together with friends or family to
undertake a litter pick, so wild animals in your area don’t get injured by or tangled up in litter?
“Or do you fancy making a bug hotel to encourage minibeasts to your community which in turn will bring birds, butterflies and creatures like hedgehogs? Or perhaps you could get together with neighbours to create a wildlife garden in your street?
“Or are you a whiz on social media, so you can help share our vital wildlife education messaging so people know exactly what to do if they find a baby bird out of the nest?
“These things will all make a huge difference for wild animals, and their welfare – and we’re hoping even more amazing volunteers join us as part of the Big Help Out.”
Debbie Martin (pictured) has been an animal rescue volunteer in Cornwall for the last four years.
Many of the animals Debbie, 56, from Truro, has helped are injured and distressed sea birds she collects along the Cornish coast.
“I cover most of Cornwall and I’ve got to know the area very well. During the summer it can get really busy and you have to be prepared to drive for long spells here as it can often take two to three hours to get to places like Penzance,” said Debbie.
“I’ve picked up lots of gulls from Falmouth and Newquay and taken them to Mousehole Wild Bird Hospital. One job that I really enjoyed was taking a beautiful owlet from St.Ives to a wildlife sanctuary. I’d volunteered with an RSPCA branch before and I’ve also fostered dogs, but I love doing the wildlife work. If there’s a transfer I always like to step in with the permission of the RSPCA wildlife team.”
Debbie volunteers most of her weekends for the RSPCA, fitting in her shifts alongside her job as a healthcare assistant.
“My full-time job is in a vascular theatre at Royal Cornwall Hospital and during the pandemic I volunteered in the Covid wards. It is so nice to be able to get out in the open air and help wildlife,” added Debbie.
“There is nothing worse than seeing an injured bird and there are a lot who are suffering in rural areas like this, with many animals being hit by cars. It is rewarding to know you are playing your part in helping them and I would say to anyone who has some time to spare to join in and help the RSPCA help wildlife.
“No matter how big or small the contribution they can make, getting involved with the Big Help Out can really make a difference.”
Those interested in becoming a Wildlife Friend can find out more information on the RSPCA website.
Chris Sherwood, RSPCA chief executive, added: “We can all do our bit to help wildlife this Spring and Summer, and by working together we can help even more animals.
“Wildlife Friends is a new initiative, giving people the chance to join thousands of others making a difference at the Big Help Out on 8 May.
“The RSPCA’s Royal connection goes back more than 180 years, and we’re proud to be part of the Coronation celebrations and the Big Help Out.
“We all share our neighbourhoods with wonderful wildlife and we need to protect them – so by becoming an RSPCA Wildlife Friend, animal lovers can join with their community to make a safe space for the animals who share our world.”
Join the RSPCA’s vice president, Steve Backshall, on May 8 for the Big Help Out by signing up to be a Wildlife Friend at www.rspca.org.uk/thebighelpout