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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK
Wildlife hospital fears for future
By Jane Mower
BBC News Online London

Ted Burden and Kestral
Ted Burden started the hospital 10 years ago from his home
Ted Burden says that what he misses most after abandoning his studies for a career in law to care for sick animals is the potential 100,000 a year pay cheque.

But as founder of London Wildcare, he would settle for 10,000 to see the centre through the next month.

The charity costs about 120,000 a year to run and relies almost completely on public donations.

A poor turn out at a recent fundraising event, due to bad weather, left the coffers 4,000 short - casting doubts over the future of the centre.

With money running very low the wildlife hospital, based in Beddington Park, Wallington, south London, could close at the end of June.

750 foxes
400 ducks
300 small mammals
200 hedgehogs
100 swans
40/60 badgers
20/30 deer
2000+ birds

"It just doesn't bear thinking about," said Mr Burden, 36, who started the centre from his family home in Worcester Park, south London, 10 years ago.

As part of London Wildcare, it is one of the UK's leading professional wildlife care facilities for sick, injured and orphaned wild animals.

A team of trained medical staff is on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to take in animals from across London and beyond.

An army of about 100 volunteers feed, clean and nurse hundreds of foxes, ducklings, baby birds and squirrels back to health so they can be released back into the wild.

Mr Burden told BBC News Online: "It all started when I was told nothing could be done for an injured bird I had found."

Using the shed, garage and an upstairs bedroom at his family home, he began taking in sick animals and his reputation spread.

Worker with fox cub
Staff at the hospital care for hundreds of fox cubs every year
"I told local vets and the council what I was planning and it was not long before the animals were flooding in.

"Treatment and care are important so that was what I set about doing."

Teaching himself the medical knowledge required to treat wild animals, Mr Burden is now considered something of an expert across the globe.

"I started a degree in law so picking up a medical text book was no different.

"I gradually learnt how to treat the animals and have even been consulted by vets in Australia for advice on how to treat animals that have been injured in bush fires."

It's much more than a job - it's a way of life
Samantha Cade, Deputy Clinical Care Manager
Deputy clinical care manager, Samantha Cade, spends up to 15 hours a day at the centre.

She said: "It's much more than a job it's a way of life.

"We provide an exceptional service and I am very proud to be a part of a centre where wildlife can expect to recover.

"If the service was to close both London's wildlife and residents would lose out as we are the first port of call and the service we provide is second to none."

Jan Taylor heads the education side of the centre which invites school and youths groups to see the work they do .

"We let the children interact with the animals and stroke the fox cubs which helps make the animals become real and they can begin to empathise with them and respect them.

"Then in years to come it is much harder for them to harm or neglect an animal."

A Wildlife Gardening Event is being held at the centre on 18 July and a Summer Open Day is planned for 5 September to help raise funds for the hospital.

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