My students often spot me walking around the school campus and through the copses behind my office looking for wildlife. They often observe me with specualtive looks from their air-conditioned rooms, not understanding my want to be outside in 35 degree heat! This being said, they are paying attention to my actions and I try to encourage them to respect all animals even if they’re ugly or disgusting to them. I tell them not to squash bugs, or kill snakes but to instead call me and I’ll remove the problem animal.The students know how much I love wildlife, they may not understand it but they see my passion and I have now become the go to person when they spot or find something interesting.
Working In Thailand has given me some wonderful opportunities to see wildlife and on many occasions I’ve been lucky enough to see some pretty amazing examples whilst at work. My students often tell me about something they’ve seen or come into the office to get me to go and see something they’ve found. This includes, and is not limited to, snakes, geckos, locusts, butterflies and lizards! However one particular visit from my students really caught me off guard and surprised the heck out of me!…….
On this morning a group of excited students burst into the office pleading with me to come quickly as they’d found a bird. Carly and I got up and they dragged us towards a building where I could see a large group of students congregated together pointing to a corner section of the building. There,through the mob of loud, excited kids was a young barn owl attempting to hide itself in a wet, cob web infested corner amongst some pipes near a water tank. The poor thing was cornered, frightened and surrounded by Thai school kids. It was not having the best of mornings!
Despite their intial rowdiness, some of the students seemed hesitant to get anywhere near the owl, and were almost frightened by it. I found it hard to believe that a little owlet could turn my usually rambunctious kids so quiet and unsure. One of the students approached me and told me that in Thai culture they believe that these birds ‘nok sehk’ are considered bad omens. Now I understood why some students seemed tentative and stood well behind the others. It also explained their horrified faces when I told them I was going to touch it!
I thanked my students for alerting me about the bird and told them to go to their next class so that it would be a little less stressful for the frightened animal. I watched it for a while trying to assess why it was out in the daytime and if it was injured. Why was it in such a bizzare and unsafe location?
After a while we started to worry that maybe the owlet was injured and if it wasn’t, one of the many feral dogs or cats in the school may soon discover the it and injure it. We decided our best course of action was to take it to our local vet and ask her advice. We threw a teatowel over him (a Union Jack tea towel, of course!), grabbed him and quickly transfered him into a cardboard box and headed for the vets.
Whilst the owl was at the vet’s we returned to school and I started to make a few calls to some wildlife rescue centres to see what we should do with the owl. None of the centres would pick up the owl as it was to far for them to come and each time I asked for a referral to a centre that was closer I was referred to one I’d already contacted that was unable to take the owl.
After keeping the owl for the day the vet called us to let us know that the little guy was uninjured but weak and dehydrated and that we should come to collect it. The relisation that we would be keeping the owl for a while began to sink in……………………
Well let me introduce you to Dougie the owl the newest addition to our family, our guest until he was ready and strong enough to be released back into the wild.
More about Dougie here Dougie the Owl (Part 2)