At the start of 2020 we were amazingly donated money to be specifically used to renovate our clinic! We cannot thank ex volunteer Bjorn Persson and his wife enough for enabling us to create a better, more hygienic and efficient workspace to continue treating and saving South Africa’s wildlife!
With all of the building work happening in the clinic at the moment we have had to relocate all of our patients down to our staff accommodation…this baby season we have been inundated with all of the smaller creatures…so luckily everything fits into carry boxes making the move easier! In the past month we have come to care for and raise 4 orphaned lesser bush babies, 2 dormice, 2 bats, 3 bronze mannequins, 1 white eye, 1 purple crested lourie and are rehabbing 1 palm swift who has lost his secondary feathers. All these smaller patients are requiring intensive care with some being fed every hour. The 4 little bushbabies, 2 dormice and 2 bats are thriving in our care and now that they are stable, they have moved into the care of our long-term volunteers. Each of the birds are growing up very quickly, developing their adult feathers and bright plumage! Once they are old enough, they will all be released.
Along with a busy few months of admittances we have had numerous releases also! Following our huge vulture release in late January we had a further vulture release of 3 white backed vultures. Two of our lesser bushbaby orphans from last year were ready to go and we soft released them in the area. Soft releases always prove to be very successful… the two bushbabies were living in a large cage in our staff garden and when the day came to release them, we simply opened the door and allowed them to come out in their own time. Since that day the cage remains in the same spot with the door open and we place food in there each evening, this allows them to return to a place of safety and shelter with a supply of food until they establish themselves in the environment. We also released an alpine swift that was found on the floor. Swifts do not have the leg strength to take off from the ground as they would never land on the ground, they are either airborne or hanging from a palm or on the side of a ledge for example. Swifts have pamprodactyl feet… this means that all 4 toes face forwards with none backwards. We took the swift and gently threw him up into the air and watched as he took off over the trees.
The most recent and special release has been the mother and baby honey badger that we came to care for towards the end of last year. We were called to a nearby farm after being asked to humanely remove a caracal from the land, so we set about setting the trap in order to capture and relocate the cat. However, after a few days of bating the trap to everybody’s surprise we had instead captured a honey badger! After arriving at the trap site, we noticed that this female honey badger in fact had swollen teats, meaning she must have offspring somewhere! Wonderfully the owner of the farm allowed us to release her back onto the farm so that we wouldn’t separate her from baby and arranged that we come back later down the line when baby is bigger and relocate them then. The original trap was set once more and once again we were all surprised when this time, we had caught baby honey badger!! We used the baby as a lure to attract mum, honey badgers are incredible mothers which meant she immediately attended to baby calling. Thankfully mum was captured the next day and both badgers were brought to the rehab where they were put back together.
It was decided that mum and baby would remain at the rehab temporarily until baby was older when they would then be relocated. Honey badger babies stay with their mum for minimum 1.5 years to 2 years old and with this youngster being only about 4 months old she is much too young to be without her mum. It was a huge worry that if we released them straight away the two would separate, and then ultimately baby would be defenceless.
It has now been 5 months and baby has grown immensely and is a great hunter! We decided it was time to return mum and baby back to the wild! If the scenario arose where baby would separate from mum, we were confident she would be successful, although we were hopeful that they would remain together.
So, we planned their release and the day came when it was time to place mum and baby into a soft release enclosure that we would place in a secluded and safe spot on the reserve that they would be calling home. We left them there for 4 days, they were fed each day by the reserve owner and after some days acclimatising to their new environment it was time to let them go.
Students and staff all sat deadly quiet as the cage was opened and we watched the two incredibly clever creatures slowly emerge! It was a wonderful release as we witnessed them explore their new environment with growing confidence and watch as eventually mum scurried off with baby following behind to freedom. We chose to also soft release these badgers meaning that the cage they stayed in for acclimatisation will stay in the same location for about a week. This provides a known place of safety and shelter until they establish themselves in the environment.