Oscar the water monitor gets his discharge papers

  • February 01, 2013 | Lesley Labuschagne

Oscar "tastes" the air with his tongue before heading out

Sometimes in life, you get a day against which all others are measured – and today was that day. After 29 weeks of spending countless hours caring for Oscar the water monitor, I was able to watch him confidently stride down a grassy slope and dive head-first into a dam.

Oscar arrived over six months ago in a compromised condition. X-rays revealed that he had multiple broken bones and, of most concern, a broken jaw. Water monitors are protected in South Africa and although at first we didn’t think he would survive, the team and I spotted a spark of life, and so the slow rehabilitation process moved forward.

He was immediately given hydration fluids, placed in a shallow pool and once he was fully hydrated, we started tube-feeding and administering antibiotics. Further X-rays showed he had suffered six fractures which did not require surgery, and would heal on their own in a protected environment.

An X-ray reveals no serious damage to Oscar's bone structure

As the months went by, we grew to love him more and more as he seemed determined to survive, despite the odds stacked against him.

Six weeks ago he began eating on his own which was an indication to me that I could start preparing him to return home. X-rays confirmed that his fractures had healed and he had no permanent muscular-skeletal abnormalities. Human contact was kept to a minimum, as he was given the opportunity to regain his natural distrust of humans.

Taking Oscar down to the water's edge

On Monday resident veterinarian Caryl Furniss gave Oscar a clean bill of health and his discharge papers. Hazelmere Dam was chosen as his new home because it is a protected area with a stable population of water monitors, and we are confident he will not only survive, but also thrive in his beautiful new home.

The great moment arrived and I slowly lifted the lid of the box to not startle him and encourage calmness which, thinking back, was probably totally unnecessary. After one or two tongue flicks, he was out of the box in a flash, down the bank and heading for the water.

Oscar swims towards a reed bed at Hazelmere Dam

I reflected with pride on the journey we had taken together to reach this moment, one that I had feared would never come. Finally, as the sun moved behind a cloud and my vision could no longer take the strain, I closed my eyes and said goodbye to Oscar with so much pride and happiness, I thought I would burst.

Click here to see all the images of Oscar in our image gallery.

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