African birds of prey, raptors some endangered some threatened all are welcome, rescued, rehabilitated by falconers and wildlife conservationists Shannon and Ben Hoffman.
Let’s journey with Jessica…
During my recent visit to Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, I had the honor and privilege to visit one of the most remarkable conservation efforts I have seen to date, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary. Driving towards the mountains of my home province, we veered off the highway and followed the signs until we reached the center. On arrival the boma type structures we assumed held the birds revealed very little of the excellent facilitates that we were about to appreciate.
Walking in, we were greeted by the warmest of smiles and were immediately enveloped under the kind and warm wings of the sanctuary staff and Shannon Hoffman, the sanctuary owner. She, along with her husband and partner Ben, developed this sanctuary on the basis of restoring African bird of prey species populations. They would take in injured or incapable birds, rear or treat them, and if they are capable of survival in the world, release them to once again soar the African skies. Birds that are too damaged or influenced by their upbringing to survive in the world are enveloped into the Sanctuary and are put on display or put to work in shows to help educate and enlighten the public to the species and their plight. Ben holds the post of rescue and rehabilitation expert. With his evident and passionate knowledge of birds of prey, it was easy to be infected with such a vivid passion for conservation. Shannon takes up the post of expert falconer and educator at the sanctuary, revealing her passion for birds and the particular relationship she has with her one falcon, Chicken.
What struck me first of all, was how uniquely and authentically tailored each raptor, or raptor pair’s, enclosures were to the type of bird and typical terrain that it would naturally inhabit. This revealed to me the particular care that Shannon, Ben, and the staff took into caring and respecting these creatures and that warmed my heart. Their bird show was something to behold. With a backdrop of a fantastic vista that represented most iconic African scenes, while the odd zebra or resident buck walking through the scene completed the picture. The bird’s performances were absolutely glorious. The thrill of watching them fly and the anticipation of their return struck a sense of awe in all who watched. I couldn’t help but think of how small I was in the greater scheme of things, as the intricacies of the birds’ characters and bodies were explained to us, with the utmost respect.
On meeting and literally being in the same cage as the magnificent bearded vulture drastically humbled me to the work that the Raptor Center does. Shannon is hoping to use the bearded vulture in the breeding facility Nikela handed over our donations for. I was taken by Shannon’s absolute courage and respect shown towards saving this beautiful raptor. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up when I gently handed the check over to Shannon in front of the friendly, yet slightly skittish bird. We all stood there in a mutual understanding of what it meant to be locked up in a witch doctors chicken hutch for your entire life, while acknowledging that Shannon and Ben had given her the chance to rightfully spread her wings.
The African Bird of Prey Sanctuary opened my eyes to the form of selfless conservation efforts that society not only needs to acknowledge and applaud, but to also take into consideration in their own conduct towards our planet. It would be an honor to take a feather out of this center’s cap and I look forward to the next opportunity that I can go back and marvel at their remarkable efforts to restore Africa’s balance.
Thank you so much Jess. Thank you Shannon and Ben for helping us understand these beautiful birds. To assist Shannon with saving the last of the Bearded Vultures consider making a donation… and maybe you can be the next volunteer to deliver a check to them!