Raptor Aid believes that education is the way forward with bird of prey conservation, especially educating children about birds of prey and their part in the natural world. Birds of prey have never been more accessible to schools via local bird of prey centres and private bird owners bringing birds into schools. There are however some very important things to consider before arranging a visit, or if you are concerned about an organisation. We recommend to do your homework and use a reputable centre which has a zoo licence and a proven track record working with schools. There are some private and freelance bird of prey owners who will offer a service but they are very difficult to police and govern.
Whoever you decide to use, you probably don’t need us to tell you to make sure they have up to date public liability insurance, have carried out risk assessments (or you have for the chosen activity) and where needed have up to date CRB checks in place. Amazingly a lot of schools do not check these initial things. If all this is in order, then we recommend you agree with the organisation exactly what you want and what they might require during the visit. As always the welfare of the birds and the children is most important.
Handling the birds is not recommended if it is a large group of children and also stroking should be avoided based on the welfare of the bird, but also because of the risk of zoonotic disease. If the birds look agitated by baiting (jumping away) or panting then the birds should be put somewhere safe by the organisation. Only trained birds should be used within schools. Sadly, something which is very difficult to judge immediately is the information given out by the handlers to the children. A basic guide is that if it sounds like common sense it should be correct, but if you are unsure make notes to check up on later.
There are a lot of good organisations available offering a fantastic service to schools, but please make sure to check the above with them before booking. If you are unsure don’t hesitate to get in touch with Raptor Aid.