Saturday, June 21, 2008

Profile: Michael Ellis, animal rescuer

Posted By on Sat, Jun 21, 2008 at 5:00 PM

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Michael Ellis is the founder and director of Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort. AWARE helps injured and distressed urban wildlife at its facility in Lithonia.

Ellis got involved with wildlife through his work as a builder. “I built some gibbon ape habitats at Yerkes.”

In Belize with a Yerkes primatologist, Ellis met a couple from Washington state who rescued wildlife at their home: “I moved to Washington to volunteer [for them]. I had $700 and my Chevy S-10.”

On the animals he rescues now: “At any wildlife center, birds are 70% of the intake. But it’s everything – hummingbirds, eagles, mice, eagles, deer, possums, squirrels.”

"Roaming cats are one of the biggest devastators of wildlife in this country. Every free roaming domestic cat kills 200 to 400 wild animals a year."

The biggest mistake people make with wild animals: “People identify animals [that are by themselves] as orphans. They interrupt the most critical training [for these animals.]

To which animals is Ellis most attached? “The ones least likely to survive, because I'm forced to spend more time with them than any other animal."

"If I had to pick a favorite animal native to North America, it'd probably be a wolf because they represent all the good and all the bad that's ever happened in this country."

On releasing a rehabilitated animal into the wild: "Every time I release an animal, it almost makes me cry. Almost, every time."

Do the animals he rescues socialize? “Birds put up with each other. The young ones interact. If you put an orphaned red-tailed hawk with an adult, there’s good chance the adult will feed the baby.

Yeah, but do hawks play basketball: “No, they don’t play basketball.”

On his father, George Ellis: “ He had the first spoof late night horror satire show in Atlanta on WAGA-TV in the 60s called Big Movie Shocker. He and I sang, acted and had [movie] theatres called the Film Forum. We introduced Atlanta to the art flick world.”

(Photo by Dustin Chambers)

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