FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation KZN was established seven years ago in response to the growing need for a dedicated Centre which could care for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife in a large area which extends from south of Pietermaritzburg to the Drakensburg and from Ixopo through to Greytown. This area is largely rural and covers a number of different climatic zones from sub tropical forest and thorn veldt through misty wet grasslands to the harsh climatic conditions of the Drakensburg Mountain Range with its snow, big storms and run away fires. It is also an area renown for its wildlife biodiversity, its attraction as an ecotourism and birding destination, and the large number of Threatened or Protected Species found within its boundaries. Previously, all rehabilitation was being handled by a few dedicated individuals, but as the need grew and costs increased, this became unmanageable. Ezemvelo Wildlife KZN, the local conservation authority, introduced a set of norms and standards for the keeping of wildlife in captivity which regulates and ensures that rehabilitation is carried out in line with overseas protocols and complies with all ethical requirements.
Adele Malan, from FreeMe Gauteng, set up a task force to investigate the best ways of establishing the rehabilitation facility, and land was donated on a fifty year non commercial lease basis. Rob Taylor, a local property developer responsible for the Amber Retirement Villages, donated the clinic building and various other donors came on board to ensure that the Centre was comparable with the best in the country. Adele was unfortunately killed at van Reenen's Pass on her way to take over the running of FreeMe.
Since then FreeMe has grown in reputation and now has permits from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for the rehabilitation of all wildlife in the area, including Threatened or Protected Species. Working with the Raptor Rescue Centre outside Pietermaritzburg and the Primate Centre outside Richmond, we are able to handle nearly all the rehabilitation requirements of the area. We handle between 800 and 1 000 cases per year and this includes antelope species such as Oribi, Reedbuck, duiker, blue duiker, blesbok, bush buck, and impala. We run a 24/7 emergency call out service and cover large distances, with the associated travel costs. A number of cases include our larger bird species such as cranes, storks, herons, etc. Amongst our Threatened or Protected Species workload we include Oribi, Reedbuck, Crane, some of the Raptor species, Samango monkeys, serval and a number of bats.
As we become better known, the demand for our services has grown and we are now the centre of choice for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, vets and the public in general
Because we do not pay rent, electricity , water or rates, the bulk of our donations can be directed towards animal care. Our running costs are kept to a minimum and we use a fair number of volunteers to reduce staffing costs. FreeMe also run an education programme for schools and community groups, and are the charity of choice for community service for scholars from, inter alia, Michaelhouse, Epworth, Grace College and St Annes.