Animal ambassadors

Snake warning later in the post

After meeting Jessica Hippo we visited the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation centre. This place was set up by a game warden who wanted to do something to help the many wild animals he encountered that had been harmed through their contact with people. They treat injured animals and where possible release them back to the wild. Where this is not possible the animals live at the the rehab centre and become ambassadors for their species, helping spread the word about the true nature of these animals and the problems they face. As a visitor you can tour the centre, getting a chance to get close and personal with some of these amazing and often much maligned creatures.

We arrived early and while we waited for the tour to start we were shown into the museum. This is a new and beautifully set out exhibit of the horrendous things that people do to animals. It contained a number of stuffed animals, all prepared with real skill and sensitivity, that had come through the centre but not made it. Animals that had been caught in snares, poisoned, shot, caught in fencing, and so on. They all had an individual story to tell. It was incredibly well done but deeply depressing and quite upsetting to see some of the things that had happened to them and know that these are just a tiny few of the numbers affected by human / animal conflict.

Leaving the museum for the start of the tour we first headed for the Cheetahs and got the chance to stroke them. It was a bit of a production line but we could understand what they were trying to do, educating people about these beautiful wild animals whilst keeping man and beast safe.

We then went to meet some lions and, much to Angela’s delight, a pair of leopards. To give an idea of the climbing ability of Leopards the guide threw a few pieces of meat into a tree. Almost in the blink of an eye one of the Leopards was up the tree and nibbling on the meat, whilst its mate sat below watching. It was an awesome display of their power and ability and gives us an opportunity to wallow in some pictures of surely one of the best animals IN THE WORLD (albeit captive ones…)

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After the Leopards we visited some vultures and got a chance to feed them. With a thick leather glove on, we each held a piece of meat as they lined up for their daily routine. They are quite heavy and it takes a bit of effort to hold them up!

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Cape Vulture

We also got to meet the famous Stoffel the Honey Badger. He’s famous for escaping from his enclosure (have a search on Youtube), pushing a branch up against the wall of the enclosure and climbing up it and also greeting a new female mate by pushing her against the wall and climbing up her to get out!

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Butter wouldn’t melt….

There were also some sub-adult cheetahs lying around in a large pen next to a pen with adult hyenas. All of these were minding their own businesses until some small children in our group went near the fence. It was really interesting and a little unnerving. Both the cheetahs and the hyenas tracked this little girl as she walked along the fence – obviously thinking something smaller than them and moving was food! She go a bit nervous and the father took her away from it. A real lesson that, despite their captivity, these were wild animals.

There was a reptile centre nearby and we asked the guys as the rehab centre if it was well run and worth a visit. They said yes, so off we trotted.

The warden was really knowledgeable,  enthusiastic and informative and told us that most people get bitten by snakes because they are trying to kill them (which is a fair defence mechanism in my book). He also told us that most snakes really don’t want to bite people as it mean giving up their venom. As they are not likely to eat you that’s a complete waste of a precious resource. He also corrected us about the Boomslang. As we mentioned in a previous blog, they are revered as having the most toxic venom in Africa but he told us that they aren’t the deadliest as you have to be really, really trying to upset a Boomslang to be bitten by one.

We saw stunning Green Mambas, a pair of Black Mambas mating, lizards, miniature chameleons, crocs and an alligator, all looking really healthy. Watching the mambas mating was amazing. They are linked for hours, sometimes days, and she moves around dragging him with her. Pretty rough on the male. Sometimes ‘things break’, hence the male has two… The warden says that they crush the eggs of any pair that has mated as they can’t release the young and don’t want to sell them to pet shops.

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Green Mambas (in case you hadn’t guessed) – OMG they were beautiful creatures

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Mating Black Mambas, linked where the two bodies come together (the inside of the mouth is black, not the body)

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Look at the camouflage on this Copperhead Viper

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Golden looking croc

It was a really interesting and thought-provoking day and it gave us a new admiration for snakes.

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