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News - Ons Omgewing
Tuesday, 27 June 2017 06:23
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Dewaal Venter is a lover of and expert on nature and the environment. On his Nooitgedacht smallholding many rescued wild animals have been rehabilitated and set free over the years. Here he tells us about another successful rescue mission – this time of six barn owl chicks.

Dewaal Venter

“Please, you must come now! I have six baby owls,” were the first words I heard when answering an early morning phone call.

Later, heading towards the Dark City Community Medical Centre in Ekangala near Bronkhorstspruit, I was unsure of what I might find, as there was an urgency in the woman’s voice on the other side of the line. Forty minutes later I parked in front of the building.

Saved from the muti man

As soon as I mentioned the word ‘owl’ I was grabbed by the arm and escorted into the building by the security woman. While being dragged across the front yard and down the passage, I was unsure of what was happening. Trying to keep my composure, I was marched into an office, now feeling more or less like a criminal on the way to court to be sentenced.

Once in the office I was met with a huge smile, a sigh of relief and a hug, which reminded me of the hugs you get from relatives you haven’t seen in quite a while. Sister Selinah Kanini then started to explain what was going on.

Two of the owls – ready for the wild life

While cleaning the roof of the outbuilding, workers discovered six barn owl chicks. Uncertain what to do with them and not wanting the owls in their presence, the situation was reported to sister Kanini.

She ordered the men to gently remove them and bring them to her. She immediately phoned to find them a place where they will be cared for. Their presence caused an uproar, with people wanting to kill these messengers of death, illness and bad luck. One person wanted to sell them to the local Sangoma for muti.

Dewaal with sister Kanini, security guards and the box of barn owl chicks

They were safely hidden in a box, placed under a tree in sight of the security booth and guarded by the groundsmen from a distance so as not to give away their whereabouts to the group of people that has been gathering.

Now everything made sense. Following a quick education session on the ecological importance of owls and dispelling some myths, I headed back home with six hungry and scared owlets.

Returning at night to eat

Barn owls start incubating from the first egg they lay, so chicks greatly differ in size with the smallest at 64 gram and the biggest at 168 gram. We have previously had clutches with nine fluffy bundles.

Since 29 March they have grown to be healthy fledglings. Recently they spread their wings and took their first flight into the cool winter night, free like they should be. So far they have returned every night and were seen feasting on the food items left out for them.



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