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Success Stories

Black Backed Jackal rescue near Heidelberg

This little female Black Backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) was found next to her dead mother on a road near Heidelberg in October, we have no idea how long she had been there. Liesel du Toit of the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve took care of her over night and we collected her early the next morning.

Dr Melissa Marengo of Bryanston Avian, Exotic and Small Animal Clinic vet examined the poor little animal, emaciated, extremely dehydrated, lots of ticks, worms and definitely in a critical condition. The jackal was treated intensively for all the symptoms and spent the evening with Margi Brocklehurst who nursed her through the night.

Unfortunately she succumbed to her condition in the early hours of the following morning; she was at least warm and comfortable for her final hours.

On post mortem examination, Dr Marengo confirmed her original diagnosis and the animal was also found to have an acute intestinal problem too.

These sad cases are sometimes unavoidable, they help us to understand the stress and strain that our wildlife is under and we hope that we will be able to save many more in the future.

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In June our 2 Large-spotted Genets left for Makalali Game Reserve in Limpopo on their final stage of their rehabilitation and release. They had been in our care for over 4 months.

Last October they were found on the ground below their Palm tree nest by a member of the public in Pretoria. Unfortunately they were raised on the incorrect diet for almost 4 months before they were brought to Free Wildlife. They were admitted in February, and were diagnosed by the Johannesburg Wildlife Vet Dr Karin Lourens with a calcium deficiency and were underweight. If the member of the public had taken them directly to a rehabilitation centre, unnecessary health issues would have been avoided. Their rehabilitation process began with calcium supplements and a natural diet, and they were housed in an outside enclosure with more natural habitat, minimum interference and less stress.
Once at Makalali, they will be housed in a pre release enclosure for a few weeks, where they will be able to acclimatise and see other genets and wild animals, leading to their release.

genet 2Report by; FFW Senior Animal Manager Claudius Sibanda.
A big thanks go to the FreeWildlife volunteers who have made this all possible by keeping our centre running, enabling Claudius to provide the optimum care for these genets. A very big thank you to the Johannesburg Wildlife Vet for your support, advice and facilitating their transport and their final steps into the wild. And finallyŠ thank you Claudius for all of your care, concern and love of these beautiful creatures.

Well done everyone!



A White stork (Ciconia ciconia) was admitted to FFW in January.

We received a call from a member of the public who sent us a photo of a White stork which had joined his chickens and geese on his plot in Midrand. The bird appeared weak and was not eating

FFW sent Senior Animal manager Claudius Sibanda and a volunteer to safely capture and restrain the stork and transport it to the Bryanston Avian, Exotic and Small Animal Clinic for a thorough examination. Dr Jean Davidson found a large and very infected wound under its wing and prescribed a course of antibiotics.
It was cared for in one of our brand new 5 star enclosures and was subsequently joined by another 2 rescued White storks.

Thank you Dr Jean Davidson for your expertise and compassion


Claudius Sibanda, FFW Senior Animal Manager, expertly tube fed the rescued White stork with a gentle touch.
The Stork was tube fed until it was able to stand and feed itself.

This stork plus the two others were in the care of Friends of Free Wildlife for 5 weeks until they were healthy enough to be released.

Claudius, with the help of our team of volunteers, saw to the care of the storks feeding, watering and cleaning out their enclosure every day.

Grateful thanks to the dedication of Claudius and our volunteers!


On Monday 13th February, after a lengthy rehabilitation process, the white storks were released near Suikerbosrand.
After talking to Mark Anderson of Birdlife SA, we also asked the advice of Daniel Koen,manager of Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve and they both agreed that Suikerbosrand was a good area for them.

Daniel suggested we go to the Platkop waste site where the stork congregate in huge numbers, exactly what we found, hundreds of storks, sacred ibis and herons, a great place for them to integrate.

The storks were caught and secured by Claudius Sibanda, FFW Animal Manager and experienced FFW volunteer, Laurie Moult and after tucking them up in the back of Margi's car, they were off on the last leg of their long journey to freedom!

Margi and Anelle Human, a new FFW volunteer, found a really good area for the release, a small embankment overlooking a dam with lots of storks around.

Releases are the reward for many hours spent nursing and nurturing our wildlife, what a privilege it was to witness these beautiful birds join a flock once more.


Rescue and immediate release – the best option.

Brand new FFW Volunteers Elsa and Gavin Mack immediately responded to a call for assistance.
Thank you for such a great rescue and release, writing this account, and the pics and video clip.
We wish you many happy years at FFW :)

Elsa writes...
On Sunday morning, 27 November, I saw on the FFW Whatsapp group that Michelle needed help with catching, removing and releasing a pair of Egyptian Geese and their 10 goslings inside a residential complex. My husband and I decided the go. When we arrived at unit no 23 in a large complex in Paulshof, Johannesburg, we were told that the geese family had moved to another garden two units down.
Gavin went to the street outside the complex and I started herding the goslings into a corner with a long strip of cardboard. Not an easy job at all, they are as fast as lightning.

Needless to say the parents put up a racket and alerted the whole complex of our presence.
A couple from the complex arrived to help us. While the husband kept an eye on the parents, his wife and I caught all the babies and passed them, one by one, over the wall through the fence to Gavin.
We were both stung several times by the electric fence.

Gavin put all the goslings in a cat carrier and left if on the ground where the parents could fly over be with them. By then we also had a crowd of security guards from the neighbouring complexes watching our every move.

I then carried the babies in the carrier with the parents following close behind, while Gavin went ahead to find the path and a suitable release spot into the nearby stream.

It all went well and I waved them goodbye with a short prayer.



Doing education during a rescue

We received a call via Judy Davidson (Wildlife in Crisis) about an owl which had been trapped in a factory on the West Rand for several days.
Willem van Zyl of Jannock Plastics indicated that the owl had been in the factory area for about 6 days and all attempts to entice it out had failed – it was also reported that the staff working in the factory were not at all happy about the presence of this bird of “evil spirits”.
Armed with a cage, hand net and a roll of bird netting I arrived on site to find a Spotted Eagle Owl (Bubo africanus) very high up in the roof girders.
With the aid of a fork lift and a wooden pallet on which to stand I was raised up, but the owl took flight as I approached it.
After a couple of circuits it perched in a similar position elsewhere in the factory. This game of “up & down” on the fork lift went on for approximately an hour until the owl flew into an upper level of the factory.
During this operation my cell phone was ringing in my pocket but for obvious reasons I could not answer the call.
Eventually, with the assistance of Willem and members of his staff, we managed to restrain the owl unharmed in the bird netting.
I released the bird within walking distance of the factory and it flew off to take perch in a grove of large trees nearby.
Willem and his staff were extremely grateful for the success of this operation.

I took the opportunity to give a crash education lecture to the “captive staff “ concerning misguided superstitions as well as the very important assets of these magnificent birds.


FFW Swift and Swallow rehabber Karin Squirrel expertly tending to rescued White rumped swifts (Apus caffer), Little swifts (Apus affinis) and an African palm swift (Cypsiurus parvus).
Karin describes the special food she prepares for the swifts as a 'shopping list' of ingredients which she has developed over 6 years of rehabilitating.
Some of the swifts in the picture have been in Karin's care for the past month and have to be fed every hour from sunrise to sunset.
When they are very young, it is every half hour. Swifts only feed on the wing (while flying) and therefore need to be hand fed until release.
This is an enormous task which Karin does with love and gentle care for months on end! Karin says the birds are extremely sensitive and only like one person to handle them.
They are very particular regarding sounds, smells and way their food is prepared!
Karin knows the swifts are ready for release when their wings reach a certain length, the tips of their wings cross on their back and they begin to 'vibrate', almost like little electric shocks pulsing through their bodies.
They also become very irritable and stop eating! All of the swifts in these pics were released this morning at the Amphitheatre at Kloofendal Nature Reserve.
Karin releases them early in the day as there are lots of swifts and bugs in the air and they have the whole day to acclimatise and feed before sunset.
Thank you Karin on behalf of all of us at FFW for the time and dedication you put into rearing these fragile and very special little birds.
Thank you too for the advice you give to the public! Gauteng's Swift population and FFW are blessed to have you!


Pre release Ringing of our rehabilitated birds!

Report by bird ringer Dael Stojakovic after ringing birds (a Diederik cuckoo in the attached pic) at FFW this morning.

"SAFRING is a part of the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. They keep records of all birds ringed in the country.
Ringing (banding in the USA) is done by trained people both academics and Citizen Scientists.

When a bird is ringed it is given a unique number which can be used to identify it ,if it is retrapped in this country, or in the case of migrants in another area.
The information can be used in Bird guides, scientific studies and in studying the biology of various species.
Birds are usually trapped in mist nets, then processed and released.
With birds in a Rehab facility like FFW it's a way of following their progress once they are released.
If the bird happens to be recaptured then the rehabilitation center can get feedback as to the progress and outcome of all their hard work."

Thank you Dael for taking the time to ring some of the special birds in our care!


FFW have many friends and associations established over the years. These include a network of vets (including specialists) who offer their vital services mainly on a pro-bono basis. This support makes our ethos of Rescue - Rehabilitate - Release (RRR) possible.
One of our long standing associations have been with the JHB Animal Eye Hospital. Dr. Antony Goodhead has recently kindly assisted in the examination of a Cape Serotine Bat ( Eptesicus capensis) with suspected vision problems and also a Speckled Mousebird (Colius striatus) with a severe eye infection.
Many thanks to Dr. Antony and the staff of the JHB Animal Eye Clinic for their ongoing support – it is highly appreciated.
Article and pics by FFW Volunteer Murray Macgregor