Roots 'n' Shoots: Look What the Cat Dragged In: Francolin & FreeMe

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Look What the Cat Dragged In: Francolin & FreeMe

Whisker Flower: Diesel
There was a huge ruckus late on the 8th of December (round about midnight) as one of the cats had a bird outside the bedroom window. We went to chase the cat away (culprit was Diesel – one of the sun worshippers) and he abandoned his prey (they know if we find them with prey we take it away, teaches them not to bring it home for us to witness the gruesome acts) – anyways – it was a baby chick of some sort.

We took the chick inside, probably about 4 weeks old and it looked way to much like a chicken chick (it had a comb) to me, but his rescuer insisted that he made sounds more melodious than a chicken. I checked him over and found two small flesh wounds, but nothing serious. I gave him a bit of antibiotics that we have for the chickens (Tylosin Tartrate Plus Phenix for Mycoplasma infections) with lots of protesting from his side. Afterwards we put him in a box with a blankie and I stowed him high in my cupboard in my bedroom (where the cats won’t get him) and left him in peace for the rest of the night.

Francolin Chick

In the morning I was surprised to see that he made it through the night, usually we lose the cat victims to stress, which indicated that this was a strong chick. I transferred him to another ‘more open’ container (plastic picnic basket) so that he can get some light and we locked him in one of the workrooms in the house away from the cats. I initially left him with food to see if he’ll eat himself, but after a while I gave him some mushy chicken pellets. I assumed he was full when he was eyeing me through slits and stopped complaining. I left him to digest his food while I phoned around for a rehab centre we could take him to. Meanwhile his rescuer was paging through our bird books and found that he might be a Francolin (Swainson’s we think).

Swainson's Francolin
Pternistis swainsonii 
Wikimedia Commons
Winfried Bruenken (Amrum)
I noticed another odd thing going on with his feet – not cat induced – he is a polydactyl. ‘Poly’ means many or more and ‘dactyl’ means digit (fingers or toes). Polydactyly is a genetic condition (not inherited thought, a developmental error as an embryo) and usually involves the addition of one extra finger (thumb, middle or pinkie) or toes (first or last). The additional digit is normally redundant and not functional, which is attached by skin and nerves to the hand/foot, but baby Francolin is one of a few polydactyls that developed a functional and ‘normal’ looking extra digit. It should come in handy when scratching as part of his earth-moving equipment J.
Polydactyl foot with extra digit
He went back into the original dark box to minimise travel stress and we took him to the Bird Gardens at Montecasino. They don’t do rehab there, but they take ‘drop-offs’ for a rehab centre further away. I wouldn’t have mind to raise baby Francolin myself, but with the odds of 4 predators in the house it seemed better to take him to people with the knowledge and facilities to raise chicks. I can't keep him with the chickens because he is very small and they'll likely hurt him and peck on him because he would be the sole new member of the flock. I felt like asking to see their facilities and evaluating their qualifications before I left baby Francolin… Strange how quickly you become attached, I fed him a few times and I already felt like his guardian.

.... Then on the evening of the 11th we heard chick sounds all to familiar coming from outside. So we raced out to save yet another Francolin chick from the same culprit. One of us tackled the cat and the other grabbed the chick. This time round the chick was much larger and was less injured, so I followed the same routine as with the previous baby, except that he/she happily ate by themselves the next morning. Then we were off to the rehab centre directly - FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre - were the two polydactyl chicks were reunited. Yay! J

FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is located within the Rietfontein Nature Reserve and has been rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing Gauteng's indigenous wildlife since 1997 (that's 16 years!!!). They are passionate about wildlife and conservation. If you are interested in donating to their worthy cause, please see the brochure below:

The FreeMe wildlife rehabilitation centre has a website, which has information on their facility and rehabilitation efforts. They collaborate with many veterinary clinics who treat their animals pro bono and drop-offs can be made at these veterinary clinics for the rehab centre (specifics on the web) - because the centre may be far-out for many animal lovers in Gauteng. The website also provides how-to's on saving baby birds and baby mammals as well as reporting wildlife crime and spottings. After dropping off the second Francolin chick at the rehab centre itself I was certain that they were in good hands. BTW after they are all grown up they will be released at the Kromdraai Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve.

Good luck baby Francolins and I hope your journey back to the wild will be speedy!

P.S Diesel had a good pep talk about leaving baby Francolins with their parents and we hope not to receive more during the following nights... J

From their how-to save animals pages
"To find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact:
083 558 5658 (All hrs)
011 807 6993 (Off hrs)
011 807 6814 (Off hrs)"

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