Factors affecting the success of wildlife rehabilitation in Britain

A completed three-year PhD study by Susie Molony funded by the RSCPA and supervised by Stephen Harris, Innes Cuthill and Phil Baker.

© Mammal Research Unit
Hedgehog ready for release.
Photo by Susie Molony


This project aims to advance our understanding of the factors associated with the survival of rehabilitated wildlife, through quantifying the effects of the rehabilitation process on post-release survival.


Considerable time and resources are put into wildlife rehabilitation in Britain: there are over 700 rehabilitation centres treating approximately 40 000 wildlife casualties a year. Yet much of the current advice on release protocols is based on intuitive rather than quantified assessments. Animal welfare standards may be improved if we can quantify the impact of different levels of treatment/ lengths of care etc on the chances of survival.

Wildlife rehabilitation is also used internationally as a conservation tool under the banner of 'restoration ecology', a discipline that is rapidly growing (other conservation tools under this banner include captive breeding, translocation and reintroduction). The more we understand about which species or taxa do well in rehabilitation, the closer we are to understanding some of the underlying principles of restoration ecology, and the basic problems associated with saving species using this method.

Part of this research has recently been published:

Molony, S. E., Dowding, C. V., Baker, P. J., Cuthill, I.C. and Harris, S. (2006) The effect of translocation and temporary captivity on wildlife rehabilitation success: an experimental study using European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). Biological Conservation: in press.
doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2006.01.015

Contact details

Email: Susie Molony