Sep 19, 2008

When To Help or When Not To Help...

There are times that people rescue animals with the intension of helping the animal, but in the end it does not always end that way.

Take this Verreauxs’ Eagle or Black eagle for an example. He was found by farmers on the ground trying to get through a fence on a game farm near Louis Trichardt. It was not able to fly and was moving by running and walking on the ground. It did not seem to have any injuries other than being thin and weak, thus not able to fly. The farmers once home placed it in a cage that was in fact far too small for its size. During the 2 months that it was kept in this enclosure its condition picked up quite well but due to the size of the enclosure the bird broke all his primary feathers.

Unfortunately these feathers don’t repair themselves once they have been broken and are only replaced when they molt their feathers which is done 1 or 2 at a time over one year. This is a slow process and we needed to speed things up. This meant that we had to stimulate the new growth and actually pull the feathers out. This had to be done in stages as it is quite painful to the bird. But at least the feathers could re-grow without hindrance.

From the blotched feather coat we estimate that it is in its 2nd year. Under normal circumstances around ¾’s of the Birds of Prey don’t even reach 1 year old, only around 5% of them reach adulthood at about 7-8 years old. So in fact this bird would have fallen in the “unfit” group of the Verreauxs’ eagle population. .

Cases like this are not uncommon, Large Birds of Prey are often “rescued” and put into an environment that is not suitable for them, resulting in injury. The rescuers mean well but the lack of knowledge and experience can have disastrous effects on the birds.

The future for this bird is unsure at the moment seeing that the chances of him being released back into the wild are slight. Although it will be able to hunt well for itself the problem will be finding the right territory which it will only be able to occupy when he is adult. If it is released into the wrong territory such as one where there is already a territorial pair of Verreauxs Eagles, you will find the biggest risk factor will be, being killed by a territorial pair within a short while after its release.

This eagle’s new career may include being an educational ambassador here at our centre and on our educational talks off site along side our Cheetahs and Bateleur Eagle.  One can only wait and see what will be its destiny; one can only hope for it to be released some where, where it can roam the skies where eagles belong.

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