Raptor Rescue

Raptor Rescue is ART’s primary working group which handles all rescue, treatment, rehabilitation and release of injured, sick or orphaned raptors in KZN. Raptor Rescue’s rehabilitation work is an attempt to redress some of the negative impacts that humans have on raptor populations through poisoning, direct persecution, collisions with fences or motor vehicles, and powerline electrocutions.

This 24-hour rehabilitation unit operates ‘behind the scenes’ from the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary and is managed completely separately from the public awareness section of the Sanctuary, so as to never compromise the rehabilitation process. Exposing an injured raptor to people only stresses the creature further and close association with people over time can also cause orphaned birds to become too tame (imprinted), which will impair their chance of it being successfully released. Housing a potentially infectious rescued bird amongst healthy display birds is also extremely dangerous from a bio-security point of view.
As the biggest dedicated facility of its kind in Africa, Raptor Rescue also offers advice and consultation across national borders to neighbouring southern African countries. Even though Raptor Rescue is completely donor funded it is officially recognised and licenced by KZN Wildlife, is registered nationally under the Threatened or Protected Species Act (T.O.P.S) and is accredited with the National SPCA.

The successful rehabilitation process for birds of prey can be divided into five stages and suitable skills, equipment and facilities are vital to ensure the success of each of these stages:

  • Rescue and 1st aid
  • Hospitalization for surgery, treatment and intensive care
  • Secluded recovery enclosures for stabilized casualties to recover
  • Pre-release Conditioning enclosures and
  • Release back into the wild


If a bird of prey allows you to approach it, pick it up and handle it, in all likelihood there is something wrong. The bird in trouble could either……

          • have sustained an injury and is unable to fly away,
          • is too young to fly away,
          • is weak from disease and therefore unable to fly away or
          • is tame as it was raised incorrectly in captivity.

Prompt action will increase the chance of treatment success. So please contact the Raptor Rescue Hotline (082 35 90 900) for advice and assistance.

1st Aid Actions:

    1. If you find the raptor in your garden then please lock your dogs away before you try to secure the bird. Secondary bite wounds will not help at all!
    2. Place a towel over the bird, making sure you cover the eyes and gently place the creature into a cardboard box. Put a towel (without frayed edges) into the bottom of the box to provide a non-slip surface.
    3. Take the box and place it in a quiet, dark, warm area.

Please don’t:

    • Place the bird in an open bird cage.
    • Handle the bird too much or keep checking on him. The more you handle the bird, the more risk there is of further damage and shock. Stress can be the number one killer of any injured wild creature.
    • Do not try to feed or water the creature.

Found a baby raptor?

It is not uncommon for a young raptor to fall from its nest during its first attempts at flight. The parents are often close by and continue to feed and care for the youngster. In the case of owls, numerous species will actually nest on, or close, to the ground. If you think you may have encountered an abandoned youngster, the best course of action is to observe from a distance. Stay hidden from view, as your presence may stress the parents into not coming close, leading you to believe that the youngster has been abandoned. If you can see the nest and it is accessible, put the youngster back in and once again monitor the situation from a distance. It is a fallacy that birds reject their young once a person has touched it. A raptors sense of smell is not very well developed. If the parents are not returning, or that they have been killed, you will need to contact a licensed rehabilitation centre which will gladly assess the situation and assist you.

Do not try to raise the baby yourself. This is not only illegal but if undertaken incorrectly is detrimental to the chick and will doom the bird to a life of captivity. A hand-reared bird of prey can never be released.

Keeping any indigenous animal/bird without a relevant permit is illegal and punishable by law. All birds of prey are protected species. This law is not meant to discourage you from helping a creature in distress. It is there simply to protect indigenous wildlife from indiscriminate people who may have ulterior motives. Even if your intention is to eventually release it, holding a young raptor is still an offence and potentially detrimental to the bird. This does not preclude you from the rehabilitation process; simply do what is best for the raptor and get it to a qualified rehabilitator in the hope that it can be treated and released as a fully functional, flying, hunting bird of prey


The dedicated raptor hospital was converted from an abandoned abattoir using community builders to make the internal structural improvements.

The reception and administration area has a viewing window that looks into the examination and treatment room. This allows the rescuer to watch the initial examination of the injured bird without distracting the rehabilitator. The examination room is equipped with an X-ray light box, stainless steel work table, surgical lights, drug cabinet and safe, microscope, sink and cupboard unit.

The remainder of the building consists of four high-care rooms designed for the initial intensive care and treatment of the sick and injured birds. Two walk-in treatment rooms are for large eagles, vultures or secretary birds, and the other two wards each contain two hospital boxes, a wash-up sink and heating facilities and to treat small to medium sized birds of prey. Each ward is managed as a bio-secure unit to ensure that potential disease transmission is kept to a minimum. The food preparation, storage lockup facility and wash bay are found at the rear of the clinic building.

Recovery Enclosures

Once the raptor has been stabilized and is no longer administered daily medication, it will be transferred out of the hospital building into adjacent recovery enclosures.
These secluded enclosures are constructed in two banks of two and four aviaries each.
The design on these temporary holding pens is to ensure minimum human contact with the birds as they recuperate and that the enclosure is structurally safe for their confinement.

Conditioning Tunnels

The next step in the rehabilitation process is to transfer the birds into one of two flight aviaries to check that they are in fact flying well and to increase their level of fitness. Lack of fitness is the highest cause of post-release mortality in the rehabilitation of birds of prey.

A smaller 30m flight aviary is primarily for the conditioning and assessment of owls pre-release. The larger Anfield Flight Tunnel is a 75m by 5m, pre-release flight fitness tunnel allows the successful monitoring and assess the performance of larger raptors. Large raptors, like eagles, vultures and secretary birds will be housed here just prior to release and encouraged to fly the full distance of the enclosure to develop a degree of fitness before being returned to the habitats from which they came. They will be carefully monitored and their performance progress assessed before release.This is the longest flight tunnel in Africa. Due to high construction costs, the use of such conditioning enclosures (which are an essential element of the raptor rehabilitation process) is often omitted. Any treatment or care of an injured bird is wasted if the raptor dies shortly after it is released because is unable to fly well enough to catch its own prey.


Biological data is recorded from rehabilitated birds for ongoing research requirements before they are released. All rehabilitated raptors are ringed by the Natal University before being released back into a suitable habitat. and whenever possible and practical the raptors  are released into exactly the same place from whence they came.