The Crumlin wildlife rescue centre that was faced with closure is to continue caring for stricken animals after generous members of the public provided a lifeline.
Talnotry Avian Care Trust (TACT) came under threat after owner Patricia Nevines made the decision to retire after passing her 80th birthday.
She had been fearful that the volunteer-run centre, which is currently caring for around 150 animals, could face closure unless it was able to realise an estimated £1,500 a week to continue the work she started 30 years ago.
Mrs Nevines says many people called to offer help after the centre's plight was highlighted in the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year and more than £5,000 was raised at a high-profile gala ball at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Belfast a fortnight ago.
She said the gala ball, which was supported by musical star Peter Corry and compered by Cool FM DJ Pete Snodden, raised £5,273 to continue the work of TACT.
"That is fantastic," Mrs Nevines said.
"I want to thank everybody who was involved in organising the ball and in coming along and supporting the work of TACT. £5,273 is a lot of money!"
After Mrs Nevines retires at the end of June, TACT will be run by two people, she said.
"One will be responsible for caring for the wildlife and doing the educational work and the other will be responsible for the money," she said.
"There will also be a committee and I will still be a trustee."
TACT is run by volunteers who care for and rehabilitate sick, injured and abandoned wild birds and mammals, with the aim of returning them to the wild if possible.
Recently the Belfast Telegraph highlighted how TACT has been inundated this spring with baby animals and birds that have been injured or become separated from their parents. Among the 150 animals being cared for at the Crumlin rescue centre are tiny newborn chicks, young swans and baby foxes.
TACT operates a policy whereby no animals are humanely destroyed if they cannot be released or rehomed, so any animals that cannot be returned to the wild are looked after at the centre for the rest of their natural lives.
"There is nowhere else that does this work. We will give everything a chance whenever we can," Mrs Nevines said. "We only have an animal put down if its quality of life is totally gone."
Earlier this year, the charity rehabilitated and returned a number of buzzards to the wild after they had been poisoned, restored a lost falcon to its owner and took in a number of fox cubs that had become separated from their mothers. Thousands of animals have been brought to TACT over the years by members of the public, farmers, other animal trusts and vets.
The centre can be contacted at 028 9442 2900 or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STORY SO FAR
Patricia Nevines founded TACT in 1978 when she was asked to take in 26 pigeons. At the time she and her husband were visiting a pigeon show in Lisburn every month and she found herself developing flu-like symptoms every time she returned. She eventually learned that she had contracted bird fanciers' lung and it would be incurable. She decided that if there was no cure, she might as well keep going and in 1996 she formed the centre into a charitable trust because she was worried about what would happen if she died.