Dec 15, 2010

All Grown Up

People who are new to Moholoholo Rehab often get a sparkle in their eyes when they hear us speak of the “lion cubbies”. They eagerly follow us in the anticipation of seeing two little speckled fluff balls romping around and in need of cuddles. Often it takes us a few seconds to register the confused and searching look when we proclaim, “These are the cubbies!”  Then we have to explain...

No matter how big these two boys grow, we will always see them as “the cubbies.”
At the age of 2 years and 2 months the boys have grown rather large! They pace proudly with the beginnings of a dark mane draped around their necks, they yawn widely to show off their impressive canines and just in case you missed how substantial the size of their paws are they may raise them up for you to have a good look. All this parading aside, what shows us that they are still the cubbies we know and love is when they come bounding to the fence make low moaning noises offering you a head rub – just like they used to do when they were small.

The way the lion cubs started their life resulted in them having to spend the rest of their time in captivity. They have no fear of humans what so ever, they do not know how to register the dangers of the wild and would not be very efficient hunters. When they were hungry they would turn to people for food, and might become aggressive if they are not given any or if the people “refused to play” or ran away - A lethal combination for people and these magnificent creatures alike.

A few days ago marked an important stage in the 2 males’ calendar of life... they were introduced to what we hope would successfully become their new “pride”. Two fully grown lionesses were brought to us from the same place as the lion cubs. They were aggressive and wild but we were unable to release them to a new location. They were placed in the camp next to the lion cubs so that as they grew they would accept each other. The lionesses would have killed the cubs if they were put together and this is why they were kept in separate camps. The timing had to be just right in order for us to integrate the cubs with the lionesses successfully. The boys had to have a sense of dominance, which would only come with age, which would allow them to stand up to the lionesses when they “fronted them out”. One lion at a time we introduced them to each other and things seemed to go reasonably well. There were a few squabbles, which was to be expected, but everyone seems to be getting along warily. It might take some time but soon they will be happy in each other’s company.

The females have been fitted with contraceptive chips to ensure that they will not fall pregnant. You may ask, “Why? Would you not love to have lion cubs cartwheeling about again?” The answer is No. As lovely as they are, it would be a terrible crime for us to breed lion. If you consider how much space is available to our wildlife these days you would recognise that there is just no more space to release animals such as lion anymore. People do not want them on their game farms as they kill their valuable live stock, they become a danger to people if they enter settlement areas and anything outside of that is purely uninhabitable for them... a terrible thought but the honest truth.
As the boys grow we hope to hear their mighty roars echoing off of the mountains which surround us, proudly proclaiming their place in the pride.

Nov 29, 2010

Out of the Dark and Into the Light

A few stories ago, we told you of a lioness who was found in a snare which was wrapped around her jaw cutting gaping wounds into her flesh into which a person could fit their hand. She was brought to Moholoholo Rehab Center with the aims of treating her – however there was not much hope for her at that initial stage.

But this lioness was a fighter, right from the very start. The way that she managed to hold on to her ebbing life while she was trapped in that snare for days was already proof of that. Her spirit to live along with medical treatment and constant care combined together to produce miraculous results.

Each time we darted her to treat her wounds we were amazed at the speed and extent to which they had healed. On the 26th November we darted her to check her over in the hopes of being able to finally move her from the quarantine where she had been housed during her recovery to an outside enclosure where she could really stretch her legs and feel the sunshine on her fur. On observation we were all awed at what we saw. What had been a deep and jagged slash from her mouth to below her ear was now a faint scar line. A gaping hole in the back of her neck where skin flapped away from flesh was now tightly sealed. It was short of a miracle.

After Brian proclaimed that he was more than happy with her improvement the students all jumped into action. Carefully she was moved onto the carrying mat and then the hard work began, the lioness (who is a rather large animal) had to be carried around to her new camp. Usually a short walk that no-one gives a second thought to became a long and difficult ‘trek’. Finally they reached their target and the lioness was placed in the feeding cage to sleep off the affects of the darting.
Now she is patrolling her new perimeters getting used to the smells and noises. Her next-door neighbours (Big Boy and Ditch – 2 resident lions) watch on warily as they tried to make sense of this new visitor.
We are trying desperately to find a new home for her where she can roam free once again, but this is a very difficult task in which we only hope that we can succeed. She can never be returned to her own pride as they would now view her as a stranger and would kill her. The best place for her would be a new game farm which wants to introduce lions. She could then be put together with a male in a neutral place where they could both begin their lives afresh.

Nov 17, 2010

When the sun sets early

Things have been very busy here at the rehab center with the opening of “baby season” starting with a bang! We have all been so busy rushing around cleaning, feeding and organizing that there has been little time for anything else. But now we have a chance to tell you a few more of our stories:
Brian received a phone call from a large park nearby reporting that they had a rather large, slightly grey baby animal for us to collect. Another rhino you ask? Well this time the answer is no... it was a baby elephant! You can imagine how our eyes all widened when Brian informed us that we had to get everything ready in order to receive this baby while he took some helpful hands in the form of Martin, Hardus and Natalie to go and collect her. We had not been given very much information other than: a) it was a young elephant  b) it did not appear to have a mother and c) it was not in a very good state.

So off they went and left us behind to make urgent phone calls to try and find out what we would need to feed an elephant calf, how often and if there were any other special tricks that we would need to know.
Finally we got hold of Knysna Elephant Park. On asking them these questions we set off alarm bells on their side. Without the rest of the information about the baby elephant they were not able to help us initially. This caused a bit of stress on our side as we had to get supplies and get this baby stabilised as soon as we could.
When Brian and his team finally reached their destination they were greeted with the sight of a baby of about 2 weeks old who was very thin and was gushing diarrhea at that moment. A terrible thing to see. As quick as they could they loaded the baby up and rushed her off to the nearest vet in search of some immediate assistance. After she had been hooked up to a drip to try and rehydrate her they then began the trip back home.

During this time Knysna Elephant Park offered to send a team to come immediately and give us a hand and some well needed advice as apparently they are extremely sensitive and are very difficult animals to raise.
A very wobbly and uncertain little ellie arrived at the clinic which had been prepared for her. Natalie moved around her treating her as best as she could and trying to make her as comfortable as possible. She could not stand up on her own legs and was exhausted after her ordeal. We prepared for the long road that was ahead of us as we braced ourselves to put our all into trying to pull this baby, nicknamed “Ellie”, through the darkness.
The Knysna team arrived at 2 o’ clock in the morning and after a meet and greet with Natalie, they got stuck right in! A combined effort began which consisted of sleepless nights and long days of following the baby around with a drip, catching diarrhea in a bucket, cleaning up, administering a multitude of drugs and hoping and praying that she would fight against all the mountains that stood in front of her.

The time came for Ellie to have a walk about in the garden, stretch her legs and breathe some fresh air. She was accompanied by her 3 caretakers and draped with blankets to protect her from getting cold. This was a treat to see, as she curiously greeted the students with her exploring trunk. These little walks were not very long as her energy levels were not high and soon it was time to return to the clinic in time for her next round of medication.

While working at a rehabilitation center, one learns very quickly not to get excited at the first sign of improvement and so we cautiously kept any excitement at bay when she seemed to be doing a little better or looked a little stronger – we could all see there was still a very long way to go.

After discussions it was decided that it would be best for “Ellie” to be transferred to Knysna Elephant Park before her condition worsened and where she could hopefully be integrated with their free-roaming herd of elephants.  Once this decision was made it was all systems go to get her there as quickly as possible. A plane was chartered and all necessary arrangements were put under way.
Soon the time came for us to say good-bye to this amazing creature that had held us all captivated for the few short days she was with us. We were glad that she would be going somewhere where she could join her own kind.

Natalie joined the crew to lend a hand on their side and from the reports we received back from her the flight was an ordeal for all on board. They had managed to fit all the equipment they had bought along, the team of 3 and let’s not forget – the baby elephant... into a very small plane! It was a rather bumpy and squashy ride and they were all extremely glad to set foot on solid ground to stretch their wary muscles!
While all this was going on a boma and clinic was being erected to receive the baby and ensure her comfort. The other elephants gave her a trumpeted greeting to announce her arrival. Once she was settled into her boma it was all systems go once again trying to get her back to health. A name was decided upon and our baby ellie was to be called “Kianga” – meaning sunshine. She was still in a very bad way and everyone was working around the clock never leaving her alone for a minute. Slowly, slowly it seemed her light was shining a little more brightly and when her stools became more formed and they got the thumbs up saying she had overcome the e-coli everyone started to smile a little more. Finally they were able to take her off  the drugs that they were trying to combat the e-coli with... shortly after this another infection that seemed to have been lying dormant under the onslaught of the intense antibiotics reared its ugly head. It was decided to take a few x-rays to check her gut condition and somehow the x-ray caught a section of her lung which revealed a terrible lung infection...

Sadly this infection had been masked by the other symptoms and was so severe and already so far gone that there was no hope.

The next day as everyone watched on tearfully Kianga’s sun set early.
It is terribly sad to have lost this magnificent creature but when we are called to fetch animals that have seemingly been abandoned and are in a bad state, there is usually an underlying reason as to why the animal’s mother has left it. Much was learned from “Kianga” and hopefully the specialists will be able to put that information to good use in her memory.

Oct 6, 2010

Don't Miss Your Chance To Make A Difference

On Monday we released the female leopard, which had been responsible for killing at least 36 ostriches, onto a nearby game reserve, making a little bit more space in our rather full quarantine section. Thinking that we could air it out, we got the students in to clean.

However, this was not to last for very long as... the very next day we had to go and collect another patient who looks like she will be in  there for quite some time.
We received a call about a terrible snaring massacre that resulted in many animals dying a most painful and slow death. There was one survivor that had been found fighting to stay alive but using her very last reserves...
...A lioness.

She had been snared around the head with the wire cutting through her mouth breaking off teeth and leaving her with a gaping grin that exposed gums. She has gashes in the back of her neck in which a person could fit their hand. Strewn around her were the carcasses of 5 other lions, a hyena, two zebras, one wildebeest, three impala and a vulture. On closer investigation it was noted that there were several teeth missing from some of the lions and one had had its paws cut off... a sure sign that these animals had been killed so mercilessly for the sole reason of traditional “muthi” (medicine). The local anti-poaching unit were called to scout the area and pulled out more than 200 snares!

When animals are caught in a snare they are forced to suffer extreme pain as they rip flesh and muscle in their manic attempts to escape. As they work through their energy supplies they become weak. Not being able to eat or drink takes a toll on their bodies too until the life begins to seep out of them and sometimes, days later, they finally die.

She was treated immediately at another venue and once she was relatively stable Brian was called and asked if he would take further care of her. Without a second thought Brian jumped into the vehicle and off he went to collect our newest patient.

Sadly, this lioness has a long way to go, at least 3 months, before she will be even close to fully healed. At the moment she is very nervous about her new surroundings and will obviously be in much pain and discomfort. We now face the very large challenge of raising funds to cover what will soon be an astronomical vet bill! We expect it to reach and exceed R40,000.00!
If you are interested in helping us in our endeavour to help make a difference to an animal that suffered cruelly at the hand of people then please do not hesitate to contact us at the following email address:
Any donation no matter how small will help make a difference and will be greatly appreciated!

Oct 4, 2010

A second chance and a step towards freedom.

In life we are not all lucky enough to receive a second chance, a chance to prove that we can do right. For our wildlife these chances are fewer and further between. They do not have the ability to speak out to defend their actions and many times they are lumped together and labeled as ruthless dangerous killers who are a threat to human well being. In their quest to survive they are forced closer and closer to human habitation and some have no other choice than to partake in livelihood of people. Many such animals are shot or sentenced to a slow and painful death for their perseverance in the face of a shrinking habitat and will never be afforded that illusive second chance. But today I am here to tell you about a mesmerizing creature that was lucky enough to beat the odds.

 Previously we posted a story about a female leopard with two cubs that discovered ostriches were easy prey (and a tasty meal to boot!) After she had killed 36 ostriches the farmer had had enough and if we were not able to remove the leopards from his farm he was going to take drastic steps in order to save his livestock. We were successful in our endeavours and brought the leopards to the rehab center where we could care for them until we were able to find a suitable place to release them. During the process of capturing the leopards, the cubs had been separated from their mother and so we were not able to house them with her as she will no longer recognise them as her own. They will stay at the center until they are older and stronger and able to fend for themselves in the wild. The mother however is perfectly healthy and after much phoning around Brian managed to find a place to relocate her to in a game reserve in the nearby area which wanted to increase their leopard population.

On hearing this wonderful news, a R15, 000.00 GPS collar was ordered for the female leopard. This will allow us to track her movements by downloading her positions onto the computer. We can see where she wonders to and if she has stayed in one spot for a day or two then we can deduce that she has made a kill. Fantastic technology, but extremely costly.

Once the collar was checked and fitted, the female was placed in a crate and the students piled into another vehicle so they could witness this moment and say farewell to this fearsome rosetted creature that they had helped care for.

When we had reached our destination, which is located a good hundred kilometers or more from her original killing grounds, we off-loaded the crate and once everyone was clustered in a safe spot Brian opened the hatch. Still wobbly from the sedative, she took her first tentative steps towards freedom, cautiously at first and then sensing there was no harm she ventured forth to investigate her new home.

 We can only hope that she will not return to her old ways and that she will stay within the safe confines of the game reserve.

Deadlock Battles

What would you do if everything you depended on was threatened by a single element? An element which you had the power to remove? Would you not take any steps necessary to defend that which allows you to survive?

For many people in this country, livestock is a life-giving source. They rely on this livestock for food and nutrition, income and status. Most of these people will do anything in their power to protect their livelihood.  Wouldn’t you?

Often the threat comes in the form of a four-legged predator, hungry or looking for an easy meal. Sadly these wild “beasts” hunting grounds are being restricted like a net being drawn closed. These creatures are now being forced from the lands that they once used to roam and hunt upon freely by humans’ insatiable need to expand, conquer and devour.

Our mission is to educate people such as this that there is another effective solution and that we can help them in their plight whilst saving an animal’s life. Let me tell you about two such stories...

Ostrich Killer:  After losing a staggering 36 ostrich to a leopard, a farmer, in extreme frustration, set a cage trap in order to lure in the ruthless hunter. However, the animal that stalked in to claim the bait was a different ‘bothersome’ predator – a brown hyena. The farmer solved that problem himself by shooting the hyena as to him this was the only solution. He then reset the trap cage in the hopes of catching the leopard. On inspection the farmer realised that he had indeed caught a leopard but it was not the one that he had been hoping for. It was a young cub! “Aaahha”, he thought! ”This will do the trick!”  And so he decided to leave the cub in the cage in hopes of attracting the mother back to catch her in another trap he had set..  Brian heard about this 4 days later and immediately rushed over to see what was going on. The cub was still in the cage and was in a terrible state! Brian explained to the farmer in earnest that he would help him catch the problem leopard if only he would allow him to take the baby leopard away and try and save its life. The farmer agreed and Brian set traps in waiting.

We did not have to wait long for the farmer to call letting us know that there was something in one of our traps, it was another cub! (The brother to the female that we had previously rescue)  He was brought back to the rehab centre and the trap was reset once more. Finally! Not long after, we managed to capture the large female (the mother) that had been killing so many of the farmer’s animals to feed her growing family. She was brought back to the rehab and now we are looking for space to relocate her to. She would no longer accept her cubs and being only about 6-7 months of age we will need to keep them here until they are old enough and capable to fend for themselves in the wild world.

Cattle Slayer: Our second story takes place on a farm over 150km from the rehab. A local, black farmer by the name of Paul had had enough after 8 of his calves had been killed by resident Brown Hyenas. These cattle are his livelihood and his only source of income with which he can support his family.

Paul set up his own cage traps in order to catch the guilty culprits. Tempted by the smell of easy food, the Brown Hyena was lured in. One could reasonably understand if Paul took matters into his own hands but he did not and having heard about the Rehab and what Brian does, he contacted us to “Take this thing away from here!” Sensing the man’s frustration, Brian set off immediately. A very large female hyena pacing the trap cage is the sight that greeted him on arrival. Sadly the female had been heavily pregnant and had given birth to 4 cubs in the cage. As a result of stress and agitation she killed them and ate 2 of them. Brian could see that she was not in a good way, with a badly injured side and pouring blood from the uterus. On arrival at the rehab she was rushed to the clinic where we could examine and treat her. She was then placed on a course of heavy anti-biotics. That very next afternoon, Paul rang Brian. He had caught a second Brown Hyena and told Brian that he had better come and fetch it soon. Once again a round trip of over 300Kms was made in order to bring the Brown Hyena safely back to the rehab.

The officials feel that once these animals are released they will go straight back to their ways of killing livestock such as the ostrich that the leopard was taking to feed her cubs. We would like to prove that this will not happen if we release them far enough away!

After both such incidents our quarantine is full and we hope to release the animals in suitable places where their presence will be cherished rather than despised. We will keep you posted!

Aug 3, 2010

Spotted Intruder

Imagine this scene. You live in a built up area and are tinkering around your garden, perhaps humming a happy tune. In your garden is an engine with a cover over it and as you pass it hear a rather nasty growl.
What do you do? How do you feel? What runs through your mind?
Would you even consider the possibility that it might be a leopard? Well this is exactly what happened when a rather surprised person living in a town called Phalaborwa discovered a hissing, spitting leopard huddled next to an old engine in his garden. As the vet was close by he was summoned to assist with the situation. Rushing over to investigate more closely the vet soon recognised that this was a leopard cub which was in a terrible state. Being unable to fend for itself and obviously lacking a mother, this little cub was forced to seek easy food which could be found in residential areas. However anything he found would not be enough for him to survive on as at his age he still required the nutrients and goodness that could only be acquired from his mother’s milk.
As one could not approach this fearful little fur ball directly without causing large amounts of stress to the animal or being injured oneself, the leopard cub had to be darted before the vet could extract it from its secure hiding place. In the mean time Brian had been contacted by the Environmental Affairs. They had asked him if he would be able to fetch the leopard cub and care for it until it can be released. Being a cub this would still be a good few months and it probably had not learnt many of the skills needed for an adult animal to fend for itself in the wild. On route to a different destination Brian made an immediate detour and summoned the volunteers and staff to come and assist.

On arrival the sight was shocking! The poor thing was emaciated and seemed to be teetering on the edge of its life. Perhaps from some form of struggle 2 of its front teeth were broken off and its toe pads were raw.
Immediately it was hooked up to a drip so that it could be given fluids and was rushed back to the rehab. Settled into a warm cubicle we could only wait for the sedative to wear off.  Sadly we suspect that this infant’s mother had been caught in a snare or trap leaving it all alone

Finally, later that evening, Brian decided that we should see if it was ready to accept food. Wary at first but driven by hunger he edged closer and closer to the food that was being offered. After that initial taste he gulped down piece after piece hissing and spitting between swallowing.

As the days have gone by he has hung in there and is clawing his way closer to survival. Eating daily and growing more vocal he will soon be ready to be put outside into the enclosure that is being constructed especially for him. When he stood up yesterday for the first time in three days we knew he was on his way to recovery.

Enclosures such as these are costly to erect and often we have to rely on the money that we receive as donations designated by the giver to a specific task. If you would like to assist us in this please contact the office on the following email address:


What is naughty, chews on your feet and hides in bookshelves? Any guesses? None! Okay well let us try this one...
What is spotted, can crack through bones and cackles in the night? Well Done! A Spotted Hyena!
If you have not heard the stories by now or have not seen photos of our new baby then let me fill you in! One of our newest members at Moholoholo Rehab Centre is a baby spotted hyena!
He (we think) arrived here at the rehab only a few days old. Jet black with a mouth fill of teeth and curious, watchful eyes. This little parcel was sent to us from another rehab centre. Unable to identify at that age whether it was a male or female (as this is very difficult to do with baby hyenas) we could only hope for a more submissive male rather than a dominant female.

As the days crept by this curious creature became more and more active. We howl in laughter at its antics. As big and brave as they seem when they are adults they are as skitty and nervous when they are small. When caught by surprise we will catch a glimpse of a black streak dashing for cover giggling and chittering nervously. Once there he will edge back and forth trying to gather the courage to come out and investigate what you are all about.
Down at the house where he spends his nights if ever you are missing something, be it a shoe, a shirt, a pair of glasses... you need look no further than his latest den. The term ‘hoarding’ could only have been invented after surveying the way that hyenas decorate their living areas. Dragging items from far and wide to clutter around themselves in amongst their cosy beds.
During the day our little collector, spends his days up at the top section of the rehab, using the office as his base. When he is tired, his bed is hidden under a desk with a hidey hole box to creep into when he is not feeling very brave. In between naps he lopes around the office or rough and tumbles with Mitzy, the resident Maltese poodle. Now a word of warning! Never ever believe that your ankles are safe from this little snipper snapper! Born with a set of teeth he has a natural instinct to exercise and often it is the unsuspecting computer user that falls victim to these practice sessions.

Hyena proofing the office was a task on its own but soon sneaky passages to behind the desks were boarded up, chewable items placed out of reach and dark cosy corners in filing cupboards declared out of bounds!  (Or so we thought.)

Every baby needs a name and this was given great consideration! Many alternatives were bandied around until finally the perfect fit was found.  Luma... meaning “to bite.” A more appropriate name could not have been thought of! As he grows he is starting to lose his black coloured fur and it is being replaced with blonde splashes speckled with faint spots. Adventures down the path and into the open garages seem to become more attractive but at 2 ½ months old he never ventures very far from his “mom” or the safety of his hiding place.
We look forward to sharing more antics and updates with you about this character filled addition to the rehab!

Black and White

Sleep is not always an option for those who dedicate their lives to caring for animals. Brian experienced this last night (definitely not for the first time) when he received a distressed phone call at one o’ clock in the morning. The young lady on the other end had been driving and out of the blue a Honey Badger had appeared in front of her car. Before she was able to do anything to prevent a collision she hit the Honey Badger. Concerned about the state it was in she phoned Brian immediately to see if he was able to assist her.
Without hesitation Brian jumped into his bakkie and dashed over to the scene. When he arrived he saw that the Honey Badger was in a grave state. Her jaw was badly damaged with a large laceration under its chin. He brought the female Honey Badger back to the rehab.

The most important thing is to keep an animal that has gone into shock warm. She is now in the clinic in a bed of hay with blankets and heating pads. After treating her wounds, pain relief was administered as this poor animal must have been in agony. Fluids are also very important and the volunteer vet nurse had this tough little critter hooked up to an IV as soon as she could. As soon as was able we took her in for an x-ray to assess the damage. Unsurprisingly it was discovered that her jaw was fractured on one side.  Her future is not written in black and white and we can now only wait and see how this usually resilient animal works through the trauma that its tiny body has experienced.

When living in areas which are less built up, there is often the chance of crossing paths with wild animals, the hardy savvy creatures that have been able to survive out in the true “wild”. Many a time these encounters take place on the man-made death trap made of tar. When this happens there is often nothing we can do to prevent a collision but all we ask is, please do not leave the animal there before checking the animals state. If a creature like this is still alive there is always a chance that it may be saved.
Don’t throw its life away... call someone who can help.
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehab Centre: 015 795 5236 / 082 907 5984

Jul 11, 2010

Swopping Spots:

Almost a week ago Brian received a message about a Leopard who had broken into an outside room on the property of a time share lodge. It seems that the animal was desperate for food, forcing its way through the gauze windows in order to reach skins that were curing in salt. The owners were worried about the safety of their residents.

We are most grateful that they had decided to contact us to help them with their problem instead of taking matters into their own hands as so many others might. Brian rushed out as soon as he could with a large trap cage and a piece of bait to go and assess the situation.

When he arrived at the “scene of the crime” Brian did some investigating in order to get a better idea of the situation. He found a large spoor which could only belong to an adult leopard. This means that there was something wrong; this animal was severely hungry and possibly not able to hunt its normal prey, forcing this normally stealthy creature to look to human dwellings for its next meal.

The trap was set and all we could do now was wait for the call, letting us know when the animal was caught. We did not have to wait long....

The owners phoned us to let us know that the trap had indeed gone off and there definitely was a spotted animal in the cage... only it was not the same animal we had intended to catch. Inside was a Spotted Hyena!
It was decided that they would like to have the hyena removed from the property as well. Watching the children run around and playing, one could understand their concerns. Why tempt fate if you can take away the dangerous element? There have been at least 2 people killed by hyena in the last year. As the areas inhabited by humans expands so decreases the living space available for wild animals such as these.

Brian rounded up all the volunteers to lend a hand and off they set. Brian darted the hyena and we all waited for the drug to take effect.  Once the animal had submitted to the drowsiness we were able to sex it. This is not as easy as it may sound as male and female hyena look exactly the same. Once it was deduced that this was more than likely a young female we loaded her up into a travel box and whisked her off to her new home. Lucky enough for the hyena (and us) there was a game farm nearby which was looking to increase their hyena numbers. As they only had one, this curious creature would be happily welcomed!

We gently unloaded the hyena and left her to wake up on her own accord in the safe surroundings of the boma that the game farm owner had prepared for her. Once her homing instinct has been “broken” this hyena will be giggling happily into the night secure in the knowledge that she is welcome to roam these new lands.

May 24, 2010

Wild Dog Woes:

It has been a busy couple of weeks for our volunteers and an exciting time for them to learn more about the treatment of the animals that live within the rehab centre.

It was noted that one of our resident Wild Dogs had seemingly injured his paw rather badly. He was limping around while the others darted past chattering loudly in the demand for food. Unsure of how this wound had occurred and concerned about its severity Brian had a watchful eye on him.

There was no improvement in the Wild Dog’s condition the following day and although his pack mates rallied around him in the wonderful way that is inherent to wild dogs we were concerned for him.

Brian decided that before a bad situation became worse we needed to tend to this limping animal. On the 30th April 2010 we separated him from his pack mates by moving them to the adjoining enclosure and prepared everything ready to dart the Wild Dog. Now darting an animal is a difficult task in its own but when your target is a slender and agile Wild Dog it becomes so much more difficult and great care and concentration is required!

Once the dog had been hit with the dart we waited for him to succumb to the affects of the tranquilizer. The students were then called in to lend a hand to whisk the dog up to the clinic where we could take a closer look at the situation. With relief we discovered that the wound was not severe but bad enough to cause pain. Our volunteer Vet Nurses, once again, were able to broaden their experiences (how many of you can say you helped treat an African Wild Dog?!?)  as they observed and assisted as Natalie. Nothing more than a thorough cleaning was required and after checking all the vitals and weighing him the Wild Dog was once again moved back down to his enclosure.

He was kept in his feeding cage until he seemed stable enough to be let out. His pack mates were anxious about their fellow friend and called to him from their enclosure.
After a few hours he was reunited with them although after his ordeal all he wanted to do was find a shady tree to rest under.

All seems to be fine for the moment and we hope that the wound will heal quickly so that we can see him joining his pack mates as they race around in their comical antics.

Mar 25, 2010

Big, Black and Beautiful

By the book baby season is meant to draw to a close at the end of February (as should have the rainy season) but as is life – nothing ever goes according to the book.
Our rain seems to be arriving late this year and we can only hope that we will receive what we need to carry us through what was beginning to look like a very dry year.

The next item on the list of things that did not seem to be abiding by the book is….
Can you guess? Nope, try again….. getting closer…. Oh, ok I’ll tell you….

A baby BLACK rhino

At 4 weeks old she arrived on the 21 February 2010 which fell on the last Sunday of the month. For those of you who have not yet joined our volunteer program. Sundays are usually quite days where everyone can relax a little and take a break from all the hard work. The guides usually get things done on the farm that they cannot get to during the week when busy with tours or a catching up on studies. Nothing is usually planned for a Sunday in terms of activities… except when the unexpected happens!

We received a call from a nearby Game Park to say that they had received reports from visitors that there was a rhino calf stuck in a mud wallow. After further investigation they discovered that it was in fact a Black Rhino. Usually the protocol in parks such as these is to maintain a natural system and allow things to occur as they would in the wild; however after much deliberation it was decided that they would step in and rescue the calf. She had been stranded for 2 days and her mother had given up and abandoned her. She was on her last legs.

Brian sent through 2 guides and our volunteer vet nurse immediately to collect the precious cargo. On arrival the vet nurse assessed the situation and spoke to the vet on site – this baby was in a desperate condition. To add to the ordeal she had just suffered she had chronic diarrhoea and had scraped her back right leg severely whilst struggling to free herself from the mud’s suffocating grip.

She was rushed back to the Rehab Centre. Shy of her new surroundings, Brian and Natalie coaxed her tentatively out from the vehicle and she was lead into the clinic room which had been made ready for her. Treatment began immediately and after days of liquid faeces streaming down her legs the medication took affect.

Now her bowel movements are almost normal and her leg has all but healed! Her rhino mommies take her outside during the day to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air and she loves nothing more than bolting after her minders as they run huge loops around the garden. Somehow this has no effect on her energy limits and she stands waiting impatiently after her relay partner has slummed into an exhausted heap!

We have missed having a rhino prancing through the rehab grounds. Having a rhino of a different species is wonderful and we are all learning the subtle differences in behavior and antics. We are hoping that the black rhino calf’s natural instinct to follow behind will make leading her away from tempting distractions slightly easier. The differences are tallying up but certain things remain the same across the board. A huge appetite and a growing thirst accompanied by pleading whistles and bumping reminders at meal times is something that seems to be consistent with rhinos no matter if they’re black or white.

We are lucky enough to be able to help this one baby, but she is a small drop in a very large ocean when we look at the challenges that are being faced in rhino conservation. All 5 species of rhinos are close to extinction. The White Rhino has rebounded and is now listed as Vulnerable. The Black Rhino has not been as fortunate and is still listed as Endangered.
Since the 1960’s the black rhinos’ numbers have dropped from an estimated 100 000 to a pitiful 3000. The cause of the decline is not the same reason as it is for many of our threatened mammals. Although habitat loss does play a large part, the high demand for Rhino Horn on the Black Market is the major reason!  In certain cultures it is believed that Rhino horn can be used to cure a number of ailments such as typhoid, fever and even snakebites. We are quick to turn around and points fingers and claim that it is due to Rhino horns being used in traditional Asian medicines, this does play a part but one must remember that Asia used rhino horns for 1000’s of years for traditional healing without threatening the species’ survival. However demands for items such as ornate dagger handles carved from Rhino horns (which indicate status and wealth and the demand for which grew with the increase in oil sales) have greatly affected the trade.
The trade of rhino horns has been banned but the black market is still thriving! In 1990 the pair of horns from a Black Rhino were being sold for a whopping $50 000.00  - at this price how do we expect a poor local inhabitant to resist?
Syndicates are no longer primitive in their methods. Lately they have been pulling out the big guns – swooping down in helicopters, darting with anesthetic. People who are entrusted to serve and protect our animals are jumping in on the band wagon which is rolling towards the jackpot and stringing along the demise of these archaic looking animals in their wake!

In some areas officials are taking drastic steps to save the lives of their charges. Rhinos are being darted and their horns are sawn off. This may seem barbaric to some and the affects of this are not really known. The one obvious downfall is that the rhino is loosing a valuable weapon on self-defense. But these creatures are fighting a battle where they are up against enemies and predators whose tactics are more highly evolved. By removing the one main item of value the spot light is detracted from this treasure.

What do we do??? How do we prevent this once seemingly indestructible creature from teetering over the edge of extinction?

Mar 23, 2010

Two for Tea???

A few days ago Brian was told about a very full and lethargic, python which was discovered nearby. After being informed Brian set off to investigate. Wondering what on earth this sneaky character had ingested.

On arrival Brian was pointed to the direction of where the python was last sighted – a guinea pig hutch. A quick scan revealed the python’s hiding place. The python had gorged itself on not just one but TWO adult guinea pigs and was looking rather uncomfortable as he settled in to digest the two large bulges in its body.
Quietly and slowly Brian approached the python. As the python had chosen a quiet, out of the way spot to rest whilst it worked its catch through its stomach Brian decided to cover it up and leave it be. Pythons are rather lethargic after partaking in a meal and to allow them to escape quickly from danger they will bring up their food and obviously Brian did not want this to happen.

Pythons are not the only creatures who have this escape mechanism – vultures are also known to regurgitate their food. By lightening their “load” it allows them to make a speedy get away if they feel threatened. Brian will give the python some space of about 2 weeks to finish digesting its rather large meal then the scaly scoundrel will be captured and released far away on a game farm.

Often pythons are persecuted as they fall into the serpent category. They hold value in traditional practices and are also culprits in raiding farmers’ livestock pens. Python skin has also become a popular choice for leather accessories. This along with a dwindling choice of habitat has placed the African Rock Python on the growing list of Vulnerable animals.

Mar 2, 2010

Moholoholo Animal Rehab's happy snappy crocodiles

On the 5th March 2009 we received a batch of crocodile hatchlings, teeny enough to fit into the palm of
your hand! These little snipper snappers came from a farm that bred crocodile and were only allowed to
keep a certain number of them. Having reached their capacity the crocs needed to find a new home. As they were not able to move around freely, as they could do in the wild, a Croc parent was allocated. During their stay here the crocs have had many different parents who have been fortunate enough to watch them grow as they have! Don’t get me wrong! There is plenty of stretch left in their skin and these babies are set to grow to a remarkable size! Daily these leathery skinned juveniles were moved to their various different enclosures, indoors with a heater and small pool of water when it was miserable outside or during the evening, or outdoors to do what crocodiles do best: - bask in the sunshine, recharging their batteries and digesting their food. Ahhh it is a croc’s life!

Their weight is recorded on a regular basis to ensure that no-one is being left behind in the growth spurt to adulthood. Having started off at 50.5g (the lightest) and 77g (the heaviest) they now weigh a whopping 470g and 1110g! When they were first brought in their diet consisted of grasshoppers but soon this was not enough to still their jaw snapping appetite! Besides their tasty chicks, today the crocs were in for an even bigger treat!!!! They were being upgraded to a luxury hotel suite! The dassies that had been living in what was originally meant to be the crocodile pen had been relocated to their new home (another story for another day) and now we were able to get in there and scrub it up so that it would be fit for its reptilian inhabitants. The students scrubbed and raked and carted sand until finally it was ready!!!

The time came to introduce the crew to their new snappy home and one by one their parent of the moment – Benoit – released them into the pool. We all watched eagerly as they swished their way effortlessly through the water, getting the hang of floating in the special way that crocodiles do. (They inflate special air pockets in their sides which allow them to float horizontally in the water with little effort. By special regulation they can drop straight to the floor and stay down perfectly without trying not to bob back up) It is taking a bit of practice as they seem to be standing on the floor sticking their nostrils out to breath but one or two seem to be catching on and soon they will be expert divers! The crocs will now not have to be moved from enclosure to enclosure as they will be able to spend all the day and night in their new abode and will have even more space to practice their stroke.
 The greatest problem we face is where to release crocodiles where they will be accepted and where most of all, they will be safe. Many of the rivers that these reptilian creatures inhabit are thick with unnaturally warmed waters, pollutants and chemical cocktails. Over 1000 crocodiles have died in a couple of the rivers that flow through the park. These pollutants are pumped into the rivers as a result of coal mining, agriculture, cattle farming and industry. All these facets require water to continue and once they are done their waste is returned to the river either by intentionally pumping it back in or through surface erosion which washes chemicals and refuse into the nearby water systems. Nearby homelands are also culprits in polluting the rivers as they seem an ideal waste removal system or Laundromat. The odds seem to be stacked high against these ancient leathery skinned creatures and the last straw seems to have passed them by leaving them with what seems to be a very bleak future. The bird life has also noticeably decreased in the surrounds. Decrease in numbers of other smaller animals such as terrapin and water leguaans that are dependent on these rivers have also dropped remarkably. It seems that as our demands increase we seal the fate of these doomed creatures.