Written and photographed by Marizanne Ferreira
Animal rescuer, falconer, Wildline chairman, Wild Warrior, co-director of the Urban Raptor Project, gundog trainer… no matter how you look at this man, he is dead set on saving our planet.
A lifelong passion
Homegrown Port Elizabethan Arnold Slabbert started to care for helpless and needy animals at a very young age. In fact, if you ask him at what age he realised his passion and calling, the reply will most probably be “in the womb”.
At the age of three, his parents took him to the Johannesburg Zoo. At the end of their visit, Arnold refused to leave – he wanted to stay with the animals as he’d enjoyed their company so much. True story.
Arnold has become synonymous with saving animals and protecting wildlife in Port Elizabeth, often putting his own life in danger. There’s simply no risk too big or too small that he will not take to save an animal, any animal. His ethics and high morals have led to him saving thousands of wildlife, as well as domestic animals that have crossed his path.
Upon asking Arnold why he does what he does, his passionate reply is simple: “I do not believe in leaving animals to suffer and I will do whatever it takes to save and protect animals and return them to the wild.”
Beneath the deceiving hard exterior, one soon realises that Arnold Slabbert is the proverbial gentle giant when it comes to caring for the helpless; his mission is to help humans and animals co-exist.
Arnold is co-director of Wildline, along with Alison Cawood. Wildline is a self-funded organisation of the Urban Raptor Project, and seeks to find environmentally friendly ways of dealing with human-wildlife conflict. They handle rehabilitation of wildlife and environmental issues in the greater Nelson Mandela Metro area.
Their aim is to ensure that injured, orphaned or incapacitated wild animals are properly handled, treated and released according to sound environmental principles and ethics.
Both Arnold and Allison share the belief that there is no such thing as good poison and the years of dealing with hundreds of poisoned raptors, i.e. owls, enforces the belief that this dedicated team holds.
Although the focus is on wildlife, all creatures – great and small – are helped, be they domestic or wild animals. I asked Arnold to share just two of his most recent rescues with us…
Early in January 2018, a desperate meowing was heard from a drain at DEDISA Power Peaking Plant at Coega, Port Elizabeth – a tiny kitten was stuck. Arnold was called in to rescue the frightened kitten. With the help of delicious-smelling cat food, Arnold lured the very hungry kitten closer and, by feeding it small amounts, he managed to eventually get hold of it. He wrapped up the clearly distressed kitten and rushed it off to Walmer Vet Hospital for a thorough check-up. Fortunately, this kitten, named Xena, was just fine and went on to be adopted by the lovely Gray family; a true Happy Tail.
Late in December 2016, Arnold received a call from Dr Snyman of the Despatch Animal Clinic notifying him that an unknown bird of prey had been brought in. The bird was in a very bad condition...
Arnold and Allison immediately rushed out and, on arrival, identified it as a juvenile Fish Eagle suffering from organophosphate poisoning. Together with Dr Snyman, they were able to put an emergency treatment in place and keep the eagle going for the night. The following morning, they took the eagle to Mount Croix Animal Hospital to continue treatment. The eagle was on the brink of death, but after a week of the right treatment, it turned the corner. Four weeks of rehabilitation followed before it was released back into the wild, where it belongs.
To find out more about Wildline, visit the Urban Raptor Project website at www.urbanraptorproject.co.za, follow them on Facebook at @urbanwildlifechampion, and watch their videos on their YouTube channel, urbanraptorproject.
Links: YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/urbanraptorproject