In a recent operation, Inspectors from the Cape of Good Hope SPCA discovered grave animal welfare concerns at Eagle Encounters @ Spier Wine Farm outside Stellenbosch. The Inspectors confiscated six birds of prey, three snakes, and an Egyptian goose from the facility.
Eagle Encounters, a facility known for its captive bird exhibitions also advertises a “rehabilitation” service for specific injured or displaced wild birds and holds a License in terms of the Performing Animals Protection Act 24 of 1935 (“the PAPA”). This License grants a police officer, who by the definition of the PAPA is an authorised SPCA Inspector, the right, inter alia, to inspect such facilities at any reasonable time. Denying entry to such an officer is a criminal offence.
After being denied access to conduct an inspection, our Inspectors laid criminal charges of obstruction against one of the owners of Eagle Encounters at the Stellenbosch SAPS in terms of Section 5 of the PAPA. A conviction could lead to a R20,000 fine or 5 years’ imprisonment.
A court order in terms of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 was obtained from the Stellenbosch Magistrates Court, granting our Inspectors, inter alia, access to the property for a thorough inspection. Upon arrival, Eagle Encounters staff once again tried to obstruct our Inspectors from exercising their statutory powers.
Our Inspectors discovered a shed where five birds were being concealed and kept inside crates, covered with towels. Two birds, including a Booted Eagle and a Spotted Eagle Owl, had fractured wings, with one showing a severe maggot-infested wound. These birds had been under the facility’s care for two and three days, respectively, without veterinary care. No drinking water was provided to any of these birds. Additionally, three snakes were also found concealed in plastic containers behind a washing machine inside the shed, also without water. The shed was filled with hazardous tools and open paint containers, indicating a hazardous environment.
“Despite Eagle Encounters’ claims on their website that “severely injured or poisoned birds are immediately referred to one of our recognised veterinarians, who specialize in treating raptors.“, evidence suggests that animals have been suffering in their care for days without the promised immediate attention as advertised.” said Cape of Good Hope SPCA Chief Inspector Jaco Pieterse
The Cape of Good Hope SPCA has previously warned Eagle Encounters about their hygiene standards, housing conditions, and tethering of birds. The facility will now face further criminal charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962. Additionally, a complaint will also be lodged with CapeNature, the permitting authority, due to suspected breaches of their permit. Coincidently, the facility also denied access to a CapeNature official.
During the inspection, the facility’s veterinarian arrived. While acknowledging the inadequate conditions, he tried justifying the facility’s actions. The veterinarian also became verbally aggressive, attempting to defeat the administration of justice and intimidate the consulted wildlife rehabilitation veterinarian, even threatening to report her to the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC).
“In any reputable wildlife rehabilitation facility, the well-being of animals remains paramount. This entails ensuring their environment is clean, stress-free, and equipped with essentials like species-specific enclosures and proper perches. Regardless of the size of their temporary housing, animals must always have continuous access to food, water, and daylight. Particularly for creatures like snakes, provisions like hiding places and water are non-negotiable. It’s imperative to recognise that many animals entering rehabilitation are not just physically compromised but also traumatised from capture and potential dehydration. Ultimately, rehabilitation centres owe it to both the animals and the public who entrust them with these vulnerable creatures to uphold these standards.” said Dr Karin Lourens of the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital
The Cape of Good Hope SPCA will not tolerate the obstruction of its Inspectors in the execution of their statutory powers and is committed to ensuring that no animal endures harm from those entrusted with their protection.