They have a funny feline that Butter will melt your heart
Endangered serval is the latest to get a human 'mommy' at a KZN animal rehab centre
Meet Butter, a six-week-old serval that’s a rarely seen cat in Africa.
The bushcat is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species as urbanisation takes it’s toll on its habitat and people hunt them for their beautiful pelts, which resemble a young cheetah’s.
Butter’s human mom is the clinic manager at the FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Kirsten Steytler, who said the bushcat got his name because he was no bigger than a brick of butter when he was brought to the clinic.
He was found in a schoolyard in Copesville, outside Pietermaritzburg, by a group of schoolchildren who thought he was a lost domestic kitten. Butter was taken to a nearby animal farm who recognised that he was a wildcat and took the tiny bundle to FreeMe.He was only two weeks old at the time and needed to be bottle-fed.
Steytler said it was thought that Butter’s mother was probably killed because a serval kitten would usually never leave the spot where its mother left it, unless she didn’t return and they were starving.
“FreeMe have a ‘One Mommy’ policy so that only one person feeds and takes care of a baby animal. As soon as the animal is weened and on solid foods, the ‘mommy’ or carer starts distancing themselves from them, which gives the animal a chance to get wild again.”At about four months old they start introducing different toys to Butter to teach him to hunt, and at 10 or 11 months they should be able to release him back into the wild, she added.
The centre, which cares for and rehabilitates injured and sick wildlife, was founded in 2007 by rehabilitators who realised the growing need for the establishment of a trauma/rehabilitation facility in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. It is a non-profit as well as a public benefit organisation, and relies on donations from the public.
FreeMe has eight employees and eight volunteers, with four of the latter acting as “mommy” to the young animals.
The organisation is currently rehabilitating 50 animals and birds, including two large spotted genets, a rock monitor lizard, a spotted bush snake, leopard tortoises, blesbok, reedbuck, grey duiker, three baby barn owls, two jackal buzzards, a stepp buzzard and a caracal.