The Rhode Island Foundation’s Program for Animal Welfare awarded Norman Bird Sanctuary an $11,000 grant to further develop the Animal Ambassador care and education program.

The program is designed to directly support the care, feeding, and enrichment of the animals in Norman Bird Sanctuary’s care, including a barred owl, two red-tailed hawks, rabbits, rats, turtles, snakes, amphibians, and a collection of insects and invertebrates. The Animal Ambassadors, many of whom are recognized by name by local children, play a lead role in Norman Bird Sanctuary’s environmental education programs, helping school children and community members of all ages to learn about animal physiology and build awareness of the wildlife native to their local environment.

“Animal Ambassadors have the unique ability to fascinate community members and ignite their compassion for wildlife and conservation issues,” said Natasha Harrison, executive director in a news release. “We’d like to thank the Rhode Island Foundation for their support in fostering this special group of animals that both support and rely on us.”

The NBS education department conducts more than 250 education programs each year including public programs, vacation and summer camp sessions, after-school programs, in-school outreach, and field trips, reaching more than 5,000 learners of all ages. Educational programs that feature the Animal Ambassadors, approximately 90% of all programs, are among the most popular, and highest impact.

The Rhode Island Foundation awarded more than $470,000 in grants to fund 20 animal welfare programs across the state. “The generosity of our donors and the commitment of our partners are expanding humane education, increasing awareness and improving the quality of animal care in Rhode Island,” said Adrian Bonéy, who oversees the R.I.F.’s Program for Animal Welfare.

Norman Bird Sanctuary is a private non-profit wildlife sanctuary and environmental education center, established in 1949 at the bequest of Mabel Norman Cerio, with the mission of preserving and protecting habitats for the benefit of the environment and for the education and enjoyment of the community.