We give them (back their) wings!

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Gas was used to sedate the kestrel so that the oiled feathers could be washed.

Recently our wildlife team treated an unusual patient – a kestrel covered in thick black grease, which prevented it from flying.

Kestrels are small birds of prey, which depend on flight to hunt for food and escape other predators. If they can’t fly, they will die. So when Tygerberg nature reserve guides brought the bird to us, we knew we had to try and save it – even though the stress of being handled by humans and kept in captivity could prove too much for it.

Under general anaesthetic, the kestrel’s feathers were cleaned with a toothbrush. Sessions had to be kept short to minimise the risk, with the bird being given fluid therapy to reduce shock and 24 hours rest in between.

But all the time and care was worth it! The kestrel recovered fully and was released back into the reserve. Watching it fly away was the best reward our team could ask for.

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