Walking on the Wild Side

Walking on the Wild Side

With the availability and access to wildlife programmes on television today, more and more people have the opportunity to increase their knowledge about the behaviour and natural regions of wild animals. There is no need to go trekking across the tundra in search of polar bears, or go bundu-bashing in the jungles of Nepal to find tigers. No backpack is required. We simply relax in our armchairs, click the remote and enjoy the fascinating wild animals that come onto the screen.

We are exposed to the wild nature of the beasts in their natural surroundings and gain insight into the breeding patterns, rearing of young and social patterns of a variety of species.

We are also given the opportunity to glimpse into the lives of those animals that, for a number of reasons, have been rescued and placed in safe havens where they are cared for. The appeal of baby animals being bottle-fed solicits our ‘oohs and ahs' and the typical South African expression, ‘ag shame', and our hearts are warmed to the people of these facilities who selflessly care for orphaned, displaced and injured animals. And so it should be – there is a dire need for these people and the refuges they provide to wild creatures in need of assistance. We open our hearts and congratulate their efforts with our financial support and encouragement.

Alongside these scenes of heart-warming stories where animals are recuperated and returned to the wild, another scenario plays itself out – one that is not in vogue, often does not make sensational screening, or fit the profile of recreational viewing. I am talking about the activities that make up the days of Wildlife Unit of the NSPCA and member societies around the country. Acts of mercy are a daily occurrence, but getting a single injured bird to a veterinarian or into rehabilitation is not an item of news that will attract the media. Neither will the stories of the many other rescued creatures. These wild animals are given the immediate help they require. The momentary contact is broken, and the SPCA inspector moves on to the next casualty.

We do not have the ‘hands on' daily contact, nor the privilege or exhilaration of seeing the rescued animal's eventual return to the wild. We are but the unseen cogs in the wheels of the many success stories, and quietly go about preventing cruelty wherever this may be encountered.

It does not follow on from the perception that the NSPCA leads an inconspicuous existence when it comes to wildlife, that we are inactive in this area. Less still does it mean that we are not driven with determination to act responsibly and resolutely in securing better futures for the wildlife of this country. Many issues are continually addressed in the best interests of our wildlife and these range from welfare input into provincial and national legislation to physical inspections of facilities around the country.

We may not feature on the covers of glossy magazines (watch this space!) but we are leading role players in preventing cruelty, monitoring the wildlife industry and providing the necessary welfare considerations in respect of private zoos, the exotic pet trade, elephant-back safaris, handling of young carnivores and damage-causing animals, amongst others.

So when next you see the blue and white SPCA cross logo – broaden that entrenched mental picture of our country's dogs and cats – and step into our world of compassionate caring that embraces ALL animals. We need your support. We need you to share our dream.

Our wildlife depends on it!

Updated: 15 January 2010

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