Rescue. Rehabilitate. Release. See below gallery for case details of selected cases.
Barn owlets (Tyto alba).
Young owls initially spend time on the ground while their protective parents feed them at night. Their developmental process continues until they’re managing to co-ordinate flight and get up off the ground. While they’re on the ground, they practise hunting by stalking and pouncing on insects such as moths and crickets. When they are incorrectly picked up and brought in, our first response is to return them to the garden/area they were found in. Much better for them to continue being raised by the parents, unless they’re injured. If you have any queries or questions regarding owlets in your garden, please phone FreeMe (011 807 6993) or EcoSolutions (011 701 7326)
Most areas do have owls. The type of species depends on which area you’re in. Try and persuade the neighbours not to use rodenticides. It is well understood that rat poison also kills owls as well as dogs, cats and even children who ingest it.
Rehabilitation: Cape clawless otter (Aonyx capensis).
FreeMe receives a number of indigenous animals that have been confiscated, rescued or orphaned and in need of specialized care before they may be released to live a wild life. This otter was confiscated because it is illegal to keep indigenous wildlife as pets. Its not a question of educating people, its a question of the law. So many birds, mammals and reptiles end up in a really bad way due to being badly kept by ignorant people. These animals go into a very specific rehabilitation process which allows them to develop their natural instincts in their own time. This is in preperation for eventual release in about a year’s time. By that stage he will know exactly how to be a wild otter!
Sadly, selling exotic wildlife species requires no keeping permit which would be issued by the provincial conservation department. The only recourse with pet-shops selling exotic species is if there is a welfare issue concerning food, stress, water, space etc. It is illegal to sell indigenous species this way without permits. We believe that no wildlife should be pets as we see too many end up abandoned, diseased or psychotic because their nutritional, instinctual and physical needs cannot be met. People tend to buy these animals on a whim without researching to see what the cute baby will grow into.
Cape Serotine Bat (Eptisecus capensis).
Cape Serotine Bats are one of the most common bat species occurring in Johannesburg; they have adapted well to urban living, roosting in roofs and wall crevices. We saw a post by Bat World showing a splint made from a sliver of a feather shaft. Penny tried this on a Cape serotine (Eptisecus capensis), carefully gluing it to the fractured bone and……it worked!
Successful healing of bone fractures depends on several factors i.e. exact fracture site, closed or open fracture site, infection present and other considerations. If the fracture is in a ‘good’ place i.e. conducive to splinting/strapping/pinning then we go ahead and try. If not, then to prevent further pain and suffering, humane euthanasia is recommended. Should we be able to stabilize the fracture, we hand-feed the bat and depending on the specific species, we can teach them to feed themselves too.
This particular method appealed to us because of its simplicity. We have a few other methods of stabilizing bat wing fractures but because the wings are so delicate and the membrane vulnerable to being damaged, the simpler the method the better. Thanks again to Bat World Sanctuary for sharing this on their face-book page.
Rehabilitate and Release: Lesser bushbaby (Lesser galago).
All the SPCA branches work closely with us when they receive wildlife cases. They seek telephonic advice in order to make informed decisions about capture, handling or general behaviour before bringing the case through to us. We are so grateful for their assistance. The NSPCA will be able to assist with all welfare queries. You can call them during office hours on 011 907 3590
When deciding whether or not to rescue; a general guideline especially concerning babies: watch and wait long enough to ensure that they were actually abandoned. If you are sure, then carefully pop them into a quiet, dark box and research until you find a facility which would rehabilitate them correctly. You may choose to spend a while asking, in detail, what the rehabilitation process would entail until you are satisfied that the animal will be well cared for! Don’t be afraid to ask for progress updates!
Rescue of Indigenous Wildlife: South African Hedgehog (Atelerix frontalis).
This particular hedgehog is an indigenous species which is protected by law and not allowed to be kept as a pet. We have seen indigenous and exotic hedgehog species in the same shocking condition because the novelty has worn off or the owners haven’t bothered to research the animal’s needs. Unfortunately, exotic species are not protected by law in SA
In South Africa we have many people keeping our indigenous wildlife as pets which is illegal. We also have an exotic pet trade here which means that species from outside of South Africa are bought and sold through pet shops and the internet. This is obviously a huge welfare concern as high numbers of reptiles, birds and mammals are kept in appalling conditions by people who have not researched the dietary or keeping requirements. Once the novelty wears off, the animal really suffers. The issues which affect wildlife in Africa are very different to those Europe but unfortunately, the huge global trade in wild animals affects us all.
Data Collection and ringing for research purposes: Eurasian Hobby Falcon.
All raptors are susceptible to a flagellate protozoa infection called trichomoniasis. This is caused by predating on infected dove or pigeons: columbids feed and drink in flocks which makes transmission of trichomoniasis easy, especially when the weather is hot and wet. We test all doves and pigeons that come into the centre for it and have found tiny hatchlings to be positive, from being fed by their mothers . Treatment with specific antibiotics is usually successful providing it is started in time.
The summer months see a spike in trichomoniasis cases presenting mostly in spotted eagle owls (Bubo africanus). They develop this protozoal infection by consuming infected doves and pigeons. They look and feel terrible with infected sinuses, nares and eyes. There is usually a mucous plug in their palate and often an abcess on the jawbone too. As these birds are grounded, flies lay their eggs amongst the facial feathers.Treatment includes antibiotics and careful cleaning and flushing to remove maggots from these cavities. The recovery rate is surprisingly high, about 7 out of 10 birds admitted. Complete recovery occurs between 6-8weeks