STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) — After being closed for much of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia Southern University now welcomes visitors back to its wildlife center.
The Center for Wildlife Education and Lamar Q Ball, Jr. Raptor Center, both located at the heart of the Statesboro campus, reopened on Oct. 5 after having remained shut since March.
During that time, workers were able to refurbish many parts of the 18-acre area and also finish a new addition that helps visitors better connect with nature.
“We seized the opportunity to do the necessary work to achieve the end goal, which was always to bring people into the waterfowl pond,” said Steve Hein, executive director for the Center for Wildlife Education, a role he’s served in since the center’s inception in 1991.
At the entrance to the waterfowl pond is a new observation deck, where visitors can walk closer and observe Georgia’s largest collection of waterfowl.
The waterfowl pond contains 125 ducks from 16 different species that are all native to the Peach State.
“Probably the only place in the state where you can find such a collection is here on the campus of Georgia Southern University,” Hein told WSAV NOW.
While the center has reopened to the public, employees say they’re implementing precautions in light of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
“Like most of us have grown accustomed to, we do ask that we wear a mask,” Hein said.
“Anybody who visits the wildlife center needs to be mindful that we’re still in a pandemic and conduct themselves accordingly, and we trust people to do that,” he added.
The pandemic has also forced the center to pause some of its program offerings for the time being.
“Unfortunately right now, we are holding off on our daily programs, we’re sort of waiting and seeing how things go before we can reimplement those,” said Wayne Paulk, the education program coordinator at the Center for Wildlife Education.
“We’ll probably end up having those outside under our pavilion where we can definitely keep everybody spread out more,” Paulk told WSAV NOW.
He says the center is hosting field trips on a case-by-case basis.
“Once [people] reach out to me and inquire about a field trip, I’ll talk with our fellow staff and see if we are able to accommodate the group when they get here, so things are a little bit slower,” Paulk said, adding that they are open to smaller groups that make it easier for them to enforce their safety measures.