Comedian Bill Bailey officially opened the new raptor hospital at the International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) on Saturday 5th April 2014 at 2.30pm.
The hospital which has been funded through public donations and a grant from the Forest of Dean Local Action Group caters for injured and unwell wild birds of prey with a view to rehabilitation and release. Bill unveiled the plaque in front of a pleasantly surprised and thoroughly entertained pubic at the ICBP and couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a ‘selfie’ with Suliska the great Grey Owl shortly afterwards.
Bill’s affiliation with the ICBP came after he discovered a Eurasian Eagle Owl in a restaurant while on holiday in Beijing with his family – the owl had been taped up ready to be killed and eaten. Bill purchased the owl and drove out to a place where he could release it. When he returned to the UK, Bill, who is very conservation minded, approached the ICBP to interview Jemima and get some film footage to accompany that taken, of the owl, in Beijing by his son. It was then that he heard of the planned raptor hospital and offered to open it when the time came. The footage from Beijing and the ICBP was included on his Qualmpeddler DVD, released November 2013.
Bill was guest of honour at the International Centre for Birds of Prey near Newent, Glos, where he declared open its new £35,000 hospital for sick and injured birds. After watching a flying display involving a sea-eagle, buzzards, hawks, a peregrine falcon, kites and a burrowing little owl the comedian told a few “owlers” to amuse the audience before struggling to pull away the curtain covering the new hospital sign. The curtain would not come away as Bill tugged repeatedly at the string – but it fell in the end. Bill and his wife Kristin were then given a tour of the the state-of-the art facilities by the centre’s owner, world renowned birds of prey expert Jemima Parry-Jones.
The star of ‘Black Books’, a frequent guest on shows such as QI, then donned gloves to have Suliska the Great Grey Owl sitting on his wrist. He was stunned that despite its size the bird felt so light. And he could not resist getting out his smart phone and taking a selfie of himself with Suliska – trying to look as wide-eyed as the owl. Moving on into the hospital’s nursery and brooding room, Bill was delighted to be able to hold a tiny 11-day old Scops owlet. The new hospital facility, partly funded from a £2.2million grant of Euro cash to the Forest of Dean Action Programme, means the centre can look after three times as many poorly birds as before. Jemima said “We only had room for about six injured birds before, in a very small and poky little room, but now we can accomodate 18 in this wonderful new hospital.” The centre, established in 1967 by Jemima’s father Philip Glasier, takes in up to 100 injured wild birds of prey a year from the general public. Many are successfully treated and released back into the wild. Some are too badly hurt to go back to the wild and become part of the centre’s display stock. ”
The ICBP in Newent, Gloucestershire, is the oldest dedicated birds of prey centre in the world and has been open to the public since 1967. Jemima Parry Jones MBE is the renowned for her conservation work and was awarded her MBE in 1999 for services to bird conservation. There are three flying displays daily whatever the weather, every day from 1st February until 30th November. Free large carpark, cafe, shop, picnic area, play area, extensive grounds, groups and coaches