In wildlife rehabilitation, as in many other spheres of human endeavour, things are not always what they seem. Wildlife rehabilitation is both thankless and rewarding. Dedicated work in this field requires a degree of hard work and sacrifice, which can only be appreciated by those who are or have been actually engaged in such efforts. It can, however, also be quite rewarding, particularly when distressed animals are treated successfully and can be released into the wild. For some people it is apparently also rewarding in other ways, for example, through the publicity and sponsorships their activities attract. Such people, however, may tend to feel threatened if the work of others are recognised and appreciated. They thus may tend to try and entrench their position by forming some kind of body which is supposed to serve the rehabilitation community but in fact acts more like a closed shop intent on securing publicity and sponsorship. The National and Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Councils appear to be classic examples.
As will be illustrated later, these bodies have often made statements and acted in other respects to discredit certain individuals and organisations that they apparently regard as competitors or potential threats to their positions in the rehabilitation community. These "Councils" had no formal status whatsoever, but used every available opportunity to create or foster the illusion that they had some "official" status.
Not surprisingly, various efforts to trace or establish the actual history, status and modus operandi of the "Councils" yielded no clearcut answers. What follows is a compilation of information obtained from published and other documents (copies of which are available) and as a result of further enquiries.
REFERENCES TO THE COUNCILS
To learn something about the "Councils" and their activities the first step was to search the Internet and available documents for references.
The first reference was in ARC News of March 1995 where Mrs Karen Trendler stated that:
One of the most exciting developments is the formation of the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. A steering Committee was elected at the Sasol Wildlife Rehabilitation Symposium in October 1995. ... we are working on the development of legislation and national co-ordination.
It was also stated that
... the council and programme will initially be accommodated at ARC ... ARC will change to a TRUST called WILDCARE under which the programme, council, etc will operate.
In the next (and final) edition of ARC News Mrs Trendler wrote as follows:
ARC has been actively involved in the development of the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme and the National Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators.
There has long been a need for a national, coordinated approach to wildlife rehabilitation - right back when Janet and I started ARC, training and information, assistance and guidance, were just not available .... we had to learn the hard way, through hands-on experience and many mistakes. I was determined then that some day I would make it easier for other rehabilitators ... the dream gradually grew and became a determination, forged along the way by daily experience - and over the past few years, we have been preparing for and laying the foundations for the national programme - and now it has become a reality.
The National Programme, under which the Council has been formed, is aimed at facilitating wildlife rehabilitation.
* the decision that ARC as it is, would give way in favour of the development of the national programme.
The most advanced stage is that of interdependence * and this is the stage that we hope to facilitate in the field of wildlife rehabilitation through the national programme and council.
The National Programme and Council aims to facilitate ethical and responsible rehabilitation and promote wildlife welfare, providing high standards of care and contributing positively to conservation whilst ensuring humane handling of wild patients through
* training, registration of rehabilitators
* promoting and developing the field and specialist skills involved
* sharing data
* developing a national network and referral system providing nation-wide wildcare facilities
* providing a support network for rehabilitators
* developing legislation, minimum standards and a code of conduct and ethics
* coordinating and facilitating
* developing a crisis response team and mobile paraveterinary unit
* compiling a national listing/register and national Helpline
* promoting community involvement and active co-operation
In 1996 Mrs Trendler (as "National co-ordinator") published the first edition of Release, the Newsletter of the Southern African Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme. In this document it was stated, inter alia:
In October 1995 ... a steering committee for a rehabilitation association was elected... . The Interim Council is hard at work coordinating, structuring, facilitating ... and all those other "ings". Regional representation and organisation is being facilitated and encouraged.
In Keeping Track of August/September 1996 it was reported that
ARC’s function as just a rehabilitation and wildlife hospital has undergone a major metamorphosis - they are currently co-ordinating the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme developing national legislation and establishing the National Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Council which will be responsible for registering, training and developing rehabilitators. (p. 62)
On 24 October 1996 an item was posted on the Wildnet Africa News Service under the title "New Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme for Southern Africa". The following are a few extracts:
Launched recently, the Southern African Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme and its National Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators are set to promote wildlife welfare...
According to Karen Trendler, National Co-ordinator and founder of the Programme, this is the culmination of years of planning, preparation and a considerable amount of research. ... the Council was formed to deal with matters such as coordinating, structuring and facilitating.
It was decided that ARC, co-founded by Karen Trendler eleven years ago, would give way in favour of the development of the national Programme. ARC has been actively involved in the development of the Programme and the Council and played a major role in laying the foundations ... ARC will change to a trust called WILDCARE under which the Programme and Council will operate.
Apparently a Gauteng "branch" of the Council was also established. In a news release posted by the Bateleur Raptor Rehabilitation Centre, Ms Lorna Stanton referred to herself as "the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council spokesperson". This release was posted on WildNet Africa on 6 April 1998.
On the Wildcare website (www.wildcare.org.za) there used to be a title page with supposed links to other pages. One of the "links" was to "National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council of South Africa (NWRCSA)" adding that "You should know about the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and its work." This site was visited on a number of occasions but no further information was provided. Later visits to the Wildcare website yielded nothing except a notice stating "Sorry, this site is temporarily unavailable. Please visit Wildnet Africa ...". Wildnet Africa, however, yielded nothing about Wildcare. When approached, the system administrator of the Wildnet Africa Website stated that she had no idea what was happening at Wildcare. They had lost contact with Wildcare long ago and it was not even listed among the wildlife organisations on their website.
EVIDENCE ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE COUNCILS
In spite of all the claims as to what the Programme and the Councils set out to achieve, no evidence could be found of any positive contribution to wildlife rehabilitation. Instead, it appears that the Councils were vehicles used by two or three individuals to further their own personal aims and to attempt to discredit others who could potentially receive recognition, publicity and sponsorships for their endeavours in the treatment, care and rehabilitation of wildlife.
The following examples serve to illustrate this point.
(Copies of all the original documents are available).
On 2 August 1999 Lorna Stanton sent a fax to Mr Bill Howell, the Chief Northern Region of the Natal Parks Board discrediting/defaming Trevor Oertel of the SA Bird of Prey Centre. The letter (dated 1 August 1999) was supposed to have been signed by Neil Greenwood (Chairperson, Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council).
On 10 August 1999 Lorna Stanton (Vice-chairperson, Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, for Chairperson, Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council) wrote to Mr Claud Gerard of Toyota SA complaining about the filming of a Toyota Advertisement the next day. Toyota intended using a Giant Eagle Owl from Wings in Need in Pretoria. She accused Emsie Mohr of Wings in Need of "unethical", "inhumane" behaviour "for monetary gain" and threatened to lay charges against Toyota and Mrs Mohr.
The fact of the matter is that Wings in Need had agreed to provide the bird at a nominal fee, to cover the transport costs and time of an experienced person to handle the bird during the filming, which took less than two minutes since the owl simply had to sit peacefully in a tree. The reason for the "Council's" intervention was apparently because some other person (Ms Stanton?) wanted to charge Toyota R7 000 to use his or her bird for the shoot. Needless to say, no charges were laid. The purpose of the letter was simply to discredit/defame other individuals or organisations for financial gain.
In 1999 the National Bird of Prey Centre approached the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for assistance. The initial response was very positive but on 5October 1999 Sarah Scarth of IFAW, who apparently was supposed to have served on the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (see the next section), informed Mrs Glodel Oertel of the National Bird of Prey Centre in writing that IFAW "cannot consider supporting your organisation". This position was based on advice received from the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council which apparently distanced itself from the Bird of Prey Centre and also informed IFAW that "both North-West and Gauteng Nature Conservation will not be issuing you (the Bird of Prey Centre) with further rehabilitation permits after October". This was a malicious lie, as corroborated by Nature Conservation and further evidenced by the fact that permits continued to be issued to the Centre. Moreover, Gauteng Nature Conservation regarded the Centre as a highly regarded provider of care to raptors, as Ms Cornia Hugo, Chief Nature Conservation officer of Gauteng Nature Conservation, will be able to testify.
On 6 October 1999 Lorna Stanton sent a fax to Sarah Scarth, stating that "With regard to our conversation yesterday about the Oertel's (sic) I would just like to confirm the following with you." She then sets about defaming the Oertels and ends by stating that the "following organizations and individuals would entirely disassociate themselves from the unethical behaviour and practices of the SA Bird of Prey Centre and the owners, Trevor and Glodel Oertel.
Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council
Raptor Conservation Group
Gauteng Directorate of Nature Conservation
North West Region Nature Conservation
Bateleur Raptor Rehabilitation Centre
Bird Life South Africa
Raptoria Private Raptor Breeding Facility
There can thus be no doubt that the Oertels lost a potential sponsorship due to Lorna Stanton's "advice" to IFAW on behalf of the "Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council".
Earlier, on 17 September 1999, Ms Lorna Stanton had sent a malicious fax to Mrs Betsie Swart of North West Conservation about an "inspection" (at the Johannesburg Zoo) that had been conducted by the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, adding that "The Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council will send you a letter shortly on our opinions of the Oertel’s (sic) and their so-called rehabilitation of raptors". The comments about the "inspection" also reveal an attempt to mislead the reader. For example, it was reported that one of the raptors was lying on the ground. This may sound negative to a layperson but, as anyone who is knowledgeable about raptors would know, it usually reflects contentment on the part of the raptor.
On 21 October 1999 a four-page fax was sent to Bettie Swart of Northwest Region Nature Conservation on the letterhead of the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and signed by Lorna Stanton (Vice Chairperson) for Neil Greenwood (Chairman). The fax relates to the unethical behaviour and activities of Trevor and Glodel Oertel and their "so-called SA Bird of Prey Centre". It contains 18 points raised by the "committee of the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. It is also stated that "we have had to write to various organisations distancing ourselves from their activities". Moreover, it is emphasised that "none of the above statements are hearsay or gossip. They can all be proved by court records, by official permits...".
In the fax, which was clearly aimed at defaming the Oertels, they are accused, inter alia, of a lack of experience, killing raptors, housing birds in "appalling conditions" and removing raptors from the wild. It is also stated that "centres that gave the Oertels birds have subsequently realised their mistake and want nothing to do with the Oertels".
On 16 May 2000 Ms Stanton posted a message on SABIRDNET (on the Internet) on behalf of the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council in which she stated, inter alia, that "Our Council is extremely concerned about the irresponsible disclosure of this sort of information... . If one took the trouble to read the list of SA Birdnet subscribers, then one would only be too aware of the fact that there are some very undesirable and unethical individuals who read this sort of information (about the localities of Taita falcons and Bat hawks). Several of these people are ‘blacklisted’ by our Council".
This message was also aimed primarily at discrediting Trevor and Glodel Oertel of the South African National Bird of Prey Centre. Interestingly enough, a number of subscribers to SABIRDNET reacted angrily to the accusations and it was decided that such malicious material would not be permitted again. The following were some of the comments from irate subscribers: "... who has ever heard of this ‘Council’ and why should we be concerned about what they think?" "... it would have been better for this ‘Council’ to educate people rather than flame them". "To think that the ‘Council’ has sole knowledge ... is to show an arrogance, that came through very clearly... (this) leaves one with the distinct impression that the cliques that develop around these organisations ... are far more important than the issues themselves". "I have never heard of Lorna’s council either".
At about that time the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council also sent the following statement to a wide variety of people and organisations:
To whom it may concern
The Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council would like to make it known that we officially distance ourselves from the SA Bird of Prey Centre run by a Mr Trevor Oertel.
We would also like to make it known that we directly oppose the methods used to rehabilitate birds of prey, as they are not accepted internationally or by our council. We cannot condone turning physically perfect raptors, particularly eagles, for public falconry displays under the guise of rehabilitation. Any raptor tamed to this extent can never be safely released back into the wild.
We also distance ourselves from Mr Oertel’s opinion, his appallingly bad raptor facilities at Rietvlei, his raptor husbandry techniques, his background and legal status and any opinion that he might express relating to raptors.
Please note that no member of our council has any dealings with MrOertel, either in a professional or private capacity and that under no circumstances will he be allowed to become a member of our rehabilitation council.
(Chairperson Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council)
In 1999 Dr Alan Kemp of the Transvaal Museum was busy with a feasibility study of community involvement in sustainable utilisation of second-hatched chicks of large bird species. This study had already been approved and registered with Scientific Services, Kruger National Park but Mr N Greenwood of the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council expressed ‘concern’ about the project. Dr Kemp, an internationally renowned bird expert, was perturbed about the attitude and the ignorance of the Council that had complained about his proposed research. He can be contacted at or via (012) 322-7632.
On 20 February 1998 Ann Cheater was sent by the NSPCA from Johannesburg to Pretoria to investigate complaints laid by the "Rehabilitation Council" against Wings in Need, a wild bird hospital and rehabilitation centre in Pretoria. She was accompanied by Jacques van der Merwe of the Pretoria SPCA. The complaints were that (a) a dikkop’s leg had been splinted without an anaesthetic and (b) that there was a fish eagle in a bad condition. Both these complaints were utterly unfounded and simply malicious. For example, the fish eagle, which had been nursed back to health after having been heavily poisoned near Warmbaths, was in an excellent condition and was being prepared for release by Mr Abri Steyn, a well known raptor expert, at his plot to the east of Pretoria. In fact, the release of the fish eagle, only a few days later, (at the location where it had been found) was televised on 50/50 and also reported in newspapers. The whole episode was simply a malicious attempt to discredit Wings in Need, which had built up an excellent reputation and which was receiving a significant amount of positive publicity.
Some time earlier, in April 1998, Ms Stanton issued a news release on the Wildnet Africa news service claiming that "a bird rehabilitation centre in Pretoria" (obviously Wings in Need, since it was, and still is, the only such centre in Pretoria) had refused to assist a certain Willem Steinberg who had found a black eagle in distress. In the release she referred to herself as "The Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council spokesperson".
This news release was copied verbatim by Kim Helfrich in his regular column in the Pretoria News of 11 April 1998 and as a result a number of people (including supporters of Wings in Need) expressed their dismay at Wings in Need’s alleged lack of concern.
The actual facts, however, were completely different, as declared by Mr Steinberg himself in a signed statement. (A copy of this statement, along with copies of MsStanton’s news release and Helfrich’s article are available on request.) Apart from the fact that Wings in Need was of great assistance, the interesting fact is that Ms Stanton had approached Mr Steinberg telephonically, posing as a newspaper reporter. She thus, not only distorted the facts to discredit Wings in Need and obtain publicity for herself, but also approached Mr Steinberg under false pretences.
On another occasion when Wings in Need was treating a black eagle, the ‘Council’ also laid a complaint which was subsequently investigated (and laughed off) by officials from Gauteng Nature Conservation. Mr Gerhard van Wyk, the official in question, afterwards remarked: "Don’t worry - they just wanted your eagle". There were also other examples of harassment when Wings in Need was treating raptors or considering passing them on to the South African National Bird of Prey Centre.
On 25 July 2000 Lorna Stanton wrote (as Vice Chairperson of the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation, for the (fictitious?) Chairperson, using the address and telephone number of Wildcare) to the Head of the Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Land Affairs (Dr Trish Hanekom) discrediting/defaming the Oertels.
On 5 August 2000 Lorna Stanton wrote to Brian Jones of Moholoholo Forest Camp (whom she had accused of certain misdemeanours) informing him that a previous letter "originated from the committee of the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and NOT from me as an individual". He was also requested to address further correspondence to the "Secretary" of the "Council" (whoever that may have been) at Wildcare's address and to wait until the "committee" met again.
On 25 October 2001 Ms Stanton wrote (as Vice-Chairperson of the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, but now using her own address and not that of Wildcare) to the Station Manager of Radio 702, complaining about incorrect information broadcast on Dr Platzhund's radio programme.
Mr Jaime Silva of Animal Rescue Team (ART) can also testify about harassment by people associated with the Councils. He can be contacted at 082 4424600 or (011)392 5852 or email@example.com
From these examples it is obvious that the ‘Councils’ were or are simply intent on discrediting anyone outside their clique who were or are viewed as potential competitors. This inevitably raises the question as to what their real motives are and what they are trying to hide. As mentioned earlier, no evidence could be found of any positive contribution of any of these "Councils" to wildlife rehabilitation. In fact, on occasions where Mrs Trendler, the originator of all this, was approached for advice or assistance by other rehabilitators she simply refused to cooperate.
In 2000 Gauteng Nature Conservation convened a meeting of individuals and organisations concerned with wildlife rehabilitation at Roodeplaat. The purpose was to establish, through a consultative process, a set of guidelines for wildlife rehabilitation which could also be applied by the Department in the execution of its functions. At this meeting, Ms Stanton informed the meeting that the whole exercise was unnecessary since the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council had already formulated all the required rules and regulations. Despite being informed in no uncertain terms by Nature Conservation officials that these "Councils" (if they actually existed) had no standing whatsoever, she continued to harp on this topic at each of the subsequent meetings. For example, at a meeting at Aloe Ridge on 2 December 2000, she submitted a written submission in which she proposed the following (inter alia):
1. Any permanently disabled animal shall first be referred to the National Rehabilitation Council for evaluation...
2. Any claimed qualification or diploma has to be accepted by the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council...
3. With regard to a first-time application: "Letters of recommendation will then be submitted for approval to the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council..."
4. The upgrading of rehabilitation permits ... will depend on the written recommendation of ... the National Rehabilitation Council... and their compliance with ... the National Council...
5. If (a captive bred indigenous species) cannot be released a motivation must be written to the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council...
FURTHER ENQUIRIES ABOUT THE EXISTENCE AND ACTIVITIES OF THE COUNCILS
After the meetings arranged by the Gauteng Department of Nature Conservation in an attempt to devise guidelines for wildlife rehabilitation, Mr Bill de Waal (managing director of Sametco), who attended most of the meetings and who was curious about the frequent references to the "Rehabilitation Councils", despite persistent statements by officials from nature Conservation that these "Councils" had no standing or status whatsoever, decided to try and obtain some information about the "Councils". He also conducted searches on the Internet but to no avail * the only "material" he could find was that which has been referred to already. He then decided to contact some of the individuals Ms Stanton had mentioned at the meetings as being members of the "Councils".
The following questions were put to them:
* When was the Council formed?
* Who initiated the Council?
* What authority does the Council have and what are the sources of such authority?
* Does the Council have a Constitution? Is it possible to obtain a copy?
* How are the members of the Council elected? How regularly? By whom?
* How regularly does the Council meet?
* What are the activities of the Council? Does it have any full-time staff?
The first enquiry was addressed to Dr Melvyn Greenberg (also known as DrPlatzhund). Ms Stanton had mentioned that he was one of the prominent members of one or both of the Councils. The enquiry was sent to his e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org). He responded (almost immediately) as follows: "I was elected interim acting chairperson for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Karen Trendler was supposed to be negotiating with province and government regarding the establishment of this body. I have not heard a thing for more than three years." He did not say whether or not the "Council" had operated at all and what it did. The general impression is that it never actually existed. Mr De Waal requested further information but Dr Greenberg failed to respond.
He then sent an e-mail to Mrs Sue Slotar who was then still Director of FreeMe (a rehabilitation centre in the Sandton area) asking the same questions.
She responded by stating that Mrs Karen Trendler had initiated the National Council early in 1996. Some of the members were Karen Trendler, her husband Roy, Mr Dick Carr (who was then at Gauteng Nature Conservation), Mr N Fraser of the National SPCA (tel 011 682-2954), Dr Greenberg, Mr Neil Greenwood (an associate of Mrs Trendler), Mrs Slotar, R Venter (fax 0152 291-1517), Sarah Scarth of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and K du Toit (tel 012 57-2290). She mentioned that these numbers were quite dated and could possibly have changed in the meantime. She added that Dr Greenberg was the chairman and that she believed "the council was put on hold due to some delay at government level".
As far as the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council was concerned, the chairman was Neil Greenwood who was no longer involved in rehabilitation. The vice chair was Ms Lorna Stanton. Other members included herself, Ms Merle Jankalowitz (also of FreeMe), AJ Scholtz from the SPCA (who apparently subsequently became a dive instructor somewhere overseas), Claudia Holgate and Dave Kingsley.
Mrs Slotar added that both she and Ms Jankalowitz had resigned and stated that "I will not go into my reason for resigning but will say as far as I am concerned this "council" if it is still in operation is nothing more than a group of people making their own laws. They are not recognised by any other body or organisation, and have no authority over any one".
Mr De Waal then contacted Sarah Scarth (email@example.com), with the same list of questions as that sent to Dr Greenberg and Mrs Slotar. She responded by stating that "I have passed your message onto Karen Trendler, Director of Wildcare and asked her to respond to you. You might also contact Lorna Stanton at firstname.lastname@example.org". She also sent a carbon copy of her reply to Ms Stanton.
In 2003 I decided to take up the matter again with Ms Scarth. Following a request by e-mail we had a telephone conversation in which she stated that the Councils had been initiated by Karen Trendler but that it had never really got off the ground. In a subsequent e-mail she promised to "check my files and get back to you with whatever information I have soonest". A few months later, in response to a reminder, she stated that "I have now checked our files and unfortunately because of the length of time since we were involved in this, no longer have detailed information on hand. I have however checked with Karen Trendler who set up both councils and she has confirmed that the councils have been disbanded and are no longer functioning". I replied that I found her lack of memory somewhat strange since she had referred to the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council in official correspondence as recently as October 1999.
Mr De Waal also contacted Dr Chris Kingsley, assuming he was the Dave Kingsley that Mrs Slotar had referred to. A month later (on 10 September 2001) he received the following email from Mrs Karen Trendler: "Dr Chris Kingsley and Sarah Scarth of IFAW referred your enquiry concerning the National and Gauteng Rehabilitation Councils to me and asked me to respond:
"Concerning the Gauteng Council - I would suggest that you make contact directly with them - Lorna Stanton can be contacted on 083 757 0440 / 011 640-1577 or e-mailed at email@example.com (I am not involved with the Gauteng group).
"Concerning the National body - we are awaiting responses and decisions from three different departments that will decide the next actions and developments - I will forward a full report to you as soon as I have included the updated info which should answer your questions and bring you up to date on developments and current status." (No further communication to this effect was received from her.) (Note that she implied that both councils still existed and were still functioning.)
Mr De Waal subsequently contacted Ms Stanton, as suggested by Mrs Trendler. She replied by only asking Mr De Waal: "Are you the same gentleman that attended most of the policy meetings between the rehabilitators and Gauteng Nature Conservation at Roodeplaat, Suikerbosrand and Aloe Ridge?" Mr De Waal replied in the affirmative and despite requesting answers to his questions never received any further response from Ms Stanton.
At about the same time I also contacted Mr Leon Lötter, Head: Resource Protection at Gauteng Nature Conservation (who convened the series of meetings held in 2000 and 2001). I asked him the following questions (with his responses in brackets):
1) Were the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council or the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council initiated by Nature Conservation? ("Not initiated by us but one of my predecessors (Dick Carr) was involved to some extent up to his resignation.")
2) Do these Councils currently have any official status? ("Not officially recognised by DACEL". DACEL = Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Land Affairs.)
3) If so, what are the implications for Nature Conservation (eg does it take advice from these Councils)? ("No, we do not take advice as such from the Councils (I do not know which people are part of these councils, I have never seen any of their documents or minutes of meetings and I have never been invited to speak to them or to attend their meetings).")
4) If not, did the Councils have any official status during the past three years? ("No.")
5) Have Nature Conservation officials served on any of the Councils or attended any of their meetings? ("Unknown.")
I also sent the questionnaire to Mr Neil Fraser of the National Council of the SPCA, who had also apparently been a member of one or both of the Councils. He replied as follows: "I am not aware of any rehabilitation councils at national or provincial level in SA and I certainly do not serve on any. Andries Venter who is now working on the rehab issue also confirmed that we are not part of any rehab council and he does not know of any. There was an attempt in the mid-90's with Karen Trendler to establish a council but to no apparent avail".
Towards the end of 2002 I managed to obtain the e-mail address of Neil Greenwood, the former Chairperson of the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, who was then working at First National Bank. I requested the same type of information from him as Mr De Waal and myself tried to obtain from the other alleged members of the Council. He replied as follows
I’m sorry but the information you request I don’t have.
I have not been involved with conservation/rehabilitation for over two years and the council for even longer. I’m not even sure whether it exists anymore.
Sorry to send you in circles but Lourna (sic) Stanton would probably be your best bet as I no longer have contact with the rehab world.
This response was clearly not satisfactory. How could the erstwhile Chairperson of the Council be ignorant of the formation, purpose, activities, members etc. of the Council, especially since he frequently issued statements on behalf of the Council.
Despite Mr Greenwood’s uncertainty about the (continued) existence of the Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, the "Council" appeared to be alive and kicking. On 31 December 2002 (at 00:43 AM!) Lorna Stanton circulated copies of a document, which she claimed had the blessing of Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. This is a vicious, slanderous and probably libellous document solely aimed at discrediting another organisation, based in Johannesburg. In the document she claims, inter alia, that the NSPCA had asked Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council to inspect certain activities of the organisation and issue a written report.
Soon after this document was circulated, in January 2003, Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council warned Free State Nature Conservation about this organisation which was claimed to be so aggressive and dangerous that they were advised not to approach them unless accompanied by the South African Police!
Persistent defamation by Lorna Stanton, both in her personal capacity and as spokesperson or vice-chairperson of the "Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council", eventually forced Trevor and Glodel Oertel of the SA National Bird of Prey Centre to institute legal proceedings against her. These proceedings were based on a letter sent to Free State Nature Conservation (similar to other letters that had been circulated earlier). The preparation for the trial took almost a year and there was a further delay until a trial date could be found. Stanton applied delaying tactics throughout.
The case (No 2003/8619) was eventually scheduled to be heard in the High Court of South Africa (Witwatersrand Local Division) on 8 March 2004. At the last moment, however, a legal technicality arose, namely the principle of "qualified privilege", which can be explained further, if necessary. This meant that there was a chance that the judge could decide not to rule against Stanton and that, in any case, the trial would probably be a drawn out one, involving further costs. A further complicating factor was that everyone else who had received Stanton's defamatory document suddenly developed amnesia! At the same time Stanton was prepared to apologise to the Oertels, to acknowledge that she could not prove her allegations and to undertake that she would not defame them again (thereby admitting that she had in fact defamed them). The Oertels' legal team advised them to settle on this basis and the settlement was subsequently made on Order of the Court. (Copies are available if required.)
Apart from losing a substantial amount of money, the Oertels' main frustration was that the evidence before the court was never revealed to a larger audience and that many questions remain unanswered. For example:
* What was Neil Greenwood's role in the whole saga? Did he write or sanction the letters issued under his name? If not, why did he allow the self-interest and defamation to continue?
* What about the other alleged members of one or both of the Councils? Did they suddenly develop amnesia or were they just figments of Stanton and co's imaginations?
* Where are the sponsorships going to and who do potential or actual sponsors contact for advice?
* Who paid Stanton's legal costs?
* How much wildlife rehabilitation (in a charitable sense) is actually being done? what is happening at the various centres and how are the activities being funded?
* What are Karen Trendler's views about the activities of her associate, Lorna Stanton?
* Where do the EWT and IFAW fit into the picture? In an e-mail message sent on 9 February 2004 the manager of the Raptor Conservation Group of the EWT stated that "The Raptor Conservation Group, which is a working group of the Endangered Wildlife Trust ... is involved in one bigger rehabilitation facility called Bateleur, run by Lorna Stanton."
* Much of the information that is available now only surfaced years after the fact (largely as a result of the court case). Who knows what is being concocted and disseminated at this very moment.
After all is said and done, the logical conclusion seems to be the following:
(a) National Wildlife Rehabilitation Council * Mrs Karen Trendler
(b) Gauteng Wildlife Rehabilitation Council * Ms Lorna Stanton
(c) Both Councils were formed primarily with the aim of promoting the interests of the said individuals and to harass certain other individuals and organisations in the wildlife rehabilitation community.
Given the current disarray, it is important to clear the air and expose those who are pursuing other agendas. I append a list of contact numbers (some of which may be dated by now).
Professor of Economics
University of South Africa
Tel: 012 429-4093 (w) Cell: 083 288 2038
012 804-7202 (h) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Trendler email@example.com
083 653 8900
012 808 1106
Sue Slotar firstname.lastname@example.org
082 454 9629
083 558 5658
011 783 8118
Lorna Stanton email@example.com
083 757 0440
011 640 1577
Trevor and Glodel Oertel (South African National Bird of Prey Centre)
083 6565912 (Trevor)
083 585 9540 (Glodel)
Leon Lötter (Head: Resource Protection, Gauteng Nature Conservation)
011 355 1900 tel
011 337-2292 fax
Cornia Hugo (Gauteng Nature Conservation)
082 624 1994
011 355 1900
Bill de Waal (Sametco) firstname.lastname@example.org
082 900 7542
012 349 1120/1 tel
012 349 1188 fax
Dr Alan Kemp (Transvaal Museum)
012 322 7632
Sarah Scarth (IFAW) email@example.com
Dr Melvyn Greenberg firstname.lastname@example.org
(Dr Platzhund on 702) 011 804 3836
Neil Greenwood 082 8963766
021 424 2086
Jaime Silva (ART) 082 4424600
011 392 5852