Frequently facing insurmountable odds do a few success make wildlife conservation worthwhile for rehabbers, breeders and others involved?
A successful executive friend once said, “We need only win 51% of the time to make it a majority.”
In the world of wildlife conservation, rescue/rehab, and bringing critically endangered species back from the brink of extinction this same edict must surely also apply.
African Bird of Prey Sanctuary
“Walk with me.” A staff member is out sick and Shannon is personally feeding and checking on every bird in the Sanctuary. What a treat for us to go behind the scenes!
We see the amazing African Fish Eagle, who apparently doesn’t like women, so I keep my distance. Sadly we learn of Maverick’s (Goshawk) death and watch how a blind Barn Owl has adapted to his surroundings including flying. Shannon moves from enclosure to enclosure giving each bird a visual once over, a few gentle words interspersed with catching us up on their wellbeing. How she keeps up with the challenges of running the Bird of Prey Sanctuary and daily educational flight demonstrations is remarkable.
A busload of disinterested fifteen year old boys made up the audience that morning, probably one of the toughest age groups to engage. It took some time (and energy she says pushing her hat back and wiping her brow) to draw in the ringleader. However, by the end she felt she’d really connected to at least five… not bad odds, especially as one came up afterwards genuinely captivated. It’s moments like this when a few success make wildlife conservation worthwhile!
Their center was broken into just the week before. The robbers made off with two lap tops and other electronic equipment. Right after that a hail storm broke windows and destroyed the newly planted vegetable garden. Despite the never ending challenges of running a wildlife rescue/rehab center Roz is energized and proudly shows off what’s been added since our last visit… the almost completed boma for large buck and the new enclosure for the servals. Six of these wild cats were successfully rehabilitated and released in various protected areas over the past months and all are thriving.
These beautiful felines remain on the Threatened or Endangered Species (TOPS) list so the rescue/rehab work done by FreeMe KZN is crucial and significant. One of the two servals at the center now was raised by humans and is too tame for her own good, however, with the help of her companion Roz hopes to ‘rewild’ her. Fortunately if this preferred plan does not work she is slotted for a breeding program where she will run free with other servals in a good sized monitored and protected area.
Despite the challenges, it’s those releases that make it all worthwhile says Roz with a faraway look in her eyes.
Did you know that unlike birds and other species that are hand raised servals do not have to be taught how to find food for themselves? Apparently that predator instinct is innate.
Karkloof Wattle Crane Conservancy
It’s getting late and the weather is cold, but there’s still a car in the parking lot. Twane a passionate young wildlife conservationist is happy to stay over and talk.
The large crane with a wattle at the throat was included as one of the five most endangered birds in South Africa in 1984. About 17 years ago a group of farmers, foresters and landowners interested in protecting the biodiversity in Karkloof created a conservancy to establish a safe place for the Wattle Crane. This out-of-the-box conservation notion faced much opposition as other farmers and landowners continued to poison cranes and destroy their habitat.
Over the years those who made up the conservancy stood their ground and eventually secured funding and now boast educational programs and two bird hides. This all led to the recent opening of the Wattle Crane Recovery (breeding) Program. Twane proudly tells us that they had their first hatchlings. It’s successes like these that make wildlife conservation worthwhile!
(We plan to learn more about this project and how the surrogate mothers dress up in Wattle Crane costumes!)
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