Written by founder Jenny Janse van Rensburg
Professional photography by Richard Ryan and Bambino Photography
The Strawberry Foundation started with losing our baby bunny, Strawberry.
If I can just backtrack a bit… We rescued mommy rabbit Pippa from a pet shop one Friday afternoon. She was in a bad shape, and they gave her to us at the cheapest price – they couldn’t be bothered with her at all. We took her to the vet the following morning where we were told that she was pregnant. Due to her poor condition, she was booked for termination (and sterilisation) on the Monday, but she surprised us with her babies the very next day.
Pippa had six beautiful little nunus, and the little family did well. But on their five-week age mark, we arrived home to find that baby Strawberry was paralysed. The emergency vet confirmed a spinal injury, but to this day we have no idea how this happened.
We had no option other than to put him to sleep, and we were advised against standing by and holding him.
Bunnies need help
It was a very traumatic experience, and we felt in our hearts that we needed to help more rabbits/bunnies. The rest of Pippa’s litter got adopted, and our house and hearts felt empty.
I started reading up on the rabbit problem we have in South Africa (bunnies are small rabbits but the same species). To my sadness, I discovered that there are thousands and thousands of rabbits roaming the streets, fighting for survival. Many are due to pets being allowed to breed indiscriminately and being dumped when people are bored with them.
Sitting in a restaurant one evening, we asked ourselves what we could do… and so began The Strawberry Foundation.
Hundreds have been saved
Although we’ve saved over 400 bunnies and assisted other welfares with a few hundred, we still feel the need to do even more.
The Strawberry Foundation’s aim from the start was to make an impact on a large scale. We aim to not only focus on individual rabbits but to look at larger problems like the colonies in some areas.
The main colony we work with is the Boskruin rabbits in Gauteng province. We estimate there to be at least 500 in Boskruin Park and surrounding areas; we think hundreds are born every month but don’t survive. These rabbits are fighting over territory and food, injuring each other, starving from malnutrition and overbreeding. Sadly, many lose their lives to neighbourhood cats and dogs.
Two main challenges
We have two main challenges. Firstly, people don’t understand why we want to rescue the rabbits, as they believe they’re “wild” and part of the eco-system. They think we’re interfering when in fact bunnies are exotic pets, descended from European rabbits. Some people openly admit to dumping their unwanted bunnies in the park.
Hares (including the highly endangered Riverine Rabbit) have wonderful survival instincts. But, genetically, they’re completely different to bunnies kept as pets – they’re not even the same species.
Pet rabbits have no survival skills and often don’t make it. Moreover, dumping pet rabbits into the wild can bring diseases to indigenous animals and compete with them for resources.
The second problem we have is a lack of funding. Sterilisations are costly, and rabbits require special food and the right kind of care. It costs us thousands every month to continue what we’re doing. Sadly, we receive very little support from the public.
Giving our best
We’re grateful for any opportunity to spread the word of the work we’re doing. We love each bunny that comes through our organisation, and we give our best to provide each one a quality of life. Because we’re not actually a sanctuary, we can’t keep the bunnies forever. We therefore plead with the public to apply for adoption.
We’ve opened our home to create The Strawberry Hotel for any small critters that need boarding while their “hoomins” are away. All critters sleep safely and warmly inside during the night and get play time in the garden during the day. We welcome any critters, from bunnies and guinea pigs to rats, hamsters and chinchillas. The income from the hotel supports our rescuing activities.
You can help!
To donate, our banking details are:
The Strawberry Foundation
First National Bank
Branch code: 250655
Cheque account: 62802221474
To contact us, please email us at email@example.com. Please note that currently we’re at full capacity and can’t take in any more bunnies until more have been adopted.
To make a booking at the hotel, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org