An emergency lifeline for Essex wildlife

South Essex Wildlife Hospital

South Essex Wildlife Hospital - Credit: Archant

Andrew Fallan shares his expertise in Essex wildlife with us, revealing top locations to find special species as well as the unusual animals you can discover in your own back garden. This month he looks at South Essex Wildlife Hospital.

For us humans in the UK, when things go wrong and we find ourselves unwell or injured, an army of doctors, nurses and specialists in an array of surgeries, clinics and hospitals is available to us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The length and breadth of the land, teams of paramedics are poised, ready and waiting to rush to our side with lights flashing and sirens blaring, where they will patch us up and whisk us away to hospital in a flash. What’s more, any help that we may need — from standard treatments to life-saving surgery — is provided without question and completely free of charge. Many of us moan about the NHS and it’s fair to say that almost all of us, myself included, perhaps take it for granted.

But there is no such luxury for the nation’s wildlife, for which even the most innocuous ailment, injury or predicament can be potentially life-threatening. For those unfortunate creatures who find themselves in need of help, often, it has to be said, due to the actions of us humans, their only lifeline is the type of service provided by wildlife hospitals and rescue centres, many of which operate on a shoestring budget and are as reliant upon donations as they are the goodwill and kindness of the volunteers who run them.

An example of just such a place is South Essex Wildlife Hospital, which lies on the edge of the village of Orsett, just down the road from Lakeside Shopping Centre and the M25. The hospital was officially established as a charity in 1995 by Sue Schwar, in response to a lack of existing provision for the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife in the area. Initially operating out of Sue’s garden, it has now grown to the extent that it receives around 10,000 animals per year and at any one time it may be home to more than 300 patients and casualties.

Despite being staffed by volunteers and depending entirely on donations, the hospital covers both East London and north Kent as well as most of Essex, providing the only facilities of its kind in the area. Open seven-days-a-week from morning till night, it will never refuse help to any animal, whether they be small garden birds or larger mammals such as foxes, badgers and deer — not to mention three very sick pigeons that my wife recently rescued, one of which was found in the middle of a busy road and would almost certainly have been killed.

Sadly, and despite the daily struggles and challenges that they face, it appears that the hospital’s very existence may now be under serious threat from a proposed new Thames crossing. There has therefore never been a better time to support such a vital local service and the unsung heroes who work so hard to help and care for the county’s wonderful wildlife.

For more information on South Essex Wildlife Hospital including how you can help, please go to