Honey, it’s a wild world

ca honey badger2 done INLSA Megan Reid, a trainee inspector at the wildlife unit, with honey badger, Willow

Lauren Manning

STAFF REPORTER

CAPE Town’s biggest animal welfare centre has gone wild – now the SPCA is also treating injured wildlife and exotic pets.

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA in Grassy Park launched the only wildlife care centre in the city yesterday. And the first patients include snakes, a black crow, a bearded dragon, a tortoise and a honey badger.

“There was nothing in Cape Town to meet this need and this will really revolutionise it,” said Brett Glasby, the SPCA Wildlife Unit supervisor.

“It’s not just for wildlife, but also for exotic pets. They will all have a centre to be treated, rehabilitated and stabilised.”

The facility was opened by world-renowned endurance swimmer and environmental activist, Lewis Pugh, as well as the SPCA’s Wildlife Unit Ambassador and Marjorie Letoaba of the National Lotteries Board.

The facility can accommodate about 300 animals and can house a range of species including birds, reptiles and mammals of various sizes. It is also equipped with aqua pens for water birds and mammals, such as seals.

The project became a reality when the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund awarded nearly R4 million to the SPCA. With some additional funding, construction began last September.

Building plans were prepared after consultations with various rehabilitation centres and zoos and meet international standards.

The facility is needed because of an increase to wildlife-related emergencies and the growth of the exotic pet trade over the past decade.

The bearded dragon is at the centre because it is illegal to own them in Cape Town.

Cape Town’s 23 nature reserves, extensive coastline and national park lead to higher risk of human and wildlife encounters.

“We have noted an increase in the number of wild animal incidents and admission and… learnt a lot about what is necessary to ensure their best chances of recovery and rapid, successful repatriation back into the wild,” said Allan Perrins, the chief executive of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.

The new facility, described by Glasby as a “triage room for wildlife”, is better equipped for wildlife than the SPCA’s existing facilities.

Perrins said: “You can imagine what it’s like to put them in with cats and dogs. Their stress levels peak and we end up losing them. Now, we have a nice, quiet area.”

The SPCA will also, apart from continuing to acquire funding, identify sites where the animals can be safely released back into the wild.

But, beyond this, Perrins sees the facility as having a variety of roles.

“It lends itself to so many applications. The obvious benefit is to the animals, but it can also be a centre for learning,” he said.

Glasby adds: “My real excitement comes with the centre as a whole.

“Cape Town is going to be richer for it..”

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