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