He protects one of the nation’s greatest privileges – wildlife on our doorstep


The wilderness is right on our doorstep. To have such a diversity of animals in South Africa is a privilege. But in cities, many see their proximity as a threat. As human development encroaches on natural habitats, more animals are in positions they wouldn’t have been in before – trapped in buildings, hit by vehicles, and poisoned by rodenticides. Urban wildlife need protection now more than ever, a responsibility Claudius Sibanda has taken up with zeal. For the past 10 years, he’s dedicated his time to rehabilitating these creatures and returning them to the wild. 

Sibanda is one of the founding members of Friends of Free Wildlife, a community-based animal rescue organisation located in Johannesburg. In his care are owls, tortoises, and porcupines, as well as jackals, genets, storks and a myriad animals that you don’t expect to see roaming the city streets. “It is important for me to care for these creatures because they will make a huge difference to nature,” Sibanda says. While many people don’t know what to do when encountering injured wildlife, he has the necessary experience to treat them. Alongside receiving diplomas in veterinary services and surgery, Sibanda’s also a qualified snake handler.

Though he works closely with the animals, Sibanda’s careful to limit his interactions to only what’s necessary. “It is difficult to rehabilitate each species without them becoming used to humans,” he says. “Our ultimate goal is to always have them go back to the wild.” While natural habitats are limited in the city, this doesn’t have to result in suffering. “I still believe there’s an opportunity for South Africans to live in harmony with animals that surround us,” he says. With people like Sibanda striving to change the urban landscape, it’s possible.