/ 2 January 2024

Howick wildlife centre cared for over 1000 animals in 2023

This baby Large-Spotted Genet arrived with eyes still closed, and slowly, with care, grew until its eyes opened. Photo: Supplied

The FreeMe Wildlife foundation took in over a thousand rescued wild animals lastyear.

“FreeMe Wildlife has seen over a thousand sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife come through its doors in 2023. While many of these cases are more common species, there are some unusual admissions that stand out,” said Tammy Caine, the raptor specialist at the Howick-based wildlife rehabilitation centre.

Among the list of firsts, Caine said, FreeMe saw the first Marabou Stork admitted to the centre’s care, as well as other rare animals including a lesser flamingo, lesser honeyguide, Narina Trogon and the endangered secretary bird.

“We have also seen an increase in admissions of African wildcat, and have also admitted a Grant’s golden mole, two striped polecats and a thicktailed bushbaby. Our most challenging reptile admission for the year was an enormous four metre Southern African python,” she said.

She added that while they deal with wild and wondrous animals, the help they receive from the public is astronomical.

“We are grateful to all the members of the public who assisted with rescues and transport, and supported the
organisation through donations and fundraising events.

“We are also immensely grateful to those members of the public who attended talks and presentations, subscribed to our monthly custodian newsletter, and helped spread information and awareness on the work we do with wildlife,” she said.

Caine added that they were not alone in the business of helping animals and work closely with other important
stakeholders and conservation authorities such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the SAPS Stock Theft Unit and various SPCAs, and other conservation organisations.

“There are a number of collaborative projects we were involved in, including the increase in wildlife poaching and
trafficking cases and confiscations that took place through- out the year,” she said.

Poaching has been a prolific factor in their rescue and rehabilitation efforts, Caine said.

“Sadly, there is an increase in the persecution of wildlife in our country, and the illegal wildlife trade is driving many species to extinction.

“It is not just rhinos that are targeted, but many other species where body parts form part of the black market trade in wildlife,” said Caine.

This article was first published by The Witness.