March 25, 2010
A Society Wild for Animals
New volunteer group at the Wildlife Care Center
by Pepper Ballard
Perry Burk has swerved off highways in Southern Florida all his life to save injured wildlife, but it wasn’t until recently that he decided he needed to do more for the wild animals he cherishes so much.
Raising the Bar
Burk, a 38-year-old food broker, recently founded The Wild Society, a group of young professionals to help draw volunteers and raise awareness about the work performed at the Wildlife Care Center, a Broward County wildlife rehabilitation center operated by The HSUS.
Join other young professionals April 7 and get involved. Learn more»
“We want involvement," he said. "Involvement can come in three facets: Money to buy supplies and help pay veterinarians and staffers; time—a lot of tasks at the center can be accomplished by volunteers, some of which requires training, and outreach; and we want to have an impact on the society around us, to emphasize the need to take wildlife into account."
Tasting Wine For Money
To kick off the effort, The Wild Society is throwing its first fundraiser—a “Wild Wine Tasting”—where other young professionals can learn how to get involved. It will be held at The Grateful Palate restaurant in Fort Lauderdale at 6:30 p.m. April 7.
“Sometime in their lives, (the young professionals) have come into contact with an animal who has had to be dropped off at the center,” he said. “Young people need to know that this center exists and that they can help. We’re just hoping we can have a positive impact.”
The wildlife rehabilitation facility has about 60 employees, about 400 active volunteers, and three full-time ambulance drivers. Its 4.1-acre property houses up to 875 animals at any given time in dozens of habitats and rehabilitation areas. The center’s goal is to release those animals that have responded successfully to treatment back to the wild.
“We are excited to be launching The Wild Society, a group of energetic, sophisticated young professionals interested in supporting the mission of the Wildlife Care Center,” said Sherry Schlueter, the center’s executive director. “My own involvement with this vital organization began in my youth. My enthusiasm for its good work and noble cause has only grown. The Wild Society will bring us new members, donors, volunteers and a pool of future leaders to guide us in the years to come.”
Center Longtime Resource for Burk
The Wildlife Care Center serves the South Florida tri-county area with rescue, rehabilitation and release services for native wildlife at no cost to citizens and admits between 12,000 and 14,000 injured, orphaned, abandoned or abused native wild animals or exotic domestic animals per year. The center operates year-round and is completely funded by private donations.
Burk has been a lifelong believer in wildlife rehabilitation. Growing up in a family that values its wild neighbors, Burk said he learned from a young age that all animals deserve respect. He estimates that he’s probably helped about 30 animals over the years—from seagulls with broken wings and pelicans with hook injuries to dogs hit by cars and stranded iguanas.
“If we see an animal, we stop. My family and I and the friends we keep have rescued raccoons, possums, ducks and lots of birds,” he said. “We want to protect the wild lifestyle.”
Burk said he had used the center for years to seek aid for the injured wildlife he found. After speaking with the center’s director of development, Laura Gottlieb, he decided to create a young professionals group to help its efforts.
“I love what they stand for,” he said. “From my perspective, it’s important to stand up for those who can’t speak up for themselves. I don’t know any animal who can walk into a city hall or commission meeting and say, ‘Look, you’re encroaching on our land, and your fishing lines are disturbing our area.’ Someone has to speak for them, and I think we have a community of young professionals in Southern Florida that can do just that.”
For more information about The Wild Society and the wine tasting, email Laura Gottlieb, director of development at the Wildlife Care Center.
Editor's note: The event address on the registration page is incorrect. The correct address is 817 SE 17th St. (not SW).