Archive for May 2013

Real-life experiences   Leave a comment

Colin feeding RhinoColin with Lion cubReal-life experiences.

My experience at SanWild Rescue Centre in South Africa

My time there started with an unforgettable experience. As John, the field guide who had picked me up from the airport was opening the gate to the camp area, a giraffe suddenly stuck its head in through the open window of the bakkie (pick-up truck) giving me quite a shock. John, who had evidently seen the incident, yelled loudly. The giraffe immediately withdrew its head and quickly ran away. John laughed aloud at seeing the look of shock on my face. He explained that since its rescue about a year ago, the baby giraffe named Karissa usually stayed around the camp area.

On one occasion, along with Steve, Mary, & Kathy, three other volunteers, John drove us out to feed the lions. On the way, we stopped to pick up the meat to feed them. This came from the carcases of three butchered cows, (including the heads) which four of the centre’sworkers had cut into smaller pieces. The girls gasped in horror at seeing the carcases hanging on hooks in an outbuilding and quickly covered their noses to quell the smell of death. After loading all the pieces into the back of our truck, there was nowhere for Steve and I to sit. Then John told us plus two of the workers, to climb up and stand amid the meat. Neither Steve nor I was too keen, but we had no choice, so climbed up and stood gingerly on top of the meat clinging tight to the roll bar over the roof of the cab.

I felt rather uneasy driving through the bush sitting in the back of an open truck loaded with fresh meat. Especially when about 15 minutes later we heard the loud roaring of lions. No doubt, they could smell the meat.

John stopped the truck close to an enclosure. Suddenly, a huge male lion, mane flying leapt from the bushes and ran towards us. I flinched, certain that it was going to try to leap the fence. However, it stopped short and stood there baring its massive teeth roaring and snarling at us. “Don’t worry they know the fence is electrified, they just like to show off,” John said, with a knowing smile on his face. As he joined us in the back of the truck, he said, “Right, there are four lions in the enclosure, so we threw them eight pieces of meat.” Some pieces were so heavy that even with two of us, it was a job to pick them up and throw over the fence. The two males were first to come in snarling and showing their teeth, warning the lioness not to pick up a piece until they had theirs. It was frightening to watch their huge teeth tearing the bloody flesh from the bones. In no time, they devoured all the meat, leaving only the bones. We fed 12 lions that day.

Oneof the highlights of my stay at SanWild was feeding a baby rhino named Boinky. Each day one of us volunteers would feed her milk formula from four two-litre bottles each fitted with a large baby’s dummy. It was amazing how quickly and noisily she slurped down the contents of the four bottles once she had the dummy in her mouth.

A volunteer never knows what the day may bring. It could be perfectly normal one minute then change in an instant. Like the time we were out feeding some animals, when suddenly loud screams penetrated the peace and tranquility. “Quick get in the truck, John yelled in alarm, that’s Bleksop. I think one of the white rhinos is attacking her.” He had earlier explained that one of the two large white rhinos that wandered around the centre had once attacked Bleksop, a young female black rhino. Since then she had slept in a boma. (wooden stockade No sooner had we jumped into the truck than John drove off, dust and dirt flying up from the spinning wheels.

On our arrival, we saw there was a large jagged hole in one section of the boma. Splintered logs hung down and more lay on the ground. It was obvious that one of the white rhinos had smashed its way inside. John went to see if Bleksop was still around, but neither she nor the white rhino were inside the boma. John, who had a very good relationship with Bleksop, calmly told us to wait in the truck saying, “I am going to find her.”  With that, he started walking up a side trail calling out Bleksop, Bleksop.

We sat in the truck anxious and concerned about John’s safety. What would happen if he came across the white rhino? How would Bleksop react if he found her? Incredibly, a short time later he returned with her walking along behind him. I could not believe my eyes. Fortunately, although the white rhino had gored her, Bleksop recovered from her injuries.

Shortly after a film crew arrived to shoot a film for a wildlife programme, Donga, one of the lions sufferedan eye injury after being in a fight with another lion. Andre one of the centres founders called in a vet who arrived early the next morning. Along with the vet, John, Andre and the film crew, I went along to witness the proceedings. After arriving at the enclosure where Donga was isolated, the vet successfully shot Donga with a tranquilliser dart. Once he was safely asleep, we went into the enclosure to watch the vet work on the injured eye.  It looked as though the eyeball was hanging out, but the vet explained that it was just a bag of fluid.

Once he had carefully removed the lump and sewed up the wound, we placed Donga onto a stretcher and then carried him over to a shady tree where we laid him down to recover. As soon as we were all safely outside, the vet gave Donga an injection to bring him round then quickly came out to join us.

The day I was leaving SanWild, along with Louise (the founder of the centre), John and the film crew, we drove to the lake to film the hippos. On finding them both out in the water, Louise started calling to them. I was amazed when they came to stand in the shallows below where she stood on a concrete platform, set up above the water. What happened next was incredible. One of the hippos, its massive mouth wide open, allowed her to stroke its head. I have a photo to prove that it really happened.

Posted 01/05/2013 by Tigerman in Uncategorized