Caring citizens rescue bobcats, deer, pelicans, herons, gopher tortoises and many other species of native animals and drop them off at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples for treatment on a daily basis. Wildly passionate about treating and nurturing animals with the goal of returning them to their natural habitats, the staff and volunteers at the Conservancy have long managed to provide the highest level of care and treatment in outdated, cramped quarters.

Having witnessed the challenges and the influx of wildlife brought to the Conservancy, Sharon and Dolph von Arx, and other donors to the “Saving Southwest Florida” capital campaign, came to the rescue. Past chairman of the Conservancy board, Dolph and his wife Sharon donated $1.5 million to provide the lead gift to fund the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

The region’s largest wildlife facility, the 5,000-square-foot von Arx Wildlife Hospital will provide the essential room, tools and resources for the Conservancy wildlife team to treat and save a diverse species of wildlife.

The hospital includes separate recovery areas for mammals, reptiles and birds, an animal nursery, and new operating and X-ray rooms. The von Arx Wildlife Hospital also features a new education center, the Sapakie Classroom, where guests can attend special wildlife programs and watch behind-the-scenes treatment via closed circuit television.

During a ribbon-cutting celebration held in April to mark the anticipated opening of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida welcomed donors, volunteers and state, city and local officials to tour the new facility. The lead donors and the hospital’s namesakes Dolph and Sharon von Arx led the ceremony by cutting ribbon with surgical scissors to illustrate the commitment of the Conservancy and von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff and volunteers to the care and rehabilitation of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in Southwest Florida.

“Dolph and I were compelled to establish the new Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy because of the organization’s dual role in treating animals and educating the community about the importance of protecting wildlife,” said Sharon von Arx. “With the opening of the new hospital, the Conservancy staff and volunteers now have the adequate space and resources to enhance the care for native wildlife.” 

One of several new buildings as part of the Conservancy Nature Center renovation, the von Arx Wildlife Hospital represents the organization’s commitment to sustainable building and operation practices.

“From the beginning, we envisioned a wildlife hospital and Nature Center at the Conservancy that would utilize technologies and building practices that reflect the organization’s mission of protecting our land, our water and our wildlife,” said Dolph von Arx. “Critical to this effort has been our partnership with Johnson Controls, a global leader in delivering solutions that increase energy efficiency in buildings. The company is integrating energy systems across the Nature Center to reduce costs and ensure optimal performance. By instituting innovative, sustainable building practices such as geothermal solutions, solar panels and LED lighting, the von Arx Wildlife Hospital sets the standard for green construction and design.”

During the event, Andrew McElwaine, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida announced a new corporate partnership with Arthrex, a leading provider of surgical products and services for orthopedic care. Arthrex will partner with the Conservancy by providing surgical products that can be used to help injured wildlife. 

Other major donors helping to fund the new wildlife clinic include Barbara W. Moore, Sidney and Nancy Sapakie, Fred and Sue Schulte, Deki Stephenson, Edward and Susan Yawney and one anonymous donor. Additional support was provided by Dr. Robert Schultheis, and Chuck and Jean Zboril. The total cost of the new hospital is $2.1 million.

“The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is a significant enhancement to the Conservancy Nature Center, enabling us to provide the most advanced care in a state-of-the-art facility to increase their chances of being released into the wild,” says McElwaine. “Made possible through the generous lead gift of Dolph and Sharon von Arx, as well as support from other major donors, the new facility greatly expands our ability to care for sick and injured wildlife as well as to provide an enhanced educational experience for visitors.”

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital receives no government funding for operating expenses and relies on support from individuals. The new von Arx Wildlife Hospital still needs essential equipment for the care and recovery of animals, including animal cages, intensive care units, exam tables, utility carts, scales, televisions, refrigerators, office equipment and much more. For a complete list of equipment needs and to find out how you can help, call 239-403-4205.

Located in Naples at 1450 Merrihue Dr. off of Goodlette-Frank Road and14th Avenue North, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region with a mission to protect the region’s water, land and wildlife. For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 239-262-0304 or visit www.conservancy.org. For questions or to report injured wildlife, please call 239-262-2273 (CARE.)