Getting ready to go wild

2017-03-22 12:36
Volunteer Kirsten Steytler tries to get a four-week-old Kudu calf to its feet to feed it at FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre outside Howick yesterday. The tiny calf is one of three creatures that were recently rescued in the Ashburton area. LEFT: An adult White Stork recovers at FreeMe after she was found with a huge gash under her wing.Her tag shows that she was last recorded in Poland in June last year. RIGHT: Steytler feeds a reedbuck calf.

Volunteer Kirsten Steytler tries to get a four-week-old Kudu calf to its feet to feed it at FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre outside Howick yesterday. The tiny calf is one of three creatures that were recently rescued in the Ashburton area. LEFT: An adult White Stork recovers at FreeMe after she was found with a huge gash under her wing.Her tag shows that she was last recorded in Poland in June last year. RIGHT: Steytler feeds a reedbuck calf. (Ian Carbut)

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Two orphaned antelope of different species and an injured migrant European White Stork recently found shelter at Howick’s FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

FreeMe centre manager Wade Whitehead said the trio were doing very well and were all in a healthy state. Whitehead said the adult White Stork was found on the side of a road in Pietermaritzburg and was taken to the SPCA from where it was transferred to FreeMe on March 4.

“The bird had a very bad gash under one leg. When it was brought in it couldn’t move at all.

“We don’t know exactly where it was found or what caused the injury, but it is more than likely it hit into something like a power line,” said Whitehead.

The stork was taken to the Howick Umgeni Veterinary Clinic, where it received 15 stitches under its wing and was given antibiotics.

“We had to tube feed the bird. It couldn’t stand or fly and every half an hour daily we did physiotherapy to help it stretch its legs and wings.

“It was a lot of work, but after a week it was able to sit on its haunches. We kept doing physiotherapy and three days later the bird could walk and open its wings,” said Whitehead.

Whitehead said the White Stork’s tag revealed that the bird was last recorded in Poland in June last year.

“Between then and now the bird has flown 9 153 km. These birds are so amazing and that is why it is so important to us to get it well and going again,” he said.

Whitehead said the White Stork will be released soon and he is positive the bird will find a flock it can join up with as the Storks are still around feeding in the area.

The other rescued animal likely to tug at people’s heartstrings is a tiny Kudu calf that was brought to FreeMe on March 13.

The calf, now about four weeks old, was brought to the centre by Keith Brown, chairperson of the Lower Mpushini Valley Conservancy in Ashburton.

Brown said the little Kudu was found lying under a bush by a young man in the Ashburton area.

“I don’t know if the baby was hidden by its mother or abandoned as it is normal for the mothers to hide their calves and leave them alone while they go to look for food and water,” said Brown.

He said the man who found the Kudu had brought it to him and he took it to FreeMe.

Brown advised any member of the public coming across such a small animal to rather leave it and call someone to assess the situation before removing it from the area.

Brown said there are many wildlife species roaming the Ashburton area and he and other community members dedicate their time and resources to ensure that the animals are safe and free.

“We have had a spate of poaching in the area so we are currently investing in a full-time night security system. We as the community also conduct random patrols to ensure that there are no poachers lurking around in the area,” said Brown.

Whitehead said the four-week-old Kudu calf is healthy and growing very well at the FreeMe Centre. It will have to remain there for a few months before it can be released back into the wild.

Keeping the Kudu calf company currently is a two-month-old Common Reedbuck, which was rescued in the Underburg area in February after its mother was believed to have been killed by poachers.

Whitehead said the FreeMe volunteers maintain minimal human contact with the animals to ensure that they stay wild.

“We don’t want the public to get the impression that these animals are kept as pets looking for hugs and cuddles. They are not pets. We make sure when they get out of here that they are absolutely wild to have the best chance of survival,” said Whitehead.

Whitehead said there is a long process to ensure that a site is safe before animals are released there. The animals are then still closely monitored to ensure they are adapting to their environment.

“The rehabilitation only begins when the animal is released and goes all the way to when the animal has bred succcessfully in the wild.”

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mntambo said the poaching of all species remains a major concern in the province, even though most attention is focused of on the poaching of the bigger animals like rhinos, elephants and lions.

“We condemn any form of poaching. If we do not stop killing the animals they will become extinct and our future generations will not get to see these beautiful and amazing creatures.”


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