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.