Rosie, a red-tailed hawk, broke her wing when she was attacked by crows as a nestling and it never healed properly. Lucy, a Western Screech-Owl, lost some of her eyesight when she was attacked by a predator.
Unable to survive in the wild, Rosie and Lucy were rescued and rehabilitated by the Ojai Raptor Center. Now the birds serve as “education ambassadors,” helping to teach about wildlife and the shared environment.
“Thank you for coming to our school and telling me facts that I never knew,” wrote Liliana after the center’s staff and birds visited Elm Street Elementary School in Oxnard recently. “My favorite bird was Rosie the Red-Tailed Hawk.”
Lizbeth wrote: “I was so inspired, I decided that when I grow up, I want to work in the Ojai Raptor Center society too. So thank you!”
This year, the nonprofit center is visiting 36 public schools and educating more than 5,000 students about birds of prey through its Public School Education Program, a program made possible by an Edison International grant.
The grant helped to provide each student with a laminated fact sheet on the 17 resident raptors of the Tri-Counties — Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties — area. The students also learned about the center’s efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and release birds of prey and other wildlife. Some of the topics included: food chains, symbiotic relationships in wildlife and evolutionary patterns.
“The fact that Ojai Raptor Center was able to call schools that are underfunded and offer free sponsored presentations shocked many teachers,” said Kimberly Stroud, executive director of the center. “They were so appreciative to receive this gift and add a level of understanding to the children for our native wildlife.”
Since the center opened 12 years ago, it has rehabilitated 15,000 birds and released 63 percent of them back into the wild. The center currently houses 17 rescued animals that it uses as ambassadors in its Wildlife Education Program. The center also reaches the larger public through its open houses in the spring and fall.
The birds undergo months, sometimes years, of training so they can be comfortable when presented to the public as ambassadors of the education program. In addition to learning about wildlife, the program also aims to show how humans can be responsible stewards in a shared environment and help reduce the number of animals that need assistance.
Although the center is licensed by state and federal fish and wildlife services, it receives no funding. To further its mission and goals, the center relies on the support of companies like Edison International. Since 2008, Edison International has contributed more than $110,000 to the center.
“At Edison International, our commitment to the environment is long-standing,” said Tammy Tumbling, SCE director of Philanthropy and Community Investment. “We believe that we can make a difference by supporting environmental programs geared toward preserving protected species and their habitats, avian protection and land conservation, restoration and protection.”