On Dec 15th 2023, Bateleurs pilot, Roger Bozzoli, and passenger Willie Bodenstein (photo journalist from EAA and Pilot’s Post website) embarked on a 4.7 hours mission in his Piper PA28R – 201T to rescue an injured vulture in Kimberly, and transport it to the Vulpro rehabilitation center near Hartbeespoort.
The injured vulture rescue mission was a collaboration involving key figures like Brendan Murray (Founder, The Owl Rescue Centre), Kerri Wolter (CEO, Vulpro), and Heidi Folscher (Practise Manager, Farm Vet Dr Sherike van der Merwe, Kimberley vet) and our Bateleurs GM, Steve McCurrach.
Upon receiving permits from Kerri, our team swiftly organized essentials such as boxes, blankets, fuel, oil, and flight plans. Taking off from Rand at 09:12, we encountered challenges like thunderstorms and rain but managed an enjoyable yet technical flight. Diverting around Bloemhof dam area and eventually landing safely at Kimberly's runway 02, where we were faced with a massive storm approaching.
Despite ground winds of 020/17 gusting 25 knots, we efficiently navigated through airport procedures. The wind shifted to 200 at 10/15 knots as we took off, at first experiencing some light rain and then some little nudges to remind us of the storm's presence. The flight to Kroon at FL110 was uneventful, offering a fascinating view of the landscape and farmers' private landing strips.
Approaching Klerksdorp, we encountered weather obstacles, but with Brendan's updates, we safely descended to Level 90. After facing turbulence and rain, we cancelled IFR and proceeded VFR. Landing at Kroon's grass strip, we met Brendan, eager to finally see the injured bird through security and onto his next step of the journey.
The vulture had suffered a broken wing injury from a power line, requiring an amputation by Dr. Sherike van der Merwe in Kimberley. Flying the bird to Vulpro in Hartebeespoort not only minimized its stress but has also facilitated its rehabilitation and integration into a breeding program in the future.
This rescue mission, yet again highlights the dedication of individuals committed to preserving Southern Africa's wildlife.