To Help or Not, There's a Time and Place for Both
As most of us know, the live cameras at Africam are located in areas of Africa that have rangers, conservationists and many local people that work to protect the wildlife and habitat. While protecting, they also let nature take its course by not interfering unless the animals are suffering due to something that man has caused. As a result there are times when cam watchers get upset that no intervention takes place when there is pain or illness involved. We disturb their habitat with vehicles and people, but the wildlife is respected and left to nature as much as it can be in this world of environmental destruction that we have managed to create all around the world. The national parks and preserves are sanctuary's for the animals and in some countries they are the only places animals have a fighting chance for survival.
Having said that, if you have been watching the Eagle Owl Cam ( http://www.africam.com/wildlife/lc_player_kim.php?sub=nn&ch=popup&sh=owl-1 ), you know that one of the three owlets, the last one that hatched, was small and not strong enough to battle it out with his siblings for food. Without intervention, the natural course would have flowed with the siblings pecking it more and more, trying to get rid of if. The parents had already begun to ignore it when feeding the others. Death by starvation or being shunned was soon to follow. Not as horrible as it sounds, its natures way of ensuring that at least one owlet will survive to carry on. However, this little owlet was removed from the nest by Allan and Tracy, the kind folks that live there and share their balcony with the owls and us. The fragile owlet was taken to FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a rescue organization that specializes in orphaned, abandoned, injured and displaced indigenous birds, mammals and reptiles. Ultimately there goal is to rehabilitate the animal and reintroduce it back into its natural habitat. So the little owlet spent a few days there, gained weight and got stronger, and was reintroduced to the nest. There was fear that the owl family wouldn't accept the owlet back into the nest, but those were short lived as we watched the little one push and shove his way in to gobble down many tidbits of food that the parents brought back to the nest.
So why did we rescue that one and not other animals we have seen on cam that are also struggling? In a nutshell, the habitat that the owl needs to survive is being taken from them at an amazingly fast pace. While the animals we watch on the cams are in areas that are as protected as possible from destruction, many of the surrounding habitats are not. The many animals we see on each cam are also in danger from man, but living in a protected area keeps their habitat from disappearing as fast as unprotected areas. As a result, they can be left to live as nature intended, with out our interference. Animals that are outside the protection of parks and preserves face a much harsher environment that can often very unwelcoming and threatening. As for these owls and their environment, the trees have been cut down and plants have been plowed under to make room for our homes and businesses. Those same trees have been the trees the owls and many other birds nested in, with some coming back to the same nesting site year after year. The owl parents, confused by the sudden and detrimental change in their surroundings, had to search for a safe place to nest. In this case they ended up on a second story balcony, very unnatural, but the next best thing as seen from the eyes of the pair. This is the third year in a row this pair of owls have come back to raise their young in this pot. What a sad state of affairs when something so magnificent as these large owls must resort to nesting so close to humans in such unfamiliar surroundings. Sometimes an opportunity to do a small kindness to help counteract progress presents itself. That's what happened with Allan and Tracy. If the pair of owls had landed in someone else's pot they may have been chased away. Perhaps this regal pair of birds could sense the pot would be safely watched. Allan and Tracy stepped in and took the little one for help, and if need be will do it again and again as time goes by. Its also what the FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre does every day, 365 days a year. All of us, Africam, you the reader, Allan and Tracy, the cam watchers and many folks around the world that care deeply for the animals and their futures are and will continue to be the salvation for these creatures. As the developers wipe out what is needed for life in the wild, we will continue to try and save them and bring attention to their struggles much like we did recently with Rhino Day. Every additional person we reach through cams, newsletters, debates and special events is a stepping stone that may someday put a stop to the careless destruction. In the meantime, we will all watch and appreciate what we can see, everything from the little owl that was saved to the injured lion we watched limp away never to return. A big thank you to Tracy and Allan and their willingness to share their balcony with us. Perhaps more importantly it teaches us a valuable lesson that while we as the human race are slowly destroying our wildlife and their homes, there are still many many people that are trying to make sure the animals survive for the next generations.