How to become a RSPCA wildlife centre manager

Alison Charles is the manager of the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre, Norfolk. Here she shares her career advice. 

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Alison Charles on her duties for the RSPCA

What does your job involve?

My job is very varied and no two days are the same, which makes it fascinating. We admit around 4,000 to 4,500 British wildlife casualties each year, which we rescue, rehabilitate, release and then monitor post-release when possible. My job is to ensure the centre runs smoothly and the animals are returned to the wild fit, healthy and in a timely manner. I manage a team of 20 staff and 15 volunteers.

What happens to an animal when it arrives at a RSPCA centre?

On admission the animal is checked over for injuries and has a treatment plan made for it. We then decide what its dietary requirements are and offer appropriate food and water once it is in suitable accommodation. Many of our patients are very sick and weak so need assisted feeding. Once the animal begins to improve medically and is able to eat on its own we move it on in the process. We try to transfer animals to larger and more natural enclosures once they are stronger and fitter.

Which species do you look after? 

Most British wildlife species - hedgehogs are our number one client but seals are what we are best known for. Recent patients have also included swans, ducks, collared doves, wood pigeons, barn owls, tawny owls, guillemots, foxes, deer and a badger.

What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

Seeing wildlife returned to the wild is very special. When sick animals recover enough to begin to eat on their own always makes the day a good one for me. Death is the hardest part of our job, many of our casualties have horrendous injuries and do not recover and this is always hard to deal with. 

Do you have any particularly memorable cases?

So many I could write a book but the memorable cases tend to be the worst ones as they stick in your mind. For example, a mallard duck that had her leg fractured by some thugs when they kicked her, a duck with a screwdriver through her, an adult seal that had been peppered with shots and some fox cubs that had been put in a plastic barrel and left to die under a hedge.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work at an RSPCA wildlife centre?

It is a lifestyle not a job so you have to be prepared to put in a lot of extra hours in order to help the animals, staff and volunteers. Gaining experience is important too. For example, I started out by volunteering to wash oiled guillemots at the local RSPCA rescue centre and was hooked once I started working with British wildlife.

Find out more about the RSPCA.

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