2 May 2012

Kim and I had the pleasure this morning of attending the opening of Cape Town’s first Short-Term Wildlife Care & Rehabilitation Centre at the Good Hope (CoGH) SPCA in Grassy Park, the largest and oldest SPCA in South Africa.

Marjorie Letoaba of the National Lottery BoardAttended by officials of the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), which has largely funded the new Centre, of CapeNature, the SPCA, the media and respected conservationists, the facility was officially opened by Marjorie Letoaba of the National Lottery Board and environmental campaigner, Lewis Pugh.

The 456m² facility was designed by 4th Dimension Studios and built by R+N Master Builders in record time, with funding of R3,993,115 from the NLDTF and a further R620 000 from CoGH) SPCA reserve funds.

Alan Perrins, CEO of the (CoGH) SPCAIn his opening speech, Alan Perrins, CEO of the (CoGH) SPCA, said that the need for the Centre was “noted several years ago following an increase in the number of wild animal/human conflict situations due to urban sprawl resulting in habitat loss and destruction, wild animal exploitation and a growing fascination with exotic pets.”

“Before even approaching the architect to compile sketch plans we trawled the internet to learn of international best practices and took to heart the advice of numerous experts.  The end result which incorporates all of the latter research I am proud to say speaks for itself.

We now have one of the best registered facilities in the world capable of making a positive difference to the lives of just about every wild creature that we are likely to encounter.”

The facility will be marketed as a Centre of Learning Excellence where students embarking on a career in nature conservation will be mentored with regard to the proper care for and safe handling of wild animals.

Lewis Pugh and Black Crow “Often all that the displaced animal needs is somewhere safe, warm and quiet to recover before being released back into the wild,” said Brett Glasby, CoGH SPCA Wildlife Unit supervisor. “For those with injuries such as burns and wounds, or those that are emaciated or dehydrated, we now have the facilities to provide specialist treatment and care. With a commitment o provide 24 hour response 365 days of the year and operating to internationally recognized standards, the facility will be a valuable resource to all who care about the protection and conservation of wildlife.”

During the period April 2010 to March 2011 the CoGH SPCA Wildlife Unit responded to 230 wildllfe rescues involving over 1000 animals. 183 cases of cruelty to wildlife were investigated and 476 human/ wildlife conflict issues were attended to.

As the cost of running the Centre is budgeted at just under R1 million per annum, the support of individuals, foundations and corporate donors is essential.

“Donations of lawn and soil, straw, shade cloth, kitchen items such as a fridge and deepfreeze and other utensils would all be greatly appreciated,” said Brett. The soil and lawn already donated has been used outside the enclosures to prevent dust from blowing into the enclosures. Members of the public can get involved as volunteers to clean the enclosures and to monitor the animals. Brett will be setting up a training course for volunteers in the near future.

The Centre has outside aviaries, aquapens for waterbirds, seals and other mammals, outdoor enclosures for monkeys and baboons and small mammals such as antelope, porcupines, mongoose and tortoises, a quarantine room, an operating theatre, reptile rooms and a kitchen for the preparation of the very varied menus required.

Willow, a honey badger currently being cared for by the SPCA's Wildlife UnitAmongst the ‘residents’ presently in the centre is a beautiful  honey badger named Willow, an orphan from Bredasdorp who has been bottle fed and hand reared for the past 5 months, having arrived at the centre as a handful – literally speaking! Honey badgers arenative to Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent.  As badgers are parented for the first year of their lives, it will be at least a 10 month process to release Willow back into the wild.

We also made our acquaintance with a bearded dragon, a blacklisted species from Australia, which was picked up in Table View. Living on a diet of crickets, mealworm, grated carrots and mice, he requires UVA and UVB lighting so is put out in a special cage into the sun every day. A young puff adder, a Cape cobra and black crow (native to southern Africa – common in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, but largely absent from the Kalahari and Mozambique) complement the menagerie.

Bearded dragon The (CoGH) SPCA Wild life Unit can be called on 021 700 4158/9 or, after hours on 083 526 1604. As the unit operates over a vast area with just two fully equipped emergency vehicles, Brett requests that smaller harmless injured animals be brought to the Centre so that the vehicles are available for call outs to injured large or dangerous animals.

You can help raise funds for the (CoGH) SPCAby entering your mutt or miow in the Mutt and Meow of the Year Online competition. Act soon- entries close on the 21 May. For details see http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/04/spca-mutt-and-meow-of-the-year-online-photo-competition/