A little over a month ago we arrived back on African soil. It’s been a wild ride of preparations, meeting some of our wildlife heroes and viewing some amazing animals and birds. Our Africa safari north, from South Africa to Ethiopia and back, has definitely begun.
Prefer to listen…
Before leaving the Johannesburg area we stopped by Bambelela. This wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center is nestled in the mountains outside of Bela Bela. We arrived at a time of grieving. Gert, Silke’s companion and wildlife rehab partner had passed away suddenly about 10 days before. However, as always we were inspired by the dedicated people involved at Bambelela, from Silke, Belinda and Sue to all the current volunteers. Monkeys and their welfare are top priority. The ever present goal is to get them living free in the bush once more as quickly as possible.
This time we brought ZAR 15,000. Some to sponsor orphaned vervet monkeys Nikela and MK for another year, with the remainder going to where needed most. Food, medical and maintenance costs for 300 monkeys are never ending as you can imagine.
Unfortunately we missed Shannon with the African Raptor Center. She had just returned from this year’s Bearded Vulture second egg harvest in the snowy Drakensberg Mountains. From what we hear it was horrendously difficult this year… from nest access in the hard to reach cliffs to inaccurate time wasting data. The challenges with government and pertinent NGO cooperation remains frustrating as does of course funding. On a positive note, the youngsters from the previous years are growing nicely.
Traveling through Swaziland we stopped off for a delightful visit with Ann Reilly in the peaceful Mlilwane Nature Reserve. Ann (daughter of famous Ted Reilly) has her father’s passion for wildlife and preserving it. Ted’s persistence as a young man brought wildlife back to Swaziland in the 1960’s. After multiple efforts Ted convinced the King of Swaziland that wildlife was good for the country. Still today wildlife is protected and flourishes due to this small country’s strict anti-poaching laws and enforcement. Ann keeps the ‘fire burning’ via effective ecotourism strategies. (More about what we learned from Ann coming soon.)
A fabulous day driving through the Kruger National Park viewing the animals ended with a different sort of treat… enjoying sun-downers overlooking the Sabie River with Byron and Carla. Byron and Carla, with their two young children, live in the Kruger Park. Byron keeps the Park’s all important anti-poaching helicopters flying. These four machines (compliments of Howard Buffett) are super high tech. They are equipped with all sorts of gadgetry and technology to apprehend and deter poachers. They’re also used to transport poachers (dead or alive.). Sadly, they’re also used to transport baby rhino whose mothers have been killed by the poachers. (With Buffett’s billions they of course don’t need our help.)
While in the Kruger we saw rhino, two elephant herds, one lioness, many majestic kudu bulls and almost a leopard. Those elusive leopards! Apparently he’d just slipped into the culvert as we drove up. We did however see his tracks in several places nearby.
The vast Kruger is like stepping into a different world. Here you are in the animals’ world. This is never more apparent than when in close proximity to elephant. Fortunately, this particular herd of elephants did not get irritated by a little white car, that in my mind, drove up far too close as the herd crossed the road. Unless in a protected hide you’ll always here the Landy’s engine running in our elephant video clips. When one lone bull decided to cross the road right where we were stopped it once again proved to be a good thing.
Another surprise in the Kruger was an invitation to visit the rhino bomas. They serve as a temporary holding place for injured or orphaned rhino, as well as rhino being relocated for one reason or another. Since the rhino poaching crisis in the Kruger we’ve been told that some have, and continue to be, moved to safer locations.
Outside the Kruger it was our pleasure to spend a few hours with Natalie. She is a remarkable young orphaned rhino rehabber. Five youngsters, rescued as babies, are now enjoying living back in the wild. An independent researcher is following Natalie’s process and the conclusions are due at year’s end. One of her biggest challenges remain consisting funding largely because of their ‘closed’ rehab process. Other centers bring in paying volunteers, publish real time images of their orphaned calves and allow public access. In some cases like this. the rhino and other animals become too habituated to humans and aren’t successfully released.
To assist Natalie and her work we brought along ZAR20,000. Some of this will go to help the work of two marvelous men we met.
Tokelo & Maden are anti-poaching rangers on horseback. Four retired race horses from Zimbabwe have a new mission… to protect wildlife from poachers. Astride their retrained mounts these two rangers patrol the fence lines and at risk areas daily. They’re proud to be part of a multi-faceted approach to protect the rhino and all the other wildlife in their appointed area.
Wow! That’s a lot we’ve experienced in a month! Later this week it’s off to meet Samantha who is with C.A.R.E. a rescue and rehabilitation center in Phalaborwa. Then we move on to Zimbabwe to visit Baye and meet two new wildlife heroes… Mark near Gweru and Brent who was studying Cecil the lion tragically shot by an American trophy hunter.
Oh yes, right now your donation in dollars is maximized due to the exchange rate…. So what are you waiting for?
100% of your charitable donation goes to help save African animals.