Sep 30, 2009

Honey Badgers Triple Trouble

“Ring…. Ring…. Ring….” That dreaded sound that seems to bore into ones ears when you are just going off to sleep. It was approx. 9:30 pm when we received a call from a lady who was traveling on the road from the Klaserie Game Reserve, to say she spotted a baby leopard on the road which had been hit by a car! Brian collected the necessary items and called the guides to assist. Jenny in the meantime was left to try and locate a vet if needed but to no avail. One did not answer their phone and the other had had an accident and was not up to coming out.

Arriving at the location given by the lady, Brian noticed the poor little thing that was approx. 2½ months old, it looked in a bad state and before Brian could do anything it crawled under the fence into Kapama Reserve summoned by its mother’s desperate call. Brian realized the danger of trying to stop it and had to leave it be as he could not go further without trespassing on private property. Reluctantly they returned and Brian phoned the Reserve to let them know of the incident and that it would be best to put the baby out of its misery. There definitely was no chance of it living as he could see it was severely injured. On their return Jenny soon dozed off to sleep but Brian tossed and turned, not being able to get the baby leopard out of his mind and feeling bad that he did not get to it in time.
Sleep was soon broken, so it seemed, with another call at 5:30 that next morning from a desperate local farmer who found a trio of honey badgers that had moved onto his farm and they were killing his geese. Unfortunately Honey Badgers can cause devastation to poultry and honey farmers if given a chance.

Often we receive phone calls for “problem animals” whose quest for food takes them onto farm lands where they are not seen as welcome visitors. So it is with gratitude when a person contacts us to let us know when they have a problem and ask what can we do about it?

Once again Brian collected the necessary equipment and called a guide and volunteer students who were eager to assist and rushed over to survey the scene. We were greeted with an excited farmer and a rather ruffled feathered looking dead goose amongst the remaining few geese that were looking rather flustered. The farmer had been proactive and had set up a trap cage and had successfully managed to catch one of the badgers! The desperation in his voice on the phone was the fact that the badger was escaping!! The honey badger, a large male, was brought back to the rehab to await the arrival of his “partners in crime” who the farmer hoped would join him soon!

We then set up our own cage trap which is ‘Badger Proof’ (to an extent) and this time the dead goose that had been found at the scene of the crime (see photo below) was placed within. Knowing what we knew about the honey badgers’ expertise in escape artistry, they would outshine Houdini definitely, so a specific cage trap had to be used to prevent the honey badger escaping once he had satisfied himself on the gourmet meal we had laid out for him.

All that was left to do now was wait…! But we did not have to wait for very long! On the second night the temptation was just too much and the second of the Honey Badgers from the trio had taken the bait! Success!

He too was brought back to the rehab to join his ally. They have gone underground (literally speaking) and we do not see too much of them at the moment. They have been placed in one of the enclosures until we could find a suitable release spot for them.

Two safely in hand, one more to go:-

The third member of this trio is being slightly more evasive. The trap has remained empty for the last three nights. We hope that we can soon reunite this artful badger with his friends so that they may be relocated together to an area where they can dig, run and eat to their hearts’ content. But if not, the 2 will be released approx. 130km from here in on large Game Farm fitted with a transmitter so we can monitor their movements as well, which we are sure will be very interesting!

Until next time go well!

Brown Hyena freed from a Necklace of Death

On 17 July 2009 we received a call from a Ranger from a nearby Game Farm who was on his way out for the evening. He was traveling towards Kampersrus, a little village down the road from us when something dark caught his eye. After a closer inspection he discovered that it was in fact a Brown Hyena. A Brown Hyena is a very rare sighting down our way, but to see one roaming around freely on a public road was even rarer still!

The Ranger soon noticed that there was something wrong with the Hyena. He tried to see what the matter could be but it crawled into a concrete drain pipe under the road, he saw his chance and blocked the entrance with netting which he fortunately had with him. He phoned Brian at the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre who was awaiting the arrival of guests. He immediately gathered the necessary items and guides he needed to help and drove by vehicle in the direction he was given.

(The image on the right  shows The snare around the Brown Hyena’s neck.)

(Image on the left shows how deep the scar is and the Maggots.)
On arrival they found the Brown Hyena huddled at the far end of the pipe; it was clear there was something severely wrong. He was darted and brought to the rehab for further inspection. Once we had  him settled in the clinic it was, to our shock, we discovered that the Hyena had an animal’s worst enemy . . . . . . . ‘a snare,’ around his neck which had cut deeply into the flesh. By the state of the wound it looked as if this animal had been walking around with this ‘necklace of death’ for at least 2 months. The skin in some places had already started growing over the snare and the wound was teaming with maggots.

Our vet nurse was away at the time and Drew, one of the vet students volunteering with us at the time, volunteered to assist Brian to lend a hand and conscientiously cleaned the wound. Eventually the awful part came with us having to, with much effort, remove the snare from deep within the Hyena’s neck, but a good job was done and soon he was bandaged up and left to recover in the quarantine.

Just two weeks down the road we felt it was time for the Brown Hyena’s first check-up. A vet was called in to give his verdict. The vet darted him and gave him a thorough inspection. We were all amazed at how wonderfully his appalling wounds had healed in such a short period. The vet gave our Hyena the thumbs up and declared that he would soon be ready for release.

Excitement and anticipation are the emotions that were swelling through the Rehab as we geared up for his release. A nearby Game Farm was to be his new home and they had prepared a Boma for his arrival. Once the schedule of darting and fitting the tracking collar was fulfilled, the Hyena was transferred to his new home where he is to stay in the Boma for awhile to allow him to adjust to his new surroundings.

Once he is settled, this regal creature with his chocolate coloured fur, shaggy mane and banded legs will, once again, be able to roam at his leisure. We will be able to watch over him and monitor his movements with the help of the collar which will transmit his co-ordinates to us. We hope that from this experience we will be able to learn a little more about this elusive animal’s habits that is such a rare sight to behold. Go Well friend!

Happily Ever After for the two baby white rhinos

As most of you would have read in a previous article, Kuza and Satara are the two baby white rhinos that arrived here at Moholoholo within days of each other last year. In a year they have swept us off our feet (figuratively speaking) and have grown into 2 handsome yet cumbersome hunks.

Many dedicated hours were spent in the raising of these babies. Which gave us the privilege to go on a wonderfully, delightful, humorous journey with Kuza and Satara as we watched these two grow. Watching their milestones was fascinating as they were so different in nature one from the other.

At one stage we thought they would not make it when they both became ill. They overcame their great ordeal, flourishing back into two healthy ‘Tanks’ who once again swept us off our feet (literally speaking this time). There were times when one could only marvel at how such gentleness could come from such huge bodies yet on the other hand they could knock you over with a rather boisterous nudge leaving many a bruised leg or chin!

During their time here, many who passed through these gates had the advantage of seeing and touching these babies and shared in the privilege of having a baby rhino so close and to have the opportunity to touch and feel and note their characters. It would now be a different sighting when they spot a rhino in the wild as now they can identify it, not only from a distance but to remember the opportunity they had to feel and see the skin and what their eyes actually looked like.

We had many a laugh as they galloped around at full speed chasing and charging each other. The most comical was to watch them slip and slide and wallow in a mud pool which brought about smiles to faces and a glow in our hearts. One wonders how those feet and stumpy legs can carry those bulky bodies and yet still gain that fast speed and turn at a split second as they romp and play without falling over!

Of course time passes on and the time soon comes when one must say goodbye to those we care for and if one finds greener pastures we must let them go. So the time came too quickly for us when they were ready to move onto the next chapter of their lives. They began to act more and more as rhinos should and we had to move them to an enclosure until we were 100 % certain they were fit and healthy and ready to be relocated to their new home. Fortunately it was not for too long and we went about making the necessary arrangements for permits.

On 27 August 2009, the owners-to-be, came to collect, our not so little babies. We were thrilled to meet the new owners and to see the love they showed towards the rhinos. This made us feel happier knowing they were going to a home where they would be well cared for and so many hearts relaxed that day to have this assurance.

With the vet in attendance Kuza and Satara were darted and Kuza, being the softy that he is, was happily led to the vehicle and settled in his hay without a hassle. Satara . . . . . oh Satara, put up a bit of a fuss, those of you who know him are probably not surprised! For those of you who did not meet Satara, let us explain. . . . As Satara grew he became more certain of what he wanted – usually his milk - and if he did not get it when he wanted it he would sure let us know, he became cantankerous and would use a flip of that heavy chin to let his feeling be known and sent many a person running until the milk arrived and then all and sundry would re-appear for there “baby sitting” duties. He liked to remind people that he is in fact a rhino. Satara often enjoyed a game of jousting and he usually proposed this “game” when your hands were full or when you were completely unprepared. Once the sedative was given to Satara he fought it and stubbornly refused to be led in! He had made Moholoholo his home and he was not going to leave without a fight!

(Satara consoling Kuza after being darted)

 Finally, after much coaxing, false starts and dodging charges, Satara decided that it was not such a bad idea after all and joined Kuza in the comfort of the vehicle that would drive them off into the sunset.

Their fairytale ending is just the beginning as they will explore the grounds of the huge sanctuary that they have moved to. They will have acres of ground too roam on and will one day produce young ones of their own.

A very big THANK YOU goes out to all the rhino parents (you know who you are) who gave of their blood, sweat and tears to bring these two precious rhinos to where they are now. It is greatly appreciated and I am sure Kuza and Satara are eternally grateful! Now we can turn our full attention to Thabo, our next baby rhino who is almost 3 months now!

Sep 4, 2009

Ditch, The Lioness Taking Pride Of Place At Moholoholo Animal Rehab

New animals are brought into the Moholoholo Centre for treatment and attention on a regular basis. Once their wounds have healed or their condition has improved, we are able to release them, but this is not how it always happens. In certain instances the animal will never be able to be released and so Moholoholo becomes their new home. Many of these animals suffered injuries that will require them to receive constant care and attention to ensure their continued health and comfort.
Several years ago a lioness was caught by her left, back leg in a snare on a nearby Game Reserve.

The wire cut through the skin and down to the bone, resulting in a terrible wound.  This lioness, later to be called Ditch, was in need of immediate attention if we were to be able to save her leg! A vet was called and with much thought a plan was devised and put into action to allow us to dart and capture her without causing stress to the rest of her pride. Once she had been captured, Ditch was rushed off to the Animal Rehabilitation Centre for treatment. Ditch responded well and after 6 weeks her wound had healed enough for us to consider returning her back to her pride.
Ditch was placed in a holding cage in the area where her pride roams and meat was put out nearby to entice the pride to come closer. This would help Ditch to adjust back to her surroundings and would expose Ditch to her pride, giving them a chance to become used to her presence once more. Unfortunately life is not all about smooth sailing and the territorial male did not take kindly to having Ditch taking her meal so close to where he was eating and he lunged out in attack. The holding cage spared her life but she lost a toe from her front paw. Ditch was then brought back to the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre where her paw was attended to. It was a clean wound and once again she healed quickly.

We were not going to give up on assisting Ditch to return her back to her natural way of life and once again a plan was devised to try and reintroduce Ditch to her pride. This time the territorial male was darted and temporarily removed from the scene and Ditch was again placed in a holding cage within her pride’s territory. Part of the cage was slightly raised and a full carcass was strategically placed, half within the holding cage and half outside of the cage. This was done to encourage the lionesses to come and eat and allow Ditch to eat alongside them as if she were part of the pride. The only barrier would be the netting of the cage and we hoped that this would encourage them to re-accept Ditch. Once again the other members of her pride were not welcoming and immediately attacked her. Colin, the Ranger had to chase the pride away using the vehicle. We then had to face the facts that Ditch had been away from her pride for too long and she would not be accepted back. So with heavy hearts we brought Ditch back to the Rehab Centre.

At this time we had another “pride-less” male lion, Big Boy, who was in need of company, and who better to put him with than Ditch?  Big-Boy had come to us by order of the magistrate, he was brought to us along with his two sisters. Within a short period of being here one of his sisters had to be put down due to malnourishment and not long after his second sister, who was suffering from deformities due to malnourishment, was put down as well, leaving Big-Boy without a family.  Ditch was accepted by Big-Boy and to this day you can see them relaxing together in the shade perfectly content in each others company.

The vet is called out on intervals as Ditch’s injured leg had developed abscesses. If Ditch had been accepted back into her pride she would never have coped with all the walking due to her injured foot and would have eventually died of starvation. All worked out well at the end for Ditch and as you can see from the latest photographs the only legacy from her terrible ordeal is a banded scar around her back, left leg and a unique paw-print, below that marks these grounds as her home.