Random Acts Of Wildlife Kindness That Feed Your Soul

Photo credit: Awmleer

There’s much that can be said about the term ‘pay it forward’. The greatest effects we have on the world (and our own inner happiness) are the ones we can never see. For me, paying it forward was volunteering my services as a rehabber at a local wildlife centre and feeding my own soul by helping little orphans in need.

Meet Alfie. The free-spirited dove who thinks he’s more human than avian. Alfie was found when he was just a few hours old. In fact, he still had egg shells stuck on his feet. It was raining heavily that night and the wind was howling when his nest blew clean out of a large pine tree. His sibling, sadly, didn’t make the lengthy fall. Huddled next to his dead brother, Alfie had little chance of surviving when the owner of the property found him and called me in a panic.

Out of all garden birds, the humble dove is arguably one of the most overlooked birds in terms of care. Many believe they are tough as nails and easy to rear. Truth is, like all orphaned birds they need very specific care, meticulous feeding and around-the-clock attention. What ensued for the next three months was two-hourly feeds, ensuring his make-shift nest was always the right temperature and that he was gaining weight weekly.

Recently, Alfie celebrated his second birthday. Although he is free-flighted (which means he is not caged and able to fly freely inside as well as outside as and when he wants) he never ventures far away from ‘home’. He has built himself an impressive resume of nests in every available crook and cranny from a book shelf to the inside of a kitchen cupboard. Although clearly broody, Alfie is sadly unlucky in love and not interested in any birds who try and woo him away (yes, he is confirmed to be a male). He is fiercely jealous when another dove tries to visit his domain – even the pretty ones get the cold shoulder. Doves have a predicted life span of just one-and-a-half years in the wild, which is pretty sad since doves lifespan in captivity can exceed 20 years. Fortunately, Alfie has the best of both words so here’s toasting to a long and happy life.

Sure, Alfie may not be your ‘typical pay it forward’ scenario but there are no rules when it comes to ‘paying it forward’. For me, Alfie was my ‘feel good’ deed – one thing I could ‘give back’. Something I did that made a difference – even if it was a difference to just to one humble dove. Do not underestimate the power of small good deeds.

It’s not just that one creature you’re saving, but a part of you too. And you’ll never know how deeply it can change your inner world until you actually get up and do something.

There are plenty of activities you can do to pay it forward to wildlife in need, and feel free to get creative.

You can volunteer at your local wildlife rehab centre. Almost every community has at least one wildlife rescue centre that needs help because it is often underfunded and understaffed. Volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean hard work; it can be a fun time spent with wildlife. Consider stopping by your local rescue and seeing if they need help feeding orphans, cleaning cages or even assisting with transporting rescue cases.

Another way to pay it forward is to never support the wildlife pet trade. As in other countries throughout the world, the wildlife pet trade takes a huge toll on wildlife in South Africa. Wildlife pet ownership is illegal, yet it continues to be common and accepted.

Compassion for wildlife starts at home, so teach your children that all forms of life are precious. Most children know very little about wildlife and experience irrational fears and unrealistic expectations regarding wild animal behaviour. We’re quick to stomp on spiders and freak at the sight of a grasshopper. Instead of killing, teach your children to be compassionate and take the unwelcomed guest outside.

And last but not least, found an orphaned or injured animal? Whether it’s a bat that’s fallen out your thatched roof, a baby bird whose nest was blown out a tree during a storm, a hedgehog that’s fallen in your pool or a snake that’s ventured into your garden. There are a number of wildlife centres across South Africa who can assist you.

Don’t simply ignore it and turn a blind eye.

Because you’ll never know how much one little ‘Alfie’ could change your life.

Read next: The Dog Who Never Gave Up

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Vanessa Papas
Vanessa Papas is a freelance journalist and studio photographer with a deep passion for animal welfare. Her work has appeared in various top South African magazines and newspapers.
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