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Firsts

There's a beauty in firsts. It could be the naivety, the newness or our need as humans to find a rush in something. First love, first flight and for me he was a first too. Standing there with mixed emotions, I know I should be proud. I released him from my arms. He stroked his powerful wings disrupting the calm pink ribboned Lake Elementaita. The African Fish Eagle, whom I didn't get to name, was finally off into the wild.


We walked silently, my eyes heavy with tears, boy does it help to have tinted specs. I could tell Simon tried to cheer me up with comical statements. "He'll be fiiine" he casually dragged but I could see worry in his eyes, worry for what's out there. Did we release him to a better home or an early grave? I’m making my bet on mother nature to take care of my little buddy whom I'd grown very fond of.

Dr. Juliet Waiyaki and Kyalo releasing the juvenile Fish Eagle


I’m still very new at Naivasha Raptor Centre and Shiv, a man of few words, pops in frequently to check in if I am doing okay. He'd carry with him literature to familiarise me with the raptor world. I was like a child waiting for candy, every day I grew to expect another book. On 7th February he came in differently, after our warm pleasantries he informed me that in the next hour I am to expect an injured Fish Eagle from Naivasha's Fisherman's camp. I knew he'd be a call away if I needed help and I appreciated the offer but I was confident that I wouldn’t need it. Whenever you're preparing for an emergency, unclear of the severity of the situation, it's important that everyone knows their role. I had the most supportive team one could wish for. I walked to the car park where I met Mr. David who frantically explained how he had seen the fish eagle go down and drowned. I pulled out my clean towel, held the dull, shivering soaked fish eagle and walked to the clinic for first aid. This was a juvenile male about three months old and he had not had his first moult.

Dr. Juliet performing a full examination on the fish eagle in the clinic at Naivasha Raptor Centre


I was concerned about hypothermia and we immediately prepared a heating pad where he would lay for the next couple of days. This was a typical territorial fight, with several talon stabs and puncture wounds on the body. These territorial fights can get pretty fatal and the eagles are willing to fight to their deaths. The puncture wounds were fresh which offers good prognosis as there is little to no infection. I cleaned the wounds with warm betadine and massaged gently. I carried out a full examination because in cases like this there is a risk of fractures and luxation (dislocation of a joint). The wings could spread out and back normally and the feet had full mobility, there were no fractures. I was also concerned about the lethargy, we administered glucose orally and when his energy levels were a little higher force-fed the eagle. From the prominent keel we could tell that he had not fed recently. After administration of antibiotics we placed him in the heated bird cage for the night. He was kept under observation and on the second day he was transferred to Soysambu Raptor centre for further observation and rehab. The wound management therapy goes on for a week until the wound margins close off with no infection. The recovery was good. He was active and with great appetite, you were lucky to finish setting up his day-old chicks before he'd pounce on them mercilessly! I was impressed by his recovery, we all were and it was a matter of time before his release. He’s now at hack and we've been visiting the release site to leave food for him and monitor his progress in the wild.

 

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Kenya Bird of Prey Trust


Understand - Protect - Restore

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