Student Stories: Wildlife major helps animals soar again

She may not have her own show on the Discovery Channel, but Penn State student Blanca Lopez de Juan Abad is doing her part to save wild animals.

The Caracas, Venezuela, native interned last year at the Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Asheboro, N.C.

"We accepted any sick, orphaned or injured wildlife that people found," she said. "Sometimes we would go out and rescue animals if we got a call. We just tried to rehabilitate them and reintroduce them into the wild."

Lopez de Juan Abad, a wildlife and fisheries science major who will be a junior in the fall, has had a passion for animals for as long as she can remember. She cites watching nature shows on Animal Planet as a huge influence on her decision to go into the field.

"Growing up, I really enjoyed watching the documentaries -- you know the ones -- with Steve Irwin out in the field, stuff like that," she said. "My dream is to get to Africa and work in rehabilitation with more exotic species."

The Valerie H. Schindler Rehabilitation Center, a partner with the North Carolina Zoo, didn't offer the exotic species Lopez de Juan Abad hopes to work with in the future, but it did provide her with an early glimpse into the world of wildlife. At the center, she worked primarily with songbirds, possums, squirrels, turtles and snakes.

As an intern, she worked with veterinarians from the North Carolina Zoo and with volunteers to improve habitats, feed animals according to their proper diets and treat minor injuries such as broken bones.

"One time, I got to release a red-shouldered hawk after assisting in its physical exam," she recalled. "It was amazing -- the hawk is such a majestic animal.

"When I saw it fly away, that was really powerful for me. I was proud because it wasn't just an eastern cottontail or something like that -- it was a raptor!"

"My passion has always been animals -- I think that they're such an important part of our ecosystem," she said.

Whether she goes on to work at an African reserve or stays in the United States to help out the local wildlife, Lopez de Juan Abad's passion makes it clear that animals in her care will be in good hands.

Learn more about the wildlife and fisheries science major.
 

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Last Updated June 26, 2013