Wildlife Rescue


What is going on? A baby seal attacking people in the sea; a seal stoned on a Cape Town beach and injured so badly it had to be euthanised; another seal harassed by people and their dogs; a baby owl killed by school children who believed it was a harbinger of death; a grysbok hit by a speeding car; a tortoise run over by a bakkie; a shrew family’s existence threatened by dogs.


Photo (left): Spotted Eagle Owl chick: Cango wildlife ranch

Photo (right): Cape Fur Seal: Cape Talk


These are just some of the calls for help that were received by various wildlife organisations in our area.

If you find an animal in distress, would you know what to do? We would all wish to help, but what are the do’s and don’ts that will ensure the best possible outcome?

We found out from internationally-certified wildlife rehabilitator, Michelle Watson, how we can be usefully involved in helping the wild animals that are trying to survive in an environment that is increasingly hostile to them.

According to Michelle, she – together with the Kogelberg Biosphere volunteers – counted over 100 cases of wildlife that have needed assistance in the last few months.

Says Michelle, “There are so many animals impacted daily by urbanization, human development and over-population, which is influencing biodiversity. Rescue and rehabilitation centres around the world are seeing an increase in the number of cases admitted every year, and more centres are needed to help with the influx. Unfortunately, there are currently no permitted rehabilitation facilities in the Overstrand Municipal area.”

“However, people do now have a number to call in the case of a wildlife incident, and they can get help for a compromised wild animal or for a baby bird they might have found. In the absence of permitted rehabilitation centres in the Overstrand, it is fortunate that we have several vets who assist in treating these injured animals. For that we are extremely grateful. A list of the vets can be found on the Kogelberg Biosphere Website.”

“Most of the calls we receive can be mitigated over the phone by providing members of the public with some information about how to help the patient. For example, baby birds can often be returned to the nest and fledgling birds can be left in a safe place for the parents to continue caring for them.”

Michelle says this is true for baby mammals too. She relates the example of a volunteer from the Kogelberg Biosphere going out on Christmas Eve to help a mother shrew and her two pups to safety by simply moving their little nest over the fence and away from dogs. The mother shrew then relocated her babies to the new site and the family remained together.

“However, in some instances, injured wildlife might just need to be taken to the closest vet, as was the case with a little Grysbok recently. A porcupine had managed to impale one of its quills deep into the antelope’s abdomen, causing the Grysbok to become weak and compromised. It was probably due to this injury that the juvenile buck could not avoid an impact with a speeding car and sustained two broken legs. By the time it was discovered in a garden, it was already very weak and in pain. Thankfully the Kogelberg team were able to get it quickly to a vet who could prevent further suffering.”

“The sad truth is that our domestic pets are responsible for the decline of many species, some of which we might never have seen before and maybe never will. A beautiful adult Cape Mole Rat was found walking down a pavement in Kleinmond on New Year’s Day, after having been mauled by a dog. A member of the Overstrand Municipality called us to collect him, and he was treated by a vet the next day.”

Photo: Heike Lutermann, SANBI

The recent seal incidents are a cause for concern. The fact is that seals have to hunt further and further to find food because of over-fishing of pilchards and sardines. They are underfed, tired and hungry. They just need to rest on the beach to get their strength back. But insensitive onlookers and their dogs give them no respite. We do not need to approach them to get a “selfie” and they are not beach toys for dogs. We have to be respectful of their space and keep our distance so that we don’t stress them even more.

“Wildlife that needs time to recover, heal from severe injuries, or are orphaned and need hand raising, must be admitted to a permitted wildlife rehabilitation centre and may not be kept by members of the public. The Kogelberg Biosphere Wildlife Rescue Team is working closely with Cape Nature and the SPCA to ensure that all legislation is adhered to and that the welfare of the animals is observed. The public can assist by supporting the plan to open a permitted wildlife rehabilitation centre in the Overstrand area.”

Another trained rescue team is also needed in the Hermanus area.

If you would like to be part of such a team, or to learn how best to help any wild animals in distress, you can apply to attend a 2-day wildlife first aid, stabilisation and basic rehabilitation workshop by Michelle Watson.

For more information on the course, the cost and to book a spot on a future course, call Michelle Watson on 073 314 0674 or email info@wildliferescuesa.co.za.

In case of a wildlife incident call Michelle on 073 314 0674.


Here are the organisations specialising in the rescue of marine animals

Turtles and Cape Fur Seals
Two Oceans Aquarium 021 418 3823

Sea birds

  • Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds
    (SANCCOB) 021 557 6155 or +27 78 638 3731 (after hours and weekends)
  • African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary in Gansbaai (APSS) 072 598 7117.

Whales and Dolphins
National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) 021 449 3500 or dial 112 from your cell phone.