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Animal Hospital Saves Wild Animals from the City


Veterinary doctor Karin Lourens, left, and veterinary rehabilitation specialist Nicci Wright care for a pangolin.
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Just outside the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, a veterinary hospital is saving wild animals that live nearby.

“I’d love to be in the bush, but I get more cases here,” said Nicci Wright, a veterinary rehabilitation specialist.

Leopard tortoises gather in a circle to eat fresh vegetables at the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital.
Leopard tortoises gather in a circle to eat fresh vegetables at the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital.

Wright and Karin Lourens, a doctor trained to care for animals, set up the hospital two years ago. Since then, they have treated about 4,000 creatures.

Both Johannesburg and Pretoria, the South Africa capital, are expanding. The growth of the two cities is squeezing out animals that are native to the area.

The wildlife hospital mainly treats small mammals and large hunting birds that are injured.

The hospital now has about 160 patients. They include six leopard tortoises, a toothless 12-foot python and an otter that was taken far from her natural surroundings when someone tried to keep her as a pet.

African Rock Python - Python sebae natalensis
African Rock Python - Python sebae natalensis

Many animals coming to the hospital have not only physical injuries. They show signs of stress from being hurt by people. Some creatures, like the endangered pangolin, become fearful when they hear a male human voice or smell cigarette smoke. That makes the animals remember the people who hunted them, said Wright.

“Everything is terrifying for them,” she said.

European Otter (Lutra lutra)
European Otter (Lutra lutra)

In a wooden cage on the hospital floor, a young pangolin begins to move around, rubbing against the box. It is feeding time at the hospital.

A pangolin from the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital is taken to a nearby field to forage for food near Johannesburg.
A pangolin from the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital is taken to a nearby field to forage for food near Johannesburg.

A volunteer will walk him on a nearby hill where the pangolin will search for ants to eat. Pangolins are one of the world’s most heavily trafficked animals because of demand for their scales in Asia.

Pangolin scales seized in Douala, March 20, 2019. International trade in pangolins was banned in 2016 under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Pangolin scales seized in Douala, March 20, 2019. International trade in pangolins was banned in 2016 under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Along with five full-time employees, the hospital gets help from volunteers like Lauren Beckley, who lives nearby. Beckley cares for young monkeys, who hug her. Their own mothers have been shot or killed in auto accidents.

Baby primate carer Lauren Beckley, right, and veterinary rehabilitation specialist Nicci Wright, left, work at the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, in Johannesburg
Baby primate carer Lauren Beckley, right, and veterinary rehabilitation specialist Nicci Wright, left, work at the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, in Johannesburg

When the animals are ready to return to the wild, Wright and her team work with nature centers around the country to take the animals to a new, safer home.

I’m Jill Robbins.

This story was reported by the Associated Press. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

veterinary – adj. relating to the medical care and treatment of animals

in the bush - expression (especially in Australia, Africa, and Canada) wild or undeveloped countryside

rehabilitate - v. to bring back to a normal, healthy condition after a sickness, injury, or drug problem

leopard tortoise - n. a large and tortoise marked with yellow and black found in the savannas of eastern and southern Africa, from Sudan to the southern Cape

python - n. a very large snake that kills the animals it eats by wrapping itself around them

otter - n. an animal that has dark brown fur and webbed feet with claws and that eats fish

pet – n. an animal that is kept for pleasure instead of usefulness

pangolin - n. a mammal that has a body covered with horny overlapping scales and a long sticky tongue for catching ants and termites

scales - n. small thin plates that cover the bodies of some animals

Do you ever see wild animals near your home? Who takes care of them when they are injured? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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