Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Adoption Option: What you should know before you do

By Jordan Daley
Research and Education Coordinator

When I was young my family adopted a polar bear family for Christmas. My youngest brother having recently been born, I eagerly awaited the day my polar bear would come home from the hospital. Clinging to a new stuffed white bear, gazing at the framed picture of two snowy cubs I hoped the nurses wouldn't name them something dumb while I was waiting. My brother, Jack, told me they sometimes did that. He said that was how I got my name; they weren't sure if I was a boy or a girl.

Not very different from my own siblings' interactions.
Photo: National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest


I'm sure my mom agonized over telling me the truth, but she mustered up her best you'll-understand-one-day voice and gave it to me straight. The polar bear wasn't going to live with us in New York. What did I expect? My parents wouldn't even entertain the idea of a dog. I was briefly crestfallen but Jack's habit of reading National Geographic animal encounters aloud quickly dampened any desire I had for living with a thousand pound predator (for your viewing discretion).

Following a particularly graphic chapter, I was content to receive occasional photos updates and imagine the adventures my arctic siblings were getting into. They became the subjects of many early stories and likely a subconscious part of my future career choice.

Adopting an animal, through a wildlife conservation group or a nature center can be a powerful tool for instilling the value of wildlife in a child. It is also a concrete way to support an organization that has a direct affect on the quality of care provided to the animals.

So here is what you need to know about adopting raptors with VINS.

1. Raptors aren't the only option. Our songbirds, vultures and ravens need specialized care too. Our cardinal lives at VINS in the songbird aviary. We always feed our birds as close to their natural diet as possible. For this cardinal that means a variety of seeds and fruits.

2. Your donation really is dedicated to the birds. Whether it is diet, heating, enclosure repairs or medical care, the costs that each bird accrues throughout the year are covered in part by their adoptions.   

3. Adoption is also a learning opportunity. Your package includes details about the bird you've adopted, natural history and a photo. The chance to learn doesn't end there. Feeling responsible for the welfare of an animal can be a huge step in building empathy and stewardship. What begins as a small donation towards one birds well being can often develop into a lifetime of conservation. Use your adopted bird as a platform for digging into healthy habitat for birds. What can you do as a family to provide winter food to a species in the area? How can you preserve water quality in your area rivers? 

4. Of course, they don't live with you. Our enclosures are suited to the specific needs of each bird. The snowy owl on exhibit has extensive wing damage and isn't able to fly. His enclosure is filled with low perches and ramps to make his movement comfortable. Plus, your hot stuffy home would have this arctic species over-heating in a heartbeat. And much like the polar bears, these really are wild creatures, though not quite 1,000 pounds, their predatory nature is much better suited to our facilities than yours.

5. That doesn't mean you can't come visit them. Unlike my polar bears, the VINS birds can always be found right here at the Nature Center and an adopt package includes passes to come back and visit the birds. Return in different seasons and year after year to track your bird's development, changes in plumage or behavior and watch your gift in action.

This holiday season consider adopting a bird as a gift or for your family. Our holiday special includes four birds for $100. Your purchase will provide care for our Cardinal, Red Tailed Hawk, Snowy Owl and Great Gray Owl. This package can be a single gift or divided into four.

At VINS our adoption program provides funding for the specialized care our unique residents require. Adopting one of our birds ensures that they will be well fed and receive necessary medical care. Supporting our residents with your adoptions means that we can do even more in our wildlife communities through conservation, education and rehabilitation. By adopting our resident birds you enable us to keep wild birds in the wild. 

The season is here and cold weather and frosty mornings have got me thinking of my arctic wards. I wonder how they're faring in this changing climate and hope the work I've done is helping in some way. My family's polar bears have long been a source of wonder and amusement, what could our birds be for you? Click Here to take the leap right now. Or come visit us to meet your adoptees in person before your commit.

Note: The VINS Adopt-a-Raptor program is tax deductible.