The Eagle Flies
Article and Photos by Kathleen Walls
|Freedom flies across the Georgia
Southern University stadium
|Steve Hein with Freedom
It all began in 1992 when Georgia Southern University in Statesboro
Georgia went in search of a eagle for a mascot. Steve Hein, Director
of the university's Wildlife Center, stated "When we decided to get
an eagle and not just display it but wrap it in education, I don't
think anybody had any notion of what was to follow."
What followed by 1997 was the Wildlife
Education Center and the Lamar Q Ball, Jr. Raptor Center. Georgia
Southern acquired Freedom, their mascot, and he now lives at the
As is always the case, acquiring Freedom was
not a quick or easy task. Freedom is a male Southern Bald Eagle who
was born in a next in Maitland Florida. He fell from his nest when
he was just a few weeks old. By the time he was found he was
suffering from an infection and had a misshapen beak, probably
caused by the fall. He was just a little ball of fluffy feathers and
it was unsure if he would survive.
Rescuers brought him to the Audubon Center
for Birds of Prey in
Maitland. There he was nursed carefully. He did recover from
the infection but the beak injury was irreversible so he could not
be released back into the wild. Finally in 2004, Georgia Southern
University received permission to acquired this young eagle
which they named Freedom.
|How's this for up close and personal
with an owl?
||A caretaker displays a red tailed
I visited this 17 acres of diverse habitats
and species that includes an amphitheater and an indoor classroom
that comprise the Wildlife Education Center.
Along with meeting Freedom up close, I
witnessed flyovers by other native and exotic bird species and
then Steve asked for two volunteers to hold another
wildlife species. On finding out that the creature she would handle
was a Madagascar Cockroach, the female volunteer relinquished the
field to fearless Doc. Lawrence, the male volunteer. Can’t say I
I was one of the next set of four volunteers,
all female this time. Our project was to hold a huge Burmese python
named Monty. I want to report that all of us served bravely. He is a
magnificent specimen and feeling his muscles ripple as he moved in
our hands was a thrill.
|Doc Lawrence and that roach
||Holding on to that python
Along with Freedom, Monte, and that
cockroach, the Wildlife Education Center is home to many other
species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and a few mamals.
This spectacular natural environment provides
much more than an entertaining days at the zoo. It is a classroom in
the wild, a safe habitat for wildlife and a learning experience for
preschoolers through adults. To bring its environmental conservation
message to folks outside of Statesboro, the Center goes on the road
with a sampling of its wildlife.
So go fly–drive, hike, bike or however you
choose– to Georgia Southern University and its Wildlife Education
For more info: