National Network of Sanctuaries for Handicapped Animals saves the lost and cures the sick

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As experts say, some migrating birds are nowadays too lazy to fly south for the winter and others are not eager to return home. But for those who do still follow the traditional ways, now is the time to fly home. But it is not only the larks, peewits and thrushes that can now be seen again in the Czech Republic. Joining them will be two young buzzards who are returning to the wild after a winter absence.

Buzzard, photo: CTK
"Here I am in Petrin Park, on a hill overlooking Prague. It's a beautiful spring morning and I am here to witness a special event. Two young buzzards are about to be released back into the wild after spending winter in an animal sanctuary in Central Bohemia."

The two buzzards were released and flew off slowly, gliding in circles above our heads and then disappeared beyond the horizon.

The story begins three months ago, when the young birds were brought to the sanctuary in Vlasim, Central Bohemia. A long, cold winter and a lot of snow made it difficult for them to find enough food and they were found on the ground, too weak to fly. After their rescue, they were kept in a large aviary where they were well fed and warm.

Their case is not exceptional. Last year the National Network of Sanctuaries for Handicapped Animals treated more than 7000 animals, 5000 of them birds. There are twenty six sanctuaries around the country. Vlastimil Zedek works for the Czech Union for Nature Conservation which manages the network and he told me the number of injured animals grows every year, due mainly to encroaching urbanisation.

"Birds usually either fall down from their nests or are scared away by children, dogs or other elements. Common are also collisions with the electric wiring, car accidents or swallowing of fishhooks with baits. Among the main injuries belong fractions of for example legs or wings, burns caused by the collisions with the electric wiring. Some animals are of course too young or to exhausted to live on their own and they have to be treated and fed to get well."

Buzzard, photo: CTK
I asked Vlastimil Zedek what happens to the animals brought to the sanctuaries.

"About 60% of animals are released back into the wild, the permanently handicapped animals stay in the sanctuaries for the rest of their lives. All sanctuaries are open to the public, to excursions as well as family or individual visits, so that people can learn more about them and the causes of their injuries."

So, let's just wish these two buzzards good luck and let's hope that they will never ever need the help of animal sanctuaries again.