How to rescue animals the right way this holiday

2017-12-22 11:40 - Gabi Zietsman
Post a comment 0

Istock Photo

Cape Town - With more people in the bush and on the coast over the holiday period, you are more likely to run into wild animals that seem to need assistance.

Most people's first reaction is to try and help it immediately with water or by picking it up, but according to CapeNature and the Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, this could cause more damage. A lot of animals aren't used to humans and may get even more stressed out.

SEE: Leave seal pups on Cape Town beaches alone

According to the Tenikwa spokesperson Amelia Havemann, people need to take care of their safety first, and if dogs are with, keep them far away from wildlife. If you are not able to transport an injured or abandoned animal in a humane way, rather call a professional, like the nearest rehab centre, nature authorities, local sea rescue or vet.

Some people also tend to try and keep rescued animals to raise themselves, and unless you have special training and the animal can't be rehabilitated, this is strongly discouraged, and even illegal for some animals.

The same rules however don't apply to all animals, so here's a quick guide on how to help our fellow Earthlings.

Baby animals

If you come across a baby animal that's alone or seems to be abandoned, take in the surroundings before you intervene. Their mother may just be out hunting/foraging or was scared off by your presence, and will return soon.


If you find a penguin alone by itself, do not chase it back into the water. Rather contact the professionals, specifically the SA Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) who specialise in these kinds of animals.

Never feed it or try to give it water, and if you have to catch the penguin to transport it somewhere safer, use a towel to put over the tuxedo animal to protect your hands and face from its beak and claws.

ALSO SEE: African Penguin Awareness Day: How you can help save SA's endangered penguins


Our sea turtles need a little more help, explains Havemann.

"If you find a turtle or turtle hatchling on the beach in the Western Cape, it does need assistance. Never put it back in the ocean. If it is small enough, place in a box with a towel on the bottom. It doesn’t need to be in water."

Take it to the professionals, or if the turtle is too large, call them with the location. Again, no feeding or giving of water to the lost animal.

PICS: Yoshi the loggerhead turtle gets freedom as Christmas present


Seals can be very dangerous, so it's best to keep your distance. Never try to catch them and if you spot a pup alone or an injured seal call the professionals.


If you come across a baby duiker, you need to assess the situation carefully. If it's lying down under a thicket quietly by itself, its mother was probably scared off and you need to move on quickly. If, however, it's walking around bleating in distress, and you've made doubly sure it's alone, then Havemann advises to pick up the young animal in your arms and take it to the professionals. Do not attempt to raise it yourself.

WATCH: Adorable baby rhino playfully charges at car

Animals caught in a wildfire

Recently, as the California fire raged through the US state, a video of a man catching a rabbit trying to escape the flames went viral. Though many lauded the man for his bravery, a debate ensued about whether interfering with wild animals during a fire does more harm than good. 

We asked Traveller24 readers how they feel about the debate, especially relevant in the Western Cape where the government is expecting the 'worst fire season yet' because of the drought for the 2017/2018 period.

An overwhelming majority of 77% believed that it is our duty to make sure all animals are safe, while only 7% thought that wild animals can fend for themselves, and 16% voted that it's better left to the professionals.

SEE: Western Cape readies for its 'worst fire season yet' due to drought

Referring to the the man who saved the rabbit, Slate posits that although blame should not be put on the person in the video, circulating the video and hailing him a 'hero' could set a dangerous precedent for people caught in similar situations, adding to the strain on emergency personnel who are already strained in these kind of fires.

Live Science also noted that many experts state that you should leave wild animals alone during forest fires, as they have to deal with this regularly and very few actually die in the blaze, according to US Forest Service data. 

If you come across a distressed animal over the festive period, take time to assess the situation and take care not to cause it more stress. They have more than enough man-made issues to deal with.

What to read next on Traveller24

City of Cape Town prohibits fires at popular picnic spot in Simon’s Town

German union calls for strikes by Ryanair pilots

WATCH: How would you describe your typical keDezemba?