Free Me KZN rehabilitation centre desperate for lifeline

2016-06-27 12:53
Free Me KZN director Dave Groth and team manager Wade Whitehead hold up two South African hedgehogs outside Free Me’s wildlife rehabilitation centre in Howick.

Free Me KZN director Dave Groth and team manager Wade Whitehead hold up two South African hedgehogs outside Free Me’s wildlife rehabilitation centre in Howick. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - With over 400 different species brought to Free Me Wildlife Rehabilitation KZN from June last year, scores of animals are at risk should the centre close.

Free Me KZN is appealing to businesses and the public to help fund the struggling centre as the staff work tirelessly to save and rehabilitate hundreds of wild animals, including protected and endangered species.

The public benefit organisation started in 2005, working from Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa’s (Wessa) offices in Howick under the guidance of the Gauteng Free Me.

Free Me KZN director Dave Groth said that with only one other registered wildlife rehabilitation centre in the province, Crow (Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife), there was a gap for wildlife rehabilitation in the Midlands.

“In 2007, we, by mutual agreement, left from under Wessa’s wing and moved into our own centre,” said Groth.

The building was sponsored by a local developer Rob Taylor, with the organisation relying completely on financial and material donations from the public.

“Free Me carries out the duties of the public in protecting wildlife,” he said.

“Free Me KZN has a vision of being the best wildlife rehabilitation centre in the country, but at the moment, that dream has been compromised due to funding.”

Groth said the centre sometimes receives 100 callouts in a month and up to 30 a day, with staff working around the clock to provide the orphaned and injured wildlife with the best care.

“We deal with many endangered and red data species and if Free Me did not exist they would be left to die on the road side.

“Helping to rehabilitate the wildlife that comes in is a process. We are responsible for them from the time we collect them until they have gone back into the wild and are successfully breeding.”

Groth said all the Free Me staff were passionate and dedicated to protecting and saving wildlife.

“Sometimes we get to see the animals growing up, and when you look at them, it’s difficult to realise that if they had not come here, their future would not exist.”

Groth appealed to businesses and the public to donate where possible to keep Free Me up and running for the injured and orphaned wildlife that needed them.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  animals

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