This past Sunday Joubert and I had the immense privilege of visiting the Bird of Prey and Rehabilitation Centre a stone’s throw away from the small and historic town of Dullstroom on the Mpumalanga Highveld. Tripadvisor rates it as the foremost attraction in Dullstroom – no small feat considering Dullstroom’s fame among local and international visitors alike as a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts where visitors are spoiled for choice.
With tourism being the lifeblood of the picturesque town, restrictions on travel imposed in recent months, however necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19, had a devastating effect on the local economy. As a registered NGO receiving no government support, the Dullstroom Bird of Prey and Rehabilitation Centre relies heavily on donors, sponsors and the visiting public to fund their very important work. Their tiny staff compliment is responsible for the rehabilitation of between 80 and 200 birds of prey every year, all of them injured by or negatively impacted in another way by humans, and then releasing them back into the wild when they’ve recovered sufficiently. Only non-indigenous birds, those whose injuries are too severe to permit a fully self-sufficient life in the wild or those that are hopelessly imprinted on humans remain at the centre permanently. The love and passion these people have for their job is absolutely inspiring. If you can’t visit them in person, please visit their website and, if you are able to, assist them in their efforts by making a donation (monetary or in kind). The way Libra, an immature Bateleur that was severely injured by a vehicle a year ago, seeks comfort from handler Magdali Theron in the picture below will leave you in no doubt just how vital the work of the Dullstroom Bird of Prey and Rehabilitation Centre is.
Apart from the fact that it was our first chance to escape from South Africa’s heavily industrialised Gauteng Province in almost six months or that we were able to marvel at the most majestic birds of prey from close quarters, the trip was both long-awaited and memorable for another reason: being tutored by accomplished wildlife photographer Hannes Rossouw in the art of taking photographs of birds in flight. Thanks to Hannes’ unending patience and skill as an educator we hope we’ll be able to have many more images like these gracing the pages of de Wets Wild in future.
As you can imagine, after spending most of the daylight hours at the centre, we came back to Pretoria with hundreds of photo’s. In the coming days we will be using those images to tell you the stories of ten of the Dullstroom Bird of Prey and Rehabilitation Centre’s most charismatic residents. And be sure to look out for Joubert’s images in the mix; under Hannes’ expert tutelage his photographic skills have become even more impressive (I know, I am biased).