PONTEFRACT teenager Kira Weston has returned from an African adventure with a unique souvenir, after she was given an African goshawk during a five-week volunteer stay at a wildlife centre.
Kira, 18, worked at the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre in the Limpopo Province Lowveld of South Africa in August, where she helped care for its animals.
Falconer Kira, of Swanhill Lane, was given the female hawk – named Takeira – to train while she was working at the centre, and at the end of her stay was told she could keep it. Kira is now in the process of importing the bird to Britain, to join her two barn owls and European spotted eagle owl.
She said: “She was brought in two years ago with concussion, but she wasn’t able to be rehabilitated back into the wild, and no-one has been able to train her.
“Within four weeks I had got her flying, and the centre manager said they didn’t have anyone with my experience to train her, so I could bring her home with me.”
Kira, who plans to open her own falconry rehabilitation centre, had to raise £4,500 to go to South Africa, and her responsibilities during her stay included caring for cheetahs and leopards, baby rhinoceros, as well as helping train and rehabilitate other birds of prey.
She said: “It was fantastic, an absolutely amazing experience – if I could, I’d go back there tomorrow. I’d definitely advise it for anyone to do.
“There were more than 200 animals, not including the aviary, and there was a fully-grown cheetah who’s an ambassador for the centre, who we had to walk on a lead, and orphaned rhinos we had to bottle feed.
“When the manager found out I loved birds, everything that was birds came to me. I even got to release some of the birds there.”