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After a lengthy period of treatment to one of its eyes at FreeMe, a secretarybird has successfully been released back into the wild thanks to Lukas Marima who rescued the raptor in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria on the 24th of March.

Marima, who found the bird which had been fitted with a tracking unit, turned the bird over to the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). Due to the contact details listed on the tracking device, Marima was able to call the EWT to urgently attend to the bird of prey.

The secretarybird being examined.
The secretarybird being examined.

The tracking unit was fitted to the bird on a nest in the vicinity of Nylsvley, Limpopo on the 1st of December 2014. After leaving the nest, it wandered a distance of 96km over a period of five months before it ended up in Soshanguve where it was rescued.

The iconic secretarybird is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its image can be found on the coat of arms of South Africa. The EWT’s Birds of Prey Programme Manager, Andre Botha collected the bird from FreeMe on 19 July to transport it to a release site close to where it was originally fitted with a tracking unit.

Botha said, “We are eternally grateful to Mr Marima who rescued the bird which, at the time of its rescue, being chased and harassed by community members before he stepped in, took it into safe custody and contacted the EWT through the phone number located on the tracking unit that was fitted to the bird”.

The secretarybird shortly after release.
The secretarybird shortly after release.

The EWT took the bird to FreeMe for treatment and rehabilitation in order for it to be nursed back to health. FreeMe’s Senior Wildlife Manager, Nicci Wright, explains, “When Andre Botha brought the injured bird to our facility for rehabilitation, I conducted a full physical examination to assess his condition. The bird had no fractures or wounds but I did notice that his left eye was not functioning optimally. I was concerned because the nictitating membrane was only partially working. We took the bird to the Johannesburg Animal Eye Hospital for assessment by the ophthalmic veterinarians”.

The terrestrial bird which is endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa went through a series of examinations and treatment. Upon examination, it was discovered that the bird had a corneal ulcer and that the eye membrane was partly dysfunctional.

Dr Isaac Venter, Dr Anthony Goodhead and Dr Lohan Odayar are three of the veterinary eye specialists that examined the bird. The bird was subjected to weekly examinations and daily treatment and administration of specialised eyedrops, sometimes four times a day.

FreeMe’s Nicci Wright said, “We are particularly excited that after several weeks of being in our care the bird was successfully treated and is now ready to be released back into the wild. We are confident that the eye’s condition is good and that there is no risk of future infection or discomfort”.

“As the bird has been fitted with a tracking unit we will be able to monitor its movement after release. Currently, the bird is in an area of poor reception and the tracking unit has not been able to connect to download tracking data but hopefully, this will change soon. The bird was released in the area where it originally fledged from and we trust that it will in future avoid areas of dense human settlement,” concluded EWT’s Andre Botha.

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Casino Siteleri is a non-governmental, non-profit, conservation organisation, founded in 1973. We aim to conserve threatened species and ecosystems in southern and east Africa to the benefit of all people. Help us deliver Conservation in Action by supporting the EWT.

Africa Geographic Travel
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