Barry the Bateleur

September 26, 2013



Ranger Andrew Nicholson usually believes in letting nature unfold, without human interference. However, for some unknown reason, he decided to make sure a Bateleur was alright.


Outside my room I noticed a fully grown Bateleur Eagle sitting on the ground in the shade of a large Mopane tree. I rushed to a rangers meeting, returning to find that it still hadn’t moved. I decided to investigate, smelling and finding a dead large-spotted genet not far from this beautiful raptor. He let me get uncharacteristically close without taking off. Sometimes letting nature take its course is the right thing to do, but that day it was different. Seeing a power-line near to where the bird was sitting, and having the female calling it from the air above me, was enough to make me think otherwise.

Realising something was definitely wrong with him, I called a few of the other rangers to get their opinion too. We decided to phone the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre, who agreed to have a look at him. Catching him was going to be the tough part… He opened his wings each time we got closer, diplaying his beautiful half black and half white colouration. Eventually we were able to throw a towel over him, and we carefully put him into a crate.

We became quite attached to “Barry the Bateleur” on the trip into Hoedspruit as he sat in a crate, quietly enjoying our company and the cool breeze from the Land Cruiser’s air-conditioning. After dropping him at Moholoholo we returned to work. A couple hours later they called to say he had been poisoned. The genet had obviously eaten a rat that had been poisoned. We buried the half eaten genet to prevent any further incidents, knowing that we couldn’t be responsible as we only make use of environmentally friendly products.

Just five days later, Barry was collected, ready to be set free again after some time on a drip in recovery. Bateleur’s are very territorial birds that often pair for life. We were very excited for the release, fully understanding the significance of the process. We took Barry to some higher ground, said our final goodbye’s and tilted the box. In about 30 seconds he had hobbled out of the box and taken flight; joining a female that was flying around in the area. What a moment it was to see the success unfold! We can only presume that it was his partner who had been flying around, alone at the time, perhaps “grieving” her recent loss.

My general stance is to let nature unfold just as it used to when the human species wasn’t around to interfere, but that day I just knew something wasn’t right. Many may disagree but that’s a debate for another day.


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  • Reply Trish Heywood September 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Well done on helping Barry successfully. I agree that nature is best left to it’s own. BUT this was a case of human interference before you got to help Barry so I am very please that you corrected the wrong which lay in using rat poison.
    Years ago I saw a video clip of an owl dying from eating a poisoned rat and I think that we should be banning rat poison. People don’t realise that the poison doesn’t end with the rat.
    Best wishes and thank you.

  • Reply Colleen September 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I agree with you 100% never interfere with nature but in this circumstance you were right to help the bird after all nature never put the poison down…..humans caused it. He would have died if it wasn’t for you and his partner would have also suffered. Thank you for what you have done what a heart warming story.

  • Reply Kaye Nicholson September 26, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    I absolutely think you did the right thing Andrew as Barry’s condition was not from nature, but from humans poisoning, and we made Barry ill so it was up to us (being you) to put matter right!
    Nothing for anyone to argue!

    Kind regards
    Kaye Nicholson

  • Reply Tony Morkel September 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Very well done Andrew Nicholson. This is a great portrayal of wildlife dedication. Thank you.

    We are a UK based publishing house with staff who have strong leaning towards wildlife conservation. If our business or publishing facilities can be of use to you, your wildlife or your industry it will be a pleasure to assist where possible.

  • Reply Sherol Mortimer September 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Well done, what a wonderful thing to have done, they are magnificent birds and one of my favourits, as I always say “Man the animal” always ruins ever thing he touches.

  • Reply Aubrey September 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Personally I believe that nature should be left to take its course. But we do not play by the rules, we use poisons that can hurt and kill indiscriminately, we have power lines which can cause birds damage,as they cannot see them, this is not nature at work, but man’s inventions. So when we cause the imbalance we need to correct the imbalance and give another chance which in my humble opinion is what you did. You are a ranger, and your task is to protect these animals against the human being which kills for fun or vanity. So from me, well done, you have done a good job.

  • Reply Rosie September 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I don’t disagree, I would have done the same thing, why let something die when it doesn’t need to ? Well done Andrew !

  • Reply Elizabeth Avenant September 26, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    What a BEAUTIFUL story!! So happy that this beautiful bird was spotted in time! Gave me goose bumps!!

  • Reply Gail September 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    No, you did the right thing and showed compassion. You and all your mates who decided the bird should go to the rehab place. Luckily, all he needed was to be sort of “washed out” by saline or whatever and was able to be returned to health and his mate. I can see the “let nature take its course” for baby antelopes etc. I fully understand that. But in this case your kindness affected more than one animal. May they both live long.

  • Reply Ria Warwick September 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    A job well done! Because humans do stupid things, humans sometimes (like this) have to “interfere”.

  • Reply Rudie van Zyl September 26, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    I think Andrew did the right thing. There is a big problem with Poison intended for mice or rats making its way further down the food chain. Lets do away with poison and let nature handle that too, have more genets and snakes to deal with the rats and mice. or use a good old fashioned rat trap. Thanks Andrew for your great work. I miss Kruger and all its beauty.

  • Reply Bridget Sutton September 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Well done! If humans weren’t around to interfere, Barry wouldn’t have needed human help. Thanks for caring and sharing

  • Reply Celia September 27, 2013 at 7:20 am

    It was humans who caused his condition in the first place. You did the right thing, well done 🙂

  • Reply Mau Perks September 27, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Thank you for this feel good story… Barry was poisoned indirectly by man’s hand so thanks for saving my favourite Raptor

  • Reply Mervyn September 27, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Well done. I agree with the general concept of not interfering nevertheless your judgement was superb and in fact years ago when man was not devastatingly involved the bird would not have been subject to poison. Thank goodness we still have people like yourselves to look after our wildlife. I salute you all.

  • Reply claire voutsinas September 28, 2013 at 1:58 am

    Why not,these birds,and most animals need all the help they can get,well done.

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