Giving injured animals a fighting chance

Barry and June Smitherman have been running a wildlife rescue centre in Enfield since 1985

Barry and June Smitherman (pictured centre and right) at the animal sanctuary in Trent Park
June Smitherman (pictured right) with volunteers at the animal sanctuary in Trent Park

When Barry and June Smitherman found a pair of orphaned goldfinch chicks in Carterhatch Lane in the 1980s, they couldn’t have imagined it would lead to the establishment of a wildlife rescue charity still going four decades later.

Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) is based at Trent Park in Cockfosters. Visitors to the charity’s animal sanctuary can find sick and injured animals ranging from herons and owls to foxes, hedgehogs and deer. Some are recovering but some need long-term care and would not survive if released.

The demand for the charity’s animal rescue service has soared in recent years, placing huge strain on Barry and June, who run the centre with help from daughter Diane and a number of volunteers. While Barry is still involved, he said the last year since the pandemic began had been one of the toughest to date and had led to him taking some time off to cope with the stress.

Barry told the Dispatch: “We get calls from all over the place; St Albans, Harlow, Barking, Crystal Palace. We are always running at full capacity.

“Like any hospital there comes a time when you get full and there is only a certain number of animals you can take in. We are never going to say ‘yes’ to every animal if we don’t have space for it, so instead we try to advise people how to look after them and take them to a vet.

“The pandemic has really had an effect on us. There was one day when I took 67 phone calls and a lot of them were out of our area, so I was turning them down, but sometimes you get a bit of abuse when you tell them you can’t help. After that day I said I couldn’t do it any more.”

Barry took a short break but has since returned, limiting himself to three days per week, with Diane now managing the animal sanctuary. He added: “We enjoy the work we do, we like to get the birds and the hedgehogs back into the wild and that is always pleasurable.”

Donations to WRAS can be made online at wras-enfieldwildlife.org.uk

Enfield Community Heroes

This article is the latest in our ‘Enfield Community Heroes’ series, sponsored by Edmonton Green Shopping Centre. Dispatch readers are welcome to nominate their own local hero – someone who has gone above and beyond to help support the local community. Simply email your nomination to [email protected].