Cape fires: 'I started crying when I could not rescue all the tortoises,' says teen
"There was just smoke everywhere and I started crying when I could not rescue all the tortoises," said self-confessed "nature freak” Corne Uys as he recounted how he had rescued snakes and tortoises as wildfires ravaged the Overberg in the Western Cape.
Thirty-one homes were destroyed and 28 damaged by three wildfires that raged across the Overberg on Friday.
"I was at school and the fire alarm went off and we had to leave the school. The fire had jumped over the mountain.
"I went home and started packing all the equipment and my dad and I went straight into the front line," said Uys, a 17-year-old matric pupil.
He said by the time they reached the scene, the fire had pushed all the animals on to the road.
"It was absolute chaos. Cars were going up and down. We were there for about three hours until the firefighters told us to leave because the fire was getting stronger."
The professional snake catcher said he and his father rescued as many animals as they could and as a result their bakkie was running out of space.
"I wish I could have done more, but the smoke was all over. I felt so bad when I saw some that I could not rescue," Uys said.
With nature conservation being close to his heart, Uys wants to continue doing what he is passionate about post-matric.
"I’m not going to go to university. I will do short courses in nature conservation. It’s something I've been interested in all my life.
"It’s my passion. I’ve been doing it from a young age," Uys said.
His father, Hugo, agreed.
"He is a nature freak. He loves nature. He loves the mountain and spends his free time diving, exploring caves and looking for animals."
Hugo Uys said he and his son are involved in beach clean-ups and are both passionate about rescuing animals.
Recalling the events of the day they rescued 33 tortoises, Hugo said: "It was an emotional experience. We washed all the tortoises that we rescued and released them back the next day."