Naivasha Owl Trust
The Naivasha Owl Centre is one of the two arms of the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust. It is a Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre for Birds of Prey and Owls and is based on South Lake Road in Naivasha, Kenya.
The Kijani Kenya Trust has been supporting Sarah Higgins’ work since 2004 using money raised from its International Music Festivals.
Sarah Higgins lives on the shores of Lake Naivasha in Kenya’s Rift Valley, where she runs a rescue centre for owls and raptors – and any other bird that is brought in that needs help.
The centre was started in 2003 by a little Barn Owl called Fulstop who was brought in with a badly damaged wing. The vet said that whilst he could mend the bones the owl would never be able to fly properly again and thus could not be released. This resulted in Sarah building an owlery for Fulstop and from there the injured or orphaned owls and then eagles and other raptors started to come in.
Most of Sarah’s patients are repaired, brought back to full fitness and released back where they belong – in the wild, but of course there are a few that sadly are too damaged to be released, Several of these, like Fulstop, have gone on to breed, and their children are now being released into the wild.
For many Kenyans, an owl is a bird to be feared because of adverse superstition and as a result they are often killed. This superstition is something that Sarah is trying to dispel and a couple of her disabled owls have become teaching owls who accompany her to schools where they give talks about the importance of owls as pest control units and how they are to be encouraged rather than killed.
“I have had over 190 birds through my hands over the years and some of them have been real characters. One of the most amusing was a Great White Pelican, called Waddlesworth, who was brought in as a starving youngster. He grew up and started to fly at about the right time but then wouldn’t leave! He would waddle down the lawn and take off for a quick spin around the lake, but would always make sure that he was back in time for his afternoon snooze. He excelled himself by stealing a teaspoon off the breakfast table one morning and then accidentally swallowing it. No one knew what to do about this so in the end I covered my arm with cooking oil and put my hand down the poor bird’s throat and retrieved the spoon. Amazingly Waddlesworth forgave me for this serious abuse of our friendship!”
The Naivasha Owl Centre currently hosts 23 owls, 18 raptors (including three Crown Eagles), a vulture and two Marabou Storks. Several of these will have to remain at the Centre but the majority will eventually be released once they have been brought back to total fitness. In many cases falconry techniques are used to get them fit, as an unfit bird won’t be able to catch its food and will thus starve to death.
The Centre has facilities for the care of injured, sick or orphaned birds. It has a small clinic and works with a Veterinary Surgeon and a Falconer. The birds are repaired, when they have an injury, and brought back to health when they are sick (or poisoned) and are looked after until they fully recover. They are then brought up to full fitness, prior to release at the second arm of the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, The Raptor Camp, at Soysambu which is run by Simon Thomsett, the Country’s leading expert on Raptors. From there they are then released either back where they came from (provided it is deemed safe for them) or into the correct type of terrain for them, all under the watchful eye of the KWS.
The birds that are too badly damaged and so cannot be returned to the wild, but which we feel still have some degree of quality of life, remain at the Centre. In some cases they become teaching birds to help people, particularly children, to understand the importance of birds of prey and the vital role they play in this increasingly degraded world of ours. The other birds that can’t be released but have a fellow injured and unreturnable partner are allowed to breed and their young are then released into the wild.
All of this is accomplished through private funding, although a lot more could be achieved if additional financial support was available. We, Sarah Higgins, Simon Thomsett and Shiv Kapila, have therefore set up a charitable trust, the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust to help us raise funds so that we can do so much more. We are at present expanding and improving our Clinic and need:
- A small digital X-ray unit
- A high powered microscope
- A surgeon’s lamp for operations
- An Autoclave
- An ultrasound unit
- An ophthalmoscope
We also would very much like to:
- Build more and improved accommodation for the birds
- Set up a captive-breeding unit for endangered species
- Set up an Education Centre
- Set up a Raptor Research Centre
Kenya Bird of Prey Trust,
P.O. Box 358,