Owl chicks saved, set free

Arnold Slabbert from Wildline with some of the 12 owls that have been re-habilitated and moved to the  NMMU Campus before being released into the wild. Photo: Mike Holmes
Arnold Slabbert from Wildline with some of the 12 owls that have been re-habilitated and moved to the NMMU Campus before being released into the wild. Photo: Mike Holmes

AFTER being kept in an enclosure for up to four months, a group of owls could not wait to fly the coop when they were released at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) nature reserve this week.

In October last year, four spotted eagle owl chicks were rescued after their parents were poisoned. The Urban Raptor Project’s Arnold Slabbert rescued and rehabilitated them at his home until they were ready for release.

Since then they have been joined by eight more spotted eagle owls, and together all 12 were taken to the hack station, an open cage that allows them to come and go as they please, at NMMU.

“At first we will still put out some food for them, but soon enough they will start hunting for themselves and start moving away from the hack station.

“They will go looking for areas that are not yet populated by owls, where they can build nests and fend for themselves,” said Slabbert as the 12 owls, perched inside the hack station, watched him intently with their yellow eyes.

Slabbert picked up a few scrapes and cuts from the fierce birds during their rehabilitation.

“The longest a bird has kept coming back to the station for food was six months, but most leave long before that. It depends on each individual owl,” he said.

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