How to protect wildlife on Guy Fawkes

Posted on 5 November 2020

Guy Fawkes is celebrated on November 5 and people are urged not to light fireworks in certain areas because of the effect that it has on both domestic and wild animals.

A fledgling Speckled mousebird (Colius striatus) was brought into the hospital because it couldn’t fly. 

The Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital is urging people to be mindful of the birds and animals that may reside in close proximity to residential areas.

The team explained that loud and unnatural sounds, like those of fireworks, have the power to disorientate and cause fear in both pets and wild animals.

The animals will try to flee and are sometimes unable to reach their nests, burrows or young.

‘Birds and other small mammal parents sometimes abandon their nests in fear of the loud noises, leaving their defenceless babies behind.

‘Animals will exhibit unusual behaviour in an attempt to escape the noise, like entering into buildings, or birds flying into windows or into walls. Some are badly injured,’ said Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital in a Facebook post.

The sounds of fireworks are not the same as those of a thunderstorm, for example, explained the post.

‘Animals know long in advance when a storm is approaching – they can hear much better than us and can sense the change in barometric pressure. Pets that are noise phobic often show signs of fear even before there are clouds visible.’

If you come across any compromised wildlife, please contact: 071 248 1514

How to help wild animals

  • Remove / cover bird feeders and bird baths before lighting fireworks, hopefully discouraging birds from being in the area and ensure that no ash, debris or other firework residue land in the feeders or water source.
  • Do not use fireworks near trees, bird houses, nesting areas, rockeries, or other sheltered areas where wildlife may be living.
  • Clean up all firework residue promptly and thoroughly. The debris could contain toxic chemicals and other poisons that can harm animals that may ingest them.

Laws around fireworks

  • The use of fireworks is regulated by bylaws under the Explosives Act, 1956.
  • Fireworks may not be set off in any public place, for example, in parks, on the pavement or the streets.
  • No fireworks should be set off, detonated or exploded within 200 metres of any hospital, clinic, petrol station, old-age home or nursing home, or animal welfare organisation or institution.
  • The period in which the lighting of fireworks is allowed is from 7 pm to 10 pm.

What is Guy Fawkes?

The annual event dates back to November 5, 1605 when an attempt to blow up the House of Lords in the UK failed.

Known as the ‘Gunpowder Plot’, Guy Fawkes was apprehended while guarding explosives underneath the House of Lords.

To celebrate the survival of King James I, people lit bonfires around London and burnt effigies of Guy Fawkes, which then progressed into being an annual day of thanks that the plot had failed.

Picture: Ashleigh Pienaar/ Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital


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