Looking for a unique and impactful way to highlight the concerning issue of species at risk, Cataraqui Conservation’s Senior Conservation Educator Stana Luxford Oddie has taken part in a new video series commissioned and produced by Napanee-based Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre.
The Wildlife- At- Risk video series went live on the Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre YouTube channel on Saturday, April 2, and features five videos with each one focusing on a particular aspect of species-at-risk, highlighted by a deep dive on one species in particular. As well as the video series, which has been designed to appeal to all ages, an accompanying lesson plan has also been devised for students in Grades 6 to 8.
According to Sandy Pines’ education co-ordinator Jess Pelow, the organization was able to pull the videos together thanks to a grant from the National Geographic Society’s COVID-19 Remote Learning Emergency Fund for Educators, as well as funding from TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and a donation from Trailhead Kingston.
“At Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre, we admit over 6,000 wild animals every single year and some of these animals are species at risk. We hear a lot about endangered species around the globe, but we hear a lot less about the endangered species who are disappearing right here in Ontario, and we wanted to somehow bring attention to these species,” said Pelow, explaining the motivation behind the project.
“With this video series, we want to inspire community members to take action and to make choices that can support these species so they can really start thriving again in our community. For students who participate in the lesson plans, the intention is that they will watch these videos, either at home or in their classroom and then complete the accompanying worksheets, which gets them thinking even more about how they can make changes in their own lives, in their own households, in their own classrooms and in the community to really help these species.”
The lesson plans can be downloaded from the Sandy Pines website, at www.sandypineswildlife.org. The plans were developed by Pelow, who also shot and edited much of the video series.
There are five levels of ‘at-risk’ in the Province of Ontario under the Endangered Species Act. From most serious to least, here are the official definitions of each level.
- A species shall be classified as an extinct species if it no longer lives anywhere in the world.
- A species shall be classified as an extirpated species if it lives somewhere in the world, lived at one time in the wild in Ontario, but no longer lives in the wild in Ontario.
- A species shall be classified as an endangered species if it lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.
- A species shall be classified as a threatened species if it lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered, but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening to lead to its extinction or extirpation.
- A species shall be classified as a special concern species if it lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or threatened, but may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
Luxford Oddie said the video series fits in well with her mandate of emphasizing the importance of cultivating a deeper connection to nature in general, and in particular to other animal species. The programs she has created for Cataraqui Conservation cater not just to students, but to any group or organization seeking to learn more about conservation and connection with nature be they seniors, early learners, new Canadians, or other environmental organizations. Luxford Oddie is also a pioneer in the development of Forest Therapy programs in Ontario, being one of the first individuals in the province to be trained and certified in this immersive and rewarding ‘forest bathing’ experience.
“I’ve really come to my role trying to tie the head with the heart: what can we learn and what can we know is important because it invokes our innate curiosity about other beings. But I believe it’s more than just knowing. By focusing also on the heart, we learn to care about other beings, because I believe if we don’t love something, how are we going to protect it?” she said.
“In this video, it’s really about getting people out there and being and doing – actively participating in nature and with nature.”
Pelow ran down the synopsis of each video, which includes a presentation from Sandy Pines medical director Leah Birmingham, along with a special guest expert:
“The first video is called Caring for Habitats and that’s where Stana comes in. We’re talking about our relationship with the land. And, as Stana mentioned, transferring that awareness from our minds to our hearts and learning how we can really tap into the land and the beings around us. The second video is called Turtle Advocacy and that is with Lesley Rudy [formerly Queen’s University and currently Turtles Kingston] on why turtles are coming to our hospital, which is usually because they are being hit by cars. We also learn about Lesley’s research in Kingston’s Inner Harbour which is tracking the nesting habits of Northern Map Turtles which are a species at risk,” she explained.
“The third video is Stories of Snakes and features Kenny Ruelland [Reptile and Amphibian Advocacy] who talks about snakes that are at risk throughout the province. We also tell the story of a grey rat snake that was brought to our hospital after being attacked by a dog. The fourth video is called Birds’ Eye Views with Hazel Wheeler from Wildlife Preservation Canada. Hazel focuses on the Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program that is happening in the Napanee Plains area. The final video is called Taking Action, with Amanda Tracey of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. We filmed this video at the First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) where there is a grassland restoration project happening. For the premiere of the video series [on April 2] we had Cathie Findlay from the FNTI share more about this project and how Indigenous ways of knowing and being have shaped the project so far.”
The variety of animals portrayed in the video series gives viewers a hint at the sort of patients who come to Sandy Pines each year. According to Pelow the range of mammals cared for runs the gamut from field mice to white- tailed deer and everyone in between. They also look after many species of reptiles and amphibians, particularly snakes and turtles, as well as many diverse types of birds, from songbirds to raptors to waterfowl.
Pelow also spoke of the importance of support Sandy Pines receives each year from folks who believe in the work that they do to help sick, injured and/or orphaned animals.
“We’re not funded by any government bodies. We are almost exclusively funded by donations from the public, so we truly do rely on the generosity of our community members and supporters from outside the community. And we also rely on the time and commitment of our volunteers. We don’t have a large staff team, but we do have a large volunteer base and they help with everything from cleaning enclosures to feeding the patients to driving the animals to the hospital – they do all kinds of activities for the hospital to make sure everything is running smoothly to care for our patients,” she said.
For more information, visit www.sandypineswildlife.org.
View the "Education" tab at the top for more info on the programs Cataraqui Conservation offers for all ages and learning styles.