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Blog 2018

By | Blog

5th April 2018

New adventures

Hi everyone! I am back again with a new African adventure. I left Amsterdam the 5thof April and arrived in Johannesburg around 21:30. I booked a hotel close by the airport just for that night so I didn’t have to drive at night. I thought the hotel had a free shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel, but unfortunately that was not the case and I had to pay about 10 euro for a 3-min drive!! So, I got ripped off, but well, I had to sleep somewhere.

The next day I woke up at 8 to go the airport again to get my car and drove 2 hours to meet Jurg&Karen. Jurg and Karen are the people I trusted Elsa with, and they were looking after her since. But now they moved to Rustenburg for another job. Luckily the boyfriend of Bianca, Jurg and Karen their daughter, is still at Jukani, where Elsa is now to look after her.

Why I am meeting them, besides just visiting friends, is because our dream is to start a sanctuary of our own and wanted to make plans for it. Via friends of my father I got in contact with someone who got a piece of land in Rustenburg and wanted to do something with it, for animals. And Jurg also had friends with land there so we could visit it and see if this land can be used for our future sanctuary.

I met up with them at Rustenburg city center because they had to fetch a new birdcage for their parrots. After that we drove to the farm they are staying now, that is about a little hour from Rustenburg. We chatted and made plans for the next day to visit the two properties.

On the 7thof April, we left at 8 o’clock because first we needed to bring back the trailer we rented to move the birdcage at Rustenburg, and after we visit the first property of the friend of my father. When we drove up there we were a bit anxious if it was not the right place because the land was to flat with no trees or bushes, and a long bad off-road route. But after we got there, it looked so much better. A nice area for animals to shelter. And the people of the land have a big heart for animals, so that should be fine.

On our way back, we drove another road and we got a flat tire! Luckily, we had a spare one, but after wanted to replace the broken tire, we discovered the wrong tools were in the car to prepare it! And the whole way to this property we didn’t had any cell reception. fortunately we could find reception where we were stranded, so we tried to phone the police, but they didn’t pick up, haha! Only in Africa… So, we googled close by farms to ask for help. We heard from one guy that there was a car repair shop close by, so we were so lucky! This old man came to our rescue with his two big Great Danes.

After this little adventure, we didn’t had time to see the other property so we got home earlier and decided to visit it tomorrow. When we got home we heard loud music, and Jurg told we that the neighbors always throw parties in the weekends, what is very annoying, because you will hear it the whole night.

I was lucky that in my room I didn’t hear the music, but Jurg&Karen couldn’t sleep, and when I woke up at 8 o clock the next morning, the party was still going on. So Jurg called the police, and it stopped for a little while, but then it continued.

Next day we went to the property of Jurg his friend and at first it looked like the perfect place. But after seeing more if it, now knowing that is was split in two pieces of land by a road, and the ground was very rocky, it wasn’t the right place for us, unfortunately.

 

9th of April

The day that I had to be in a car for about 10 hours! The first 7 hours I drove from Jurg&Karen their place near Rustenburg, all the way to the border of Botswana to a small town called Alldays.

Before I came to Africa, I searched for all kinds of volunteer project/sanctuaries and I came across Vision Africa wildlife, founded by Anthony Peniston. This project looked a bit different than the other projects I had seen because they stated on the website you help with care and rehabilitation of lions and wolves who are rescued from hunting facilities and relocated to a nice game reserve. Your work will include some veterinary experience and game captures and some hands-on with rescued lion cubs and anti-poaching efforts. So, I emailed them and Antony contacted me soon after. He told me a bit more about the project and that he was excited to show me his project and asked me to meet him in Botswana, close to the border of South Africa. He told me that that place is going to be an imported part of the project.

After an 9 hour drive I met a guide of Anthony, Freeman, and we drove to the border of Botswana. We were lucky that this border was open again, because it was floated the past days. The border is the Limpopo river, and the road where you cross the border is just a very small path who only fits one car. Antony was still busy with some business for the project in South Africa, so he will meet me tomorrow.

We crossed the border and entered Botswana. It is so funny that it is a lot different comparing to South Africa. Botswana is almost only bush, haha! Or maybe that is the only thing I have seen. Also, there are no real roads, only sand roads. We had to drive this sand road for another 45 minutes to get to the lodge. I was so happy to finally arrive!

I got a very nice dinner and met two other guys from South Africa, who were there for business. They are in construction and helping the people in Botswana building churches.

 

10thof april

Vision Africa Wildlife

today my day started very earlier, because my alarm went off at 5:30 to do a game drive at 6, to finally see some animals in the wild.

Unfortunately, we only saw some elephants, but no other big animals, next to some antelope species and bird. But Freeman also know a lot of things to tell about the plants and trees, so he taught me some new stuff!

When we got home my breakfast was served at the deck near the Limpopo river. I felt like a royal! There was only one plate on the table for me, facing the river. During breakfast, I casually saw a crocodile swimming, like was nothing.

Around 12 Anthony arrived at the lodge and we talked about what I do for the Moomba foundation and what he is planning to do with his new project, and what he has done already regarding relocation animals.

Everything that he has told me about his new project, I cannot make public right now, because it’s a fragile stage of the project, and he is waiting for some contract to be signed. When these are signed, I can tell all about his big plans. The only thing I can say about it now, is that is a thing that has never been done before..

During the afternoon, Anthony and I did another game drive, because he had to check something, and this time we saw a little baby elephant of about 5 weeks old; so cute!

 

11thof April

The next day we had to fetch dead chickens and a dead zebra for the lions. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a proper trailer and had to borrow one at one of the farms near the small town Alldays. Then we drove for little more than an hour to a crocodile farm.

This farm bread crocodiles, and chicken, for the crocodiles. But when they have leftovers or in winter, the crocodiles don’t need food, so they donate the chickens to projects like Anthony’s.

In South Africa, there are a lot of farms like these, only because one time Gucci, the brand, needed a lot of crocodile leather, and was willing to pay a lot for it, so many farmers started to bread them. But now there are too many of these breeders, and Gucci doesn’t need that much leather anymore and most are now sold to Asia.

Also, most of these farms are open for public; and that I don’t understand. Why should you go to a farm like that, to see so many crocodiles piled up in a small enclosure knowing that these crocs will be killed in a few years only for their skin…?

We loaded the chicken and zebra in our trailer and drove to the park where the lions are, that Antony is going to rescue. These lions will be part of the new project of Anthony. When we arrived there, I literally got sick, by seeing the animals in this condition… Hopefully the contract will get signed soon, so Anthony can save these animals.

Because of a few little setbacks during our roadtrip I couldn’t make it to the border on time, and had to sleep on the South African side, at the volunteer house of Anthony his project. There he had two young wolves about the age of 1. He got them from people who couldn’t handle them, and just left them in their garden but wanted to get rid of them.

But now they fear people, and Anthony wants to try to train them for a anti-poaching unit. And this will be part of the volunteer project too.

 

12thof April

This day was a bit of a disappointment because we, another volunteer who was there already for 4 weeks and worked there with a local veterinary, and I, were supposed to work with this vet but he got delayed, and then later canceled. So eventually we sat in the local coffee shop for like 7 hours doing nothing. Also, because I had to sleep in South-Africa, I didn’t have any stuff or warm clothes with me. And this day was so cold!

But fortunately, the night game drive made up for this little disappointment because we spotted a wild African cat and a Genit.

 

13thof April

Riverside Rehabilitation center 

Next day I drove to my next project, called Riverside rehabilitation center. I read already good things about them, and now wanted to see it for myself.

Last year I also visited a monkey sanctuary in the same area as this one. So very excited to see the difference between these places!

When I arrived, I got a quick tour; the place wasn’t that big though. What I could see is that the main things were the same. The difference to Vervet Monkey Foundation and this place is that the volunteers have a better sleeping place, don’t haveto eat vegetarian food, and this place already did a big release of Baboons.

Also, a thing that I noticed was that most of the volunteers came back and this was their second, third or even fourth time volunteering at this place. And during my time, there were two whole families, working here. And I think that says a lot about how good Riverside is.

Today was a Friday, and every Friday they go to the local restaurant/pub, just to get out once a week. That was a good opportunity for me the meet all the volunteers.

 

14thof April

At riverside there are a few different shift, and one of them is the ‘babyshift’, and when you have this shift, you need to start your workday at 6 in the morning. And of course, I wanted to spend some time with the babies, so had to get up early.

We had to feed the babies, and every day they are keeping logs of how much every baby has drank from the bottle. Also, every other day, they get a bath.

Two of the most important rules here are: if you wouldn’t eat the food you are giving to the monkeys yourself, don’t give it to the monkeys, and second, the monkey eat first!

So, when all the babies had their bottles, clean enclosures and the rest of the monkeys had their food, we can have breakfast at 9 o’clock.

Weekends are mostly more relaxed. But we still had to do the feeds and went on the baboon walk to the river. This is so cute to see how excited they are when getting out of their enclosure and walking with us to the river, and then see them play in their natural habitat. And of course there is always a cheeky one, who bullies the others and wants to test you. This one stole my hairclip and didn’t want to give it back..

At Riverside rehab center there is a process of 5 steps the monkeys need to go through; the intake. A form needs to be filled in, where it came from, why it is in the possession of humans, and any injury or medical treatment received.

Second:

Processing and quarantine. All incoming animals are placed under a 40 day quarantine. The quarantine period gives care-takers enough time to detect any possible illnesses or other problems, and treat accordingly.

Third:

Introduction. The monkeys go into an introduction enclosure. These are next to the semi-wild.Animals will be sedated before being introduced to the other inhabitants. This gives the established group the opportunity to smell and explore the new member without facing any defensive behavior, greatly reducing the risk of injury. The established members will touch, taste, smell and get a general sense of the new member and grow bored of the intruder and go about their business as the new addition awakens. Once awake, meeting no conflict, the new addition is free to explore its new surroundings.

This will take several weeks. And once the introduction group is ready to be integrated into the main troop, staff members will be there to observe from within and outside of the enclosure and ensure that there are no serious conflicts

Four:

Semi-wild. Riverside makes use of natural enclosures in which the animals are conditioned to be returned to the wild. Most of the animals in Riverside’s care will spend most their stay at Riverside in a semi-wild enclosure with other members of their species. This is the troop they will be released with.

Five:

Reintroduction. The animals within the semi-wild rehabilitation enclosure are captured, identified, processed for the final time, and relocated to the release enclosure. The animals are given 2 weeks (still electric powered) and 2 weeks with electric wires switched off to acclimate to their new surroundings within the release enclosure.After the initial 2-week period, since the animals will not go over the fence even if it is switched off, a tree-bridge is erected from inside to outside of the enclosure. When the animals are ready they will eventually explore the bridge, and climb over, making them finally, officially free.

And I am so lucky and came at the right time, because on Monday they are darting a whole baboon troop of about 105 baboons to release them on Tuesday around the border of Botswana.

Today for dinner we had a typical African meal; Braai and pap.Then went to bed early because my alarm is set again at 5:45….

 

15thof April

I started with the baby shift again, because that is always fun! Just can’t get enough of these baby monkeys.

What I want to make very clear, is that the rehabilitation with monkeys differs from the rehabilitation with big cats. Big cats you can’t hand-raise and re-wild them. With monkeys, it is easier; when they are brought in when they are babies, they needhumans to look after them, and give them milk every few hours, depending on their ages. And here at Riverside they give the babies a lot of different surrogate ‘mothers’ (read, volunteers), to look after them, so they will not get attached too much to one person, so that it is easier to later look for a surrogate monkey mother. And these mothers will learn the babies everything, and then they can be re-wild, and be taught to be scared and stay away from humans. Unfortunately, this is not with big cats.

After we fed the babies, they showed me how they clean their clinic every morning. They are very strict with this, like it is supposed to be, of course!

Then Bob, the owner, showed me how they keep logs of all the animals they rehabilitated, and that was very impressive.

Later during the day, we did the baboon walk again and I had a late afternoon shift with the babies again, yes!

 

16thof April

Today was D-day! The first day to start the relocation of a troop baboons they formed here, since 2010. My planning was to leave in the morning for the other monkey rehab place, but I just had to watch this, because today they are going to read history!!

The troop they are going to release are about 80 baboons big, and that big of a release has never been done before.

The 2 vets arrived and everything was prept, so we started to lure the biggest baboons in a smaller enclosure, and tried not to capture mother baboons with babies. Because when you are touching a baby baboon and it will scream, the whole troop will try to rescue him/her. And if we captured the alfa male and the rest of the males who are high in the hierarchy, we will have less trouble capturing the rest, as you can understand.

But easier said than done, of course. And Bob had to capture one mother baboon with her baby the first time, because it was in the small enclosure with a few big male baboons. So he started to dart all the baboons in this small enclosure. When they all fell asleep we had to move fast and everyone had to pick up the baboons and moved them to the area the vets were about to examine them. Also, all the baboons had microchips so we could identify them from the day they were brought in. We measured every part of the baboons and filled it in on the forms what was filled in the day they were brought in (remember step one from the process). And that was so cool to see how big all the baboons were grown the last years.

Today we only captured about 1/3 of the troop, so the next 2 days they had to do the rest. But unfortunately, I couldn’t stay longer because I had to go to the next project; Bambalela.

And while I was sleeping the first baboons we captured today were brought to the release site…

 

17thof April

I left early, around 6am so I had a whole day at Bambelela, because the next day I had to catch a flight to George, to see Elsa again! So a short time to spent at this place.

The drive was about 4 hours. And when I arrived at Bambelela I had a very warm welcome…..

When I got out of the car I saw a lot of vervet monkeys and baboons just walking free (Bambelela is located in a reserve). And what I had learned from Riverside is that monkeys like to grab everything you are holding and also your hair band, so I left most of my things in the car, and asked Sue, who welcomed me if it was ok to take my camera and water bottle and she said yes.

We walked up, to where the enclosures were, and I saw a big baboon walking towards us. I asked Sue if he was ok with new guest, and she told me to give her only my bottle and that he only wanted to greet us and that I had to stand still and let him sniff me. So, he, Merlin, sat in front of me and sniffed me, and while I looked down to greet him, my hair fell from my shoulder, and he jumped up to grabbed it and out of a reflex I grabbed it too. That was a mistake, because what a baboons grabs, it is his and you don’t have to try to get it back, otherwise he will get very angry. And that is what happened, and Merlin went ballistic and he attacked me.

What baboons do when they are angry, as a attack, they jump on you and will grab everything they can grab, and will pull very hard (hair, nose, ears, skin, everything!). Merlin jumped to my face to do this after I grapped my hair back from him, but I managed to grab him instead, in his neck and tried to push him to the ground. But Merlin is a grown baboon of 4 years old, and very strong. While I was holding him, he sort of turned in his skin and managed to bite my wrist. I immediately felt that he didn’t have any K9’s and I was so happy. Because a K9 of a grown baboon is bigger than one of a lion… But still his bite hurt like hell, and he also pulled my skin on my legs. Because the wrist he was biting hurted so much, I grabbed him with my other hand, and he also bit this wrist. But I was only thinking that this was the best way to hold him, because if I let him go, he will pull everything he can grab and that will probably hurt more. Luckily Sue interfered just in time, because I couldn’t hold him any longer. And Merlin finally calmed down again.

I was in shock after it happened and I had wounds on my wrists and legs. They later told me that Merlin had epileptic seizures and that is why they removed his K9’s so he couldn’t injure himself (lucky me and my wrists). And that is also why he still lives at Bambelela and couldn’t be releases. He was in need of life saving medicine twice a day and his chances of staying alive anywhere else was zero. His first prognosis was that he would probably not outgrow his daily and frequent fits and wouldn’t live very long and Bambelela decided to give him the best short life they could give him. But he did outgrow his conditions and unfortunately now that he could move off with the wild troop in the reserve around Bambelela, he is too human orientated, and that is a problem. And accidents like this will happen. Now Bambelela decided to start his rehab soon away from bambelela.

Of course, this was not a good start, because I was here to ‘judge’ this rehab facility. But I didn’t want to hold them accountable only for this accident.

When I was cleaned up again and the wounds were threatened, I got a tour around Bambalela and more information about the work they have done, and what they are currently doing.

What I have learned from all the different parks, sanctuaries and rehab centers is that most of the ones I visited are doing a lot of good things for the animals and have good intentions, but everyone have another vision of what they think is best for the animals. And most of them also have a lot to say about others who are doing it the other way or just different than they are.

I do not judge them about their different visions, but I judge them on the work they have done and how they treat their animals, and if they meet up our qualifications of our Foundation. But not all our qualifications can be meet when the place is doing rehab for animals.The first important rule of our foundation, no interaction with the animals, cannot always be applied when we visit a rehab facility. So when we visit rehab facilities, we can’t judge them on all our qualifications what is established only for sanctuaries.

And from what I have seen at Bambelela, they did good work, and released many vervet monkey troops and they love their animals. I think what has happened with Merlin and how they deal with him, in his situation, was not the best way to handle it, but they handled only out of love for him. And as I said before, I believe that we can’t hold them accountable only for how they handled Merlin his situation and ignore all the good work they do and did. I can just hope that they have learned from this, and next time they will handle differently in a same short of situation like Merlin’s.

 

18thof April

today was the day I had to meet my best friend Luna from the Airport in Johannesburg, and catch a flight to George together, and see Elsa, and have a little vacation.

Unfortunately, we arrived too late in George to see Elsa today, but we did some grocery shopping and went to our Airbnb.

 

19thof April

Yes, finally I got to see Elsa and Lia again, and I am so excited. Every time I visit her, the question remains if she still recognizes me..

When we walked up to her enclosure I felt nervous, but when I saw her, she immediately came up to the fence to greet us. It’s incredible how good their memory is, because it was almost a year ago we saw each other. So we just sat there next to each other with the fence between us and enjoyed the company of each other. And I was also excited to show Luna Elsa and Lia. She was never this close to a lion before.

We stayed in George till the 22th of April, and every day we visited Elsa in the morning and late afternoon. The rest of the day during this time, we went to the beach, and one day we went to Addo Elephant park where we enjoyed a guided tour. We saw a lot of elephants and buffalos, but unfortunately no wild lions or other big cats….

The 22th of April we drove to Capetown, and went to a nice restaurant. Later in the evening the restaurant became sort of a club, and we danced the whole night!

The next day the weather was very bad so we went shopping and did some sightseeing. Capetown is full of nice lunchrooms and restaurants, so we did a lot of eating too!

On the 25thwe had a late flight, so we decided to climb Lion’s head. We heard this climb was not that high, but after almost an hour of climbing, it was pretty hard to climb! But we made it, of course!

After the climb, we had some dinner and went to the airport, and my Africa adventure had ended again…

Blog 2017

By | Blog

18 februari 2017

Hi Facebook friends, just wanted to give you an update of my journey so far. So, I left a few days later than planned, but I arrived in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, South Africa. I had a great flight and the next day I arrived at my first destination, Iwamanzi. This private game lodge is owned by parents of friends of mine, and he, Stan Burger, is president of Phasa, the organization who is ‘making the rules’ about the canned hunting industry now. So, of course, it was very interesting for me to talk to Stan, and I wanted to see how they work around a private game lodge like this.

The land is 10.000-12.000 acres with almost 3000 animals living in it, from dogs to buffalos to 250 different bird species. They have a beautiful lodge where you can stay as a guest with nice staff and one of the best tour guide, Divan. He showed me this place and taught me a lot about so many different animals.

My first night here, I woke up in the morning with a loud high sound and I was not sure if it came from my room. I got out of bed and I followed the sound. I looked on the ground I and saw something crawling there. I looked closer and picked it up, it was as big as my finger and looked like a mouse. But it wasn’t a mouse. Not far from this little baby was crawling another one. I picked both up and brought them to Divan and Jaqueline. They told me they were probably squirrels and just a few weeks old. They were very small and we had to feed them every hour with cat milk and we are keeping them warm in our shirts or a hot bottle of water during the night. Now Sebastian, the son of Stan and Jaqueline wants to raise them and Jacqueline came up with names for them, Max and Sien.

Good first days at Iwamanzi to start this journey with, right? Almost looks like animals in need know where to find me.

I stayed here for 3 days and learned so much, not only about different animal species, but Stan and Jaqueline gave me so much information about the whole canned hunting industry, but also the hunting industry. Only this I will explain to you later!

On Friday I left Iwamanzi to drive to the first lion sanctuary, Emoya big cat sanctuary. It was a 4-hour drive including a 45 minutes’ drive on a dirt road. I arrived late afternoon and just settled in my room and met the owners, the two volunteers, dogs, kittens and meerkats who were sleeping in the house. We had dinner and went to bed early, because our alarms will go off at 5:30 to feed the animals the next morning.

Emoya big cat sanctuary was on my list I want to visit, because they have rescued so many lions, also including 33 circus lions from Peru. You can imagine, I wanted to meet these people and see the sanctuary.

So, yesterday, our day started early to feed all the lions and the two tigers. Well, the volunteers did all the hard work and I just came along to see the whole process. It is fantastic to see how they work here, really sufficient and everything went very smoothly. Also, the enclosures look great. They are about 2 hectares big, with a smaller feeding enclosure. In the morning when the lions here the truck coming, they know they get food so go in the feeding enclosure themselves. And after our breakfast we did the same round to let them back in the big enclosure so we could clean it. When we were done, we prepared the food for the next day, and this they do every day, except on Sunday.

Just in one day I’ve seen that this park is everything my foundation stands for and the owners Minunette and her daughter Savannah have dedicated their lives to these animals, and that is why today I want to hand out the Foundations’ certificate to them, for being a good animal friendly and ethical park.

27 februari 

After handing out the certificate to Minunette, the founder of Emoya big cat sanctuary, I had to leave this great project and good people, because I had a 4-hour drive ahead to another sanctuary. This time not one for big cats, but Vervet monkeys! My focus is on big cats of course, because this foundation started by rescuing a lion cub, but there are so many sanctuaries and volunteer projects for all kinds of animals, I also wanted to see how these projects work.

Vervet Monkey Foundation
I arrived at the Vervet monkey foundation late afternoon. The sun was shining and I met some of the volunteers who were just done with their work for today. This is the first project where I have seen so many volunteers. But Lola, a volunteer from Belgium told me that was because it is ‘baby season’. Vervet monkeys get babies ones a year, between November and February. That means, the sanctuary get in a lot of babies these months, and volunteers to take care of them. Vervet monkeys are seen as a plaque in South Africa by farmers. Also, because they can be very cheeky and can go into towns and houses to steal food. But people do not understand that is because we stole their land where they live, their territory. And because other people give them food; if the monkeys are always fed by people than they get used to being around humans. After a while the monkeys start coming up to people, begging for food. If the monkeys want you to feed them and you don’t, the monkeys get aggressive and might attack people. So now people don’t like them, and shoot the monkeys. But when they have a baby, they don’t want to shoot the baby and bring them to the foundation. This is a big problem in South Africa and that is why the foundation also educate the farmers.

But the foundation also receives a lot of monkeys that were used as pets. Of course, a baby monkey looks cute, but these animals are social animals and belong with other monkeys, not humans. Also, they can see you as their mom and can be very aggressive towards your friends, because he wants to protect you. Than people find them annoying and don’t want them anymore.

the sanctuary is quite basis, you have the cottage where the kitchen is, WIFI and the only place with electricity. When you go down to the volunteer camp, there is no WIFI, a shower and toilet outside. The toilet is an eco toilet, so you can’t flush it. The hut where you sleep is small, with a thin matrass, no electricity and a rock-solid plate as roof, so when it rains, it makes a lot of noise (and can’t sleep. Luckily for me, all the night I stayed there, it rained….). When you sign up as a volunteer here, you should be prepared to live like this, because it is no luxury. But a great experience, though!

The next day I woke up at 6am to take a shower outside and got a tour around the sanctuary. The sanctuary has 12 big enclosures, in every one of them lives a troop of monkey that can vary up to 30 to 60 monkeys. When baby vervets arrive at the sanctuary, they first go into quarantine, when they are not sick, after 48h they can go out. Baby monkeys need physical contact with humans until they are healthy and ready to be introduced to a vervet foster mother. So, the volunteers get shift to take care of these little babies till they are ready. The sanctuary keeps this contact to a minimum of 3 months, so when they are introduced to a foster mother, they are not that used to humans, and when they go back into the wild, they can’t remember being with humans anymore (it is just like you and me as a baby, we can’t remember this part of our lives).

We as a foundation are against any interaction with wild animals and volunteers or visiters, but with primates, when the babies are this young, we make an exception, because the animal needs it. As I told you, vervet monkeys are social animals, so the babies can get used to each other in a small enclosure, called Disneyland. After 3 months, the babies need to find a foster mom. All the big enclosures have small ‘integration enclosures’next to it, with a small door. There is also a little ‘cage’in it with bottles of milk and a small hole so only the babies can go in (the foster moms of course have no milk).

The babies go into this enclosure and the female vervets in the big enclosure will come and have a look at the babies. Because all the males are vasectomized, they can’t have babies in these troops, and vervets love babies, so it is easy to find foster moms for the babies. When these female vervets show a lot of interest in the babies and groom them through the fence, the volunteers or staff will open the door to the babies, and only let in the interested females. One of the other tasks volunteers have to do, is sit next to one of these enclosures and observe the behaviour of the babies and future moms. When the babies and mothers are bonded and the babies have learned to drink from the bottles they can both go out and meet the troop in the big enclosure.

Most of the primates have a strong hierarchy, with a male as leader of the troop. With vervet monkeys the female is the head of the troop. She has the right to choose the first baby, tha n the other vervet who are high ranked in this hierarchy can choose. When the baby is grown, they get the ranking of their mothers.

Other tasks volunteers do next to taking care of babies and observing integration, is preparing food, making milk and bringing them the bottles to the right enclosures.

In the evening, we had dinner and I had the chance to talk to the founder, Dave. We talked about what I did and how terrible it is what is happening to all the animals in Africa, and the ‘bad’projects and animal parks. He also told me why he is a vegetarian, and why the volunteers only get vegetarian food here. He said to me, ‘how can you try to save one animal, but kill another one? All animals have the same right to live’. And that is why he thinks keeping predators is hard, because now you must choose between a live of a lion, and a zebra. ‘Why is a lions’live more worth than a zebras’live? Now you have to make this choice’.

The next day Dave and Josie did a talk about the foundation for the new volunteers, and me, because I haven’t heard the story how it all began. Josie started as a volunteer many years ago at this project. Now she is co-founder. The story was very inspiring: Dave found a baby vervet monkey and now it is his purpose in life to save the vervet monkeys in South Africa.

I have learned so much in these 3 days about the vervet monkeys and it is great to meet people like Dave and Josie, dedicating their lives to these animals. Also, to meet so many volunteers trying to make a difference in the world wanting to help animals in need.

I calculated a few days off between this project and the next, for other projects who will cross my path during this trip. So, I did some research and found two sanctuaries close by that I wanted to visit during these days; another primate project and a rehab centre. I have read and heard some good things about the primate project, but from the rehab centre I’ve heard good and bad things, so, I wanted to see it for myself.

C.A.R.E
I left the vervet monkeys, to see other primates, Baboons! This project called C.A.R.E is just as good as the Vervet Monkey Foundation. They work the same way, with the babies, integration and releases. I just spend 1,5 day here, but I fell in love with this place, and the people. The project is located in a reserve, and it is beautiful! They just rebuild the volunteer camp, nursery and their veterinary clinic, because there was a fire a few years back. The founder and a few baboons died in this fire, very sad. Now Hannah (former volunteer), her husband and the manager from before the fire, are running this place. I always thought baboons were a bit scary when I saw them in Krugerpark, they are so big and have massive K9’s and they come with so many. But now I am in love with baboons and also learned more about this primate. Oh, and the babies are the cutest thing!!

Moholoholo
Before the 6-hour drive back to Johannesburg, I wanted to stop at this rehab centre. I also wanted to spend a whole day here, but they were not that keen on me being there I think, even though, I told my story and why I wanted to visit them. So I just came for the morning tour around the centre.

I arrived at the centre, called Moholoholo, bought my ticket for the tour and waited in this big room where like 50 people could sit. I was the first there, but in 15 minutes the room was filled with tourists. A guide started to talk about what they do and have done. They did a lot of rescues of all kinds of animals and released them back into the wild. He told about some of the ambassador animals, who they couldn’t release back intoo the wild, and now have a home at the centre. He said those animals are used to educate people about their species. Because people like to see an animal, and not only in a book. From this point, I thought he was right and the tour began.

The group of 50 people were led to a field with a table in the middle. I thought, shit, I have seen this before, and this is not good. A cheetah on a leash jumped on the table. Now the guide told everyone they could come to the table one by one to pet the cheetah and take pictures with him. Well, I skipped this part and looked at this cheetah getting touched by like 50 people. How would you feel, to be placed on a table and getting petted by 50 people, with all different smells and dirty hands? This is a wild animal; how can you do this to a wild animal?! And the worse thing was, people thought this was amazing.

The groups were divided in 3 and the tour-guide took us to another enclosure with vultures. Now you could wear this leather glove, crab some meet, so the vulture will land on your arm and you could take a picture, I of course, also skipped this. Now we were taking to the big predators, the lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs. In front of every enclosure the guide throw in some meat so we could see the animal up close and could take good pictures.

The whole tour was a sort of show, and the guide didn’t educate us in anyway about the animals, he just told us how the animal was rescued and ended up here. And sadly, a lot of project are like this, they do some good work, but also exploit animals to earn money. I just hope we can educate people that this is not the way to go, let these animals be as wild as they can, even though they are in captivity. And I think when people realise this and do not want to interact with any wild animal like here at Moholoholo, these projects stop doing this and will not exploit the animals anymore and they can continue only doing their good work. But it is still a long way to go..

Back in Johannesburg I had a day off and today I am heading to another big cat project, called Love, Lions, Alive.

1 maart 2017

I just left another great sanctuary, Love, Lions, Alive. Thanks Andi, Line&Tale for showing me this place. I know there was a discussion about LLA having interaction with their animals and volunteers, but that is not true. When any baby animals is taken from their mother, they need motherly love, and that can be given by humans. Humans took them from the mother and they already had a terrible start in life, don’t make it harder. Andi has giving this love to lion cubs and now when they are mature, some lions still wants this attention and some won’t, this is the choice of the lions and Andi respond to that, and only Andi. This has nothing to do about being a bad sanctuary. Not every sanctuary receives cubs and don’t need to give this care, but any sanctuary that has baby animals, need to have physical contact with them (and don’t show this on social media). All the good sanctuaries have the same goal, rescue animals in need and give them a forever home, but everyone does it their own way. Let’s just work together to save more animals instead of criticizing each other 🦁❤So, also LLA meets all the qualifications the Moomba Foundation stands for and have received a certificate for being an animal friendly and ethical sanctuary.

7 maart 2017

Ok, first of all, I have to apologize myself for my writing skills, I am not that good of a writer, but, I want to share everyone my thoughts about what is currently happening in Africa with all the animals, the sanctuaries and my experience with them.

I have been to South Africa pretty often and I have seen many animal sanctuaries and did volunteer work at multiple projects. So, I can say I know a few thing about animals and the whole industry around them. And yes, it is an industry, sad, right? We should live amongst the animals, live together on the same planet and respect each other. But no, we found a way to just destroy their habitat and exploit them for entertainment. And the worst thing is, is that people are actually paying for this entertainment. It’s sad that it is always about the money with us humans, even though it is cruel to animals.

When I am talking about animal entertainment I mean all the cub petting farm, the elephant ride places, the circuses, swimming with dolphins, places like Seaworld, that whole animal entertainment business.

Now the thing is, is that a lot of people don’t know or think these attractions are often cruel to the animals. I was one of them. I did volunteer work at a bad place. I volunteered at a lion park 6 years ago, a park where you can pet lion cubs. Now, probably all the animals I raised are now shot by a hunter for fun. I didn’t know about the industry behind the lion breeding for the hunt, called the canned hunting industry. Years later I discovered this and I felt terrible about it. So, you understand that the most important thing is awareness. Luckily there is more and more awareness about this industry, and all the animal attractions, but there is still a long way to go and I hope to make a difference and I can educate more people.

Oh, let’s be clear one thing; I don’t want to be seen as this animal activist saying what you can’t do. It’s just what I said before, I only want to share my findings and experiences during my journey to find the ethical animal parks with you and I am not saying what you must do and can’t do. But I want to prevent future volunteers and tourist to make the same mistake I did, as a big animal lover. And I don’t want to focus on the negative things, I want to focus on the good things that people do and that is why I only want to promote the good sanctuaries and places I have visited.

And I am still learning a lot every time I am visiting the most beautiful continent in the world and seeing these projects, meeting so many people, and animals, of course. And luckily there are still people that want to do good, and I had the luck to meet a lot of them in South Africa. But they have a problem, and that is finding funds to support their projects so they can rescue more animals and care for them. Now, because we humans made it possible to ride an elephant, pet lion cubs or swim with dolphins, it is not enough anymore to only SEE animals (for some people), in the good sanctuaries, or even better, the big national parks. People want that interaction with a wild animal, they want that selfie, they want to show the world how cool they are that they petted a lion or ride an elephant or swim with dolphins. And that is why these good places struggle. And these good people with sanctuaries, should give the tourists and volunteers a ‘cool’ experience that they can share with the world, but still without exploiting the animals. Now some of these people are thinking of offering elephant rides, but only, for example, once a day, or, let people take pictures with their ambassador cheetah and do this as ethical as it can be. And I am not saying I agree with this, of course not, I hate it, but I am trying to say that it is sad these places must do this so they can earn money to take care of their animals. I think we should change our ‘needs’ and respect animals and not wanting that interaction because it is unnatural. And I hope if that need stops, some of the good people do not need to offer it anymore and can earn their money by only showing the animals.

What I am trying to say is that even though some sanctuaries offer this interaction, does not necessarily mean that they are bad people and exploiting the animals, again, I do not agree with it, but because there are bad places that also offer the interaction and are exploiting animals, it became this black-and-white and people judge to soon.

And because of this ‘battle’, the sanctuaries are competing and have strong opinions about each other. It is like the way they run their sanctuary is the only good way and other sanctuaries are doing it the wrong way, even though they have the same goal, save animals and give them a forever home.

The foundation I founded, the Moomba Foundation, wants to make a distinction between the sanctuaries who are exploiting their animals, and the ethical sanctuaries. That is why we made a list of qualification a park need to meet, to be an animal friendly and ethical sanctuary. Because the canned hunting industry is based on the so called ‘cub petting farms’, where you can pet and walk with lions before they grow too big so they can be shot by hunters, the first qualification, is no interaction with tourists/volunteers and the wild animals. But this also apply for other animal parks, not only for big cats, because by offering interaction with animals we think it is exploiting the animal. The second important qualification is that a sanctuary should not breed with their animals, a sanctuary is a haven for the animals where they can grow old with guaranteed lifetime, unconditional and professional care. To see all the qualification we think a park need to meet, go to our website, www.moombafoundation.com

The parks who meet all of them, receive a Moomba qualification, and I hope, when the need of us humans to have the interaction with wild animals and the good people who offer this as ethical as they can, can also meet our qualifications and join our list of the good sanctuaries without interaction.

Now there has been discussion about some of the owners of good sanctuaries who are having physical contact with their animals. But I think there is a big difference between lion cubs who are taken away from their mothers when they were around 4-10 days old in an enclosure and where people can walk in and out the whole day petting them (lions sleep 22 hours a day), or one person who knows the animal, is interacting with him, and only when the animal asks for attention and thus enjoying it. The animals in sanctuaries had a terrible start in life, taking away from their mothers when they were babies and now had to be hand-raised by humans. That means that these animals see that human who raised them as their mother and probably when to grow old still wants attention from him/her. And that is why I am not against interaction with animals and their keepers, if the animal wants and asks for that. These people dedicated their lives for the animals and have the right to be loved by these incredible animals and that is why tourist and volunteers not earn the right because they do not know the animals or dedicated their lives to them.

I think it is easy to just criticize people on social media and saying they are doing it wrong, I don’t think that is fare, you have never been to the place and don’t know the people. You do not have the right to say they are doing it wrong. These people dedicated their lives for these animals and knows their animals the best.

Here is the list of parks the Moomba Foundation visited and handed out the certificate of being a good, ethical and animal friendly park.

Emoya big cat sanctuary

Vervet Monkey Foundation

C.A.R.E centre for animal rehabilitation and aducation

Love, Lions, Alive

Jukani

Drakenstein lion park

Tenikwa

Hycacinth Haven Sanctuary

LionsRock

Tritrikamma Wolf Sanctuary

Care for Wild

Brackenburn Crew

Twala trust animal sanctuary

Global White Lion Trust

 

All the people I met at these places love their animals a lot and taking good care of them in their own way.

There are still a lot of places to visit, and I am planning to visit the all.

Please do not hesitate to ask me about any of these places, or other places to have been.

11 maart 2017

Love, Lions, Alive.

Maybe you know this place from the programme on animal planet, called the Lion Queen. Andi Rive is the founder of Love, Lions, Alive and she started the project about 1,5 years ago. Andi never had the intention to work with lions. But when a friend called her to help out her family’s business because the father was sick, she of course wanted to help and went to the place, called Glen Garriff. This is a place where they breed lions. When Andi arrived there the place looked terrible. The males and females were together in small camps, so they bred and bred and bred. Andi tried to separate the males from the females to stop the breeding and learned all the names of the animals. Because she wanted to make this place a better one, to stop the breeding and give the lions the care they need, she stopped the work she did before, and stayed at Glen Garriff, and got shares in de park. Now the father of her friend had different plans when he got better, he wanted her out again.

Because Andi has now seen how the terrible industry of lion breeding works, she started her own sanctuary and wanted her lions out of that place. Some of her lions are already under her care at Love, Lions, Alive, but she is still busy getting more of her lions out of that terrible place, that calls themselves a conservation project, what of course is complete bullshit. On their website, they tell you so many lies. Not any project where they breed lions, can be part of a conservation project. Also the enclosures where they keep the lions are too small.

I think the rules about how big an enclosure should be for a lion depends on the province you are in, but it’s about 1,5 hectares for one lion (to be a true sanctuary), and for every other lion in that enclosure you should count 0,5 hectares extra.

Glen Garriff lies about how big the enclosures are to keep as many lions as possible or their property. This is a good example of a breeding farm that lies about what they actually are doing; breeding and selling the lions to whoever wants them for a big price.

So not only the cub petting farms are bad, places like this are even worse because there is so little you can do against it. At cub petting places, you now know you should never go there, to contribute to the whole canned hunting business, but these places just exist of only breeding and hunting and their lions are in even worse conditions than lions at the cub petting farms.

When I arrived at LLA, Andi wasn’t there, but two girls from Norway who now are permanent staff and trained by Andi welcomed me. We walked around the property and they told me the stories off all the lions. The next day I helped making fences and I got to talk to Andi. I love to talk to her and hear her story. I asked her why some people and other sanctuaries question this place, and she told me that it is because she is interacting with some of her lions, and not hiding it on social media. But as I told you in my previous blog, some lions who are hand-raised still want to interact with their keeper. And if only you as the keeper are doing it and you do not exploit the lions in any way, not breeding or selling animals, you can still be a good sanctuary.

Andi said to me: ‘I love my animals, I am good for them, I have no intention to breed or sell them and I know that 2 of my lions love to interact with me, so why should I lie about that’. And I think she is right, if the animals still want it, it is in the best interest for the animal. Because ‘interaction with wild animals’ is associated with canned hunting, it is seen as a bad thing. But a lot of other good places do it, only never show this on social media. Every sanctuary that receives cubs or young animals must give physical contact and love. We humans took young animals away from their mothers, so they already have a terrible start in life. People like Andi only want to make the lives of her lions the best as possible. All good sanctuaries have the same goal, rescue animals in need and give them a safe haven and everyone is just doing it their own way. Also LLA meets all our qualifications so I handed out a Moomba certificate to Andi.

Jukani

I left LLA and drove to the airport. Finally I am going to see my little Elsa! My flight was in the afternoon to George and unfortunately Jukani was already closed when I arrived in Plettenberg Bay, 1,5 hour drive from the airport in George. But the next morning I woke up early to see her. I was so excited! I hadn’t seen her in a year and she has grown so big from what I have heard and seen on pictures.

Last year I got bad news that the managers of Jukani, Jurg and Karen whom I trusted Elsa with, were forced to leave Jukani. Jukani is part of an organisation called SAASA, who also owns Monkeyland and Birds of Eden in Plettenberg Bay. An important guy from this organisation had a private conflict with them, so he kicked them out. Now there is a new management and Karen and Jurg are now forbidden to visit Jukani and see their animals they rescued and raised.

As you may know the plan was to introduce Elsa and Lia to another 10-year-old female, Queenie. But Queenie decided she didn’t want any company and Elsa and Lia had to live in a small enclosure next to Queenie to bond. Because that is not happening anymore and because they grow bigger, they of course need a bigger enclosure. Jurg and Karen had an idea how they wanted to do this, but now the new management had to decide and moved them. So I was not only excited to see her, but also curious to see her new enclosure and meet the new management. The new manager and I walked to Elsa and Lia’s enclosure. We had to go through the back, because from the park you can’t get a good view of them (that is strange, right?). When she saw me she immediately came to the fence smelt me and licked my fingers. I could see she still remembered me, but also that she was not very happy. She was pacing for a while and looked a bit stressed, but after a few minutes she sat down across from me and looked a bit more relaxed. The enclosure they are in now is too small for them I think and looks sad without any enrichment or hiding places. From what I have heard, is that even tourist on tours ask why their enclosure is so small and why it is in the back of the park and if they are not bred for canned hunting?! I think it is a bad sign if visitors are asking that. Also, when Jurg and Karen had to leave, the guy in charge forbade the guides to call the animals by their names during the tours, and even put a sticker on their name cards at their enclosure. And I do not understand why.

But in the next days I visited her twice a day, she became more relaxed and happy. The last day she was so happy she just wanted cuddles through the fence and made funny noise to me. So I was very sad I had to leave her again after I had seen that she became happier every day I visited her. But I hope I can come back soon.

Tenikwa

Tenikwa is a rehab and awareness centre just 10 minutes from Jukani. Last year I already visited this place and it is great! Jurg and Karen are working there now, so I spend a day volunteering there during the days I visited Elsa.

Why this is a great place to visit or volunteer is because it doesn’t matter what animal species it is, if Tenikwa gets a call of an animal in need they come and rescue him. And as a volunteer you get the privilege to work with these animals and nurture them back to health and release them back into the wild when possible. If this is impossible to re-wild them again, Tenikwa will provide a forever home for the animal. As a one day visitor you can book a tour and during this tour they show you all their ambassador animals and teach you more about them and educate you about conservation and human and animal conflicts.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, all these animal places need money to take care of their animals and because we humans are not that easy to satisfy these places have to give the visitors a great experience without exploiting their animals. Tenikwa found a way to do this in the most ethical way. They offer cheetah walks and the cheetahs love it. Some people think this is the same as interacting with wild animals and think it is wrong, like cub petting. But during the walk you are not allowed to pet them, you can only walk with them and they decide which way to go but enjoy your company. They only have two walks a day, in the morning two cheetahs do it, and in the afternoon, the other two cheetahs do the walk. It is not like cub petting places where you can pet them all day and when they are too old and dangerous for people they replace them with younger cubs, cheetahs get do this their whole lives.

Just like at the other places I visited, Tenikwa wildlife awareness and Rehabilitation centre received the Moomba certificate of being an ethical and animal friendly park.

Panthera Africa

I was very sad to leave Elsa again, but I had to leave Plettenberg Bay to visit my last sanctuary, Panthera Africa. Like LLA, this sanctuary is a new project and they will celebrate their 2-year anniversary end of this month. Panthera Africa is founded by two women, Liz and Cat, and they started this project for the same reason I started the Moomba Foundation. They worked at a place where they raised wild animals, but discovered what they are actually doing; exploiting the animals. So they did more research and started their own sanctuary and rescued the animals they raised, and more.

The 3 days I spend there were great, to meet Liz and Cat, talk about their experiences and learn more about why it is important to give captive animals enrichment. Animals in captivity have a lot of time on their hands. Whereas wild animals would fill their time with activities such as hunting, searching for water or shelter, protecting their territory or searching for a mate, captive animals are provided with these things. This could potentially create problems such as boredom, frustration, stereotypic behaviors and stress. Undesirable behaviors include self-injurious actions like excessive grooming, abnormal behaviors such as regurgitation and reingestion, aggressive behaviors and stereotypic behaviors. Behavior is an important indication of welfare and enrichment enhances welfare of animals in captivity.

That is why Panthera Africa is build so that every animal enclosure is bordered to the ‘enrichment enclosure’ in the middle. Every animal gets his turn to go in and explore another environment then their own enclosure. One of the tasks of the volunteers is to make some sort of enrichment for every animal. Like a cardboard box (as you know, cats love boxes), with papers with different smells in it or small treats, or tires with treats in it, stuff like that. It is amazing to see how all the animals love their enrichment and react when we place it in their enclosure.

Also, Panthera Africa meets all our qualifications and they received the Moomba certificate. I hope to come visit them again soon to spend some more time with these great people and their beautiful animals.

Now I am on my way to have a small vacation of two days in Capetown before heading back home to Amsterdam…

 

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Stichting Moomba Foundation

Kvk-nummer: 64601269
Molenbeekstraat 37-1
1078 XB Amsterdam, the Netherlands
info@moombafoundation.com

Stichting Moomba Foundation

Kvk-nummer: 64601269
Molenbeekstraat 37-1
1078 XB Amsterdam, the Netherlands
info@moombafoundation.com