STUDENTS will learn how to nurse animals when Kendal College opens its wildlife rehabilitation and rescue centre later this year.
Housed in the college grounds, the centre will feature an operating theatre, X-ray machine, an intensive care room, large floodable kennels and rooms for hedgehogs and orphaned birds, as well as separate cat rescue and exotic pet rescue areas.
Forty-four students have already taken up the chance to study animal courses, such as Level 2 BTEC Diploma in Animal Care and Level 3 BTEC Diploma in Animal Management.
The college will work with local charities and vets to provide care to animals in need.
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Mhairi Helme, animal care lecturer and clinic manager, said: “Students will have hands-on experience of nursing animals and observing rescue veterinary work. We aim to run the clinic to a high standard giving students a first-hand, practical experience.
“To rehabilitate wildlife effectively and humanely, human contact must be limited to the bare minimum to ensure that the animals remain wild.
“We have designed the clinic and the protocols carefully to ensure that the students get to be involved in the process without compromising animal welfare or their chances of surviving in the wild after rehabilitation.
“All of the animals that we treat successfully will be returned to the wild or transferred to other wildlife rehabilitators for release.”
Mrs Helme said the centre would not offer veterinary services to the public and will only accept cases referred from local charities and vets.
Hedgehogs, birds, foxes and swans to bearded dragons, rabbits and guinea pigs could find their way to the centre, added Mrs Helme, who has worked in veterinary practices in and around Cumbria for 14 years.
The idea for the clinic began over a year ago from a chance conversation while fell running between Mrs Helme and Richard Evans, head of school for caring professions at the college.
“We spoke about my love of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation and how I would love to do this, if at all possible, on a much grander scale than the shed and garden area I have at home," she said.
“Since then, the idea of combining the rescue clinic with teaching animal care courses has grown into a workable concept and it was incredibly exciting to see the first walls of the rescue centre going up.”
Maggie Cawthorn, director of curriculum at the college, said around 50 employers attended an open evening at the college to discuss how they could make the most of the new facility and help to provide students with work placements in the industry.