On Saturday morning I was taking a walk along some of the public areas that were devastated by the Cape fires when I heard a faint and distant bleat from a small buck that sounded like it was hurt – hurting or about to become food for something else.
I scanned the area and noticed some rippling in a pool below. Treading carefully and slowly I approached the pool. As soon as I had a visual on the buck I realised this was no ordinary “bokkie”, it was in fact a Cape grysbok; a small, rare and reclusive buck that is endemic to the Western Cape.
It was lying with its body partially submerged in the pool, its neck and face soaked and dripping. Something did not feel right so I found a spot to sit tight, observe and assess what was going on.
In an attempt to rise and leave, it barely managed half a push up, before its water-logged body sank down into the pool. Thrashing to regain its composure, its head bobbed dangerously below the surface, and every time it buoyed up, it bleated desperately.
At this point, I walked up to it and lifted it out of the water then laid it down in a shady spot nearby where drowning would no longer be a possibility. It was clearly exhausted as it offered no resistance. One of its hocks was bleeding with a badly burnt hoof peeling off, possibly as a result of all the walking it had to endure over burnt terrain to find water or something to eat.
I was far from my car and in need of help and expert advice. With a quick search online I managed to find the SPCA’s telephone numbers provided on Africa Geographic’s online magazine article on the Cape fire. After leaving a long and desperate message on someone’s cell phone, my call was returned almost immediately. It was Megan from the SPCA Wildlife Division who had been busy rescuing a badly injured porcupine.
Megan patiently listened to my “bokkie” finding and assured me she would phone me back with a plan as soon as she had dropped the porcupine at the Grassy Park SPCA Wildlife facilities. Two hours later, I met her and an enthusiastic rescue team of volunteers near the road. I led the way back to the spot where I had left the grysbok.
Capturing the grysbok was smooth and swift, and after assessing its condition and placing a cotton bag over its head to sooth it down, the team took turns to carry the grysbok out of the valley. It was taken straight to a vet where it was put on a drip and given some much needed medical attention to disinfect and heal its hocks.
Last week my daughter’s school asked for a donation to give to the SPCA and I must confess I totally underestimated the worth of my donation. This weekend I witnessed how lovingly passionate our SPCA team is, how professional, thankless, and amazing their jobs are and how valuable and necessary it is for us to support them.
Sadly on Sunday night I received a follow up text message from the SPCA confirming that “it” was in fact a she, but also that, whilst she responded well to treatment up until the afternoon, lung complications saw the better of her and she passed away despite all valiant efforts to salvage her. But as Megan said, “we can at least find comfort in the fact that everything that could have possibly been done for her was indeed done, and that she did not drown, or die suffering, on her own out there.”
To read more about life in the ashes of the #CapeFire read Africa Geographic’s online magazine here.
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