Healing Wildlife Creatures Great & Small

By Vanessa Papas: When a family of Southern African hedgehoglets (Atelerix frontalis) were found wandering around at a stable yard – too young to have left the burrow – their fate hung in the balance. Had it not been for a little saving grace in the form of a kind samaritan who soon realised something must have happened to their mother and hunger had driven the babies into the open, they would have starved to death. The babies were taken to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital – a non-profit organisation that is helping creatures great and small. The tiny prickly bundles were examined, weighed and stabilised. After several weeks of meticulous care, they are now fully weaned and eating a variety of indigenous insects as well as crickets and mealworms. Between the seven of them they eat more than two boxes of crickets a day!

Another case recently brought into Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital is that of an  adult male lesser bushbaby (Galago moholi). The little critter had an old wound on his head and a corneal ulcer and bleeding in the eye. He was treated with eye drops, pain medication and antibiotics. His eye healed perfectly and he was released back where he came from.


Kuru is a Temminck’s ground pangolin which was poached from the Northern Cape. She came to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital for stabilisation and care after being confiscated. She was lightly sedated on her first night as this gave her the chance to sleep and replenish after the trauma of captivity. The next night the team at the Hospital started taking her for walks so she could forage and feed. Her condition stabilised and her health improved drastically. After a week of care she was transported to Tswalu Kalahari by private jet. She was fitted with a tracking device, custom made for her small scales and released. This will enable Wendy Panaino, a Phd student doing research on pangolins, to track her movements and dispersal behaviour.

It’s success stories like these that makes the work Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital does priceless.  Wildlife rescue doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work, fundraising, staffing, and support. What makes the Hospital unique to any other is that it is the only dedicated wildlife veterinary hospital in Johannesburg. They do not treat domestic animals or pets. None of their patients have owners. And all treatment of wildlife is free of charge. Their aim is to improve the quality of treatment, survival rate and success rate of rehabilitation of small to medium sized indigenous South-African wildlife.

“Many people would question why we need another non-profit wildlife organisation,” says founder Dr Karin Lourens. “Our Wildlife NPC is the first of its kind. The biggest difference is that we treat medium and small wildlife – most of the current NPOs fund conservation efforts focus on large wildlife such as rhino, elephant and lion. Smaller indigenous wildlife is often overlooked. Some of the species we treat include bats, owls, raptors, mongoose, meerkat, serval, genet, hedgehogs, bush babies, garden birds, water birds and otter – to name but a few. ”

Dr Lourens  explains that often injured or compromised animals are taken to the nearest veterinary practice for treatment. Most often the veterinarian on duty does not have the expertise or the time to treat a particular species and many times these animals get inadequate care (medical, diet and husbandry). Even SA’s 24 hour veterinary facilities are not equipped to handle wildlife.

The few veterinarians that are able to treat wildlife do so almost always on a pro-bono basis, something that is not always viable in the current economy. This is why we needed a veterinary hospital that only treats wildlife – on a full time basis. All of the currently registered wildlife rehabilitation centres do not have a veterinarian on site.

Subsequently every single animal needs to be transported to a suitable veterinary practice for consultation and treatment. This is extremely stressful for any wild animal, not to mention an injured or sick wild patient. Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital not only has  a dedicated veterinarian on a full time basis but the rehabilitation part of the hospital is run and overseen by a wildlife rehabilitation specialist.
The team consists of Dr Lourens, who is a registered veterinarian with 14 years’ experience in small animal medicine and surgery.  Nicci Wright, who is an independent wildlife rehabilitation specialist with many years’ experience, and has handled more than 340 indigenous species. ​A founder/director of the African Pangolin Working Group, formed in 2011, Nicci manages the rescue and rehabilitation of most of South Africa’s pangolin poaching cases and she also advises the authorities on the best practice when dealing with poached pangolins. She is currently the Executive Director of the African Pangolin Working Group. And Penny Morkel,  a highly-respected wildlife rehabilitator with nine years experience working with birds, mammals and reptiles.

Pay It Forward

​​As  Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital never charges for wildlife, they rely solely on the generous support of the community and corporate sponsors.  Without your generous donations and support, Johannesburg Wildlife Vet cannot treat our injured wildlife in need. If you are in a position to help with financial donations, their bank account is:
​​Johannesburg Wildlife NPC, FNB Cheque account,  Account: 62658400264
Branch Code: 255355. For more information please e-mail  [email protected], or call 071 248 1514.