In the past two decades the Wildline team have rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 2 000 predatory birds in and around Nelson Mandela Bay – and are showing no signs of slowing down.
Wildline boss Arnold Slabbert and his team yesterday celebrated the 2 000 milestone by releasing 12 rock kestrels back into the wild after an extended rehabilitation period.
“Many of these birds came to us with broken wings,” Slabbert said. “Out of this batch the longest patient was with us for about a year, while others spent about six months. Now they are ready to go out and fend for themselves again.
In the last 20 years Slabbert and his business partner, Allison Cawood, have run Wildline without any financial assistance, keeping the doors open out of their own pockets.
Along with Wildline volunteers Tarryn van Onselen and Samantha Coetzee, they have worked with every predatory bird species in the region.
Some of their “patients” included the massive martial eagle, the tiny sparrow hawk and the rare cuckoo falcon and Russian peregrine.
The majority of injuries they see are broken wings, due to the birds being hit by cars or flying into power lines.
They have also seen many birds shot with air rifles, and in recent years they have also dealt with a lot of poisoned birds due to urban development and the increased use of rodenticides.
Besides their work with birds of prey, hundreds of mammals and thousands of reptiles have passed through the Wildline team’s hands over the years.
“Our goal is to get these animals back into the wild as quickly as possible. These are not pets. These are animals that deserve to be living free,” Slabbert said.
Unfortunately not every story has a happy ending, and Slabbert estimates they operate on a 60% success rate.
“We try to keep track of the birds we release, and it’s really sad when we pick up a bird that has been poisoned or injured and we find one of our rings around its leg.
“That is why we need to raise awareness about the wildlife in our area and get people to be more careful. We need everyone to play their part, and help us keep our wildlife safe,” Slabbert said.