Ranger Andrew Nicholson usually believes in letting nature unfold, without human interference. However, for some unknown reason, he decided to make sure a Bateleur was alright.
Outside my room I noticed a fully grown Bateleur Eagle sitting on the ground in the shade of a large Mopane tree. I rushed to a rangers meeting, returning to find that it still hadn’t moved. I decided to investigate, smelling and finding a dead large-spotted genet not far from this beautiful raptor. He let me get uncharacteristically close without taking off. Sometimes letting nature take its course is the right thing to do, but that day it was different. Seeing a power-line near to where the bird was sitting, and having the female calling it from the air above me, was enough to make me think otherwise.
Realising something was definitely wrong with him, I called a few of the other rangers to get their opinion too. We decided to phone the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre, who agreed to have a look at him. Catching him was going to be the tough part… He opened his wings each time we got closer, diplaying his beautiful half black and half white colouration. Eventually we were able to throw a towel over him, and we carefully put him into a crate.
We became quite attached to “Barry the Bateleur” on the trip into Hoedspruit as he sat in a crate, quietly enjoying our company and the cool breeze from the Land Cruiser’s air-conditioning. After dropping him at Moholoholo we returned to work. A couple hours later they called to say he had been poisoned. The genet had obviously eaten a rat that had been poisoned. We buried the half eaten genet to prevent any further incidents, knowing that we couldn’t be responsible as we only make use of environmentally friendly products.
Just five days later, Barry was collected, ready to be set free again after some time on a drip in recovery. Bateleur’s are very territorial birds that often pair for life. We were very excited for the release, fully understanding the significance of the process. We took Barry to some higher ground, said our final goodbye’s and tilted the box. In about 30 seconds he had hobbled out of the box and taken flight; joining a female that was flying around in the area. What a moment it was to see the success unfold! We can only presume that it was his partner who had been flying around, alone at the time, perhaps “grieving” her recent loss.
My general stance is to let nature unfold just as it used to when the human species wasn’t around to interfere, but that day I just knew something wasn’t right. Many may disagree but that’s a debate for another day.