Photo Credit: South Africa Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Two incredible rescues took place at the Vaal Dam this week; the first, a community of rescue organisations worked to save the birds; the second, a bird rescuer was rescued from the raging waters.


Vaal, South Africa (05 January 2022) – The Vaal dam is over 100% full, almost too full at the moment, so officials have opened another sluice to help. It is great news that the water levels look so good, but the rising water has also caused a few issues for animals. One rescuer got caught up in the water while saving chicks and eggs.

Earlier today, we reported a rescue that took place at the Vaal. A horse had been stranded on a shrinking island as the water levels rose. It took rescuers five days to get the horse to safety. Thankfully, all is well now.

Another rescue was underway during the same time. The South African Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (SAWRC) had sent a team out to the Vaal after being alerted that bird nests and chicks were in danger of drowning due to the additional sluice gate being opened.

The team rushed to save as many weavers, herons, and egret babies as they could. Armed with canoes and kayaks, the teams navigated the rushing waters and got busy with their rescue efforts.

On the 3rd of January, the team shared that they were overwhelmed by the assistance received during their rescue efforts.

“We currently have the most phenomenal response happening on the Vaal river with the threat of more sluice gates to be opened.

As many babies are being collected to be taken to safety so that the pending rise of the river does not drown thousands of the egrets, herons, weavers and anything else which is nesting along the already flooded river banks and islands.

We are being assisted by Wild Serve, Owl Rescue Centre, ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd. and NSRI!” – South African Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

One of the volunteers helping to collect the chicks and eggs was Dirk from Wild Serve. Unfortunately, the rough water and rapids caused his kayak to quite an upset, capsizing him and leaving Dirk clinging to a nearby tree. Before long, he was listed as missing. The NSRI and volunteers searched high and low for him but with little success. He had gone missing at 3 pm, and by midnight, there was still no sign.

Thankfully, the NSRI crew was already on hand, helping rescue the birds. Jake Manten, NSRI Vaal Dam station commander, shared how the events unfolded.

“The river, swollen from heavy rainfall, had 4 of the dam wall sluice gates opened at the time by The Department of Water and Sanitation.

Our NSRI rescue vehicle, towing our rescue runner rescue craft and with an NSRI Arc inflatable with swift water rescue gear responded and were joined by a Police Dive Unit, SA Police Services, ER24 ambulance services, and Netcare 911 ambulance services.

A search was carried out along the river banks to as far as Groenpunt Correctional Services.” – Jake Manten

The search was suspended during the evening hours and resumed at first light on Tuesday, 4 January. A Police helicopter joined NSRI Vaal Dam, Police divers, SA Police Services, ER24 ambulance services, and members of Afri-Forum, in the ongoing search.

“During the search, the missing kayak was located wrapped around a tree and damaged and while an NSRI rescue craft searched that area along the river the man was found huddled in a tree that he had climbed to escape the rapids after being swept away when his kayak capsized.

He was rescued from the tree and taken onboard the NSRI rescue craft and brought to the staging area where was reunited with family, colleagues and friends.”

Dirk clung to the tree the entire night. He was treated for exhaustion and dehydration but thankfully required no other medical assistance.

With Dirk safely back on land, the birds were taken to the rehabilitation center, where they are now being cared for. The cattle egret eggs have started hatching, and the babies are coming in fast. It is going to be a very busy time at the rehabilitation center.

If you would like to get involved, you can help with donations which will be put toward the rearing, travel, food, and release of the baby birds when the time is right.

South African Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Account: 6275 926 5434
Branch: 250 655
Account Type: Business Account
Reference: Vaal River Rescue

Or via PayPal account:

Sources: NSRI / SAWRC
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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