Search for tortoise victims of fire

2016-02-02 06:00
 Three fire-damaged tortoises found in a volunteer search following a recent fire in Scar­borough received treatment and have been released back into nature.

Three fire-damaged tortoises found in a volunteer search following a recent fire in Scar­borough received treatment and have been released back into nature.

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A drive is underway to provide care to tortoises injured in recent fires in Scarborough.

Recently, staff members of the SPCA and Jenman African Safaris volunteered to search for surviving tortoises at the Wild­schutsbrandvlei farm in Scarborough, which borders the Baskloof Nature Reserve.

The Scarborough fire destroyed over 1000 hectares of land.

Ivan Harris, owner of Baskloof Private Fynbos Nature Reserve, says the last fire in the region was eight years ago and that this recent fire came five years too early.

Searching for survivors was an emotional task, says Liz Rampfshaw, project manager at Jenman.

“While it was heartbreaking, we wanted to do our part to play a role, along with the SPCA, to conserve these animals and to return them to the land once they recovered.”

The volunteers managed to find eight tortoises, of which three are still alive and have been released back into the wild.

Five were too badly injured to be rehabilitated, says Belinda Abraham, spokesperson of Cape of Good Hope SPCA.

“Slow-moving tortoises are exceptionally vulnerable to fires and their natural behaviour when threatened would be to retract into their shells. As a result, we often find tortoises that have essentially ‘cooked’ in their shells.

“From the five tortoises admitted to our short-term wildlife unit, two died overnight and three had to be humanely euthanised,” she says.

Wild tortoises should be left in their natural habitat, Abraham advises.

“Uninjured tortoises found in burnt areas can be relocated to the closest plant-rich area. If you find an injured tortoise begin immediate rehydration by placing it in a shallow container of cool water. Either bring the animal to the SPCA or call us to collect it.”

Abraham has also called on Scarborough locals to “keep shallow dishes of water in their gardens for thirsty wild animals who have escaped the fires”.

Of all animals, tortoises are most affected by fire, due to their slowness. The Western Cape is home to eight of South Africa’s 13 tortoise species.

V Contact the SPCA on 021 700 4158 or 083 326 1604 after hours.

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