Jean Thorpe has been caring for sick and injured wildlife at her home in Norton near Malton for more than 30 years and she has done so almost entirely at her own expense.
Despite the fact that Jean typically looks after around 500 wild birds and animals each year, and received an MBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours list for her voluntary work, she has never sought any form of funding.
Up until now, the only donations she has received to help run her Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation charity have come from well-wishers in the form of feed and bedding, gestures which she says are greatly appreciated.
However, all that’s about to change after one of Jean’s supporters convinced her to create a page on the fundraising website Go Fund Me, www.gofundme.com. Last week, she set herself the modest goal of raising £500 and she has been totally overwhelmed by the fantastic response since. Jean’s target was surpassed in just a couple of days and in less than a week the total had reach more than £1,200.
She explained: “I put a picture on Twitter of a kestrel with shotgun wounds that I’m currently caring for and it went from there. Someone asked if I had a funding page and, when I said no, they recommended I try Go Fund Me. It has been amazing; we raised £750 literally overnight.
“I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable about asking for money, so it’s not something I have ever done before. I would like to thank all who have donated. People have left some wonderful comments and kind words regarding the work I do with wildlife casualties.
“I tend to work alone caring for wild things, but I have the support and encouragement of family and friends. It’s uplifting to know that others feel the same about our wonderful wildlife.”
Jean previously worked at Askham Bryan College in York but she gave up her job so that she could devote all her time to caring for wildlife. It is a choice that sees her regularly travelling across Yorkshire and beyond to respond to sightings and reports of stricken creatures.
Each season brings different issues, but at any one time Jean has a wide variety of birds and animals in her care, all of which are made room for in her own home and garden. She’s equipped to deal with wildlife of all shapes and sizes, and even has an intensive care unit for wildlife in need of emergency care.
Over the years Jean has reared, cared for and released pretty much every species of British wildlife. As a member of the Badger Trust, she regularly looks after badgers that have been injured on the roads or are victims of wildlife crime, as well as appearing as an expert witness in court cases against those who persecute them.
Jean is one of only a handful of Raptor Rescue Rehabilitators across the county, and works closely with the police, the RSPB and other organisations in the battle against the unlawful persecution of birds of prey.
In 2014 alone, Jean cared for some 99 birds of prey, 54 of which were successfully released back to their territories.
In the last week, she has successfully released a tawny owl back into the wild and has found herself tube feeding an underweight barn owl found sitting by the roadside. The kestrel that first triggered the hugely successful fundraising campaign has also been taken under her wing.
Jean said: “The little kestrel continues to fair well and I hope he goes on to lead a wild life.
“Shooting any wild bird of prey is illegal but, sadly, it’s all too common. I cared for a buzzard recently that had lost a leg in an illegal fen trap. It was found in Sledmere in a terrible state.”
As Country Week went to press, more than 70 people had donated a total of £1,275 to Jean’s charity online, but the figure was still rising by the day.
Anyone who would like to make a donation to Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation should visit www.gofundme.com/ldjuu8