'How do I keep my dog safe from the sky?'

2015-05-13 21:00
Buttercup. (Supplied)

Buttercup. (Supplied)

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Durban - The death of Buttercup the Maltese poodle has put bird lovers and pet lovers at odds in Durban’s western suburbs, as fingers are pointed at a burgeoning population of eagles, who prey on pet cats and small canines.

But, offering some form of consolation, is Belle, who survived an attack.

One resident from Durban’s leafy Waterfall, Vivianne Sneddon, said that her beloved Buttercup had died after being attacked by an eagle last month.

“It was terrible. I left her and the other dogs alone for five minutes. When I came back Chester [a boerboel] and Belle [another Maltese] were sitting quietly together. Buttercup was lying bleeding under the tree.”

She said that the talons from the eagle had pierced the right side of Buttercup, who died in her arms before she could get the dog to the vet.

'These are my kids'

But the attack was not the first, Sneddon claimed. Belle had also been attacked by an eagle and Sneddon is convinced it was the same bird. Fortunately, Belle survived after being treated at the Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital, with the talon marks on her tiny body telling the story.

“Now I just keep Belle inside. I don’t have kids, these are my kids. All I am asking is how do I keep my dog safe from the sky?”


Corrina van Niekerk, a former resident of Waterfall, said that an eagle took their pet kitten and also attacked her Jack Russell.

“The Jack Russell managed to fight it off. I didn’t see the eagle,” she said. But the vet who treated the dog told her it was an eagle. Two weeks later the Jack Russell was killed by another threat, a wild cat.

“The only reason I know it was a wild cat, was because the garden service chased it,” she said.

Van Niekerk, who said they had moved from Waterfall to be closer to her husband’s work, bore no ill feelings towards the birds.

“It’s our fault for building in the area. It was their home first. I would certainly never advocate for moving the eagles. They are magnificent creatures,” she said.

She said that when she and her husband moved into the area some years back, they were excited at seeing the birds.

“It never occurred to us that they would see our pets as food,” she said. 

Dr Dina Rautenbach, a vet at the Hillcrest Veterinary Clinic, said she believed their clinic at most treated two animals a year that had been attacked by birds of prey.

She said it was usually young kittens or very small dogs, with the biggest being a Jack Russell.


High density of crowned eagles

Ben Hoffman, a founder of Raptor Rescue, said there were 52 breeding pairs of crowned eagles in the greater Durban area.

“It is one of the highest densities of the birds in South Africa. The reality is that if you relocate one of these birds, another will take its place,” he said.

The primary food of the crowned eagle, according to Hoffman, is the hadeda ibis. He said that studies in the area had revealed that less than 1% of the raptors' food were domestic animals.

“Very often people move to these leafy suburbs to get close to nature. As soon as nature is there, we want it removed,” he said.

Read more on:    durban  |  animals

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