MARS Schools, Education & Awareness Program
Starring the MARS Ambassador Birds
A key objective of the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre is to educate the public about the protection, preservation and well-being of wildlife and wild habitats on Northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
The Education and Awareness Program means that visitors to Nautical Days at the marina in Comox or the spring and fall Art and Bloom Festivals at Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens can witness these beautiful creatures up close and personal. No doubt many of you will have run into volunteers like John, Marie, Terry or Rick and have seen Sawyer, Shakespeare, Otus, Brinley or Lanei perched on a glove or outstretched arm. Some of these raptors suffered devastating injuries that prevent them from being returned to the wild but they have found new purpose helping to educate the public about wild nature.
Usually owls and hawks like these live high in trees or in mountainous areas or hunt at night and so the public rarely comes in contact with them. Seeing Brinley’s big yellow eyes or Sawyer’s shiny feathers from a foot away is awe-inspiring and in many cases transformational.
Often our bird handlers have witnessed the effect that MARS ambassador birds have on people at many schools and community events: They can see the difference these birds are making through educating the public and the affect on children is exciting. Seeing the reaction when people realize how they can make a difference to wildlife is a special moment.
The MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre: Limitless Education Possibilities
MARS founder Mary Jane “Maj” Birch preached the gospel of protection and preservation of wildlife and habitat until she died in 2015. Her dream was to build a larger wildlife hospital to accommodate more patients and to create a North Island learning centre that emphasized awareness and responsibility for our natural environment. Maj wanted a place where families, particularly families with children, can get a hands-on learning experience. That dream has now become a reality.
The wildlife hospital has been operational for many months and construction of the visitor building which is home to our educational program, has been completed. It’s one thing to interact with birds and animals on a website in your living room, but it is entirely different to see them up close in real life. At the new MARS we have made this possible by inviting the public to our new 11-acre facility near Merville, BC. You can enjoy a tour of our scenic property and apple orchards, see our ambassadors in their new homes, watch ducks, swans and turtles in our wetlands area and observe eagles and owls in our large bird flyway from a designated viewing spot.
The visitor building is where visitors begin their immersive journey into the MARS story. There are beautiful exhibits, taxidermy, various forms of audio/visual and digital media and an interactive teaching space where school children can be taught about the wonders of wildlife and habitat on the North Island.
“My husband, John and I have volunteered with MARS for about seven years. The time we spend on MARS activities is fun and enjoyable.”
“I have volunteered with MARS for about seven years and enjoy the fact that in some small capacity we are helping a necessary organization. Met some terrific folks that are great role models.”