Dam: Muffet (4th Litter)
Origin: Born at THT
Date of Birth: 12th October 2005
Other Siblings: Nala
Rafiki is from Muffet’s fourth litter with Geronimo. Like Nala who is also from Muffet and Geronimo, his coat was a dark golden colour with very black spots. As he has matured, we have discovered that his markings qualify him as a half king serval, meaning that he has more strips than spots.
Rafiki, was a healthy kitten that reached adulthood without any medical problems. He was raised by his mother and despite this became quite tame (usually the opposite is true when they are raised by their mothers). Due to lack of a genetically independent female, there was no one for Rafiki to breed with so he was always destined for an early release.
If we can recap for you from Muffet’s story….
On the 14 June 2006, Muffet was darted and collared and Rafiki was also immobilized but not collared, so that they would go together. Both cats travelled well and when we arrived at Stone Hills it was dark, fairly cold and raining. The cats remained in their crates and inside the car for the night, as I was concerned about their body temperature dropping too low, after being drugged (one of the side affects of using drugs is that the animal is not able to regulate his or her temperature). In the morning we took both cats to their new enclosure. This is where they would remain to be introduced to the new sights and sounds of the area until the rains come in November. Being confident as Muffet is, she came out of her crate quickly and started to investigate her new surroundings. Rafiki was still under the influence of the drugs and remained in his crate until later that day. Muffet however was delighted with her new surroundings, started eating and moving around the enclosure instantly. Muffet continued to show her self-assured nature whilst in the enclosure whereas Rafiki remained quiet yet curious. At the time that they were moved, he was only eight months old – an awkward teenager not sure of himself, but not totally dependent on his mother.
Muffet was released on 10 December 2006, whilst Rafiki remained behind. The reason we did this was because Muffet was in oestrus and we did not want Rafiki covering her. We also thought that with Rafiki still in the enclosure it might make Muffet remain in the area, and this is exactly what happened. During her first sojourn in the wild, Muffet would occasionally come back to check on her son.
Rafiki continued to take in the environment with wide-eyed interest. He was comfortable in the release enclosure and the occasional pile of feathers showed that he at least was practising hunting. He stayed in the release enclosure from 14th June 2006 to 17th December 2007, another eighteen months. As of the month of release, Dec 2007, Rafiki has matured into a stunning 2 year old serval.
On the day of the release, Muffet having done this once before strode out oozing confidence, almost knowing every stone and bush in the immediate area. Rafiki on the other hand must have watched his mother walk away a second time with confusion and trepidation. After a couple of days with the gate wide open and Rafiki still not venturing out, he was encouraged to take his food outside the gate. This seems to have given him the little bit of courage he needed to start exploring the surroundings.
Rafiki was released in December, which is generally in the height of the rainy season in Zimbabwe. As a result, his first introduction to the wild was a wet one. When he was tracked and food offered to him, he always ate it ravenously which indicated that he may not have been hunting successfully. He then moved to a neighbouring area and there was concern that there would be interaction between him and local people and their livestock. There were also occasions where he looked hounded or frightened, and we presumed that he was possibly being intimidated by the larger male who had been seen with Muffet.
Khanye’s report on Rafiki: (Scout at Stonehills Release Site)
10th January –
Rafiki could not be located, nor for the next four days. On the 15th January at
07:20 hrs his signal was picked from Dibe Hill coming from north Matanje area. Mr. Aylward, Mabena and myself went towards there. We finally saw him coming to us but he was outside the boundary fence. He was terribly thin, hungry and powerless. He had a swollen and limping left back leg. He looked desperate for food. Two dormicum tablets were wrapped in two separate pieces of meat, which he took in much hurry and he waited hoping as always
that I had come with more. The tablets were supposed to work within 30 minutes but nothing happened for almost an hour. He had come in through the fence at a place I had spilled
some blood. He dug where the blood had sunk. The piece of meat that we had put in the cage to trap him did not work, as he quickly took the meat and got out. We decided that time was being wasted and covered him with a big green tarp. He did not put much effort in trying to escape and we put him into his cage. When we got home, an hour and a half had passed since he had taken the tabs. But he was still wide-awake. We gave him two more pieces of meat and left him alone in his enclosure. I came back to check on him two hours later to find him (looking dead) asleep two meters from where we had left him. The tablets had only just started working. I came back two hours later with his 400 g of food and he was nowhere near
where I had left him. I tried to call but he did not come, so I left the food by his usual table. The next morning I found he had eaten it. At 4 pm he met me by the boma entrance asking for food – we gave him 400 g again. The next day he met me by the entrance at 4 pm waiting for food as he did on all the following days.
Note – we released Muffet on 14th December, and Rafiki left the cage (was induced out with food) on the evening of 17th December.
On the 15th January 2008, Rafiki’s signal was picked up near the neighbouring village scheme. This was cause for concern, as his presence would not be welcomed. On investigation he was found – miserable, hungry and worst of all, limping! His left back leg appeared to have a bite mark, it was swollen just above the hock joint.
There was no questioning that Rafiki had to be recaptured and brought in for treatment. Sedative tablets were crushed in two pieces of meat and given to him – which he wolfed down. Obviously now with an injured leg hunting was not even an option. However, he was not going to make it too easy, the sedative was working but he was still wary. Eventually, in his wobbly state he was unceremoniously wrapped in a piece of canvas and brought back to the release enclosure.
What is Rafiki’s outcome now that he has been recaptured and returned to the release enclosure? Well we have two choices. The first being to try and re-release him in the same area, or to bring him back to the breeding centre where he will breed and later when we feel he is more mature and confident try and release him at another release site. We have chosen the second choice, as Rafiki needs to build up his confidence before being release again. What this experience has shown me is that, each animal perhaps is not that eager to return to the wild as I might have first thought. Like with children, each wild animal which we are involved with, portrays different characteristics. It is our responsibility to assess these traits and then act accordingly to each animal as an individual. It is hoped that Rafiki will return to the breeding centre shortly after the elections (March 2007).