Sizzle (Tag B432) a Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres) was rescued on the 10th of November 2010 in the Damdoryn area of Brits in the North West Province, South Africa. Sizzle had decided to go through a property’s electric fence and in trying to get through had burnt his neck severely. Ordinarily an electric fence has up to 6000 volts running through it; this is what is legally acceptable in South Africa. Kerri has rescued many vultures stuck in electric fences and never before or since seen the kind of burns that Sizzle experienced – leading her to believe that the voltage on that particular fence was much higher.
On initial inspection, Sizzle had a few singed neck feathers as would normally be expected from an experience like this. Then he started to breathe strangely, making a horrible gargling sound in his throat, not understanding what was causing the problem, he was rushed through to the Exotic Animal Clinic at Onderstepoort.
Sizzle was anaesthetised and the vet checked inside his mouth, normally an endoscope would be used to examine all the tissue in Sizzle’s throat, in this case, his throat was so swollen that the vet couldn’t get the endoscope down his throat. Using long thin forceps, the vet was able to ascertain that there was necrotic burnt tissue inside Sizzle’s throat, blocking his trachea (air passage). Not only was this excruciatingly painful, threatened Sizzle’s ability to breathe, the risk of infection from dead and dying tissue all of which would have killed Sizzle without veterinary intervention.
Poor Sizzle had to be anaesthetised and treated every third day for the next few weeks – this meant that the vet had to scrape and remove all of the dead tissue in Sizzle’s trachea and oesophagus. After that he was treated once a week until he had healthy tissue left in his trachea and oesophagus.
He was kept with Puff Adder (Read Puff Adder’s Story) for few weeks to make sure that he was strong enough to survive after being released and could eat and breathe with no issues.
South Africa is a country with a high crime rate and electric fences are the go to first line of defence against intruders. What we often forget about are the wildlife who have to move in and out of our gardens in order to survive. Snakes, mice, chameleons, hedgehogs, large insects and birds are all at risk of electrocution if the fence is not legally compliant. Pets are also at risk should a dog get stuck under an electric fence that isn’t legally compliant.
Whilst we all need to remain safe and secure in our houses, please remember that we need to keep our wildlife safe as well. Sizzle is the perfect ambassador for the implications of illegally designed security measures. He was released with Puff Adder on the 19th of December 2010.
Familiarise yourself with what to do should a person or animal be stuck in your fence:
- Turn the fence off or move the animal away from the fence using a dry, non-conducting object made of cardboard, rubber or wood.
- Know how to perform CPR on animals, especially if you really love your dogs and cats
- Keep the animal warm as shock can cause a significant drop in body temperature.
- If clean gauze or a sterile dressing is available then cover any external burns. Do not use cotton wool or material with fibres as they will stick in the wounds.
- Get the animal to a vet immediately, many electrical burns are worse on the inside than you would expect from the external signs on their body.
- Make sure that your electric fence is legally compliant with current legislation