The Cape of Good Hope Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has held an operation and got the court involved after it discovered the grave conditions of animals at Eagle Encounters at Spier Wine Farm outside Stellenbosch.
Inspectors of the SPCA confiscated six birds of prey, three snakes, and an Egyptian goose from the facility, it said on Tuesday.
Eagle Encounters advertises itself as “a wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education, and eco-tourism centre” on its website.
“Eagle Encounters, a facility known for its captive bird exhibitions, also advertises a 'rehabilitation' service for specific injured or displaced wild birds and holds a licence in terms of the Performing Animals Protection Act 24 of 1935 (“the PAPA”). This licence grants a police officer, who by definition of the PAPA is an authorised SPCA Inspector, the right, inter alia, to inspect such facilities at any reasonable time. Denying entry to such an officer is a criminal offence.
“After being denied access to conduct an inspection, our inspectors laid criminal charges of obstruction against one of the owners of Eagle Encounters at the Stellenbosch SAPS in terms of Section 5 of the PAPA. A conviction could lead to an R20,000 fine or five years imprisonment,” Cape of Good Hope SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abraham said.
The SPCA obtained a court order in terms of the Animal Protect Act from the Stellenbosch Magistrate’s Court, granting inspectors access to the premises for a thorough inspection.
Upon arrival, staff from Eagle Encounters again tried to obstruct its inspectors from exercising their statutory powers.
“Our inspectors discovered a shed where five birds were being concealed and kept inside crates, covered with towels. Two birds, including a Booted Eagle and a Spotted Eagle Owl, had fractured wings, with one showing a severe maggot-infested wound.
“These birds had been under the facility’s care for two and three days, respectively, without veterinary care. No drinking water was provided to any of these birds.
“Additionally, three snakes were also found concealed in plastic containers behind a washing machine inside the shed, also without water. The shed was filled with hazardous tools and open paint containers, indicating a hazardous environment.
“Despite Eagle Encounters’ claims on their website that “severely injured or poisoned birds are immediately referred to one of our recognised veterinarians, who specialise in treating raptors“, evidence suggests that animals have been suffering in their care for days without the promised immediate attention as advertised," said Cape of Good Hope SPCA Chief Inspector Jaco Pieterse.
Pieterse said the organisation had previously warned the facility about its hygiene standards, housing conditions, and tethering of birds.
He said the facility will now face further criminal charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962.
“Additionally, a complaint will also be lodged with CapeNature, the permitting authority, due to suspected breaches of their permit. Coincidentally, the facility also denied access to a CapeNature official.
“During the inspection, the facility’s veterinarian arrived. While acknowledging the inadequate conditions, he tried justifying the facility’s actions.
“The veterinarian also became verbally aggressive, attempting to defeat the administration of justice and intimidate the consulted wildlife rehabilitation veterinarian, even threatening to report her to the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC),” Pieterse said.
Dr Karin Lourens of the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital said that in any reputable wildlife rehabilitation facility, the well-being of animals remains paramount.
“This entails ensuring their environment is clean, stress-free, and equipped with essentials like species-specific enclosures and proper perches. Regardless of the size of their temporary housing, animals must always have continuous access to food, water, and daylight.
“Particularly for creatures like snakes, provisions like hiding places and water are non-negotiable. It’s imperative to recognise that many animals entering rehabilitation are not just physically compromised, but also traumatised from capture and potential dehydration.
“Ultimately, rehabilitation centres owe it to both the animals and the public who entrust them with these vulnerable creatures to uphold these standards,” Dr Lourens said.
The Cape of Good Hope SPCA said it will not tolerate the obstruction of its inspectors.
In the execution of their statutory powers, they are committed to ensuring that no animal endures harm from those entrusted with their protection.