An Auchnagatt couple are to be recognised with a special award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords, honouring their dedication to rescuing and rehabilitating sick, injured or orphaned wildlife.
Animal lovers Keith, 62, and Pauline Marley, 55, have to-date rescued an estimated 15,000 animals since opening their North East Wildlife and Animal Rescue Centre (NEW ARC) 13-and-a-half years ago, with the number of animals they are asked to take in increasing all the time.
They care for a minimum of 500 animals and birds at the centre at any one time, with this figure rising to around 750 at the busiest times of year.
Their wildlife rescue work first began 15 years ago when Pauline, then a legal PA, moved to the area from Somerset and noted a lack of facilities for animals needing rescue or rehabilitation. Her and Keith, who worked in sales, discussed how they could assist and, having both always had a keen interest in nature and wildlife, quickly began rescuing sick, injured or orphaned wildlife themselves. They started work to found the centre soon after.
Since then they have worked around the clock to rescue all kinds of wildlife, from hand-reared birds to squirrels, otters and foxes, and nursed them back to health so they can be safely released back to the wild. They are assisted by around 20 volunteers who either travel to pick up animal emergencies from all over the north of Scotland or help out at the centre. An additional rota of volunteers staff the couple’s fundraising charity shop.
Pauline said: “The most fulfilling aspect of the work is definitely releasing the recovered animal back to the wild. It can be very sad to let them go, especially those that have needed to stay with us a long time, and I do cry a lot!
"But really I am delighted for them, and pleased to know we have done a good job. From the point of release their future is not in our hands any more; it is up to them to fend for themselves but we have comfort in the knowledge we have put them back in the best condition and with the best chance possible.”
Keith added: “We are really grateful to IFAW for recognising we exist and it is humbling to receive an award for what we do. It is hard work but we really enjoy it and we have experienced all kinds of interesting callouts and incidents over the years, including taking in probably one of the world’s most overweight hedgehogs which had to go on a strict diet for a year before it was slim and healthy enough to waddle off back to the wild.”
James Sawyer, UK Director of IFAW, said: “Pauline and Keith’s commitment to rescuing and rehabilitating so many wild animals is outstanding and they are a great example of animal welfare in action. We hope that their efforts will inspire the next generation of animal welfare campaigners and carers. They are both very deserving winners of IFAW’s Wildlife Rescue Award.”
The couple have become well known and appreciated in their local community over the years. After planning on getting married but never having found the time, they were touched when in 2015 staff at a local wedding venue offered them free use of all their facilities as a thank you for having rescued an orphaned baby deer and other wildlife in need from their grounds.
Innovative methods they have come up with over the years to increase the comfort of some of the animals in their care has included appeals to the public to donate knitted jumpers to keep warm chickens taken in from intensive farming facilities and old mascara wands used to brush and clean birds, rabbits and other small animals. Both of these appeals have since closed after huge responses from the public.
They are currently fundraising for a new purpose-built animal hospital to cope with the ever-increasing demand for wildlife rescue, which is outgrowing their current resources. The urgency for new facilities has grown with a 30% rise in the number of wildlife cases taken in so far this year.
Pauline and Keith will receive their award at IFAW’s prestigious Animal Action Awards event, presented by TV wildlife presenter Bill Oddie at the House of Lords on October 15.