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NWRA Symposium 2008
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Cherry Hill, NJ

by Fran Feeney

More than 500 people came together for the NWRA 2008 Symposium in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, from March 4–8. Cherry Hill is a short drive from Philadelphia, and the Crowne Plaza Hotel is conveniently located with a friendly ambience.

The Crowne Plaza Conference Center, located on street level, is spacious and unified. Moving from one presentation to the next was easily managed. Registration tables and exhibitors, including the NWRA sales table, were located in the large, airy foyer, and were overflowing with clothing items, gifts, supplies, information, samples, and lots more.

The Pre–Symposium Seminars, Introduction to Wildlife Rehabilitation and Oiled Wildlife Response were full–day sessions and required pre–registration. Both of these popular sessions were filled to capacity before the Symposium. Tri–State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc., the local host organization for the Symposium, accepts native birds from DE and surrounding states, and also maintains an oiled wildlife program on both local and global levels. The Field Trip to Tri–State included a behind the scenes tour of the songbird nursery, lab, surgery, exam room, kitchen, indoor housing, outdoor caging, and oil spill response areas. The Center is located on 750 acres, and cares for 3,000 injured and orphaned native birds annually.

The theme for Symposium 2008 was “Saving Wildlife for Tomorrow,” and the logo depicts red knots. Our first Keynote Speaker, Larry Niles, PhD, has a vested interest in the plight of these astonishing shorebirds. Dr. Niles is Chief Biologist of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, NJ, and former Chief of NJ Endangered Species Program. Red knots migrate up to 20,000 miles per year from the tip of South America to breeding grounds in the Arctic. They remain in DE for a few weeks, feeding on horseshoe crab eggs to build up body mass to continue their journey to the Arctic. In years past, as many as 100,000 red knots converged upon Delaware Bay each May. The number of red knot arrivals was down by 90% in 2004, and the population on Delaware Bay is heading toward extinction.

Dr. Niles described in detail environmental and man–made issues and obstacles that come into play with the migratory patterns and grim future outlook of red knots. You may follow the fascinating details of the research project on the following site:

Our next Keynote Speaker, John Satta, knows wildlife rehabilitators very well. For the past few years, John has been encouraging rehabilitators to think about and develop a vision for what we want to achieve and where we want to be in the next three years and put it in writing. The process requires serious thinking, as well as communication and sharing with others.

John’s definition of “Saving Wildlife for Tomorrow” means that we are saving animals for mankind/humanity. Even though as rehabilitators we get a great deal back from animals in our care, wildlife rehabilitation in fact addresses the needs of humans who don’t know what to do with the injured/orphaned animal. What we do for animals, we do by extension for people. We have opportunity to change the lives of people who come to us for help, especially children. Therefore, in John’s opinion, we change the world on a daily basis. Finding our mission in life may be the most important thing we do.

The Symposium program committee came through with another outstanding program. All fourteen of the workshops had waiting lists, and there were 99 lecture/presentations offered. With presentation subjects ranging from bald eagles to nutrition to building a wildlife center, the biggest problem was making choices for each time slot.

With everyone gussied up and Deb Duffy and Mark Mitchell as MCs, the Awards Banquet was off to a roaring start. Raffle ticket sales were brisk, silent auction items were beautifully arranged at the perimeter of the room, and it became apparent that there was strategic bidding going on. The evening was rounded out with a tasty dinner and lively entertainment provided by Bubocapricus.

A special note of appreciation is well deserved by the A/V team: John Frink, Steve Thrune, John Satta, and Keith Hulsebos. They worked skillfully and tirelessly to keep all equipment functioning and all presentations on time.

A virtual round of applause goes out to the host committee, Tri–State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc., the NWRA Conference Committee (kudos to Barbara Suto), and countless volunteers for the many months of planning and implementation that resulted in this outstanding conference.


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