Wildlife specialist answers global call
Raptor Education Group founder goes where she's needed
By Jessica Bock
Wausau Daily Herald
Thursday, May 1, 2003
ANTIGO - Wildlife rehabilitation is a low priority for countries dealing with all sorts of economic challenges, but the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council is helping to make it easier for officials to devote resources to protecting wildlife and its habitat.
The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council shares its expertise with countries across the globe, and an Antigo woman is one of its lead instructors.
Marge Gibson is executive director of the Raptor Education Group Inc., a nonprofit organization that does wildlife rehabilitation, education and research. Gibson, once president of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, based in Berkeley, Calif., began traveling to countries such as Greece and Turkey in February 2001 to instruct veterinarians and biologists on everything from handling first aid to capture and release of injured wildlife. "Wildlife is just starting to get center stage in the world, and as more countries develop, they're starting to have more endangered wildlife," said Gibson, whose experience ranges from saving fallen robin eggs from a nest to cleaning wildlife covered in oil at the massive 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Future conferences, including one in Bulgaria scheduled for later this year, are on hold temporarily because of the war in Iraq.
International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council President Joel MacLeod said the group is trying to raise awareness and knowledge of wildlife rehabilitation in other countries and Gibson has been instrumental in that goal.
"She just hits the ground running," he said. He mentioned an incident shortly after the first conference in Greece where Gibson jumped on a plane to go help a group of swans that had been poisoned.
"That's the type of person she is," MacLeod said. "She's quite a remarkable woman." Gibson and her husband, Don, founded the Antigo center in 1990, but Gibson has worked with wildlife for 30 years, beginning as a field biologist. Before coming to Wisconsin, Gibson worked at the Orange County Bird of Prey Center in California.
In addition to traveling the world to share her knowledge, Gibson also houses interns from all parts of the world so they can learn from her firsthand.
Since she started the Raptor Education Group, Gibson and her small staff have cared for and rehabilitated thousands of raptors and other species.
Caring for the patients is a 24-hour-a-day job, Gibson says. Because her home is on the same property as the center, she can be available for the animals at all hours of the day and often can be found checking on her patients in the middle of the night.
In the beginning, the center focused on public education programs and supporting field research on avian species. Because of the remote northern location of the center, the majority of Gibson's work has focused on rehabilitation. She hopes to build another similar center in Wausau or the surrounding area that would be more accessible to the public.