Big thank you from

Jenny Munro talks to Debbie Nelson

Debbie NelsonDEBBIE Nelson, 27, is an education Work Leader at T.A.C.T (Talnotry Avian Care Trust) - a voluntarily run Wildlife Centre in Crumlin.

The charity cares for and rehabilitates sick, injured and abandoned wild birds and mammals.

Debbie has been rescuing wild animals from a young age. Having spent time working for various wildlife organisations, Debbie joined T.A.C.T last year.

I get up each morning around 6.45am, have some breakfast and then leave my house at 7.15am. I live in Donaghadee so my journey to Crumlin usually takes between an hour and an hour and a half depending on the traffic. As Education Worker my main role is to share with others the work that T.A.C.T does. This involves visiting schools and organisations as well as inviting groups to the centre to explain the work that we do.

If I am out and about the province giving talks the first thing I will do when I arrive at work is load the car with all the bits and pieces needed for the talk. This includes displays, souvenirs and also several animals.

T.A.C.T works with many groups and provides an important curriculum base for learning about the natural world.

People of all ages visit the centre on a regular basis and many different subject areas are covered, such as science, geography, English, maths and art and design.

If I don't have an appointment to go to I work in the office, check my emails, update the website, answer queries and arrange future visits.

I also help out with the animals too. There is a staff of five and lots of volunteers who we would be lost without. We care for a variety of birds and mammals native to Ireland, as well as a few non-native birds and abandoned animals. Gannets, swans, kestrels, sparrowhawks, owls, foxes, hedgehogs, geese and ducks, as well as rabbits, guinea pigs, cockatiels. budgies, pigeons. terrapins and ferrets are some of the different animals and birds we care for.

I help with the feeding and check the injured animals' progress as well as working alongside the Glenburn Veterinary practice who treat all the animals. I also help re-home abandoned animals and advise members of the public on what to do if they find an injured animal.

The Centre is open six days a week so I interact with the general public on a regular basis.

T.A.C.T's primary aim is to return birds and mammals back to the wild where practicable. We operate a policy that no animal is humanely destroyed if it cannot be released or found a good home. Animals that can't be returned to the wild are given a home at the centre and looked after for the rest of their natural lives by a the team.

Some days I leave work at 5.30pm and occasionally I might not get finished until 11.30pm - it just depends on whether or not a booking has been made for the evening.

After a long drive I either go to my partner's house or straight to my home. I'll have dinner and then tend to my own animals. I just love animals and my partner shares the same interest too. I don't have a lot of spare time but I am a member of the Northern Ireland Fungus Group and am a keen walker. I really enjoy my work at T.A.C.T, as animals are such a big part of my life.

Ulster Star