Owl being ‘sold’ on Witkoppen Road is safe

SAFE AND SOUND: The spotted eagle owl which had residents outraged after they saw what they thought was a street peddler trying to sell the bird before it was rescued by FreeMe wildlife rehabilitation centre.

The tweet, which was reposted by @PigSpotter, was met with sincere concern for the owl by animal lovers:

“We received numerous calls that morning,” said Penny Morkel, a representative for FreeMe, which is a local animal rehabilitation centre. “They said that they saw the man trying to sell the owl at the intersection, so I took a drive there to see if I could find him, but he’d already left.”

Newspaper salesmen told her that they had seen the man walking up Witkoppen toward Douglasdale, so Morkel followed suit and found the man walking with the spotted eagle owl, holding it away from his body.

She asked the man what he was doing with the bird and where he had found it. She also noticed that the owl’s feet were bound with string and that it was very distressed.

“He said he found it in the Clay Oven informal settlement the night before and a friend told him of an animal shelter on Witkoppen Road where he could take the bird to, I assume he was trying to find Fourways Veterinary Hospital.”

Morkel stated that the way the man was carrying the bird was very disconcerting. “He had tied its feet together and was holding it upright, away from his body, which obviously looked like he was displaying the bird to passing motorists.”

After explaining to the man that she represents FreeMe, the man was happy to co-operate and handed the bird to Morkel. After giving it a check-up, it was found that the bird had a fracture in its right wing.

It was also assessed that it was a young female who had, fortunately, been ringed when she was still a nesting owlet. This helped to determine her age and where she hatched, also giving an indication of where she should be released once she has been rehabilitated.

“A lot of the time, we can’t be sure if they [illegal street animal traders] are telling the truth or not, but the fact that he didn’t hesitate to co-operate made me trust his story,” added Morkel.

The owl has now begun its journey to being released, which is a long process of healing and rehabilitation. She most likely will become part of FreeMe’s rehabilitation partner, Ecosolutions’ Owl Box Project when she can fly again.

Details: FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation www.freeme.org.za

Have you seen other wild animals being sold illegally around Joburg? Let us know in the comments below.


Joni Tollner

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