HelpWildlife.co.uk was founded in 2005 to help members of the public who find wildlife casualties with advice and a directory of wildlife rescuers.
The site started as little more than a single page listing rescues arranged by county. Really, founder Sarah expected just to use it herself to point people posting in internet forums towards their local rescues. But word about the site spread and visitor numbers grew well beyond our expectations. And so, after a few years, we began to develop the site further.
In 2011 the site got a new look and we introduced a separate listing page for each rescue, enabling us to expand the information available to include links to social media, for example. We also added the ability for visitors to leave feedback about the listings via a comment facility, helping us to ensure the details remained correct.
In 2012 we added a searchable map to the site. This meant, rather than having to go to a static list of rescues arranged by county, visitors could enter their location and see nearby results plotted on a map. This saved people who lived near county borders having to check multiple lists.
In 2015 the site finally got some professional attention. It was moved on to WordPress and given a much more professional look. Moving to WordPress gave us the ability to add plugins and really expand the usability of the site.
In 2019 we added a plugin called GeoDirectory which meant the rescue listings were now a proper, searchable directory. Best of all, representatives from the rescues could now ‘claim’ the listing and maintain it themselves, helping to ensure that they were as accurate as possible. Listings could also be ‘suspended’ when the rescue was full or taking a break, helping to direct visitors to the best sources of help.
In 2020 we split the directory into three tiers. This meant we could steer visitors first towards the largest, best resourced rescues, helping to prevent smaller rescues becoming overwhelmed. The third, private tier of the directory meant individual rescuers could sign up with us without needing to make their information publicly visible.
The start of the pandemic in 2020 brought about further change. There was a great deal of uncertainty amongst the public about whether rescuing wildlife and taking it to rescue was allowed under the rules. For many rescues it wasn’t safe for them to have their usual volunteers in to their small premises to help. For us, it meant stopping our own hands-on rescue work, giving us more time to focus on HelpWildlife.co.uk. So, we opened a Facebook group through which we offered one to one advice and support to those who had found wildlife casualties. Later that year, frustrated with the limitations of Facebook and the difficulties of providing advice on a public forum, as well as wanting to ensure advice was available to those not on Facebook as well, we set up our email HelpDesk.
In 2021 we added a plugin which meant our library of advice articles could become a proper, searchable knowledge base. We were also able to add a feedback facility to the articles which means we can quickly make changes if visitors find articles unclear or incomplete.
In 2022 we split the directory element of the site into a separate subdomain, allowing us to undertake a redesign of the listings.
We’ve long passed any funds we didn’t need for maintaining the site on to wildlife rescue but, in 2023, we took this one step further and launched our £1 for Wildlife campaign. Through this we can now make more regular, and larger donations to wildlife rescues and also encourage them to keep their directory listings updated which, in turn, benefits site visitors and the animals they find.
And we go into 2024 with another, long overdue, refresh of the site’s look which is what you’re now viewing. We’ve redesigned our logo, refreshed all the advice posters, and added an automated assistant which guides visitors to relevant advice articles and Frequently Asked Questions.
So a lot has changed since 2005. Now, the site is used by around 300,000 people a year and visitors are referred here by organisations such as the RSPCA, RSPB, and St Tiggywinkles. What hasn’t changed is our ethos – we believe that all wild animals in the UK have equal value and right to life regardless of size, shape, numbers, or legal status, and our work will always reflect that. We know that UK wildlife rescue can be community with varying views about topics such as proper rehab techniques and whether permanent captivity is ever an option, for example. We aim to remain neutral on such issues and simply provide information relevant to the public without prejudice. We firmly believe that wildlife is best served by understanding and cooperation and that things are rarely as simple as pure right and wrong.
Although there are other sites which list animal rescues we think HelpWildlife.co.uk is unique and the most comprehensive, reliable, and up to date list of UK wildlife rescues available. We only list rescues which can help with wildlife and we proactively look for new rescues to add. We check every listing at least every six months to make sure the contact information remains up to date although, in practice, between rescues being able to edit their own listings, feedback left by visitors, and the feedback we get via our helpdesk, our site is updated pretty quickly if a rescue changes their contact information, closes down, or even if they’re full.
Our volunteers work constantly to try and ensure the directory is up to date and easy to use. We are always open to feedback and the involvement of anyone with relevant knowledge and experience. We’d love to hear from you!
Helpwildlife.co.uk is part of the Starlight Trust, a small HMRC registered charity working to help animals and the people who care about them.