Category Archives: Past Newsletters

A new Decade 2010!

Dear Readers

All of us at the Tikki Hywood Trust wish to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy 2010.  In the year of 2009 Zimbabwe has been at the forefront of many a negative or tragic article, and so it is our hope that this will change in 2010.  Having said that, our farm invasions have not ceased which obviously does not spell good news for both humanity and wildlife alike here in Zimbabwe.  On Christmas day over 10 farmers were ordered off their land and had only but a few hours to remove their life long possessions.  Even after 10 years of this madness, here in Zimbabwe it still seems totally surreal when we hear of these farmers being moved off their land.  The significance of these invasions, indicates huge issues for the wildlife that clings to a bare existence outside of the conservancies and or the National Parks.  With each farmer being moved off the land, the small nucleus of wildlife, which has found sanctuary there, are no longer safe from the ever increasing poaching.

This year will see the Tikki Hywood Trust becoming actively involved once again with trying to establish safe areas where wildlife can once again roam freely.  We will be working with our Department of National Parks and Wildlife Authorities in trying to establish new legislation, where our fines and penalties for poaching are realistic and act as a strong aversion to would-be lawbreakers.  Again with the Department we hope to establish new guidelines for all wildlife which is held in captivity here in Zimbabwe.  These guidelines will then be able to offer protection to the innocent animals, which do not get a say in how they are meant to live behind bars.  With the current economic situation in an ever-spiralling downward trend and unemployment nearly at 90%, the poaching will not subside.  I wish I could pretend that this year is going to be full of hope and light, but the sad reality is that we will have to adjust to the ever changing times and challenges which will be thrown at us this 2010.

What I can tell you is that the Tikki Hywood Trust will be here ever ready to face those changes and walk that path no matter how hard it is to conserve our wildlife, our heritage.  We would also like to thank you the readers who have become our supporters. You are the people who encourage us to strive further and give us the strength to face our challenges.  Happy 2010!

Below is the Tikki Hywood Trust version of Bambi and Thumper……….. may we present Willow the impala and Nespray the rabbit!

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Merry Christmas to all our Readers

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Orphan City!

Dear Readers,

This weekend I was privileged enough to have the most amazing encounter with an African clawless otter!  There truly are no words that can explain the feeling I had, when faced nose to muzzle, with Ollie the otter!  We were contacted a week ago, with regards to Ollie, by Anthea the lady who had confiscated him from poachers on the side of the road, in the area where she lives.  The poachers I am sure had every intention of eating Ollie, as they had already killed and eaten his mother.  Thankfully, due to Derek and Anthea’s intervention, Ollie’s fate was not to be that of his mother, and he moved in and become part of their family.

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We arrived on Sunday morning to the home of both Derek and Anthea and their youngest adopted offspring: Ollie.  It has to be said I was not totally sure what to expect.  Having heard numerous horror stories regarding otters that had been hand raised, such as; “they are aggressive and are inclined to bite as they start to get older, messy and always on the move”, I was rather wary of what I might encounter.  Arriving at the family’s home and walking to the veranda there was no sight or sound of the potential vicious beast called Ollie.  We were then casually informed that he was sleeping, and it was difficult to wake up the sleepy otter! So that gave us all time to have some tea and learn more about Ollie’s story from his adoptive family.  Whilst sitting and listening to this account, it all sounded so familiar.  Zimbabwe has unintentionally developed isolated pockets that are life-saving sanctuaries for these animals.  However, they cannot be returned to the wild or rehabilitated without threat, because the “safe areas” are now surrounded by the settlers, new farmers and or war vets, who have no understanding as far as the wildlife is concerned.  Until there is more education and consideration for wildlife, within the world of rural Zimbabwe, I personally do not believe that we can risk releasing these orphaned animals to a life where they will relentlessly have to dodge snares and packs of rural dogs.  With this being said, a new problem has been developing over the past nine years.  “What do we do with these orphans who would normally be raised by the farmer and then returned into the area whence they came?”   The numbers of all these species of animals are under threat.  With more encroachment of people into what used to be wild spaces, it is a huge concern indeed.  Right now I believe we have to facilitate keeping these orphans safe and where possible develop pairs so that in time we can have viable non related pairs who will be ready to breed.

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These thoughts were banished from my mind, as soon as I laid eyes on Ollie.  Lolloping, along the ground, sniffing this and that, came the most beautiful mammal I had seen!  Oh his fur was unbelievable to touch and those eyes – wicked with a sense of humour. I was in love!  Once woken, by his human sibling, Colin, Ollie came running around to the veranda.  Here in front of me was this silky, shining beautiful otter.  He was most certainly not shy and was very keen to jump up onto my lap and be loved. Of course all you wanted to do was hug and kiss this amazing creature, just to be in the company of an animal such as this was a privilege, so to be able to interact with him was out of this world.  You could not get enough of him, he did not sit still for a minute, and nothing seemed to be safe from his inquisitive presence.

 

Working with animals, you are able to see many interesting and moving things. However, for me, I feel complete when a wild animal is returned to an environment which is natural and where they belong.  After getting to know Ollie, we all took a drive to the dam where it is hoped that Ollie will learn to develop his skills as an otter and get fit or fitter!  We jumped out of the vehicle and went towards the water.  Ollie sniffing the air and wondering what all this exercise was about!  Then he spotted the water and knew where he was going.  As he reached the waters edge, he just placed his head under the water and the rest of his body followed.  It was like watching ballet, so graceful, silent and effortless.  As he dove towards the bottom of the dam, air bubbles emerged allowing us to follow his tracks.  I could have stayed with him for ever, just being with this animal, who belonged in the water.  At first he seemed nervous of all the bits and pieces which he had not yet been introduced to.  But as the time went by and he swam and swam, his fears disappeared and were, replaced by confidence which allowed him to travel further and further under water.

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This experience with Ollie touched my soul and I did not want the day to end.  But like most things, it had to as we had orphan hoglets and steenboks awaiting their next fed.  On the way home I deliberated as to what were the best options for Ollie.

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As we got home, there were two baby steenboks ready and hungry for their next bottom of milk.  Bramble and Blue Bell (Marlene) had been orphaned in two separate parts of the country.  Bramble was from the Darwendale area, not too far from Ollie’s origins and Blue Bell had come from Goromonzi area.  The Swales had adopted Bramble from a very early age and had done an amazing job of raising him.  However they also faced the dilemma, of what was the best thing to do for Brambles future?  Steenbok are one of the smallest antelope in Zimbabwe and not often seen.  When you see just how tiny they are with their toothpick legs, you have to wonder how on earth they survive the wild under any circumstance let alone the current situation here in Zimbabwe.  Blue Bell (Marlene) had been adopted by the Passiportis’s and Rick had been a diligent father getting up to feed Blue Bell (Marlene) through out the nights.  On hearing that there was a male and female, we felt that this was the perfect opportunity to put the two orphans together from an early age so that as they grow up together, and in time they could develop into a breeding pair.  Currently both Bramble and Blue Bell (Marlene) are resident here at the centre.

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Our other orphans were five day old hoglets.  Yes those hedgehogs have been busy!  A litter of six were born and for most of the day they remain intact and the mother seemed to be doing what was required of her.  Then around early afternoon, when checking on her we found her eating one of her babies.  We removed her immediately in the hope that this might just stop her from eating anymore. Sadly, when we placed her back with the babies a little later, nothing had changed and she tried to eat another hoglet. Oddly enough it was not the runt of the litter that she tried to eat.  So now we were faced with a very tough decision; allowing her to do what she felt necessary to do – which was to eat her babies or to remove them.  Not being able to let her eat the babies, we removed them and started raising them.  After three days we realised that the babies obviously had a problem which the mother had detected hence wanting to eat them.  All babies died over the course of the next three days, even with our best efforts to try and rear them.

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We hope that the rains have arrived in Zimbabwe, so normally with the rains the orphans occur.  We will keep you up to date with the goings on of the orphans here at the Trust.  Once again thank you the reader who are our supporters and the people who believe in our efforts.  We hugely appreciate all the support and could not continue without it.

 

Tailpiece……

For those of you who can’t get enough of orphan animals – here is an orphan bushbaby (Greater Galago) who passed through the trust briefly whilst moving from rescuers to his new adoptive family……

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Bikita Sterilization Program

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This weekend I witnessed for myself the true state of where Zimbabwe is heading.  I was scared, worried and saddened by what I saw.  I had no idea where this country, which we all love so much and want with all of our hearts to regain her honour and pride, now stood.  Dogs have become a form of barter trade.  Yes, domestic dogs are being bred and then swopped for chickens, grain and other basic commodities.  With this being a fact, there is no chance of trying to get the breeding and disease control under hand.  We are moving from poverty to chaos!  These animals are just ribs with big wide eyes! They have an empty void to the depth of their souls and stomachs, which only food might have a vague chance of filling.  At first I was angry that anyone could allow an animal to be reduced to this state.  But then as more and more children arrived, with their animals, I realized that they had come from miles around for their animals to receive treatment – and that is a form of empathy. They too have the wide-eyed stare with empty bellies, and are not too sure of where their next meal might be coming from or when it might be.  So how could I, a person who eats three meals a day, has a warm bed to sleep in and can drive to my Doctor at the slightest feeling of an ailment, be anyone to judge!?  No, I have no right to judge but I do have a right to be concerned and to care.  If I could have had my way, I would have wanted to humanely euthanize at least half of the animals we saw and returned home with the other half.  Neither option was possible, so we did our best to bring some comfort to the animals and hope that with a follow up and further assistance, these animals which we saw and treated, have a chance at improved conditions and health.

This has been a project which I have wanted to undertake ever since I learned what the impact of domestic dogs on wildlife was, especially of the small mammals which the Tikki Hywood Trust dedicates its time to saving, who are being hunted and killed by the ever increasing number of feral and domestic dogs – country wide.  These dogs only have one purpose, hunting. There is no consideration for the devastating effect of the diseases they transmit, especially rabies. With this in mind I wanted to start a vaccination project against rabies and also to try and educate the people on how to respect their animals, as well as take care of them.  The excessive breeding I believe is totally unnecessary, and needs to be addressed if wildlife is going to stand a chance in areas outside of privately owned land and/or National Parks.  Since the land invasions, there seems to be no follow up on vaccinations, as well as an increase in the number of dogs owned by households.  We found that one family had more than 12 dogs!  Law and order regarding domestic pets, has like everything else in Zimbabwe, fallen by the wayside.

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Masvingo is the largest province in Zimbabwe, with the Bikita area being the largest rural district of this province. More importantly, Bikita borders two of Zimbabwe’s largest conservancies both the Chiredzi River Conservancy and the SAVE Valley Conservancy.   The Tikki Hywood Trust has a vested interest in the SAVE Valley Conservancy, as we have released animals there, and hope to release a further three serval cats later this year.  The domestic dogs in the Bikita area are forming packs and been taken into the conservancies to hunt indiscriminately. If we can get this under control, the impact on the conservancies will be immeasurable: fewer dogs means less hunting and less exposure of the wildlife to rabies and other disease.

I have so often heard that Africa is not for the meek and mild, this statement could not have been closer to the truth over these past few days.  We were concerned that the response to our offer of assistance would be limited, that we would only see around 30 or so animals and that it might be a plan to go into the villages to see if we could vaccinate and treat the animals from house to house.  Well, our assumptions could not have been further from reality, we were inundated with people and animals alike.  Our doors opened at around 11am, it was a total shock to look outside and see this massive queue forming! There were dogs and then more dogs, tethered with any form of lead, starting from tree bark, to plastic plaited into a rope, and then even electric cable!  Then there were the sacks, and inside these sacks were cats, yes cats!  I wanted, to scream and shout at this absurd way to carry any animal (except for a snake perhaps) but I had to stop myself as I realised that there really is not much else you can transport a cat in – as not everyone in the rural areas have cat boxes or crates!?  By late afternoon of the first day we had seen over 200 animals from dogs to cats, rabbits to guinea pigs.

With every dog of the right age, we spoke to the owner and asked if we could sterilize the dog or bitch. Since most of the animals were brought in by the children of the household, very few could consent without their parents’ permission.  There was resistance to the idea of sterilization, as these dogs were becoming a form of golden goose and providing a form of income.  One owner has over 12 dogs, four adults and eight puppies, or rather furry rats!  My heart was torn open a little more with each animal I treated, wondering what on earth was to be their fate after this.  I had to bite my tongue not only at the condition of the animals but at the lack of education on how to take care of them.  Every dog that arrived at the clinic was covered in fleas and ticks.  Some animals were much worse than others, but all animals including the rabbits had fleas.  The first 100 animals received rabies vaccination and there after dogs and cats were de-wormed, de–flea’d, and given tick grease in their ears.

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How the project started:

We drove to Bikita Minerals on Thursday 15th October 2009 and had an evening meeting to discuss the procedure and setup for the duration of the project. Then early the following morning, Friday 16 October 2009, we prepared the two rooms at the mine which were to be our clinic for the weekend.  By 11 am, everything was scrubbed and sterilized, machines were set up and make-shift operating tables put in place – we were ready to see patients!

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Having been concerned that there might not be enough animals to make the project worthwhile, we had no need to worry – in fact we now needed more helpers!!!  The first dog was a bitch named Nduku, a six month old, black mixed rural dog.  She was very under weight and this proved a problem when administering the drugs.  Xylazine (Rompun ©) was the pre-med given and then Thiopentone (Thiobarb ©) as the anaesthetic. Once the animal was then properly sedated, they would be put onto the Isofluorane anaesthetic machine.  However, a slight complication with the drug Xylazine is that it suppresses respiration and with this side effect, and the fact that this little girl was underweight, we had our very first complication on our very first surgery: Nduku just stopped breathing!  Well you can imagine my heart stopped at the same time. We most certainly could not kill the first patient of the day – without doubt this would break the fragile tendrils of trust that the owners and potential patients outside had developed for us!  With a large dose of panic and CPR (using my mouth to nose re-breathing technique), Nduku revived none the worse for wear and we were able to continue with the sterilization. I am delighted to report that Nduku recovered and is now back to normal without the worry of having to breed!

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The next bitch to come into our clinic was a very aggressive bitch who wanted to bite everyone including her owner.  Finally, with Biko’s powers of persuasion he could administer the pre-med as well as the anaesthetic.  Due to the fact that she was at a more stable weight, her operation went unhindered and she was off the table in 30 minutes and placed in one of the recovery crates.

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After the two operations and the midday sun increasing the temperature to at least the high 30’s, we decided that we must start vaccinating the dogs waiting outside.  So, after each patient’s details were taken, the owner and their ‘pet’ arrived on the table to receive the ‘full–house’ treatment.  Each dog provided his or hers own story behind their eyes.  What story of hell did these animals have to tell and was there really any way that we could impact on their lives?  This project was to reduce the breeding rate as well as bring relief to each animal we treated.  As the dog now represented a new form of ‘money’, there were not going to be as many sterilizations as we had hoped for.

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 Over the bustle of the crowded clinic and the noise of so many people, I heard Blessing talking about tsuro (rabbit).  My ears pricked up and I was all interest and dread at the same time. To those who perhaps do not understand, rabbits are my passion, and the thought of what could be wrong with them and how they were being kept had worried me ever since I started thinking about this project.  Well, I am delighted to say that I did not have too much to be concerned about.  The first five rabbits arrived in a cardboard box.  Besides the ever-present fleas, they had no mites and were in good condition.  I nonetheless wanted to see where they had come from, and how they were being kept if it was not too far away from the clinic and I could spare the time.  The first owner led me with great glee to where his rabbits were being housed.  It was perhaps not the way I would have kept my rabbits, but it was not bad at all except for the amount of dirt and manure which had built up over the years!  So I said I would supply the disinfectant if he removed the cage and cleaned everything up and removed all the manure.  I also explained that rabbits are very clean animals and do not like to be dirty.  For this reason it was very important that he made an area in the cage as the ‘toilet’ with sand and or soil, using the other side of the cage as the sleeping chamber for the rabbits with fresh grass and bedding.  Keen to please as well as have his rabbits de-wormed, he followed my instructions to the letter and two hours later I returned with him and his rabbits to their fresh, clean newly arranged home.

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The clinic closed late that afternoon, with only enough time for us to disinfect and sterilize the equipment, which would be ready for the next day’s clinic and surgery.  It was a long and successful day.  At closing, we had estimated that we had seen more than 200 animals.  That meant that at least 200 animals, were de-wormed, had less fleas and ticks and a chance of hopefully putting on some weight in the near future.  The saddest of sights on day one however was a young bitch, whose ears were so full of ticks that I am surprised she could even hear.  She must have been in a lot of pain or discomfort as when I gently held her ear to paste on the tick grease she did not try to bite me or even moan, she must have known we were only there to help.

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For me seeing the cat in the sack was heart wrenching.  One female cat arrived in a sack, totally motionless.  On opening the sack, I saw a tortoise shell coloured female cat, her eyes were thick with yellow mucus and on closer inspection she was very pregnant!  I took her to one side away from the dogs, got cotton wool and wet it; carefully I started to wipe away the muck from her eyes.  She never once tried to escape or even scratch me, inside this very loud tractor purr could be heard emanating from her.  After I had done the full house on her and placed eye ointment into her eyes, I felt sick having to replace her back into the hot sack.  Even though life for any mammal is difficult in this area, I do think it could be a little easier for the feline species who are usually quite self-sufficient, so that was some comfort to me when I handed her back to her owner and asked if he could go straight home!

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Day two arrived and it was business as usual.  We set the clinic up and then started seeing patients.  As we had had such a turn-out the day before, we did not think that there would be many animals that would be coming in today.

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This was not to be the case!  By 10 am, there were owners and dogs all lining (or rather milling around) outside waiting to be seen.  In addition to the usual cats, dogs and rabbits there were also some donkeys.  The Donkey Trust has recently been in the area running a clinic, which resulted in a huge amount of interest and at one of the education days over 400 people turned up.  So it was good to see that the donkeys were in good condition and all we had to do was use grease for the ticks and vaccinate for rabies.

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At a particular moment on day two, I happened to wander over to the shade where we had asked the owners to wait with their animals.  I wanted to see what we would be dealing with and how many dogs were to be operated on.  No sooner had I started talking to the owners, I noticed two dogs that were in very good condition, and so asked their owner “what was it that he was here for?”  He casually replied “I want my dogs vaccinated for rabies as they were fighting with a rabid dog yesterday”.  Ok, this was way more than I could deal with, so I tried to remain calm and walked back to Biko, informed him of the gentleman’s story.  Biko’s answer was that the dogs had to be destroyed!  In the short time we had been in Bikita we realised that that was not likely to happen.  So Biko went back to where the dogs and their owner sat and explained how dangerous rabies was.  That it was too late for his dogs to be vaccinated unless they had already been vaccinated within the last year (which of course they had not been) and by being here it would put all the other people and animals at risk.  My mind was spinning at the thought, of just how easy it is for rabies to spread and before you know it both animals and people are infected!

We managed to bring the owner to the realisation that being in a public place with so many other dogs was not sensible, and he returned home.

The first panic of the day was over, Blessing had arrived and so had the chief’s dog for the first spay of the day.  The sterilizations were to be done first and then the full house vaccinations, which unfortunately excluded rabies as we had run out of doses.  The chief’s bitch was rather under weight and after Nduku’s experience the day before, we were all eyes on her to make sure that everything flowed smoothly.  First operation went well and we rolled straight on to the first castration.  Once the 4 sterilizations were over it was time to open the doors to the outside patients.  As with the day before, the dogs and puppies kept coming.  Your heart breaks at so many of these animals’ condition and the thought of what is their fate to be.  The romantic myth of Africa seems to all but disappear when you are faced with the realities on the ground.  I drove away from Msarasara Village with a very heavy heart, and tears in my eyes.  The innocence of being a puppy or kitten or child for that matter does not exist right now here in Zimbabwe.  We can be safe and sound, warm and fed in our worlds but out there, there is a totally different scenario and not a pretty one.  We will return in January 2010, to hopefully a few less animals and those that remain in a healthier state – I have my doubts, but one thing which we Zimbabweans are very good at is hoping!

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This project has taken a lot of planning, organisation, co-operation, drive and dedication, all in very large doses! None of this would have been possible if a group of like-minded people and companies had not offered their unwavering patience and support to the Tikki Hywood Trust in the final realisation of the events that took place at Msarasara village, Bikita. So it is only fitting that we offer an eternal debt of gratitude to the following organisations, companies and people who helped make it a reality:

·        Bikita Minerals, their staff and management for hosting the project and their continued support and understanding in the necessity to further educate about animal husbandry within the Bikita area.

·        Blue Cross, ZNSPCA for their belief in the project and for supplying the much needed rabies vaccine and further drugs required for such a project.

·        Chisipite Veterinary Surgery (Taps) – for advice on how to source soda lime for the anaesthetic machine.

·        Colonial Scales (Australia) – the donation of the scale to Tikki Hywood Trust has proved invaluable for this project.

·        Dr Biko Gadaga (Voluntary Veterinary Surgeon) – who willingly gave of his time and knowledge to help the domestic animals of Bikita.

·        Dr Blessing Mutangira (Voluntary Veterinary Surgeon) – a resident of Bikita, whose care and dedication to the Bikita animals and people is never-ending.

·        Dr Petros Luefi (Veterinary Surgeon) & staff at Borrowdale Lane Vet Surgery – his fantastic support, advice and knowledge when it came to sourcing equipment and materials required to undertake such a project.

·        Helen Nortier – voluntary vet assistant.

·        Julia Brebner – advice on Isofluorane machine & supplying the soda lime with discount

·        KDB Holdings – supply Endo-tracheal tubes at a 50% discount

·        N. Tselentis P/L – donation of material for surgical drapes, mutton cloth and cotton wool for the operations

·        Papageorge Family – donation of Isofluorane anaesthetic machine which proved invaluable to this project and the safety of the dogs we operated on.

·        The People of Bikita who took part in this project and were prepared to come from far and wide, to make sure that their animals had treatment.

·        Wildlife Vet Unit – assisting with the importation of the drugs from Worldwide Veterinary Services.

·        Worldwide Veterinary Services –Without the help of this organisation, the project would not have taken place, as it is a registered UK charity (no. 1100485) that supplies veterinary resources, in the form of volunteer teams, drugs, equipment and advice to help animal charities and non-profit organisations around the world.

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Implants and other news

Readers, you have every right to wonder where we have been!!! Sorry once again for our silence and lack of informing you on what is going on in our lives of conservation here in Zimbabwe.

It has been a very difficult as well as an emotional time for all at the Tikki Hywood Trust, to make the decisions we have had to make.  With the current situation here in our country from an economic, political as well as poaching front, we have decided that we will no longer be breeding, as we can not ensure the survival of our animals and the probability of them not being poached remains very slim.

The land issue continues to create huge uncertainly here in Zimbabwe, and without any land tenure it is difficult for Zimbabweans, and for that matter outside investors to feel confident in Zimbabwe.  Without confidence you are not able to proceed with positive and or pro-active ideas and future planning for wildlife and industry.

It is vital that we continue to work with our Department of National Parks & Wildlife Management Authorities in improving the legislation for the wildlife.  This year alone we have managed to increase the poaching fines to realistic levels, as well as make sure that they are payable in US$, a more stable currency.  Bail for any offender involved in poaching of any wild animal has been denied – this is a big step in the right direction, as many culprits flee once they know they might have a pending court case.

Currently at the centre we have African wild cat, African civet, Bat-eared foxes, Genets, Serval and Southern African hedgehogs that are all capable of breeding.  In all of these species we are exploring various means of contraception. We are using a contraceptive implant called Suprelorin, which is presented in a subcutaneous insertion containing 4.7mg Deslorelin. It is mostly used in males for contraception, but can also be used in females, so as a result we have used this implant in females of the following species : Genet, Bat-eared Fox and African wild cat. We have also used the same implant for our male serval, even though we currently only have him on the property and he does not have a breeding partner. We have implanted Rafiki firstly to gauge his response to the contraception and also in the hopes that the hormone adjustment may help him re-adjust to captivity as he is quite a nervous cat.  Even though we may not be breeding our species, we aim to continue assisting them through research and creating better handling and care techniques for those still in captivity.

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A good look at India’s teeth shows she has a plaque build-up that will need to be scraped.

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India receiving her implant

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Sahara under anaesthetic ready to receive the implant

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Measuring Sahara’s teeth

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Furry Bat-eared Fox paw!

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Rafiki receiving his implant

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Perfect serval teeth!

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Checking on Rafiki’s weight – we are pleased to note that he has picked up nicely since coming back to the Trust

However, there is one species that we can’t NOT breed, due to their small size and manageability, as well as their incredibly low numbers countrywide, and that is our very own Southern African hedgehog. With the success that we had in the previous breeding season of 2008, we have to continue with this winning formula and start getting more hedgehogs back into the wild where they belong. But, they are certainly at no less risk of being decimated, so this makes it a very difficult decision to attempt any release. Also, due to the fact that so little is known about these animals we cannot afford to miss an opportunity to observe them and therefore must determine the best post-release tracking methods possible. For this reason we have identified an area in the south of Zimbabwe which is ideal terrain and we will establish a release program there for some of the recently bred hedgehogs. This is going to be a very thorough and long-term project, so we will keep you posted! For the time being, we would like to ask our readers to think about hedgehog tracking and give us some ideas…….

August 2009 Newsletter

Dear Readers,

It is that time of the year again when send out newsletters – so here it is:

 

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This newsletter has been very difficult for me to compile due to the very sad loses of both Muffet and Asia. Both of these cats have been in my life since their birth and had become very important figures, on this journey of mine. Each loss stabs me in the heart and leaves a scar, which I fear that even time does not take away. When we take these individual lives and decide to return them to the wild – you can never be totally certain that you are making the right decision. Muffet arrived in a Bata shoe box, eyes closed and full of nonsense. Each day that passed I could see her in the wild, being as free as any wild animal can be in Zimbabwe under this current environment. But for her life to be taken by a nonsensical, white woman – there can be no excuse!

Asia, I helped her into this world. When she arrived, her mother Hooch did not want anything to do with her. As she came out of the womb, I was there to break her amniotic sac and introduce her into this world. From day one, Asia touched my heart. She was an old and wise soul, coming into my life to help me with the hardships which would come my way and most certainly give me the extra bit of strength to continue. If I felt I could no longer deal with the ever changing environment, all I had to do was go and be with Asia. She would talk and smooch and love me, unconditionally and completely. There is a huge hole in my life with out her.

Who said working with animals would be easy? Perhaps the hardest part of this path is to say goodbye to those creatures who enter our world and then have to leave before us. Each passing is a lesson in itself and one which at times I wish I did not have to learn. With a lot of the animals we work with, only through death are we able to learn more about how better to keep them alive! Ironic isn’t it? The experiences which we have gained through working with these wild animals must be collected and correlated and made available to all parties who are either interested or work with similar animals.

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There comes a time in every mammal’s life when they start to show signs of becoming very old. Hasha has reached that point in her life. Due to her age, (we know she is around 16 years old) she is spending a lot of her time just eating and sleeping, which for an elderly creature is normal. She has the run of the whole property but chooses to remain in her safe territory. Now being winter, the ambient temperature drops in the early mornings and evenings so Hasha is given a warmed bean bag. When animals become old, they do seem to have a little more trouble regulating their temperature, so we try and help them by supporting them with a heated alternative. Hasha has become very protective of her bean bags and unless she can see a warmed bean bag on its way to her, she will growl at you when you try and remove the old one. Hasha is now being fed twice a day, with her normal diet in the evenings and then in the morning a bowl of pronutro, mixed with yoghurt and warmed milk. Due to the levels of interaction which Hasha still has with us, we are of the opinion that so long as she has quality of life and is in good condition, then she is still meant to remain, as a very important part of our family. As she has become older we have managed to tame her more and more. We are now able to brush and stroke her, which are all good forms of interaction we believe.

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Asia, my precious girl. Born, one late afternoon, on the 9 December 2003, Asia was in a rush to get into this world. Arriving at least 10 minutes after her sister India, this tiny baby was a mass of wet mucus and after gently opening the embryonic sac; Asia was all eyes and tail. Hooch was not even remotely interested in her, and even after trying to get Asia to suckle from Hooch, by placing her onto Hooch’s stomach – I realised that this was not to be. Asia was cold and wet and the only place for her was in my bra close to my heart which is where she will always remain. Asia was a model cat, hardly ever getting even the slightest ailment or causing any trouble. That is not to say she did not have a mind of her own and could be incredibly vocal when she was not getting her own way. Asia was not very engaging when it came to other people, she tolerated people but there was and will always be a very special bond between Asia and I. When Asia gave birth on 27TH Aug 2006, she decided to make it very much a family affair. The evening before the kittens arrived, she was at the gate making very interesting noises and when I walked away those noises seemed to increase. I decided that perhaps Asia wanted to come into the house and be with me! I took her to my room where she promptly made herself at home by lying down on the bed and taking over. That night Asia and I shared my bed, (thankfully it is a double) as small Wild Cats named Asia seemed to take up rather a lot of space. Early hours of the morning, Asia started purring and dribbling, which I took as the beginning of contractions as there was a lot of blinking and ears going flat against her head. Before I knew it there was pushing and low growling coming from Asia. Feeling totally helpless all I could do was offer words of encouragement and wait. There was a moment of panic, when I could see the first kittens head but Asia did not seem to be able to push hard enough to get the rest of the body out! Nature is an amazing thing and before long (seemed an eternity) the first kitten was born. We waited another half and hour and then the contractions started once again, and Asia had to push! Number two arrived. Asia was licking them and encouraging them to stay close to her. During this whole experience, I was privileged enough to be allowed to watch and remain close to Asia. After nearly an hour, Asia started, for the third time to pushing and growl. Number three arrived. Minsk, Beluka and Mandalay, two males and a female. Wow I was busting with pride. Asia was extremely pleased and just lay on the bed with the three kittens drinking quietly from her.

 

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For the next ten days Asia remained, in my bedroom, in fact I moved out after she attacked me once whilst I was asleep! So I moved into the lounge whilst she continued to bond with her kittens. When I felt that there was no danger of her eating or being stressed about being moved I moved her and the kittens to our nursery room which has been adapted for wild orphans and babies.

 

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Tragedy struck our lives on 13th June 2009. During the afternoon feeding run, Ellen discovered Asia lying in an odd position near a lower fence in the enclosure. On closer inspection, the horrifying, chilling realisation – Asia was dead. With no immediate signs of the cause of death, we came to an educated presumption that she had a stroke. This is consistent with the following: a month earlier she had developed pneumonia suddenly. We brought her into the house and treated immediately with antibiotics, keeping her indoors for 5 days. Within 12 hours of the first antibiotic injection there was a remarkable improvement. By the following weekend Asia was back to her normal self and ready to go back to Siam, seemingly in good form. Just over a month later we found her dead in the enclosure with no visible cause of death (e.g. poison, snake bite etc). We have subsequently found in some research that sometimes after a severe chest infection, the patient may potentially suffer a stroke later on as the heart muscle is compromised. The facts do not help when it comes to trying to accepting her loss. We straight away removed Siam from the enclosure where Asia had died. He was very vocal and seemed obviously stressed, so we put him next to the other two girls, India and Burma. Siam, definitely does not enjoy being on his own so over the following few days we started, slowly introducing the three cats. What could have been a lot of fighting, scratching and biting – in fact could not have been calmer. The three cats sniffed one another and then just walked on past, seemingly more interested in the different sights and sounds of the enclosure than each other. I suppose as humans we sometimes take for granted that these animals are well acquainted, if only through a diamond mesh fence.

Burma, who was destined for release this year, has been implanted! What a little ‘pork chop’ – as with the implant she has put on weight (increased appetite) and we are therefore trying to exercise her more. As we have had to revise our release policy, we are‘re-taming’ her (as she was the first to lead walk!) which has been a wonderful experience. At first she was just totally appalled at the thought of having a human touch her; however she has started to come around and now thinks that it actually could be rather enjoyable. Her tail goes straight up in the air and presents a rather rounded derriere due to weight gain from the implant. (Most women who have endured some forms of contraception will concur!!) Due to her new status as a single, implanted female, we thought she might enjoy some other male company without risk of kittens, so we introduced her and Minsk. This was a very safe option, as neither are capable of breeding at this stage (Minsk has been sterilized) and to our surprise he was rather violent! So that lasted all of about 5 minutes with Burma getting some exercise whilst scrambling up a tree away from a fired-up Minsk.

Hooch has been given the title of “chief rat catcher” – due to a successful kill in the civet pen. Unfortunately in the winter season, the rodents are on the hunt for food and have found a never-ending source of delectable fruit and meat with Badger the civet and have thus taken up residence in his enclosure. We have tried all manner of humane traps, which the rats have proved to smart for – so now we have had to get tough, hence sending in General Hooch.

Civet
These animals continue to amaze me. You can never fully predict the nature of a civet, whether they are in a good mood or going to attack! Francis even though she has greatly improved on her mental front – however when food is involved she has given both Ellen and I a run for our money, growling, barking and chasing us in full attack mode!!! If nothing else it most certainly gets your adrenalin pumping.

The time has arrived and we are starting to introduce Francis to Assisi. Now the Francis has been implanted, it is safe for the two of them to be together. During the month of June Francis has been a lot calmer. In the morning she has been eager to jump into her house with very little persuasion. This has been a huge improvement for her, and hopefully the next step being introduced to Assisi, will be the last of the pacing.

Badger has some new lodgers in his enclosure – having discovered the five star treatment of excellent food delivered to the door, warm accommodation and 24 hour security protection in the form of a grumpy civet, a rabble of rats (using the correct English collective noun) have taken up residence in casa de Civet. It has brought many laughs and excitement to all at the Trust. Recently though we decided that for a little bit of African wild cat enrichment, we would put Assisi into another enclosure and introduce Hooch! Well, she thought she had arrived at Disney World! Instinct hit and Hooch attacked! One strike, one squeak and one dead rat! With tail like a bottle brush and eyes wide open Hooch ran back to her enclosure with the rat in her mouth and great glee in her stride! We are delighted to report that the rat family are in the process of finding new accommodation, with less feline species as neighbours.

 

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Genet
CK has graduated to the outside enclosure. Having spent 3 ½ months with Ellen in her house, and taming down very nicely but also putting on a fair bit of weight, we decided that she needed her own kind of company and the stimulation of the outside world. So the first step was to take Coco and Dior out of their enclosure and let CK explore it. After a couple of days in the adjacent enclosure to Munch kin, we then allowed the two to have contact. Munchkin was amazing and very gentle with out showing any aggression. CK was delighted to be out and about and must have shed at least 10% of her body weight with all the exploring! As soon as we were happy that Munchkin and CK were going to become good companions, we returned Coco and Dior back outside into their original enclosure. Coco & Dior are also showing interest in the new addition to the genet family (having gotten acquainted with her scent during their “holiday” in the cottage) although with Coco is seems to be more of a sibling aggression.

 

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On that note, we must mention some of our observations with the use of implants in genet. After Coco’s very bad reaction to the implant we are very concerned with implanting Munchkin, as she is our main breeder. Should there be a problem with the relationship between Munchkin and CK we will try an implant in CK, however we will avoid that at all costs. I fear that there has not been enough research done with the smaller carnivores and therefore the implants can put them at risk.

Rags, of course remains’ the ever gentle, meek and mild dominant male. Without anyone threatening his position, he spends a lot of his time just observing! He did however have a bit of an adverse experience when a swarm of bees took up residence to his bougainvillea hollow. We had to resort to smoking the bees out to convince them that this was not an acceptable idea! He is none the worse for wear after the smokey experience and thankfully the bees have remained away.

Hedgehogs
This has been our first winter with having our babies in the mobile enclosures and completely outside without any form of artificial heating. They are doing so well! Apart from three of the older hedgehogs having contacted a little bit of ring worm all is well with the hedgehogs. The main breeders, have remained in their in door enclosure, with the artificial heating. I believe that due to the increased temperature, the adults have been able to physically cope with the winter. This is the first winter we have not had to deal with pneumonia’s, snuffles and other winter orientated illness. What a relief, a sick hedgehog is not the world’s easiest animals to treat and return to good health.

Serval
The prodigal serval returns in the form of Rafiki. After many concerns of, are we doing the right thing with Rafiki, by bring him back to the Trust and a life in captivity? We are very happy that this has been our choice. Since he has returned, we have seen that his back seems to have been damaged. There is a lump about 2 inches from the base of his tail and his back legs seem to be fairly weak when he moves. Perhaps when Rafiki was out in the wild he was beaten or attacked by humans. This does make sense of the terrible fear that he continues to have at being released. Rafiki has adapted to captive life incredibly well, a lot better than I had anticipated. He is feeding from our hands already and takes great interest if we are doing anything in his enclosure. He also takes great comfort with the knowledge, that there are other animals around him. He spends a lot of his time lying up close to the African Wild Cat enclosures and watching what they are doing. Even when gardening in the enclosure, Rafiki will take great interest in the procedure and try and get involved. With time we hope that we will be able to further tame him so that we are able to interact and play with him a lot more. If we try and chase him, that fear returns and he runs away and hides – so there is still a fair amount of work to be done.

 

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Shenzi:
This has been a very hard year for Shenzi. Being a rather particularly sensitive serval without any people skills, it has been hard to get to know her. When she was here with us as a kitten we were able to walk her and interact with her very well. As soon as she became of age, a very different character started to emerge out of her. She wanted her own space and was happiest when left alone. It was for this reason that we decided she would best suit being released. This was not too be, as the current environment is not best suited to any animals being released as far as I am concerned. Before we release a female animal, we also like to know that she can successfully conceive and give birth as well as take care of her kittens.

Shenzi has not as yet past this test. On 2nd June 2009, we were alerted by Bushman Rock that there were kitten sounds coming from Shensi’s enclosure. Ellen and I dropped everything and jumped into the vehicle and headed out to Bushman Rock straight away to assess the situation on the ground. We could see Shenzi with one kitten inside the T-pee. The kitten was calm and quiet which is a sign that it has been fed and is content. Shenzi was at all times very close to the kitten or with the kitten. We were confident that she could manage at this point with taking care of just one kitten. There was one concern which I had and that was the size of the kitten, it was incredible small which could indicate the kitten being premature. By Friday 5th June it was observed that the kitten was dead, but Shenzi was still carrying it around. By the following morning, no carcass could be found. Due to this very sad ordeal that Shenzi has been through we have decided to implant her so that she can remain with the boys in an enlarger enclosure and live a semi-captive life, until such time that Zimbabwe’s wildlife has more protection and stand’s a chance at survival, without man’s intervention.

 

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Bilbo & Gandalf:

The boys are growing up – full of confidence and have become very beautiful serval indeed. Since a bit of enclosure clearing has happened they are more approachable, Bilbo apparently has developed a taste for “Crocs” (plastic slip on shoes) and this is all due to time and effort being put it by Rick Passaportis of Bushman Rock. All the serval are taming down and have become a lot more approachable since Rick has personally got involved, using various methods of bribery which occasionally includes boiled eggs. Due to the current situation here in Zimbabwe, we have all agreed that perhaps now is not the time to be releasing serval. So Rick has very kindly agreed to increase the serval enclosure sizes so that they are able to have more interaction with nature, but still remain protected in a semi-captive environment.

 

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Kusanganisa

The most important news is that our new Minister of Education, Minister Coltart, has shown an interest in the Kusanganisa program. To be recognised as a potential addition to the national curriculum of a country is very encouraging. To know that the Government is in agreement that the national curriculum has to obtain information regarding our natural flora and fauna is very encouraging.

In the schools, the Kusanganisa program continues despite the challenges presented to the teachers. One of the biggest problems is that the government has not addressed the issue of Teacher’s salaries and this has been pegged at a static nominal amount since January of this year. The Teachers then have to travel to a bank to withdraw their money and may have to queue for hours if not days to get it. Despite this hardship, their enthusiasm for Kusanganisa has not wavered and we salute them for their dedication.

The start of the second term brought some interesting information to light at Nehanda School. First off there was an impromptu essay competition about: “My favourite animal”, initiated by one of the Grade 7 teachers. It yielded some interesting results to say the least – one young man was enamoured with anacondas, especially for their ability to make good boots and the fact that they like to eat people. Although this is exactly the opposite of the attitude we are hoping to cultivate with Kusanganisa, it gave us an indication that it was time to go back to the basics and re-instil some “correct” animal knowledge and conservational principles! It also reminded us that not every human is born to love animals!

In 2008 we donated an older model Apple Mac computer to Nehanda School, much to the delight and excitement of students and teachers alike. However, without the skills to utilize the machine, it may as well be a glorified paper weight. So we decided that this was an ideal opportunity to teach the teachers. We are pleased to say that the first training session for the teachers in basic computers was well received and resulted in some lively discussions. You try to explain why it is called a “mouse” and not a “rat”………………

Other news

In the past few recent months, we have been working on a project that is very fundamental to the Trust, and that is the subject of animal welfare in captivity. Welfare of wildlife in Captivity has been one of my main concerns ever since I started working with wildlife. If the world was perfect, I would like to only see wild animals living as their name states in the wild. However, this is not likely to ever happen and therefore regulations and policies must be put in place where ever there are institutions who have wildlife, Zimbabwe being no exception. Our last newsletter focused on our first training course with the Department of National Parks personal. I would just like to once again say a huge thank you to both Roxy Danckwerts who allowed us the privilege of holding the course at her wildlife sanctuary, and to both Mr Chadenga and Mr Inhidza, of National Parks for supporting the initiative and believing that this project is of paramount importance to Zimbabwe.

 

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In Conclusion

Zimbabwe remains an every changing environment. One, can never be sure what they are going to wake up too, each and every morning. However, we are proud to be part of this country, her wildlife and hopefully the rebuilding of an industry that once flourished – wildlife! If it were not for like minded people, such as yourselves who have supported us through thick and thin, we would most certainly not be able to battle forward with a positive outlook and hope in our hearts. Our most sincere thank you, to you our sponsors.

Wildlife welfare in captivity – the first workshop

Dear Readers

It has been ages since we were last in touch with you all. SORRY! The past weeks have been hectic with one thing and another, but primarily our Workshop of Welfare of Wildlife in Captivity. This has been a long time in coming. By now you are aware that I have a ‘few’ very strong opinions when it comes to animals! What we as human have and continue to subject these magnificent and innocent creatures too is just too barbaric for words. My belief is that if you have a belief and in some way can then put it into action – then that is what you have to do! Time in Africa seems to operate at a different rate to perhaps my mental timetable, so with persistence, last week we held what I hope to be one of our first Welfare of Wildlife in Captivity workshops. The main objective behind this workshop was to get the authorities our Department of National Parks to address the pressing issues of cruelty cases of animals who are in appalling conditions here in Zimbabwe. I suppose in a way to take responsibility of the situation and correct the wrongs as much as one can. The outcome was fantastic and very encouraging. Support came from all angles and we had had a very enjoyable workshop, with discussions, heavy debates and interacting with one another and sharing knowledge!

On the 7 & 8 July 2009, the Tikki Hywood Trust co-ordinated and conducted a workshop to introduce the fundamental principles of caring for wild life in captivity.

 

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Before I go any further into the objectives and reasons behind why we felt that this workshop was so important to be held, we must first extend gratitude to the following people; Roxy Danckwerts of Chedgelow Farm who not only allowed us to hold the workshop at her beautiful home, but we were able to use her animals in a practical manner which made a huge impact on the trainee inspectors. Secondly is our Department of Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, for their support in getting the 16 participants to the workshop, as well as for believing that this type of information exchange is now a vital issue which needs to be addressed in our country.

There is a worldwide debate on animal welfare in captivity. It is a very sensitive issue, and one I do believe Zimbabwe has an obligation to address. The reason behind this workshop introducing wildlife welfare in captivity, is because like minded people have come together to address the ever mounting concerns developing when it comes to this issue.

 

 

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In order to address this issue we have to understand what it is! So what is animal welfare?

I believe animal welfare is the ethical responsibility of ensuring animal well-being. Animal well-being is the condition in which animals experience good health, are able to effectively cope with their environment, and are able to express a diversity of species-typical behaviours. Protecting an animal’s welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs.

 

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Ensuring animal welfare is a human responsibility that includes consideration for all aspects of animal well-being; proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.

There are numerous perspectives on animal welfare that are influenced by a person’s values and experiences. There are also various means of measuring animal welfare, including (but not limited to) health, productivity, behaviour, and physiological responses. Animals must be provided with the correct water, food, proper handling, health care, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with thoughtful consideration for their species-typical biology and behaviour.

• Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering.
• Procedures related to animal housing, management, care, and use should be continuously evaluated, and when indicated, refined or replaced.
• Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and scientifically prudent.
• Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a humane death.

In short the above has been the outline of what we spoke about on the course. From my point of view, I believe that the course had an amazing effect all around. Most importantly it created awareness and gave options to existing and potential problems facing wildlife in captivity here in Zimbabwe.
What has arisen from our discussions throughout the workshop is the fact that just between two captive facilities here in Zimbabwe there are 103 lions in captivity, whose futures now lie in the balance! Those numbers are horrific, if one has to look at the economic state of the country and the amount of food and care that 103 lions are going to require.

 

As a result of this workshop, the inspectors will take this newly found knowledge and apply it in working situations where wildlife is kept in captivity throughout the country. Hopefully, this will unify our efforts to bring standards of captivity to the same level in Zimbabwe across the board and alleviate unnecessary pain and suffering. Furthermore, it will prove that we, as Zimbabweans, are conscientious about our wild heritage, regardless of our positions within private, public or institutional facilities.

 See below : Exceptional handling facilities at Chedgelow Farm

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A Glimmer of Light on Zimbabwe’s horizon!

Our readers were equally as affected as we were here at the Tikki Hywood Trust when we were informed of the senseless murder of Twiza the giraffe (October 2008 blog) and then the brutal killing of the two bull elephants (November 2008 blog) who had been moved to the Chiredzi River Conservancy in the 1992 – 93 drought. Any death of an innocent animal can not received the right justice, in my opinion – however as a result of these deaths, there has been an outcome which we feel is positive and therefore would like to share this with you our supporters.

On the 16 December 2008, the Tikki Hywood Trust sponsored a meeting held at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management Authorities. This meeting included all of the stakeholders of the conservancies and other personal, involved with the protection of wildlife in Zimbabwe, The Wildlife Management Authority, Zimbabwe Reserved Police and the Attorney General’s Office. The Trust’s aim, to host this meeting was to get some results on the ground in the areas where there is intensive poaching,  as well as for everyone to try and work together to address the horrendous issue of poaching here in Zimbabwe.

The issue which was mirrored by everyone was that the anti –poaching scouts currently on the ground are poorly equiped. These anti poaching units could not, understandably go up against the poachers who were not only armed but dangerous at the same time. How could we expect the scouts to track as well as apprehend poachers who were armed with weapons like AK 47’s when they only had a panga (large bush knife) for protection?

The answer, was quite simply that we needed trained, armed personal on the ground with the authority to shoot, should it be necessary to do so. Each conservancy was allowed to state how many trained rangers from Parks and the ZRP they were allowed. As a result of this meeting, shortly after Christmas these trained personnel were deployed and to date are still on the ground in the various conservancies.

Today when I contacted Theresa ( she lives on Wasara Ranch which is part of the Chiredzi River Conservancy – Twiza’s family) to ask how things were going on the ground with the poaching? Her reply was “we currently have no poaching on Wasara!” With tears in my eyes I re-read and re-read that statement. Six months ago, most people living on the CRC were sure that there was no future for either themselves or the wildlife which still lived in that area.

So a little light has been turned on and animals are being saved. This is not too say by any means that there is not poaching elsewhere, in Zimbabwe, as there most certainly is. But this is one little star fish which has been returned to the sea. Many we find the strength to keep finding and throwing those star fish back one by one.

 

 

Foraging with the herd

Above is photograph of wild elephants coming to interact with Teresa’s tame elephants. In this way the tame elephants can habituate and interact and get to know the wild herds so that they can integrate peacefully at a later stage.

 

ZIMBABWE OUR BELOVED HOME!

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On the 11 February 2009, Zimbabwe took yet another step in her history.  The signing of a Unity Government between Zanu – PF and the MDC, had finally been achieved.  We as proud Zimbabweans, wept with both tears of relief and joy.  We now await the rebuilding of our beloved country – Zimbabwe.  Each one of us, will now take a positive step forward with our heads held high and with our hearts over flowing with excitement.  For 10 years we have watch our land being burnt, lying fallow, trees being destroyed, animals being snared and tortured, both for food and money – in short each day slowly but surely our heritage was being lost and our hands were tied.

On behalf of all of us here at the Tikki Hywood Trust we would like to sincerely thank you, our supporters and the people who have stood by Zimbabwe waiting with baited breathe for a positive outcome.  Lets hope that this is that such outcome and together we can start rebuilding this land which we all love!

January Events at the Trust

Dear Readers,

Well it seems like we have been quiet for the past few weeks, over the Christmas and New Year period, but believe us, it has not been restful! In the wonderful world of wildlife, there is no such thing as a holiday……….. Animals are really not bothered whether the 25th December is a public holiday or not…….

7th January 2009 was an interesting start to the year. We performed two contraceptive implants in two of our animals: Francis the female civet received a suprelorlin implant as well as Burma, our youngest female African wild cat.

The procedure was performed by Drs. C. Foggin and M. Peacock of the Wildlife Veterinary Unit.

To our knowledge, and to the knowledge of the company that produces the implants (Peptech P/L), these have never been used in African civet before.

At this point some of you readers may well be asking what a breeding centre is doing putting contraceptive implants in their animals??

As always there is method in the madness – and we will explain to you in each case:

Francis has had issues since her arrival at the Trust, as a young, tailless and very mixed up little civet. Her sense of abandonment was extreme and we had to spend a long time building trust with her. It has taken over 16 months to get Francis into a position where she now feels reasonably safe in her environment and so the next step is to integrate her with one of the males. Since she is still a bit sensitive, we would like her to get to know one the boys without the potential of breeding just yet as this could be too much to handle. For this reason, we decided to try a deslorelin implant, which has been successfully used in most felids. Francis has chosen Assisi as her new friend and he is more than willing to make her acquaintance, although they already know each other well through the fence between enclosures.

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We do not know for definite yet whether this form of contraception will work in a civet, neither for how long. In felids the implant may last for up to 12 months, so we will monitor Francis closely to this end.

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Burma was a straightforward case of temporary contraception, as she is about to be integrated with the youngest male wild cat, Versailles. We want them to bond without reproducing; so that by the time it comes to move them on to the Marula release site they are already paired. We plan for their movement to a release site in March, circumstances willing.

Burma implant

 

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Above is a photo with Burma and the pulse oximeter sensor on her tongue!

At the same time that we did the implants in the two girls, we took the opportunity to knock Hasha, our elderly aardwolf out so that we could give here a thorough physical. Hasha was given a light morning cocktail of dormicum to make her relaxed enough for the next stage of her knock down. Chris Foggin expertly placed a dart in her rump and before long we were brushing and grooming Hasha and giving everything a thorough check. Her teeth are quite worn – which is to be expected for a 17 year old aardwolf. We are pleased to report that she is otherwise in fine health, although perhaps a little underweight in the hindquarters. We will subsequently supplement her diet with a bowl of pronutro at lunch time just to firm her up.

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Other news – the bat eared foxes are growing daily. It has been a wonderful privilege to be part of this special time of them growing up; their individual characters are coming through now. Their coats are changing and not surprisingly – their ears are growing! At this stage the boys appear to have slightly longer ears than their sister.

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We have had more hedgehogs born! This seems to be a headline for every other blog!! Another two hoglets were born on 20th January to Beatrix (who initially had two hoglets in October last year). Both babies are doing very well. We are now in a position to initiate a substantial release program for the hedgehogs which we hope to collaborate with a local secondary school in the area where most of them have come from.

And so, 2009 seems to have started pretty much where 2008 left off………Let us hope it brings more clarity and purpose to all our respective situations and put us in a position to keep doing what we are passionate about – saving animals and returning them to their natural environments.