Dec 5, 2008

Agatha Update from Moholoholo

2 Months have gone on since Agatha’s release back into the wild and she is doing very well so far.

Agatha falls into the group we call “Relocated Leopards”, this means that she was taken from one area (where she was snared) rehabilitated and then released into another area (unfamiliar to her). We knew that there was a chance of other leopards being in the area of her release seeing that it was on a large Game Reserve. We had to make a choice to release or keep her locked up for life in an enclosure.  We expected her to move over great distances to avoid conflict with any resident leopards that may be in an area she would try to settle in. Situations like this she would need to deal with to find space to settle down.  This is just what Agatha did!

From the time of her release she began drifting around in the Balule Game Reserve, crossing over to Klaserie. Here she probably hit some resistance from another leopard because according to the map, that we monitor her movements by, she turned and seemed to come back to Balule quickly. She then wandered a bit north crossing over towards Olifants West, crisscrossing as she went. She then followed the river to the northeast and crossed through Klaserie into Timbavati doing a great big anti-clockwise circle to the north of Timbavati and Umbabat, back into Klaserie and coming down to the south leaving the protected areas.

Here she entered a very dangerous area which consists of privately owned land varying from agriculture, cattle and game. Snares, fences, poisons, tar roads and a few unhappy farmers now lay strewn around her and she must rely on her ability to remain unseen and use her cat instincts to avoid these obstacles. She is obviously still coping well in this as she has moved all the way through most of the hostile land feeding on what she can and settled for about 3 weeks on a game farm where there is very little human activity. But soon she was on the move again and is now on her way north. The total distance she covered (from dot to dot on the map) is approximately    250km. And the area she has covered so far is about 98000ha, but this is not accurate as she is moving long distances and not staying in one specific area.

One of our main concerns apart from being able to defend her self was; would she be able to kill after the awful ordeal in that snare. Happily she is! We can safely say this because she would never have survived through 2 months without killing. So we are well pleased with her progress.

To conclude this update we have to say that all her actions have been what we sort of expected for a relocated leopard. There is always a risk that animals like this can get killed or wounded during territorial disputes with other leopards, which could be the case even with settled territorial leopards. In other words, there is still much that could happen and hopefully she will settle down in a vacant home range. But until then we will keep an eye on her with the ‘eye in the sky’…

Nov 17, 2008

The Arrival of Two Furry Felines

It is with melting hearts that we announce the arrival of two blonde, fluffy male lion cubs and two youngish lionesses to Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

As always it is with a heavy heart that we take in some of the animals at our centre.  It is always hard to face the difficult decisions regarding the welfare of each individual animal as well as making sure we look at the bigger picture of what will be best in the long run for the species.  These cubs and young lionesses were no exception.

They all came from a farmer near the Zimbabwe border who kept lions on his farm in camps.  They were, therefore, unable to kill, and were habituated to humans so could never be released back into the wild.  Whilst waiting for the permits to arrive for his lions, they bred, and it eventually ended up in a lengthy court case as he was only allowed a certain number of lions on the farm. In the end the farmer won his case - the breeding of the lions was not his fault as it had taken so long for the permits to arrive - but he was still sitting with too many lions.  The magistrate ordered that the excess of lions come to Moholo Rehab to live out their days in our education programme.  Therefore, soon after the case was settled, two female lionesses arrived at the centre in September.

The two healthy young lionesses settled in quickly.  It was with great excitement that we were able to dart the lionesses and get right up close to our new residents as essential tests needed to be done.  The main reason was to find out as quickly as possible if these ‘girls’ were also pregnant, as well as moving them across to their newly secured enclosure.  The day went off without a hitch and on closer inspection the girls were just as healthy and strong as we had hoped.  Once tests were done, the report was sent to inform us that the females were not expecting, which brought great relief to us all.  Captive bred lions can never be returned to the wild, and the prospect of more lions being born into the centre, and into a cage for the rest of their days, would have left us with a very difficult decision to make!

Shortly after the lioness’s arrival, two slightly smaller bundles arrived! 

One of the lionesses the farmer discovered was pregnant at the time of the court case, and once her cubs were born the magistrate wanted these also to be sent to our centre.  We had high hopes that these two cubs could be brought up by the staff and students and with correct training and protocols we could one day join them on their walks and hunts on our farm! 

The anticipation in the air on the day of their arrival was electric!  The bottles had been bought, extra teats ordered (most baby bottles are not designed for such boisterous and strong mouths) and boxes sterilized and padded ready for the new arrivals!  And we weren’t disappointed!............

The two male cubs were only about 10 days old and as you can see from the pictures, absolutely adorable! 

For the first week, at least, the cubs were to spend as much time as possible with their two new adopted mummies – Natalie Rogers and Stuart Robertson (two Moholo staff members).  This was necessary so that they were able to form a lasting bond with two permanent figures throughout their young life.  And so the rest of the staff and students had to stand back, with twitching fingers, during this adjustment period, and when you look at those two little faces, you can imagine this was not easy!!

Now, four weeks after their arrival, the cubs are of course growing by the day, and bit by bit their coordination is getting better- although they still waddle about and crash into things on occasion!  Everyone is now welcome to join in and enjoy the cub’s antics, cuddles and games!  Their eyesight is improving and their new friend, Jenny’s Maltese puppy (which she received for her Birthday by the way, much to Brian’s dismay) is relentless with her own games!  She finds it endlessly entertaining to grab the cubs by the tail and try to pull them about!  We are all waiting for the day when the cubs can coordinate themselves enough to ‘get their own back’!

The cubs already seem to be displaying their own separate personalities. ‘Duma,’ which is the cub Natalie takes care of, is more adventurous and outgoing.  He is starting to display a slightly fiery temperament (not unlike his mother) and we are starting to have to discipline him already so that he will not be a danger to handle when he is older.  ‘Duma’ means thunder in Zulu, and seemed rather fitting for this little cub.  The cub Stuart cares for, which is the larger of the two, is much more affectionate.  He has quite a reputation for enjoying cuddles from any lap he can find, and has a much more laid back temperament!  He has been named ‘Thelo’ (meaning lightning in Shangaan) and we will wait to see if he eventually lives up to his new name!

The strength of these two little bundles is already surprising us all, and their big feet display as a testament to what they will one day become.  Not to mention the claws!!  If you look at the arms of Natalie and Stuart, and indeed now the students and staff which enjoy playing with the cubs, you will notice a startling trend!  Each of them have scratches covering their arms and legs………..just another consequence of the job I’m afraid, and none of us would have it any other way!!!!!

We will keep you all updated with photos and stories as the cubs grow and develop!

Written by Alice Dell’Oca and Jenny Jones

Nov 4, 2008

River Crawl

29 November 2008 marks the start of some very unusual activity in the Lake District, England. Matthew Sowerby, Craig Bright and Robert Bramwell will attempt to crawl (yes…crawl!) a 2.6 mile long stretch of the Goldrill Beck in aid of Moholoholo Rehab Centre, Limpopo South Africa. This event takes place in order to raise money for a new vehicle for the wildlife rehab centre. They will also try to raise some more money to obtain some motion activated cameras to aid the research of wild animals, in particular Leopards. The event will also be filmed as part of a documentary.
Matthew, Craig and Robert have been volunteers at Moholoholo over the last few years. They have helped the Centre through their working commitment and now want to help even more. These guys have a support team consisting of other ex-Moholoholo Volunteers that are helping them raise the money.

For more information on the event or to see how you can help, please contact Matthew and Craig on the following:

Matthew Sowerby:
Craig Bright         :

Good luck guys!!

Oct 23, 2008

The Arrival of Kimo!

People from the outside may think that working with animals must be one of the best jobs one can have. We find it is not the case, it is very disturbing when an animal or bird is brought in as we know the cause is normally due to humans and the other disturbing factors is very seldom can one return them back to where they came from as the habitat for these animals are be- coming less and less and in turn, forms a ‘tug of war’ between themselves, as to who is entitled to this domain. So it is not with much excitement when we get a call especially for Cheetahs who are having one of the greatest battles to stay on the survival list in Africa.

On 18 September at approx 9h: 00 pm Brian received a call from a Ranger on a local Game Farm, informing us that he had caught a cheetah cub with a seemingly broken leg. Brian immediately set to work contacting Peter Rogers the vet regarding treatment. The ranger met Peter at his Hoedspruit practice where after his diagnosis, discovered that it had four breaks in its right front leg, and recommended the leg be plastered. This will be on for approx. 6 weeks. Once time is up the owners of the Game farm would like it to be returned to see if the cub will be accepted back.

The Moholoholo team was soon on their way to the vets to collect the baby as we preferred it to still be ‘sleepy’ for the journey here at Moholoholo before it starts to come round from the anesthetic. Once the baby cheetah arrived at Moholoholo the biggest task which faced the staff and students was to keep her stress levels down and to acclimatize her to human contact and company! Brian estimated her to be about three months old.
One of our longer term students, Abby Elliot, volunteered to take on the task of being the baby’s ‘surrogate mother’, sitting with her night and day until she felt more at ease with people. It turned out that it was not a task for the faint hearted!

Kimo, as she was later named by Abby, was not in any hurry to rid herself of her wild ways, or to forget her spotted friends. She called for her family day and night for three days solid – and if you have ever heard the excruciatingly high pitched call of a baby cheetah you will understand that we had no idea how the constant noise did not turn Abby crazy!!

It was at this time that a baby rhino was brought to the centre, and so the clinic staff and students were kept busy around the clock with the new babies! The high pitched calls of the cheetah, however, soon began to disturb the baby rhino – not to mention the staff sleeping with the animals – and so the decision was made to move Kimo to an outside enclosure which may keep things quieter for all the patients in the clinic as well as give her something more exciting to look at!

Kimo’s bed was lovingly made up for her and initially blankets were used to cover the windows so that she would be kept quiet during her introduction to her new enclosure. Almost immediately she seemed less stressed and quieter in her new home and Abby was able to sit in the enclosure with her and quietly speak to her while she settled in.

Abby’s perseverance and love of this little cat soon started to pay off, and slowly Kimo has started to allow her to stroke her with a stick and the calls are becoming less and less!

Kimo still has quite an attitude when it comes to strangers – no matter how good their intentions are towards her – but there is wonderful bond that has developed between Abby & Kimo.

Abby had desperately tried to find some things to keep Kimo stimulated. She tried plastic bottles, balls, string contraptions that she made, and eventually one day Kimo took quite a liking to a shoe! But not just any shoe, Kimo has a penchant for only one type of shoe, and so woe-betide any students which bring a pair with them….crocs!!! Fortunately day by day Kimo is growing calmer, she rarely calls in a distressed manner these days, and the evenings are spent playing with Abby and her ‘designer’ shoes!

While there is still quite a way to go for Kimo, and with her fiery temperament, we are all determined that we will add Kimo to Moholoholo’s list of success stories! And hope that one day she will be able to be released into a safe environment to raise her own little spotted ‘balls of fire’!!

We will keep you updated with her progress over the coming weeks……….

Oct 22, 2008

Double Trouble!

It is with great excitement that we announce the arrival of two baby White Rhino’s at the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre both within a week of each other! On 27th of September we received a call from the Kruger National Park asking for our assistance with a newborn rhino calf which was rejected by its mother when giving birth prematurely in the bomas, during a relocation programme in the park. The mother would not allow this little baby, with big feet and huge ears, to drink from her at all. The rangers in the park were instantly concerned with her lack of care for this new baby, and watched her closely over the next few hours. Once they felt that they had left it long enough for her to have the chance to accept her new offspring, they contacted us and asked if we could help raise the baby.

Brian’s reputation for his success with raising baby white rhino stretches back to his early days in the 60’s in the Natal Parks Board, where he lived in a cottage type hut. He was the first ranger to successfully raise four white rhino in those days.Since then he has had three young rhino’s in total come through this centre and two have successfully reached adulthood (the third came in with such bad injuries, our local vet Peter Rogers said he was amazed it lasted so long in our care after passing away from all sorts of internal problems it developed including broken ribs! ). So Moholoholo and Brian Jones seemed the obvious choice for Kruger’s new little bundle!!

‘Kuza’ as he was soon named, after Skukuza – the area in the Kruger National Park where he was found, settled in unbelievably quickly! After a long journey in the car and some initial struggles trying to get him to drink a special milk formula recommended by our vet Peter Rogers, he arrived at the centre, his new home for the next few months of his life! Our biggest concern was that this baby had not had any colostrum from its mother. Colostrum is the first milk drunk by a newborn, which contains all the nutrients and antibodies required for the baby to build its weak immune system. The formula which Peter Rogers recommended was as close to this important milk as we could get, and so was imperative that we managed to get this little baby to drink it.

Natalie Rogers our vet nurse in the clinic has had experience with the last few rhino’s and together with Brian and the rest of the anxious staff and students she immediately got to work feeding and bonding with our new arrival!

Kuza has been a huge hit with all of our students and having him from such a young age has meant he has bonded quickly and easily with people and his ‘mummy’s’! White rhino baby’s stay with their mothers 24 hours a day until they are at least 18 months old, and so in this same way we have Natalie or one of our students sitting and sleeping with him, day and night! He is completely relaxed and happy with his new two legged friends, and has built himself quite a reputation for his love of cuddles and closeness to people.

His first few steps outside the clinic were very cautious as he picked his legs up like he couldn’t understand this strange feeling under his feet! We all love his great big ‘inflatable’ feet which look like they have reinforced cushioning in them and his huge ‘periscope’ ears which are always twitching and listening in to every sound (even when he’s asleep). And after his initial reservations with the outside world he realized that these new sights, smells and tastes (he insisted on eating as much sand and dirt as he could suck up with his long blue tongue) were all rather intriguing! It wasn’t long before the typical baby skips and jumps started to appear, and his little legs picked up speed in no time!! Over the next few days he grew more and more fond of his outings, and you could often see him racing up and down the Rehab driveway without a care in the world! He was adjusting incredibly well to his new home!!

And then the next surprise arrived for us all, including ‘Kuza’!!

On the 4th October the Moholoholo Rehab Office received frantic calls from tour operators and members of the public in Kruger Park reporting a baby rhino stuck in a concrete trough in the Satara area. After many calls to the Park and speaking with various people in the conservation sector it appeared that the problem had been sorted out and the baby was out of the trough! However later that evening we received a call from the warden in the area, reporting that despite the fact that the baby was free from it’s ordeal in the trough, its mother had left and not returned to claim her baby!So the team yet again boarded the Moholoholo Bakkie and headed into the park to see what awaited them at Satara. A rather exhausted and pinkish baby white rhino greeted them at Satara (and instantly gained its name Satara, despite being a male), they took some Lactate, a re-hydration fluid, with them just to stabilize him until his arrival at the centre. Luckily the journey back to the centre was shorter this time and he was immediately settled down into a thickly padded clinic cubicle for the night, and given his first milk feed (which he drank down hungrily). Natalie continued to feed him every two hours through the night (which is our usual protocol for babies until they are stabilized).

The next morning we decided to introduce the two ‘little’ bundles……. when we say ‘little,’ our two new arrivals weigh in at 46kg’s and 51kg’s!!!!! The meeting was approached in usual rhino fashion – lots of slobbery lips and sucking, and nothing done in any rushed fashion. We have all come to realize the rather limited brain power of the white rhino, especially at such a young age! ‘Decisions’ if you like to call it, often take quite a while and ‘realisation’ happens slowly and after much deliberation!

Since their meeting they are slowly bonding together, although Kuza still holds a soft spot for his two legged kind, and the ample cuddles they offer him. Now after each feed we stand and watch these two little bottoms stroll off, side by side, in the direction of bed! Every so often they reach the doorway and stand, bemused, waiting for one or the other to make the decision to actually step through the door way to go to bed. And now and then Natalie has to ‘encourage’ one to make the first move through the doorway, before they both settle down to sleep, lying squashed up together to make sure one or other doesn’t get left off the mattress! ! Each night there is a battle between Natalie, Kuza and Satara for possession and space on the mattresses!However, don’t for one minute think that because there are now two of these little guys that life in the clinic or for Natalie is any easier!! She announced the other morning in the clinic that she has a new found respect for anyone raising twin boys!

We get daily updates from Natalie of the evenings shenanigans in the clinic! The most recent of which is their new love of silently pooing and walking their ‘waste’ all through the clinic and which does not escape Natalie and her mattress! The other is their ‘coincidental’ timing of peeing over her sleeping bag whilst she is busy holding a bucket underneath the other rhino or washing up the feeding bottles! However, for all of us who have the pleasure of ‘joint custody’ of these babies, and who don’t have to wake up every three hours through the night for feeds or cleaning up after them, they are an absolute delight and even Natalie does not hesitate to say “I would not change them for the world.”

Watching them both bouncing around in the garden together with their little tongues sticking out, or sitting on the floor whilst they both head towards you for cuddles is an experience which none of us or our students will ever forget! Kuza has this hilarious tactic of ‘plonking’ himself down at the foot of the mattress and slowly leopard crawling his way, bit by bit on his knees, further and further up the mattress until he is lying stretched out beside you with his big wet lips right by your face! He is still much more people orientated than Satara who seems to prefer his adopted brother’s cuddles for now!

We must say, you’ve never had a good cuddle until you have been cuddled by a week old baby rhino who’s whole world revolves around you and your company…………………………..

Until next time, when we will give you the update as to their progress as the weeks pass, and the kilo’s increase!!!

Oct 21, 2008

The Intruder

I slipped off easily that night, I actually was sleeping very well, when in my sleep at approx 1h: 30 am I heard broken glass….I awoke…. listening, there it was again, glass being scrapped on concrete. It happened again; I tapped Brian on his shoulder hoping he would not talk out loud like he normally would.
He slowly turned over and I was able to whisper in his ear that I heard broken glass. The question was where? Was it the bathroom window? Or could it have been the veranda? I slipped off the bed to look out the bedroom window…….….nothing! Brian went to the bathroom window….nothing! My  heart was beating ‘10 to the dozen’ I gently took out the bedroom door key to peep through the key hole which would give me a view down the passage into the dinning room….nothing. Now we were confused, where was the intruder? Brian then slowly opened the door, still nothing. He then went back to the bathroom window while I re-closed and listened at the door…..yes…there it was again this time a different noise, was it Misty our Maltese poodle pup scratching at the kitchen door? When your heart is beating so loud the sounds you hear are not so clear!

Then to crown it all, the burglar alarm went off, oh no! Now what are we in for! With the daily news of murders and robberies and having been attacked once before in our home, ones mind goes over time with thoughts at a fast speed. I opened the door slightly…. I then heard a shuffle…the intruder was coming, it was coming from behind the curtain from the hall way! My heart beat even faster, I slammed the door shut, I went numb could not speak, made signs with my hands trying to tell Brian it was,  mmm ahem, mmm ahem,…………………………...Stoffel the honey badger!!
Stoffel brought back memories when he attacked Jan Last one of our guides, nearly taking his finger off, it took three men to wedge him off Jan. He grabbed Hugo Crouse one of our guides on the arm as well which the men had to try and wedge off! The power in his jaws is almost unbelievable as his jaws lock which makes it extremely difficult to undo. Bearing in mind as well that a bite from a Honey badger can severe what ever he has taken a hold of with those vicious teeth and leave you crippled for life.
After the intruders appearance, did I feel relieved? No! I do not know which was better, to have Stoffel as an intruder or a human intruder. They were both terrifying. One could hear him running up the passage straight for our bedroom door and lay there listening to what we were doing! Brian opened the door to talk with him but he had his tail up and was growling which was a sign ….”Do not touch me, I bite! I am upset.” We could only presume he was upset by the burglar alarm which is very loud and piercing and which can get your heart beating never mind an intruder as well! Brian tried a few times to talk to him and even attempted to stroke him but he lashed out at him.

The worst was still to come. We tried phoning the guide’s cottage for help….phones lines were dead! Now what?  Brian looked around to see if by chance he had his hand radio …yes, in the bathroom thank goodness! He radioed for help, Thom answered and said he would come up; he used his head and went to the clinic to get some Honey to coax Stoffel back to his enclosure, but….how do we let Thom in? The key was in the dinning room door, far from our reach!

Fortunately we leave the window open slightly to allow the guides to drop the keys onto the floor after arriving back from dinner with the students. We suggested Thom puts his arm through the window and tries to get the keys out the door which he did.

He then called for Stoffel who immediately answered. Thom did not hesitate to wait for Stoffels reaction (he was not sure what his mood was like at that stage) but ran down towards Stoffels enclosure calling him and once there climbed into the enclosure himself!  From inside the enclosure he lent over the wall and offered Stoffel some honey – he ate it hungrily, as always!  He placed a crate at the base of the wall so that Stoffel could easily climb in and continued to try and tempt him with the honey!  Unfortunately Stoffel is no push over, he kept coming forward for honey and then backing up once he had a mouth full!  This game went on for quite a while until eventually he climbed in over the wall and Thom stood in the enclosure and allowed him some more honey – at this stage he was completely calm!  Probably because he was so full of honey!  Thom then jumped out of his enclosure and left him to sleep off his tummy-full of honey!!
How did Stoffel (sometimes nick-named Houdini) get out? This time it was not a rake or broom that one of students left in the enclosure nor was it a rock that he manages to maneuver towards the wall, this time believe it or not was a large sand clot of soil that he had pushed into a heap against the wall until it was high enough for him to climb out!!!! Although Stoffels antics are enjoyed and admired by his agility and strength is something to be aware of at all times.
Few lessons we have learnt:
•    Keep a charged radio by your side incase of the phone lines being down.
•    Have the cell phone available not on charge at night which ours was.
•    DO NOT keep the key in an outside door with an open window close by!

Jenny Jones

Sep 25, 2008

The long awaited release of Agatha!

It is with great excitement we write this post with regards to the release of Agatha the leopard. After a long haul down ‘recovery lane’ Agatha has finally been released. As many of you recall she was the young leopard caught in a snare in the Agatha Plantations near Tzaneen in the Limpopo Province, about 100 km West of Moholoholo. She arrived in a terrible state, and was monitored with bated breath to see if she would pull through. 

Initially we had problems getting her to eat, mainly due to the injuries to her mouth from biting on what ever she felt was hindering her from ‘trap’ she was in. but after much perseverance from our students and staff she slowly began to eat and her wounds began to heal.  Agatha adapted well, fed well and in general recovered well for the final decision to release her which was noted by Brian who would check on her from time to time which became a game between the two of them as Agatha would play the game of Hide & Seek to the amusement and joy of Brian.

The Rehab Centre was bustling with activity with a very busy itinerary on Thursday, 18th September. The atmosphere was filled with anticipation as well as concern.  Darting any wild animal carries with it a risk of overdose, overheating and stress.  All of which can be fatal.  The battle was not over yet, and this day was as crucial to her as the weeks of treatment and attention she had received at the centre.   

The final decision had been made to release her in a Private Nature Reserve near Hoedspruit.  It is a vast area bordering the Kruger Park, where a number of different farmers have agreed to lower their fences in an attempt to provide as large, and as natural an environment as possible for Africa’s wildlife.  As such, we know the area and we monitor the safety of all animals where possible.  It would also mean that we would be able to keep track of our patient on the next leg of her journey back to the wild, and would provide her with a large area to roam and establish a suitable territory. 

 On the day of release she was no more accommodating than during her stay. Leopards are not inclined to ‘tame down’ during rehabilitation such as this, and we can be confident when we release Agatha that she will thrive back in her natural environment, and pose no immediate threat to people.

She proved this statement while we were trying to attract her attention towards the metal bars of the enclosure so that the vet could dart her from the other side. Corrie, one of the staff, played the decoy by standing close to the bars. All she had to do was stand up, but she had other plans. She jumped up the bars and was able to fit her paw through the top bars of the enclosure and deliver a nasty smack to Corrie’s left ear. Her claws left 2 scratches and one small hole around his ear.

The wounds being in a heavy veined spot caused blood to flow everywhere, which made it look much worse than it actually was. Corrie commented later that the wounds were minor, and that the actual power of the smack did the most damage. It was so hard that it gave him “whiplash”, ending up in a neck spasm and a huge headache. He survived the ordeal but maybe just a little less pretty…

The vet darted her with Zoletil (a drug used for sedating birds and mammals) and we set our watches to see how long it took for the drug to take full effect.  Experience has taught Brian, the manager that between seven and eight minutes should be sufficient to ‘knock out’ a leopard after being darted with Zoletil.  Sure enough after about eight minutes we were able to enter the enclosure and begin sampling before she starts waking up.

To monitor her movements as part of our ongoing Leopard Monitoring Project in conjunction with the Mpumalanga Leopard Foundation and Limpopo Environmental Affairs, we also fitted her with a GPS/GPRS collar. This will enable us, like with all our other leopards, to monitor her movements over the space of about 18 months to 2 years. Having access to her movements we may even be able to see when and what she kills along the way. Other samples taken to aid the project are blood and hair which provide DNA fingerprints of each leopard released.

Agatha only weighed in at 25 kg which is on the lower scale end of the scale female leopard, but after experiencing her fiery temperament during her recovery, we had no doubt she would do fine in her new bush home.  

Her collar fitted and samples taken; she was loaded onto the vehicle to be moved to her release site (with an anxious and excited gang of students as her chaperones).  The journey was not uneventful however, we had a rather nerve wracking encounter with a Breeding herd of elephants which slightly delayed our journey.  But, as always, every ‘bush encounter’ like this makes these days even more special memorable, highlighting the incredible nature of the African Bush that our international guests experience! 

By the time we reached our release site the drug had sufficiently worn off, making her awake enough to be able to move to cover quickly to avoid any lion or hyena which may be in the area that could advantage of her state.

Vehicles are positioned to enable staff and students to have a better vantage point as she takes her next steps to freedom!, yet far enough to ensure everyone’s safety…with windows closed!!
Opening the box is always the nerve wracking stage of the release.  But for once its not the animal that we worry about, it’s the manger Brian, upon whom it always falls to open up the box and release the growling leopard.  Brian on the other hand, must rely on his experience and agility to time the opening of the box and sprint to his vehicle (and as the years pass and he reaches pensioner age, the staff hold their breaths for longer).

As we all sat watching, Agatha came shooting out of the box, stumbled slightly as the drug was still busy wearing off, and headed for cover, as we predicted.  Luckily she was still in view and we were able to monitor her as she fully recovered from the sedative.  As she regained control of her body and found her bearings we watched as she slowly moved off into the bush to start her new life!!

This day was a success!  As the extent of her injuries, and her battle back to health have made this day even more of a triumph for her and for us all! Good Luck Agatha!
We will update you on her progress and movements so watch this space…

Sep 19, 2008

When To Help or When Not To Help...

There are times that people rescue animals with the intension of helping the animal, but in the end it does not always end that way.

Take this Verreauxs’ Eagle or Black eagle for an example. He was found by farmers on the ground trying to get through a fence on a game farm near Louis Trichardt. It was not able to fly and was moving by running and walking on the ground. It did not seem to have any injuries other than being thin and weak, thus not able to fly. The farmers once home placed it in a cage that was in fact far too small for its size. During the 2 months that it was kept in this enclosure its condition picked up quite well but due to the size of the enclosure the bird broke all his primary feathers.

Unfortunately these feathers don’t repair themselves once they have been broken and are only replaced when they molt their feathers which is done 1 or 2 at a time over one year. This is a slow process and we needed to speed things up. This meant that we had to stimulate the new growth and actually pull the feathers out. This had to be done in stages as it is quite painful to the bird. But at least the feathers could re-grow without hindrance.

From the blotched feather coat we estimate that it is in its 2nd year. Under normal circumstances around ¾’s of the Birds of Prey don’t even reach 1 year old, only around 5% of them reach adulthood at about 7-8 years old. So in fact this bird would have fallen in the “unfit” group of the Verreauxs’ eagle population. .

Cases like this are not uncommon, Large Birds of Prey are often “rescued” and put into an environment that is not suitable for them, resulting in injury. The rescuers mean well but the lack of knowledge and experience can have disastrous effects on the birds.

The future for this bird is unsure at the moment seeing that the chances of him being released back into the wild are slight. Although it will be able to hunt well for itself the problem will be finding the right territory which it will only be able to occupy when he is adult. If it is released into the wrong territory such as one where there is already a territorial pair of Verreauxs Eagles, you will find the biggest risk factor will be, being killed by a territorial pair within a short while after its release.

This eagle’s new career may include being an educational ambassador here at our centre and on our educational talks off site along side our Cheetahs and Bateleur Eagle.  One can only wait and see what will be its destiny; one can only hope for it to be released some where, where it can roam the skies where eagles belong.

Aug 28, 2008

Unwanted Still

Farmer vs predator conflict is still a matter of real concern here in the Lowveld. In between game farm and conservation areas there are many farms that breed with livestock which is their main income. It is not only the local black community’s livestock that is caught by wild leopard, hyena and caracal but also the animals of the bigger and more protected farms.

Whatever the case may be it usually results in the animal being unwanted and hated. The farmer can then remove the “Problem Animal” or “DCA” (Damage Causing Animal) as they are called, which can be done through poisoning, shooting, catching and relocating the animal or even (believe it or not) burning the animal alive. This is the extent people can go to when they express a hatred for an animal. Thankfully in our area the farmers seem to use the catch and relocate method above any of the other methods.

Just recently on 16 and 17 August we were asked by a Cattle farmer nearby to assist in catching and relocating a leopard on his farm. We gladly assisted as we had the support of the local Environmental Affairs office. As it turned out we found out it was more than one leopard.

The 2 leopards concerned are two young male leopards. They are less than 12 months old as they still have their “milk teeth”. This means that the mother is still free roaming as leopard cubs only leave their mothers from about 18 months old.

Both leopards were obviously much stressed when we darted them in the trap on the 2 separate occasions. The one had grazes on his nose from trying to escape but it was fortunately not serious and is already healing.

They are both feeding well and being kept in the quarantine enclosures at the Rehab Centre until they are old enough to be released.

The farmer is still trying to catch the mother and we hopefully will receive a phone call soon to rescue her from that area before something awful happens to her.

Aug 11, 2008

Agatha is back on her feet

Since her arrival Agatha the leopard has been recovering slowly but surely. But the first week was a battle.

She refused to eat or drink for the first week. Her mouth and insides were probably so sore that she could not take anything in. Though this was understandable, it didn’t help her recovery at all. Twice we had to turn to Dr Peter Rodgers the Vet to put her on a drip because she was so dehydrated. On one occasion he even had to tube some food into her stomach so that she could draw some energy from somewhere.

It took her another 2 days to start eating. At first it was only a little bit of meat at a time but she regained her strength quickly and in no time she was back to her old self, attitude wise. She puts up a big fuss when you come near the enclosure to feed her or clean the enclosure. She is not a happy cat, but she is safe and well looked after.

Her wounds seem to be healing well but it is not easy to monitor because she is not a very willing patient.

She will probably be released back to the wild as soon as she is ready to go and when we have found a suitable home for her.

Stay tuned for more updates soon…..

Jul 21, 2008

R.I.P. Floppy

I am sad to report that Floppy the Rhino died on Friday afternoon last week. It was all very sudden and all over in an hour.

Since our last update it went very well with Floppy. His bandages came off and the wounds had healed beautifully. The triumph was him taking his first steps outside the clinic and to have the opportunity to enjoy some sunlight which he desperately needed. He enjoyed it so much that getting him back to his room at night became a problem…he did not want to go back! He showed his stubborn streak once more, which I suppose must be a natural thing when one does not feel quite normal and uses this as a barrier. He eventually got use to the crowds of people moving through the Rehab on tour and was so up front that he introduced himself to the visitors all by himself. As soon as the tour group would come his way he would get up and walk straight into the middle of the group standing there waiting to get some attention. There was always a student by his side and accompanied him where he wanted to go 24/7.

Around a week ago he developed diarrhea. This carried on for about 3 days, and in this time he stayed inside the clinic.

On Friday morning 18 July 2008, Floppy still looked quite happy and was moving around in the clinic as usual, he even gave Stuart a bash or two. Natalie then noticed a change in his behavior which was quite sudden; he gave about 10 coughs and became very unsteady on his feet. Brian was called in and observed the situation and new his time was up. Floppy then laid down breathing heavily, gave a few gasps of air and within a few minutes was gone. It was devastating to those who watched over him night and day. We are gratefully to each one of you for your dedication and especially Natalie for her untiring love and care.

We had an Autopsy done which showed that he had 6 broken ribs, this he had from the day he came to the rehab. His heart, Liver, Lungs and kidneys were full of abscesses. One of his kidneys was totally destroyed. The cause of death was a hemorrhage in his lung.

The Vet, Dr Peter Rodgers stated that he could not believe that this little guy survived this long with all these injuries. He could only account it to the dedication and love from the staff and students here at Moholoholo Rehab Centre.

We will miss Floppy terribly.

Jul 15, 2008

Bound to a Snare

Sunday June 6 turned out to be another Rescue effort from Moholoholo. We were contacted by forestry officials near Tzaneen who had found a leopard in a snare. This brought everything at Moholoholo almost to a standstill as we planned our next move. We rushed off to the scene almost 150 km away. Arriving at the Old Couch House Hotel we were led by one of the Forestry officials down a dirt track toward the leopard. It seemed like we were driving forever down the forestry roads spiraling and winding up and down the hills. We eventually reached the site and realized that we were in the middle of nowhere. If we got lost in this place we would never get out it seemed.

The leopard was spotted by a truck driver that has been burning the controlled firebreaks in that area and that the Leopard is lucky he came along for these roads don’t get a lot of vehicles moving here. Some only gets driven on once a year, he said.

It was a horrible sight. The leopard, still alive, was stuck in between the bushes with the snare around her waist, right next to the road. She was so weak and dehydrated and would have been dead the next day if they did not find her. She did not even growl at us and was so exhausted that she couldn’t even stand up.

Although she was weak we still were not able to handle her without sedating her. We darted her and the only reaction she showed was an uncomfortable growl and a faint attempt to get up. It did not take long for her to be fully sedated and we rushed to get her out of the snare and give her the emergency treatment that she desperately needed.

On closer inspection of the area you could see that she had been fighting the snare for at least 5 days already. The scratch marks on the trees and the broken branches even the marks in the soil testified of a long and vigorous struggle. What this animal must have gone through in those few days…

Once on the table we checked her vital signs to determine the actual state she was in, which was not promising at all. Her body temperature was 34°C (normal would be 38°C), she was dehydrated, and in terrible shock. We also confirmed that she was a young female that possibly would still be with her mother.

With no electricity for heat blankets or hot water bottles we had to use the sun to try and raise her body temperature where a space blanket came in handy too. We put her on a drip to re-hydrate her and to treat her wounds. She had one bad cut around her waist from the snare and 2 smaller wounds on her legs which would heal fine, but the internal damage was the one we worried about. After nearly 2 hours we were on our way back to the Rehab.

I’ll give you a full update in a day or too.

View more photos here...

Jun 26, 2008

A Leopard Story

One month ago we caught and collared a leopard male in the Balule Nature Reserve. Leopards are collared to get more data on the movements and sizes of the leopard's territory which gives us a good idea of the leopard numbers in our area.
Catching leopards is not an easy job. It took us about a year to catch and collar this particular leopard. He is a clever leopard and refused to go into our traps.
The kind of collar we put on the leopard is a GPS(global positioning system) collar. The collar takes up to 5 readings a day which will provide us with information on the movements of this leopard.
More photos here... and have a look at our YouTube Channel...
Check back soon for more info on the movements of this leopard and for more news on Floppy the baby rhino.

Jun 19, 2008

Reluctant to move

Floppy is doing very well here at Moholoholo. He is enjoying all the attention from all the students looking after him. He still has a bandage around his head protecting his ears while they heal up. The ears are healing beautifully, although he will never have full earlobes again, the remaining halves will have to do. His hearing will never be as it should be but it will be sufficient for him to get on with life.

At the moment we are trying to get him out of the clinic so that he can get some sunlight and walk around a bit. But he refuses to take a step outside. He will come all the way to the door of the clinic and survey the going-on’s outside, but refuses blatantly to take one step outside. We don’t want to force him to go outside because that may put too much stress on him and that would not be good. For the moment then we will be patient and let him emerge at his own pace.

He has put on a lot of weight, looking more like a rhino now. He has a lot more energy and he is starting to complain about his feeding times…Always wanting it to be earlier than it should be. Sometimes he wants his food a whole 30 minutes early.
He wanders from room to room looking for the responsible person that’s supposed to feed him, begging any passers by to feed him. But it is for his own good that we have to feed him at certain times, if we feed just randomly he will definitely get a upset stomach…

Keep you posted…

Corrie van Wyk

Jun 17, 2008

Extremely Frustrated!

That is how Floppy, the little white rhino calf must feel after his ears were , in all likelyhood, torn off by some jackal. Floppy is being taken care of here at Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitaion Center. The manager of the center, Mr Brian Jones, said that Floppy has bandages around his head and has trouble hearing.
Floppy is three weeks old. Floppy was found abandoned on the Karongwe Game Farm two weeks ago by nature conservation students. Floppy was probably rejected by his mother and then left alone, attacked my some jackal which tore off his ears. Floppy was dehydrated and in a bad condition when he was found and brought to Moholoholo.
Students at Moholoholo take turns spending the night with Floppy so that he won't feel alone. Little rhinos need their mothers and without any contact would be severely traumatized. Floppy is now weighing 60kg and is given 1.5 liters of milk every few hours.
It is dificult to say at this point in time if Floppy will ever be rehabilitated to go and live with other rhinos again. Once wild animals have been taken care of for such a long time, they lose their fear of people and aren't used to other wild rhinos.
Floppy will be able to hear again once his bandages are removed but unfortunately he doesn't have any earflaps anymore. Floppy will stay at Moholoholo until he is six or nine months old. We will keep you posted on Floppy's recovery.
You can see more photos of Floppy here...