The Raptor Rehabilitation Unit is the GONHS Section that looks after birds of prey that have to be in captivity either for long or short periods. Birds of prey are brought in in a number of different ways. The most frequent is during the spring migration which coincides with the nesting of the yellow-legged gull. Late in the season, in May and June, when the gulls have young, they attack the larger migrating raptors, usually short-toed eagles and griffon vultures. At the same time the peregrines also have young and attack these raptors. Mobbing by both gulls and peregrines can result in the large raptors falling into the sea or being forced to land, often with injuries. This is when Raptor Rehabilitation Unit is called in.
Young birds of prey that are weak or have left the nest prematurely are also often handed in. These include kestrel, lesser kestrel and little owl. Less often, birds also arrive that have been confiscated by Police from persons who had them illegally in captivity.
In all these cases the main aim is to rehabilitate the bird for release into the wild. This is usually achieved after rest, correct feeding and in some cases quite a bit of training. But there are birds that are injured, or imprinted on humans, and are incapable of living wild again. In these cases we aim to breed from them so that the young can be released. Unfortunately our facilities have been very limited in the past and we have not yet been successful. The Ministry of Defence provided new premises three years ago, which were an improvement but still small. At present GONHS is funding an increase in the facilities and hoping for Gibraltar Government or Foreign Office funds to complete these. The feeding of the birds is paid for by the keepers and all the work related to the Unit is voluntary.
All the Unit's work is carried out while adhering firmly to conservation principles.
Much work has been done by Raptor Rehabilitation Unit over the years. This has been done with the highest regard for conservation principles and complying fully with the licensing requirements of the Nature Protection Ordinance and the Endangered Species Ordinance. It is vital conservation work that, we hope, will increase further as our facilities improve.
Licensed Rehabilitation Keepers: Vincent Robba, Stanley Olivero and Gilbert Gonzalez