On June 7th, 2017, fires ravaged the Eden District. Under threat, 14 horses and ponies had to be evacuated from Essendale farm, just outside Knysna
Scared by the flames, smoke and chaos, five ponies would not be caught and were therefore, as a last resort, herded across the N2 into a large plantation presumed safe. Shortly after the farm was evacuated, the wind turned, the fire jumped the N2 and the ponies were lost in the mayhem.
Search efforts ensued as soon as it was safe to enter the plantation four days later. With the very first search, on Sunday June 11th, fresh, pony-sized prints were found having emerged from the plantation several kilometres away from where the ponies had been released. The prints were found to have been made after the fires. One of the sets, markedly bigger than the other, looked to belong to Deja Vu, the youngest but biggest of the little herd. The team was unsure of the second set, as three of the other ponies were of identical size.
This miraculous finding gave those involved in the search the necessary hope and determination to keep searching for the ponies, using every means available. With drones, thermal drones, helicopters, planes, gliders, quad bikes, dirt bikes, 4×4’s, on horseback and on foot, searches have continued from the air and on the ground. Passionate horse and animal lovers arrived en masse to assist in the searches.
The only gelding in the group, Cody, was found on June 23rd, just 100m from his home
His face was severely burned and he was struggling to see – but there was no doubt that he was determined to make his way home. Initially, it was thought that that euthanasia may be the only option, but with Cody having survived for 16 days on his own – and having made it all the way home – his human friend Karen wouldn’t have it. With intensive treatment and a great deal of TLC, his recovery to date has been remarkable.
Unfortunately, two of Cody’s friends, Cheeky and Bella, were found deceased during a large-scale search. It was determined that they had succumbed to smoke very early on and had thankfully not suffered. Cody’s sisters, Mila and Deja Vu, are still unaccounted for and it is likely that they might be injured and/or that they are still hiding due to the trauma. Rescue and tracking experts have determined that there is still hope for them, based on recent findings, and so the search continues.
Burn treatment products
In the meantime, the majority of Cody’s burn treatment products have been kindly donated and his vet costs partially covered by SAVA disaster relief funds set aside specifically for burn victims. The funding has unfortunately come to an end and ongoing veterinary care will be for Cody’s family’s expense. He will probably also require surgery to lower his eyelids at a later stage, however the cost for this procedure cannot be determined at present.
Additionally, a team of professional trackers have been appointed to continue with the search for Mila and Deja Vu – and have produced positive findings thus far. However, the search area is vast and the terrain difficult. The time it will take, as well as what other expertise might be required, is therefore still unknown.
A crowdfunding campaign has been set up on Backabuddy to raise funds for Cody’s veterinary care, as well as compensating the search team for their time and expenses for a limited time. Any funds not utilised will go towards Cody’s eye procedure.
To support Cody’s campaign, click here.
Warning, the image below may be disturbing to sensitive viewers: