Rescue advice for baby birds
If you come across an abandoned nest or baby, the best thing to do is not to act at all for a while, unless it is an obvious situation like a young baby fallen out the nest. In such a case, pick the baby up gently and put it back using a cloth to keep the human smell off it. Otherwise, keep your distance and watch. Perhaps the parents are away catching food and will return. Perhaps the baby has just fledged and the parents may be sitting just out of sight in a tree. If after two hours the parents have not returned, it is likely that they are not coming back, and then a decision can be made to either remove the baby or let nature take its course.
If you decide to remove the chick:
- Take a cardboard box, puncture holes around the top and line it with a dry towel.
- Wrap a hot-water bottle in another towel and place it on the side of the box. Remember that young chicks that are not fully feathered and cannot retain their body temperature, so even if you feel it is quite warm, it will need extra warmth to survive until you can get it to a rehab centre or your nearest vet.
- Use tissue paper to create a little hollow next to the hot-water bottle and place the chick in the hollowed out area. Make sure that the chick can move away from the hot-water bottle if it gets too hot.
- Cover the box with another dry towel to prevent the bird jumping out of the box. Do not attempt to give the chick any water or food. It can survive longer than you think without food, provided it has warmth. In most instances, trying to feed with a dropper or spoon will result in the bird inhaling food into its lung which will ultimately lead to its death.
- Take it to a rehabilitation centre or your nearest vet as soon as you can.
Do not try to raise the baby yourself. Hand-raised chicks require the correct diet and, contrary to popular belief, Pronutro and baby cereal are not suitable for all chicks and could lead to serious nutrient deficiency.
Rescue advice for abandoned baby wild animals
Never attempt to raise a wild animal yourself. Wild animals do not make good pets. When they mature they become unpredictable and dangerous. Besides this, you will be taking them out of the wild, and if you don’t raise them correctly, they may never have the opportunity to be returned to the wild. In order for them to be able to be released and survive, they must be able to identify with and behave like their own species. Raising a wild animal in your house will just result in another sad case.
Once you are absolutely sure that the animal is abandoned:
- Pick it up in a towel or jersey and place it in a box lined with a towel. Make sure the animal cannot escape.
- Put the camera away. Taking photos with a bright flash will just add to the animal’s stress.
- Do not give it milk, water or any food. It can survive for several hours without eating and when food is introduced, it must be done by skilled people. Forcing the animal to eat or drink may cause it to inhale the fluid or solids into its lungs, or cause diarrhoea which can kill an already weakened animal. Do the right thing and take the it to a rehabilitation centre or your nearest vet as soon as possible.
Rescue advice for injured wildlife
If you come across an injured animal or bird on the side of the road, it is clear that the animal needs help. The first 72 hours after the trauma is the most important time for the animal to receive the correct treatment.
- Put a towel or a jersey over the animal, particularly the head to prevent it biting you, and pick it up. Be very careful to protect yourself. In its pain and stress at being handled by humans, it may try to bite. Be careful to keep your face well away from teeth and claws bending over it.
- Take it immediately to the nearest vet, nature authority or rehabilitation centre. Whilst transporting, keep the animal in a dark spot, preferably in a box or container. Try to keep the environment around it as quiet as possible to reduce stress.
If you are afraid to pick the animal up in case it bites you, or you are not in a position to help further:
- If the animal is lying in the path of on-coming vehicles, try to move it to the side of the road to prevent further injury.
- Contact the nearest vet, animal welfare organisation or rehabilitation centre and clearly mark the position on the side of the road so that someone will be able to relocate the spot if you cannot wait.
- Do not attempt to give the animal water or food; this may cause complications if the animal needs sedation for treatment.
Rescue advice for a seal on the beach
Seals do come to the shore to rest after heavy rough seas or to escape predators, so it is important not to intervene unless it is obvious that they have severe injuries or are clearly sick and emaciated. Seals are protected by law and you are not allowed to remove them from the beach unless they are obviously injured. Seals secrete fluid from their tear ducts which look like tears running down their cheeks, so this is not a sign that the seal is ill. If the seal is clearly ill or injured:
- Do not chase it back into the water if it is on the beach.
- Leave it on the beach and keep an eye on it for three or four days.
- If the seal hasn’t moved off in that time, report it to the local authorities or Cape Nature. If you notice people harassing the seal, call Cape Nature.