SCOTLAND'S concerned animal-lovers have fuelled a 75% rise in the number of wild birds and mammals being treated by a major charity.
The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) said its vets had cared for 3917 sick, injured and orphaned wild animals in 2011, including 2678 birds, describing it as a staggering rise of 75% compared with five years ago.
The charity revealed the figures as it opened Scotland's first National Wildlife Rescue Centre to cope with the increase in demand. It said that a growing awareness of the charity's work in helping all animals, and not just pets, had led to the rise.
National Wildlife Rescue Centre manager Colin Seddon said the demands on the service had increased at such a rate that the charity's centre at Middlebank in Fife, originally designed as an oiled bird cleaning unit, was stretched by the volume of animals being rescued.
He said: "We often had to transfer wildlife to other organisations to continue their rehabilitation but we can now care for every type of wild animal found in Scotland from rescue to release, with only whales and dolphins the exception.
"This is a major step forward for wildlife welfare in Scotland, with our ability to treat all kinds of birds and wild mammals having been greatly enhanced.
"Animals will now be cared for in one place right up until they are ready to be released back into their natural habitat, keeping human interaction and stress to an absolute minimum."
The £3.5 million centre at Fishcross, in Clackmannanshire, officially opened yesterday, has been funded entirely by donations. It gives the charity increased capacity to rescue and rehabilitate up to 5000 wild animals each year.
It is the only centre in Scotland with facilities to care for oiled birds, with staff being able to deal with up to 1000 oiled bird casualties at any one time.
A spokeswoman for the SSPCA said the increase in the number of animals being cared for by the charity had been driven by greater awareness of its work.
She added: "We have seen a huge rise in calls to our helpline generally in recent years, for all types of animals, so it's really down to an increased awareness of the SSPCA and what we do and the fact we help all animals – not just pets."
The new wildlife rescue centre has veterinary facilities, seal, swan and otter pools, aviaries, wild mammal enclosures, paddocks and a stable block for deer.
The centre currently holds 60 birds and animals.
One of those receiving treatment is Bramble, an orphaned badger cub, who was found unconscious in Aberdeen when he was only a few weeks old.
He was taken to a local veterinary surgery before being transferred to the centre.
Wildlife assistant Kaniz Hyat, who is hand-rearing the cub, said he was not old enough to be above ground.
She said: "He is doing really well now. He's getting more of his badger traits. He stays with me and comes home with me.
"He's being bottle-fed just now until he's a bit older and starts weaning at about 10 to 12 weeks.
"Then I'm hands-off. I won't get to see him at all. But you could never have a tame badger, it's only right he goes back into the wild."
Former Holyrood presiding officer George Reid, who led the official opening yesterday, said: "This is a state-of-the-art facility in which all Scotland can take pride.
"It is an ideal location, easily accessible from both coasts and from the north and south of the country."
The Scottish SPCA's National Wildlife Rescue Centre is not open to visitors. However, members of the public can take sick or injured wild animals to the centre for treatment.