Raptor Rescue

Rescue, Rehabilitate, Release

Our Mission

  • Rescue
  • Rehabilitate
  • Release
  • Research


Rescue:

We have a network in place that ensures that it is easy to contact us in the event that a bird of prey is in difficulty. Our emergency hotline ensures that we can be contacted at any time. 

Working together with other rehabilitation centers, veterinary clinics, SPCA's, conservancy groups, the falconry club, Ezemvelo Kzn-Wildlife and community action centers, we are able to get assistance to birds of prey in trouble just about anywhere within our province in as short a space of time as possible. 

In the best case scenario, attending a call out is simply a matter of catching the bird, checking it over for signs of damage or illness, and then releasing it again straight away. Those birds that are not in a fit or stable enough condition to be released will be caught, boxed and taken through to the clinic for further treatment.


Rehabilitate:

Our primary aim is to do all we can to ensure a bird can be returned to the wild.

When we receive a bird at the clinic, an admission form is filled out, and the bird is given a case number. This number is the means whereby we can trace the history of the bird from admission to outcome. Our first priority when a bird is admitted is to establish its state of health, and administer first aid treatment if necessary to stabilize its condition. All of the work done on the birds in the clinic is done in the sterile environment of the treatment room.

Our next step is to take the bird to our vet. Here x-rays are done to determine if there are any broken bones or abnormalities present in the internal organs of the bird. Broken bones are pinned, operations are performed, blood tests are done and medicines administered. This is also where the decision is made as to whether a severely injured bird with irreparable damage should be euthanized.

Once the bird has undergone treatment at the vet, we return it to the clinic where it is settled into a treatment box or room for the duration of its convalescence. 

For the orphans, we have an incubator for the tiny chicks, and an insulated heating pad for the bigger chicks.

Each of the treatment rooms has a ceramic heater mounted on the wall to keep the patients warm in colder weather. The treatment boxes themselves are solid boxes that let in air and light, but minimize stress or disruption to the birds. 

Cleaning is done every morning by sliding a partition into the box to separate the bird from the cleaner. Feeding and medicating is done once a day in the afternoon, unless otherwise prescribed.

Once a bird has completed its treatment phase and has recovered sufficiently, it is moved to an outdoor recovery enclosure.

There are various recovery enclosures available depending on the size and species of the bird. 

There are several small, medium and large skylight seclusion pens for raptors. These pens have solid slat walls, a partially covered roof, and the rest of the roof has netting on. The solid sides of the pen means that the birds are not disturbed, while the open netting section of the roof means they get all the light and air necessary.

Food and fresh water are given daily, and pens are cleaned after a bird is sent for release and before the next bird takes up residence.

There is also a 20 meter owl flight tunnel and a 75 meter flight tunnel for big birds such as eagles and vultures. It is very important that the birds have enough space available for them to regain flight fitness prior to release. 

For the species that need absolute top fitness for flying pursuit of prey, such as falcons and hawks, there are experienced falconers and austringers on hand who will take over the flight and hunting fitness training necessary for these top performers to be at their peak before they are released. The age old tradition of Falconry (flying birds of prey to hunt with) often goes hand in hand with rehabilitation and conservation of bird of prey species, and to this end we are fortunate enough to have the assistance of dedicated members of the South African Falconry Association (http://safalconry.org/


Release:

For younger birds of prey, or those that have had a lengthy stay in the clinic, 'soft releases' are planned. This process involves the bird being settled into a temporary enclosure in its new home environment for a period of several weeks prior to release. It will be supplementary fed during this time, and post release, until it becomes self-sufficient. 

Adult birds of prey, and those that have short stays in the clinic, are often 'hard released'. This is when the bird can be taken straight back to where it was found and be released back into its familiar home territory. Adult birds often have a mate and chicks, so it is important that they get back to their territory as soon as possible. 

Each bird is weighed, measured, and fitted with a SAFRING metal identity ring prior to release. If necessary further blood and feather samples are collected for DNA analysis. All the data collected is uploaded to an international database which allows for these bio-metrics to be used for research. 

Where possible, and especially with rare and endangered species, GPS transmitters are fitted onto the birds to track them post release. This monitoring allows for early detection and intervention if there is a problem with the bird. It also allows for the collection of important movement data for research purposes.


Research:

Raptor Rescue has always been actively involved in bird of prey research. We work in close collaboration with the University of Kwazulu-Natal, assisting students with their bird of prey fieldwork, as well as providing training opportunities at the clinic for both local and international students to prepare them for handling birds of prey and collecting data. 

To support Raptor Rescue's expanding involvement in the field of bird of prey research, education and advocacy, the Non-profit Organisation, Predatory Bird Projects (163-459 NPO), was established in 2015.

The Taueber Management Trust has made available Fountainhill Estate near Wartburg, Kwazulu-Natal, as a research base that will allow our team to facilitate various training and educational workshops that will enable students, conservationists, animal welfare workers and other interested parties to engage in field work based hands-on training with a wide diversity of wild birds of prey found on site.