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Expanded von Arx Wildlife Hospital opens at Conservancy, new wildlife protection campaign introduced

The new outdoor wildlife rehabilitation and guest education areas are now open at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples. The expansion includes state-of-the-art wildlife recovery areas and new structures that allow the Conservancy staff and volunteers to best serve the growing number of sick, injured and orphaned native animals brought to the Conservancy for care.

“For many of our von Arx Wildlife Hospital patients, most of their recovery time takes place outside – in a more natural setting,” said Joanna Fitzgerald, director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “The new outdoor wildlife recovery areas provide the optimal environment for these animals to recuperate with the goal of giving them a chance to be free.”

Behind-the-Scenes Expansion features include:

  • A new and enlarged shorebird recovery area
  • Two large outdoor rehabilitation structures to accommodate the increasing number of patients, including the ability to care for otters through the entire rehabilitation project
  • Eight small mammal recovery areas
  • Improvements to infrastructure including water, power and caregiver access
  • Additional maintenance and storage facilities

Guest Education Areas

Due to permits, the vast majority of work at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital happens behind-the-scenes, away from public view. The new public exhibits provide guests with a variety of opportunities to learn about work that takes place inside the wildlife hospital and how to prevent injury to wildlife.

Sapakie Wildlife Exhibit Hall

The new Sapakie Wildlife Exhibits are geared toward educating members and visitors on the reasons why animals are admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, the types of medical care they receive, and the ways the public can help prevent wildlife injuries. In addition, the exhibit has a kids’ play area, where children can transform into Junior Veterinarians and join Dr. Ollie Owl for hands-on activities emphasizing how the hospital cares for patients.

von Arx Wildlife Viewing Pavilion

The new von Arx Wildlife Viewing Pavilion gives guests the opportunity to come face-to-beak with three wildlife ambassadors. These permanent residents are former hospital patients. Due to the severity of their injuries, they are unable to survive in the wild. Guests can meet a Red-tailed hawk, Bald eagle and an Eastern screech owl.

The $2.3 million expansion, built by Stevens Construction, began with a $500,000 leadership gift from Dolph and Sharon von Arx. The Conservancy earned a competitive grant from the State of Florida for another $500,000 for the expansion.

“The increase in the number of injured wildlife in our region created an urgent need for enhanced rehabilitation areas for these patients,” said Dolph von Arx, former Conservancy Board Chairman. “Sharon and I are pleased that we can continue to support the Conservancy’s mission to care for injured and orphaned wildlife.”

Prevention of Injury to Wildlife Campaign

During the expansion celebration, the Conservancy announced a new public outreach campaign, Through their Eyes. The campaign intends for the public to see life through the eyes of Southwest Florida’s wildlife. The initiative’s call to action urges the community to protect wildlife and preserve their habitats. The campaign was inspired through a partnership between the Conservancy and advertising students at the University of Miami, School of Communication.

Additional campaign components include:

  • An injury prevention tip sheet and webpage that offers 14 ways to prevent injury to wildlife.
  • Two Honorary Wildlife Spokespeople:
    • Dr. Jerry Jackson, wildlife biologist and host of With the Wild Things on WGCU Radio, was introduced as the Conservancy’s first Honorary Wildlife Spokesperson. In this volunteer role, Jackson will offer a public citizen view of wildlife protection, helping to educate the community through wildlife talks, articles and a social media campaign.
    • Kate Talano, a high school senior at Seacrest and volunteer at the Conservancy’s von Arx Wildlife Hospital will serve as the Youth Wildlife Ambassador.
    • Pelican Protection Partnership with Collier County
      • The County will be placing Conservancy Pelican Protection signs at Bayview, Port of the Islands, Caxambas, Cocohatchee, Collier Blvd., and Goodland Boat Park. They will be placed at the fish cleaning stations.
      • A total of 12 signs (two at each location) will reach more than 200,000 people annually.
      • Humane Society of Collier County, led by Michael Simonik, has agreed to partner on messaging to new pet owners about how to keep cats and wildlife safe.
      • Expansion of Joanna Fitzgerald’s long-running column A Week at the Wildlife Hospital to run not only in the Naples Daily News, but also in The News-Press.

“I am inspired and motivated by the willingness of so many facets of our community to come together in support of preventing injury to wildlife,” said Rob Moher, Conservancy President and CEO. “From generous donors to representatives from the County and City leadership, to local media outlets and beyond, this level of commitment empowers us with the resources to further our mission of protecting and rehabilitating our wildlife. I am so grateful to be a part of this joint effort.”

Commitment to Sustainable Building Practices

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital was the first building in Collier County, and the first wildlife hospital in the state to achieve LEED Platinum Certification for its environmentally conscious design and construction. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

For more information regarding opportunities to support the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, please visit www.conservancy.org/wildlife/expansion or contact Paul Seifert at 239-403-4205 or PaulS@conservancy.org.

About the Conservancy

Conservancy of Southwest Florida began more than 50 years ago when community leaders came together to defeat a proposed “Road to Nowhere” and spearheaded the acquisition and protection of Rookery Bay. The Conservancy is a not-for-profit grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region, including Glades, Hendry, Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties, with a mission to protect the region’s water, land and wildlife. Conservancy of Southwest Florida and its Nature Center are located in Naples, Florida at 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 239-262-0304 or visit www.conservancy.org.

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