“Real” scientists frown on empathy in research, but it could be useful for wildlife rehabilitation.
When you know the science of the creature–what it eats, where it lives, how it behaves–putting yourself in its place could allow you to make good decisions on the animal’s behalf. Imagining how the animal feels is not at all silly if you are always aware that this wild creature is not a pet.
Saturday we released a juvenile penguin that had a bad fledging experience. Usually Rosalie releases penguins within earshot of the ocean. The bird isn’t fed in the morning and hunger overtakes confusion; in short order the penguin returns to sea to catch a meal.
But Henry was injured soon after his first trip to sea, so he didn’t fledge properly. When Rosalie released him he wouldn’t go back in the water. A few days later she found him starving, so she brought him back to the hospital to fatten him up. After a week he was ready to be released again.
We carried Henry all the way down to the water. As soon as he saw the ocean he turned to run away from it, but we blocked his path. Penguins are shy creatures and his fear of humans helped him overcome his fear of going back to sea. Once he entered the water, instinct took over and in a split second he was past the kelp and the waves.