October 21, 2010
The African Dawn Sanctuary located between Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth on the garden route was a welcome change after my mixed feelings about African breeding centers. The sanctuary is a true non-profit similar in structure to sanctuary’s I am used to visiting back home. Africa Dawn’s main objectives are:
To rescue and treat all injured or orphaned wildlife brought to our attention.
Rehabilitation of animals to their optimal level of functioning.
To provide a safe and suitable environment for birds and animals who do not have the ability to survive reintroduction to their natural habitat e.g. breeding or educational programs.
To play an active role in cultivating an awareness among the public to try and ensure a future for the conservation of wildlife.
To work in close association with Nature Conservation and other wildlife rescue centers.
During my time at African Dawn I felt like all of those objectives were met with enthusiasm and passion by both the owner of the sanctuary and the many volunteers working there. Unfortunately my time at the sanctuary was cut short by a horrible case of the stomach flu, which left me bed bound for my entire last week in a hotel. I will write more about my experience of being sick in an upcoming post, but I can give you the preview that it was one of the most painful and horrible experiences of my life. I am also sad because I didn’t get a lot of pictures I was planning to take during my last week! I snapped a lot during my first week and then planned on watching the animals for a few weeks and then taking more pictures my final week, but as the saying goes the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. So unfortunately I do not have all the images of the sanctuary that I wish I could share with you.
The sanctuary is home to over 200 species of birds and a mix of other animals including many antelope like the kudu, grysbok, duikers and cats like the caracal, serval and cheetah. Around 90% of the animals at the sanctuary are local animals and birds that have been injured or abandoned and have been taken in to the sanctuary for rehabilitation; the other 10% end up at the sanctuary as a result of foreign animal trade. Laws in South Africa about owning wild animals are very lax and people often take in wild animals as pets and then realize they can’t handle them and will abandon them on the streets or drop them back at the pet stores. African Dawn takes in those animals too and has ended up with a rather exotic collection of birds from all over the world including parrots, emus, and macaws as well as marmoset and squirrel monkeys both originally from South and Central America.
Africa Dawn also runs a breeding center for the endangered cheetah and serval. The Serval is not actually an endangered species because it is still found in the wild in many places throughout Africa, but it has been almost completely displaced from South Africa and is considered endangered by locals. Both the serval and caracal are considered “Least Concern” by the IUCN list, but are both very scarce in the wild in the Eastern Cape because they are trapped and killed by farmers. The caracal is often referred to as a lynx (as it was at the sanctuary), but they are actually no longer classified as lynx’s and are closely related to the serval despite their vastly different appearances. Below find the serval and caracal respectively.
One of my favorite things to do at the sanctuary was just speak with the owner for hours on end about the sanctuary and conservation in Africa. After feeling completely overwhelmed during my stay at the breeding center dealing with the conflicting issues of conservation and animal rights vs. profit and human involvement it was wonderful to be at a place where the people working there truly cared about the animals and were dedicating their lives to making a real difference. The sanctuary is not very publicized and you will not find pamphlets for it at all the hotels around the area with all the other pamphlets for stops along the Garden Route, but for an authentic non-touristy experience I highly recommend a visit if you are driving the Garden Route or staying in Port Elizabeth. As a visitor you can tour the sanctuary and even interact with some of the animals. If you want a more in depth experience you can also volunteer at the sanctuary. African Dawn is dependent on its volunteers as its workforce to feed and care for all the animals. I will write more about being a volunteer in my next post. For more information on the sanctuary check out their website here.