Paul McCartney once said, “You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.”
These words resonate a sense of truth, reflecting the compassion and love that goes into caring for an animal. These words are even more meaningful when one considers there are those who dedicate their lives to the upliftment of animals.
Dr Koos Vorster and his wife Ita are two such people. A couple whose lives revolve around helping animals who would otherwise face a bleak and grey future.
Dr Vorster is an honorary officer of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Newcastle Branch and has been so for more than 14 years. Hand-rearing orphaned buck for 20 years alongside his wife Ita.
But with a pig, 9 rescue dogs, tortoises, a crow whose wing was broken, 10 buck, geese and cats, it seems Dr Vorster and Ita are a haven for animals in need. Each animal brought to them in a time of need.
How did they come to house so many rescue animals?
“Ita and I have always loved animals. I grew up with cats and dogs. As a young woman on the farm, Ita hand-reared a baby Vervet monkey. So, when two animal mad people got married, it was bound to happen that we would welcome animals in need.”
Ita explains the bulk of the animals were brought to them. “Our one dogs was found as a puppy, tied up in a bag alongside the road.”
As an honorary officer for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Newcastle Branch, Dr Vorster encounters orphaned wildlife who have lost their parents through poaching or other tragic circumstances.
“A reedbuck was once brought to us and her legs had been fractured. I helped heal her with Dr Barry Rafferty and Ita’s help.”
While caring for animals such as dogs, cats and geese are relatively simple, Dr Vorster explains that caring for a buck is not that easy.
“Rearing an orphaned antelope is very complex because they have four stomachs. If the milk is not the right temperature, then the valve in the oesophagus does not open to allow the milk into the milk stomach. The milk then flows into the stomach for greenery, where it ferments, and the antelope dies. The size of the antelope also determines the amount of fat in the milk mixture,” he explains.
This sees him and Ita having to provide the animals with the proper nutrients and dietary requirements.
Such is their dedication, that a reedbuck in their care lived until the age of 18 years. The average reedbuck has a lifespan of seven to 10 years if not hunted. Meaning the animals in the care of the Vorsters, find themselves living an idyllic life of peace.
Through the years, Ita and Dr Vorster say they have learned so much. Not only on how to care for animals, but rather learning valuable life lessons from the animals themselves.
“You see things you would never otherwise see. A buck was once brought to us and we found out she was pregnant. We managed to witness the birth and the dogs were all there watching too,” says Dr Vorster.
The animals interact with each other, regardless of their species. From cleaning each other to sleeping together, the animals show each other immense love.
“We are often asked, why don’t the dogs bite the other animals or why aren’t the animals aggressive towards each other? I feel that if there is aggression in the household within the family, the animals will become aggressive too.”
As the animals show compassion towards each other, Dr Vorster says he often looks at them and wonders, “Why can such different animals live with each other so peacefully and with so much love, but we as people cannot?”
As Dr Vorster and Ita continue to open their hearts and home to the animals within our community, their character shows that they are individuals of true character who are actually making a difference in the lives of so many.
The Newcastillian takes the time to thank you, Dr Koos and Ita Vorster for standing up for animals in need.