For most people rehabilitation centres and sanctuaries have the same meaning. There is, however, a great difference between the two. Rehabilitation centres should only be used where a wild indigenous animal has been injured, orphaned or diseased and the chances of a full recovery within a reasonably short period, is envisaged and release back into the wild is the aim.
Alien or exotic species cannot be released back into the wild so they should not go to a rehabilitation centre. Rehabilitation centres should therefore not be used for any indigenous animal where the recovery prognosis is poor or when dealing with alien (exotic) species. A sanctuary is a facility that is specifically equipped to deal with the long term needs of a specific specie or species.
It is unfortunately a fact that in South Africa there is very limited access to formal training with regards to both rehabilitation and sanctuary management. To compound the problem some provinces still do not acknowledge their existence or difference and enforcement is practically non-existent in these provinces. Although there are some very good facilities, control and standards within others are or can be suspect.
With the influx of alien or exotic species of animals entering our shores or being bred here for the pet trade we are finding more and more of these helpless animals being dumped on the doorstep of welfare organisation. Unfortunately people often buy these animals on impulse or a novelty and when the desire to look after them wanes they are dumped or killed. This occurs with an array of species from tarantulas to capuchin monkeys. A huge problem that we face is that there are not enough or no sanctuaries for all these animals.
The Wildlife Unit has begun a process whereby rehabilitation centres and sanctuaries are being accredited for use by the NSPCA and local S.P.C.A.s. It would be foolish for any welfare organisation to send an animal to any facility that has not been inspected or is suspect in the treating and housing of animals entering its doors.
The Wildlife Unit attempts to uncover those sanctuaries that we do not yet know of and undertake inspections of them. It is therefore requested that if you do know of such facilities to drop us an e-mail to allow us to ensure the welfare of those animals.
Updated: 22 March 2010