AU Raptor Center receives customized van for educational birds

AUBURN – Auburn University’s Southeastern Raptor Center has received a specially built van to transport its birds of prey, such as War Eagle VII, to educational programs across the Southeast.

“It’s the ultimate vehicle for our educational shows,” said center director Jamie Bellah. “We had the inside modified to transport the birds safely and in comfort, and designed the exterior to promote wildlife conservation.”

The university purchased the new Dodge Sprinter van through a gift from south Alabama donors who wish to remain anonymous. It was given as a part of AU’s “It Begins at Auburn” campaign that raised more than $105 million in the past year and more than $430 million to date.

“The donors are very excited about the opportunity to help the Southeastern Raptor Center,” said Hank Galbreath, AU major gifts development officer. “The family involved with the generous gift wanted to ensure that the raptor center staff would have a safe, functional vehicle that enhanced the mission of education and conservation as the raptors are transported throughout the region.”

The van has a custom-built interior with a high ceiling and a special rack system that allows for easy transport and access of the birds’ carriers. A unique paint-and-decal scheme on the exterior shows eagles against a blue sky background. AU Industrial Design student Aaron Wierenga designed the artwork, and graduate student Julie Carter led the efforts to purchase the van and to have the van professionally modified.

“It will serve as a scenic backdrop for our outdoor presentations and will advertise our mission as we travel from town to town,” said Education Specialist Marianne Murphy, who presents more than 150 raptor programs per year with colleague Roy Crowe.

The Southeastern Raptor Center’s mission is to promote wildlife conservation with the educational use of birds of prey, to rehabilitate ill and injured raptors, and to collaborate in raptor research efforts. All birds used in educational programs are non-releasable due to prior injuries or human imprinting. Any bird capable of surviving in the wild must be released, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which permits Auburn to house the birds.

Information about arranging an educational program is available by calling the raptor center at (334) 844-6943.

(Contributed by Charles Martin.)

Contact: Charles Martin, (334) 844-9999, (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999, (