A RESCUE CENTRE which has been open since the 1960s is celebrating its best year yet after releasing 1,022 animals back into the wild.

For more than half a century, 73-year-old Roger Musselle of Woodingdean has been taking in sick animals for treatment in his converted garage at his home in Down Valley Road, which is fitted with an intensive care unit.

Roger’s Wildlife Rescue has never relied on marketing and he does not advertise but those in search of medical care for local wildlife continue to be able to find him.

He said: “We’ve had a pretty successful year this year, that’s for sure.

“Having the base there for the animals is so important. People seem to know that we’re here through word of mouth.”

Among those saved in the past year year were 758 birds, 31 hedgehogs, 17 foxes and six wood mice alongside a toad, a frog, a dormouse and three slow worms.

Mr Musselle said: “The thing with slow worms is they’re not as common as people think – no British wildlife is common like it used to be.

“They’re on the protected list.

“Every creature you can release makes it worth it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a buzzard who came in with a wing injury or a smaller, more common animal. If you love animals and nature you don’t discriminate.”

Roger’s lifelong love of animals came at an early age when his parents moved from Brighton to Woodingdean in 1949 when he was aged just five.

He said: “There were far fewer houses and they bordered fields so I was able to run around and start learning about wildlife just by being around it.

“I spent my childhood days watching adders and barn owls. By my teens, I was keeping birds.”

Roger’s dream for caring for animals was realised when he opened Roger’s Pet and Garden Centre in Warren Road, Woodingdean, in 1966.

The shop stayed open for 35 years but Roger’s love for rescuing creatures never ceased - and Roger’s Wildlife Rescue lived on.

Even Mr Musselle’s wife of 22 years Fleur has joined in to help out.

Together, the couple tend to approximately 1,700 animals annually.

Roger said: “You do what you can do – a lot of it is up to the animals though.”