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Small creatures make for ‘giant rescue’

The quick reaction of an alert member of the public, two Virginia SPCA staffers and four police officers saved the life of a tortoise from inevitable harm and probable death.

SPCA inspector Ernest Khakhau received a call about a taxi that had stopped on the Verkeerdevlei Plaza Road to load up a tortoise which had been walking next to the road.

“I immediately notified the authorities in Winburg to dispatch officers to stop this vehicle,” says Khakhau.

“Through a diligent member of the public who kept track of the taxi, we notified the station commander of the police in Ventersburg, Capt. Francois Odendal, who then deployed his highway patrol to stop the taxi. The SAPS then notified us that the vehicle was pulled off 2 km outside Ventersburg.”

When the SPCA arrived at the scene, they found the tortoise in the trailer. The taxi driver claimed that they were helping the tortoise as he was crossing the road.

“The tortoise is now in our care for evaluation and release. With the SAPS present, a warning was issued to the taxi driver,” he says.

Khakhau says the SPCA is grateful to the member of the public who kept a visual on the moving vehicle. He also thanked Sgt Mantwa Xuma, Capt. Odendal, Sgt Sibongile Maphisa of Highway Patrol and Const. Sampi Mphore of the SAPS in Ventersburg.

“We always collaborate with the authorities to protect and speak for our wildlife, and are most grateful for their continued assistance and support,” says Thea Smit, chairman of the Virginia SPCA.

“Please do not load travelling wildlife and always be on the lookout for them – they, too, have right of way on our roads.

“Insp. Khakhau and his assistant, Samuel Mafethe, are warriors of note. We salute them. This may be a small creature, but it is a giant rescue in terms of protecting and conserving their existence,” says Smit.

“We rely on the public to be our eyes and ears and salute the complainant in this case for his persistent pursuit and for notifying us. We speak and care for, and protect, all animals.”

  • In another incident in December, the Virginia SPCA was alerted to a common kestrel held captive and offered for sale via social media.

“This is illegal in so many ways, not to mention the cruelty involved,” says Smit.

“We immediately started on a plan of action, and in a successful collaboration between the Virginia SPCA, Winburg SAPS, and our magistrate, we managed to confiscate the bird. She was severely dehydrated and had an old injury.”

Once rescued, the bird was taken through to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital for professional care.

“The kestrel was in the expert hands of Dr Karin Lourens and her team, and has been successfully released back into the wild,” says Smit.

“Thank you to the public that brought her fate to our attention, thank you to the Virginia SPCA for the rescue, thank you to our magistrate in Winburg, and to the SAPS that never hesitates to assist us.”

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