Dear valued CROW supporters

As the year draws to a close, most businesses will be getting ready to close shop and take a much-needed break.   Please note that CROW will be open 7 days a week including all public holidays from 7.00 am to 5.00pm with emergency after-hours from 5.00 pm to 8.00 pm. If you find any wildlife – orphaned, injured or displaced – please contact our offices on 031 462-1127 or on our after- hours emergency number 083 212-5281.

As most of you are aware this was my second year at CROW and despite the financial strain we have been under due to COVID 19, we have never turned an animal away nor have we made any compromise in terms of expense when it comes to treating our wildlife patients. CROW has managed to carry on business as usual throughout the lockdown 7 days a week from 7:00 to 20:00, for which I give full credit to our highly dedicated and passionate team of staff and volunteers who give their all to CROW each and every day. Special thanks go to our clinic nurses who, during baby season wake up at night on the hour every hour to feed the orphaned babies in their care. Our baby birds take around 50 minutes to feed, with a 10-minute break only to start the whole process over again for 12 hours of the day. I would like to thank the team who have become extended family over the last two years.  We have had our ups and downs, highs and lows but at the end of the day we pull through and pull together for the sake of the animals in our care.  The only way to do great work is to love what you do, and this stands true for our team here at CROW.

In 2020 we said good bye to a few staff members who moved onto the next chapter in their lives and welcomed Zoe Dougal, Harriot Brill and Alex Kogl into our family. We are all saddened with the loss of our previous volunteer co-ordinator and Fundraising Manager this year. Our thoughts will be with their family and friends over this festive season.

Over the past 12 months CROW has admitted 3386 injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife of which 1076 animals were rescued during our 881 rescues this year across the province. As per our motto, the best cage is an empty cage and all the animals which have recovered and been rehabilitated will soon be released back into the wild where they belong. This is the most rewarding part of what we do and so far in 2020 we have released 1108 animals back into the wild.

Over the course of the year there are many rescues that stand out and each clinic member will have their own special memories. Two that stand out for me are reptile related.

In early June we received a call from Theo the owner of one of our release sites in Albert Falls. He had received a very skinny and emaciated Southern African Python that needed our help. We drove through and collected the python and on arrival at the Centre we were shocked that she was still alive. She measured just under 4 meters but only weighed 12.45 kg, a snake this size should weigh around 25 to 30 kg. We suspect she laid a late clutch of eggs and as pythons incubate their eggs for 60 days, by the time she had hatched her young, food was scarce, and she became too weak to hunt. She had two layers of unshed skin and scale rot under her belly. We gave her a couple of days to settle in and then tube fed her Hills AD as well as a parasite flush and electrolytes. We continued with the Hills AD for four more feeds as she was refusing whole prey. We managed to get the two old layers of shedding off and treated the scale rot which is now fully healed. On the 29th of June she finally took her first frozen thawed jumbo rat. Since then she has been feeding well on a variety of frozen thawed rodents but still has a little time to go before  she is up to weight and ready to be released back into the area where she was found.

The other ended on a more sombre note. On the 1st of December I received a call for a Black Mamba rescue from a member of the public who had spotted the snake in her garden. Usually we refer black mamba call outs to one of the snake catches in the area (lists can be found on the African Snake Bite Institute website or app).  As I had not caught one in over 10 years, as a reptile handler the general rule is not to handle a highly venomous snake if you are not 100% confident. I was confident all the way up to Green Mambas and Forest Cobras but wanted a refresher before going out on my own for a black mamba. I referred her to another snake catcher in the area, but she called back saying she did not get hold of him and the snake was injured. I packed my hook stick, grab stick and bucket and arrived on the scene. The lady who called in told me that she had managed to get hold of another snake catcher Shaun and he was on his way. I went down to the bottom of the property and the snake was very alert. We had a good few minutes staring into each other’s eyes while we waited for Shaun to arrive. Shaun met me and I got the tub ready while he grabbed the Mamba about 10 cm behind the head with his grab stick in order to secure the snake. I then secured the head with my grab stick and gently tried to unwind her body from the fence, it was at this point I saw the extent of the injuries. The neighbour had been cutting his grass with a brush cutter and had accidently connected with the mamba. The blade had severed the body cavity and cut open the intestine. Towards the tail it had cut into the ovaries exposing an egg. We gently lowered the snake into the bucket, secured the lid and shot back to the clinic in order to ease the snakes suffering. A big thank you to Shaun for his assistance in the catch and to James from Croc World for coming through to neck the snake so that we could safely euthanize.

For those of you who follow our Facebook page you will be aware of the shooting of the Crowned Eagle in Queensburgh this year. After a reward of R5000 was started by Ian Du Randt from Compass Medical Waste Services, many more donated toward the fund and we managed to raise R35 500 of which R24 000 was offered as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprit and the balance would be used for investigation and legal fees. Very good information came in and we do have a suspect whom I would say with almost pure certainty committed the crime. EKZN Wildlife have been investigating the case. The reward is still there for anyone who can provide physical evidence or an eyewitness account which will lead to the arrest and conviction of the suspect.

We also witnessed a very heart-warming story this year when a young boy Selo, rescued an orphaned grey duiker whose mother was killed by hunting dogs. The elders of his community advised him that he should put it back in the bush where he found it but he refused and marched on home with it where he spoke with his neighbour who got in touch with us. We collected the young duiker later named Layla and placed her in the care of our Clinic Nurse Zoe who will be working with her through the rehabilitation program until she is ready for release.

It has been a tough year in our current economic climate, with expendable income far less during a recession and corporates being understandably more likely to support people than wildlife. COVID 19 has had a massive impact on CROW as we said goodbye to our last international volunteer a week before lockdown and the program which covers about 50% of our overheads was closed. This year we have been knocking on doors and for everyone who has opened and welcomed us in, we thank you. Your support is keeping our doors open and giving lifesaving treatment to the wildlife of KZN, so that future generations will be able to enjoy the privilege of seeing wildlife in the wild and of course keeping the environmental circle of life going.

In 2020 we have once again retained our NSPCA accreditation, grown our 40-year relationship with EKZN Wildlife, built new relationships and partnerships and cemented existing ones. We remain South Africa’s longest serving wildlife rehabilitation centre and are a proud member of the IWRC. CROW received our TOPS Marine species permits in 2020.  Only CROW and Sea World are able to deal with these species in Kwa Zulu Natal.

Thanks to the 2020 Compass Cares Calendar Campaign we were able build a brand new adult vervet monkey enclosure which will house a troop that we have built up for the last year of their rehabilitation program before their release onto a protected area. A very big thank you to Compass Medical Waste Services and all our sponsors for making this possible. Corruseal Group, Koogan Plastics, VM Consulting, Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys, Cap Capital, Premier Scale Services, Setzkorn Health & Wealth, TrenTyre, Leigh Insurance, North Coast Plastics cc, Key Trucks, MG Packaging, Prince’s Grant Golf Club, Burble, SERCO Truck Bodies & Trailers, Republic Lifestyle. Compendium Insurance Brokers and RoGa Plastics.

Without our dedicated volunteers CROW we would not be able to carry out the work we do – some of the jobs are less than glamorous but our volunteers always get the job done. We would usually have an average of 6 international volunteers at any given time but due to COVID this dropped to 0. I would like to say a special thank you to all the local volunteers who came to our aid this year for all the hard work you have put in, your time and dedication to CROW. Thank you to our Lockdown Volunteer team for giving us 5 days a week of your time during alert level 1 and 2. Gail Richards, Adal Skimmings, Cassidy Manthey, Caren Hill, Izzy Dobie, Hugh Dobie, and Erick Fourie Shutte. I would also like to give mention to those local volunteers who have been with us for 6 months or more Kristin Noel, Holly Ambrose, Gerdar Heydenrych, Vivian Attwood, Innocent Ngubane, Christine Gunter and Mekayla Govender.

I would also like to say a big thank you to Sanele Madlala (Maintenance Staff), Siboniso Mthiyane (Animal Keeper) and Pleasure Nene (Animal Keeper) for staying on site and working through Alert Level 1. Your commitment to the animals we serve is highly admirable.

2020 also marked CROW’s 40th anniversary and we had planned a big celebratory gala dinner for August which had to be cancelled. We will be rescheduling this to 2021 so keep an eye out on our website and social media if you would like to book a table.

At this time of year, most families are busy with the final preparations for the annual holiday or if you live at the coast, most likely getting ready for the flood of family members coming to visit during the festive season. It is a time to relax and unwind, forget the stresses of the past year and spend much needed time with family and friends. All of us at CROW would like to thank each and every one of you for your support and wish you all a merry festive season and everything of the best for the New Year. For those of you who will be traveling, we wish you a safe journey.

Please spare a thought for our wildlife over new year and discourage friends and family from using explosive fireworks when the clock strikes 12:00.

If you would like to support CROW why not purchase one of our beautiful 2021 wildlife calendars by emailing info@crowkzn.co.za or visit our website to find out other ways to give. www.crowkzn.co.za/how-to-help

Season’s greetings from us all.

Clint Halkett-Siddall

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