Category Archives: Serval

One last serval release

Dear Readers,

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It has been one of those nerve-wracking, heart-wrenching times here at the Trust where we have had to put aside our own selfish need to keep our animals safe and sound and in a controlled environment, and give them the greatest gift we can – their freedom. This has by far been one of the most agonising decisions, as we have three serval at the release site, mother and two offspring (who are young adults already)  and have already released the father, Mufasa in the area in February of this year.  If Mufasa’s release was anything to be measured by, one could easily understand our constant battle with the pros and cons of this release. To recap for those readers who do not know the full story:

Mufasa was hand raised by myself (Lisa) and obviously a bond had developed over time, between us.  As a human, I am always surprised at my own selfishness in wanting to keep all the animals I raise – just so that I know they are safe forever, and that I know that every day they have food, warmth and what I think they need.  But do we as humans really know what these wild creatures need?  With each release I am sure a piece of my heart goes with each one of these animals, who have become part of my family.  However, when I finally do have the joy of seeing them, walking freely in what is their new freedom – I realise that there is still, so much that we do not understand and that being wild is a gift beyond measure, which as humans, we can give to our fellow mammals, whom we share this planet with. Releasing is a very emotional step which I continue to struggle with even after doing it for so many years.  Each animal who takes their first steps into the wild, makes my heart stop and my mind full of what can go wrong.  It is so difficult being wild, when you are born into it.  So to be captive born, with all the theoretical warmth and comfort that goes with that, and then enter into this new world, has so much against these captive born animals.  Have we prepared them sufficiently, will they know how to react to all the new dangerous situations that they might find themselves in?  Only time, will tell and we will be the first to report back to you re the adventures in the wild.

 

And so the gate of the enclosure was opened on the 28th February 2009 and Mufasa strode purposefully out to claim his wild heritage!

Mufasa was collared, so that we could track his movements and keep a protective eye on him in this new chapter of his life. However – this sense of security was to be short-lived, as he could no longer be detected after the third day of being out!  And this has been the same situation to this current date – Mufasa has still not been detected in any form shape or manner since March 2009.  When looking for a release site, a strict criteria has been developed and on top of the list is HUMAN MANAGEMENT.  Whilst being involved with the releasing of animals we have seen time and time again that the people who are on the ground are at first very excited to get involved with receiving our animals – but perhaps do not quiet understand the level of commitment and dedication that is required in order to return an animal back into the wild.  With Mufasa, there unfortunately was a change over in management and the tracking of him was overlooked for a two week period.  During the first month the animal has to be tracked daily – this was not done and hence Mufasa’s signal was lost!

So now the dilemma – what do we do with the remaining three? Arwen has been wearing a collar in the release boma for the same length of time as Mufasa and the Chishakwe Management have reported mixed strengths of its transmitting capability. Evenstar, the young male would prove to be the best candidate to be collared for release, as he is full size and due to his easy-going nature would possibly be easier to track and he is not intimidated by people in his vicinity, as opposed to his mother Arwen and sister Quickbeam who are both relatively shy cats.

So, a decision was made to only collar Evenstar, to remove Arwen’s old collar and then to release all three at the same time. The exercise began with Evenstar first, to knock him down with an oral sedative and them top him up with an injectable one so that he could be collared, measured and given all the relevant vaccines, and to be honest, give him what could possibly be one last touch.  The only hiccup in this whole procedure is that it was performed under a constant damp drizzle, as the December rains had made an appearance and certainly did not seem to want to let up!  However, releasing of cats is best done when the rains arrive as there will be plenty of prey out there for them.

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Next were the two girls, Quickbeam appeared to have more resistance to the oral sedative and so we decided to rather give her the rabies vaccination with a pole syringe rather than have her fully unconscious.

Arwen proved to be the hardest to work with as she is incredibly elusive, so making sure she took the oral sedative fully proved to be a challenge. She too fought the drug and so had to finally be sedated with further drugs via a pole syringe. It was in these moments of dealing with Arwen under sedation that I finally realised that what we were doing for her was the kindest and greatest gift for this animal. Arwen has physically dropped a fair amount of condition in the preceding months, despite being dewormed and her food being increased. On removing the collar we also saw that it had been rubbing on her neck, knotting the fur and must have been uncomfortable to some degree. I felt sick knowing that I had imposed this discomfort on this animal against her will (although she accepted the collar and did not fight it). I also knew at that point that I would never put another collar on her again. Was Arwen trying to tell us that she had quiet simply, lost interest in life and wanted to be free?! To her the safety of the release enclosure was becoming more and more like a prison, and she was losing interest in life rapidly.

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After all the procedures were done, it was time to let the cats all recover from the ordeal. We gave them a full day to allow all drugs to work out of their systems and to give them a very good feed! First on the menu…….. fresh guinea fowl!

The following day was the day of the release. Evenstar was to be the first to venture out the gate, having briefly re-acquainted with his mother and sister in the main enclosure. Watching him stride tenaciously through the gate was like watching your child head off to university – only for Even, this is the University of Life! We followed him like anxious parents, a fair enough distance away so as not to intimidate him, but just enough to maintain contact, albeit through the rhythmic beep of his collar. After about an hour it was apparent that he was going to take his time getting to know the immediate vicinity, so it was time to concentrate on the girls.

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They however, did not seem as keen as Evenstar to venture out the gate under an audience; in fact they plain refused to go out even with the main gate open at 3 meters wide! So, passive tactics were employed – they were left to settle, for a couple of hours whilst we went back to the drawing board to sort out a camera trap. Coming back in the late afternoon – we set up the trap at the gate, and everyone left the area except me. We decided the fewer observers the more likely the girls would venture out at their own speed so I settled down in an unobtrusive spot to see what the girls would do.

Curiosity certainly overcame Quick as after a fair number of times sweeping past the wide open gate she decided to venture out. Her flicking tail reflected her indecisiveness, but she eventually stepped over the boundary, majestic little princess! Not even ten minutes into her new adventure, Quick had a close encounter of the wild kind – a pair of black-back jackal boys who were obviously regulars in the area. They trotted up to her firmly, ears flat, teeth bare, emitting little growly snarls and backs arched. Their demeanour was not necessarily fully aggressive, but they were indignant about this new arrival on their turf. Quick remained aloof and regal – held her ground and stretched that elegant neck just a little higher and longer than normal so she could look down on them. Her only hint of unease was the swishing of the tail tip. I, the heart in the mouth anxious human, camera tightly gripped in hand, held the moment for as long as I could before the wave of utter horrific imagination of “what could happen” overcame me. The only response I could fully justify (which thankfully was not to run and shout at the jackals like a hysterical human) was to do a poor impression of an impala snort! I am pleased to say that this produced the desired result of the jackals breaking their intense scrutiny of Quick and trotting off. Quick however did shoot me a rather withering look – you know the “I had it under control” type.

After that Quick continued her slow inspection of the “wild” and I was especially excited to note that she was heading in the same direction as her brother, Evenstar. I stayed put, watching for as long as I could in the fading light.

Arwen chose to remain as private as possible, not showing herself near the gate during the time I sat and waited. Again being human, I suppose I sought the self-gratification of seeing her walk free, whilst it was a moment for her to savour and her alone. We did manage to get a hint and a blur of a cat exiting the release boma much later that evening on the camera trap, which to our best presumption, was Arwen finally taking steps towards her independence.

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From that day till this current date, there has been no conclusive sign of either Quick or Arwen. Evenstar has been tracked and found to be ranging further and further away, until the point that he has not been detected for over a week, possibly longer by the time our Readers see this report.

From a research point of view, this really has not been an ideal release. When there is no successful post release monitoring, it creates a gap in the information that we are trying to gather. But, perhaps this in itself is the lesson for these particular servals and in this specific situation. When one chooses the best circumstance for the individual animal, it is not always to say that the “science” will necessarily follow. Perhaps however the hardest reality of this whole event is to realise that freedom cannot be compartmentalized, it cannot be tamed with a tracking collar, or modified with behaviour training. When an animal accepts that freedom – it is all-consuming and forever. We as the people, who work with animals and feel it important enough to give them, this gift, must realise that it is the hardest and yet most unselfish thing we can do for them. There is also no guarantee that it will work or that the animal will strive in his or her new found freedom. We can only wait, watch and hope.

Rafiki on the move again

Dear Readers,

The prodigal Serval has become the wondering Serval! Rafiki is on the move again, this time hopefully to settle for the final time at Bushman Rock Estates where he will have the other serval company that he is so desperately seeking.

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 After much deliberation we have come to a hard and fast conclusion: the Trust headquarters, although a veritable paradise in its own right, is simply not good enough for one lonely serval. Rafiki is a quiet cat by nature but is not entirely as solitary as the guide books would have us believe. He has always been around other serval, from being constantly with his mother, Muffet, to now not having anyone around, seems to have affected him deeply. Even when Muffet was released and Rafiki remained in the release boma, she would come and check on her son, so he had the comfort of always knowing that Mum was near. So Rafiki has gone to join the Bushman Rock Estates serval clan, who include Bilbo, Gandalf and Shenzi. Rafiki and Shenzi are in fact distantly related, so hopefully he will recognise this kinship and it will make him a little more secure.

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As normal, in order to move Rafiki (as he is not totally hand tame – he was raised by his mother) we had to give him a light cocktail in a chicken head to make him sleepy. Our drug of choice is Dormicum ® (Midazolam for those who know the chemical terminology). At the Tikki Hywood Trust we have done extensive work with oral administration of Dormicum ® , as a less invasive method of sedating a captive animal. (as opposed to injecting the sedative). One of the wonderful, though potentially hazardous side effects of dormicum, is that the animal loses all fear of humans, and will often walk right up to you and allow you to touch them.

 

There is nothing that can fully describe the feeling of stroking a magnificent half king serval from the top of his broad head to the tip of his short, silky  tail, and him returning your gaze and responding with a companionable lick of his sand paper tongue!  This from a cat, who would normally crouch defensively, and hiss loudly with saliva flowing in warning!  In these magical moments one tends to forget all the problems, troubles and strife and remember why it is that we do what do for wildlife!

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Muffet – The End Story

 

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Today has to be one of the saddest days of my conservation journey. I was informed that Muffet had been shot – killed! Muffet is dead! Those words just keep going around and around in my head. How, why, for what – questions and then more questions. At the end of the day – questions are irrelevant as Muffet is dead and nothing that is said or done will bring her back.

Muffet arrived in a Bata shoe box 11 years ago. This tiny, blind, deaf and very noisy little bundle of fur. I was a very green adoptive mother and Muffet was the first carnivore that I ever raised. Even though Muffet had a brother Tigger, it was to be Muffet who would be more of a teacher to me over the many years of life together which we were to explore. Life with Muffet was to be an adventure as well as a nightmare on the odd occasions. At first I did not even know how to feed her and Tigger, there seemed to be more milk on them than in them. Muffet was an incredibly small serval which made everything so much more terrifying for me. Every conceivable illness which a young orphan could get – Muffet got. I can remember one night it was obvious that Muffet was ill, she was vomiting, had diarrhoea and a very sore stomach. Even after being on antibiotics, nothing seemingly worked. At my wits end I drove in from the farm which is an hour’s drive from town to see Dr Chris Foggin. My opening comment was there something so wrong and I can not fix her!! Chris very calmly gave Muffet an anti spasmodic and stated that I perhaps needed a valium and an early night!

Muffet survived kitten hood. Being very set in her ways and with a very definite idea as to who she was and what she wanted. Muffet was tame towards me but very otherwise with anyone else. She seemed destined for being a wild animal. Being so small I always felt very maternal towards her and worried that should she be released then perhaps she would not make the grade due to her size – I had forgotten to take into consideration the size of Muffet’s heart.

 

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Once Muffet had reached adulthood, she was introduced to William to see if she would be if she could conceive, give birth and raise her young. It was like a duck being introduced to water. Muffet had William exactly where she wanted him and ruled the roost! When she was nearly ready to give birth, we removed William and started getting Muffet ready for the next big step in her life. Duke and Duchess were born on 12 August 2003, Muffet was fantastic and I got to see my first serval birth. These two perfectly formed kittens arrived in the basket. No sooner had Duchess arrived, that Muffet start making a lot of calling noises. She kept running from the basket to the gate, no at all interested in being with the kittens. I would pick her up and put her into the basket and try and get the kittens to latch onto a nipple so that they could drink. But Muffet was not having any of that – no way! After nine hours of trying everything that I could think of to make Muffet accept the kittens, I decided it would be better that I remove them and start hand raising them myself. During the experience Muffet never once showed any aggression towards me, even when I finally removed the kittens and carried them away.

 

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For reasons, which even today I do not fully understand, Muffet touched my life. She became a friend as well as a teacher through out our 11 year journey. Through the farm invasions, I realised just how important we as human handlers with wildlife grow to be one with the animals we care for. That when their routine is changed, it affects them; they sense the struggles and battles which we are experiencing on their behalf. Shortly after the farm invasion, I had to make the decision to either retire Muffet to a life in captivity or plan to release her before she became too old. Release was decided. If you knew Muffet you knew that she wanted to experience the pleasures of being a wild animal. Stalking, hunting and then the final kill, Muffet wanted all of those gifts. With a very heavy heart Muffet went to Marula on 13th June 2006, to get use to her new environment. She settled very well and it was soon evident that she wanted to go free. Six months later, in December 2006, the enclosure door was opened and Muffet walked into the wild with confidence, as well as a little bit of arrogance. Not once did Muffet look back from that moment. After Muffet had been released, it was at least six months and I decided to go and visit her in her new found freedom, so that I had peace of mind that releasing her was the right thing to do. Of course, the day I arrive at Stonehills, Muffet’s signal could not be located. The next day we still could not find Muffet. With each passing day, my anxiety levels increased together with concerns of what might have happened. Then on the fourth day, Mabena (scout tasked with tracking Muffet) radioed through that he had found her signal. Action stations!!! Richard, Bookey and I jumped into the vehicle with meat just in case we found her in bad condition and headed off in the direction of where Mabena had located the signal.

With my heart pounding and my hands sweating, I had a million and one thoughts going through my head. “Would Muffet remember me, would she be aggressive towards me?” I could barely contain myself with excitement, nervousness as well as fear of not knowing how either Muffet or I would react. We reached the area where the signal had been detected by Mabena. We all got out of the vehicle and started walking in the direction of where the beep beeps were coming from. After five or so minutes I started calling Muffet’s name, the excitement was just too much for me and the scientific way of telemetry was not good enough for me at this moment. As soon as I started calling, I heard a meow in return. Muffet had recognised my call!!! It could have been a scene from some romantic movie, one side a woman running and calling and the other side a serval running, meowing and jumping! Once we reached each other, Muffet allowed me to stroke her and play with her, there was absolutely no aggression, hissing or biting. We just talked and walked and for that moment the world stopped and there was nothing that was more important, than Muffet and I bonding once again after a long separation. I fed Muffet some of the meat we had brought, she accepted it but not because she was hungry (as she was in very good condition) but because I had been her mother and accepting the meat is a form of submission in the animal world. Muffet then took me on a walk, marking the trees and allowing me to stroke her as we went. After what seemed like hours, Muffet lay down and I lay next to her, just talking and being with her was like nothing I could explain or put into words. Here was this adult serval who I had nurtured from a kitten; we had survived the land invasions together, moving from one facility to another as well as the release. Now here Muffet was in the place she belonged the wild and at the same time allowing me to interact with her. Just when I felt we were getting really comfortable, Muffet stood up, as I stood up to follow her she hissed at me, making me stop in my tracks. This was the end of the road! Muffet had reunited with me and allowed me to see her world for only as long as it would take for me to be satisfied that she was ok and belonged in the world that she now existed in. Muffet slowly walked away, every so often looking back and hissing at me. As we drove back away from the area where we had just left Muffet, I was sad and over whelmed at the same time. Sad because out here in this world I could not protect Muffet and feared that Muffet did not understand or know half of the dangers which could and would face her, sad because she had been my baby and now was all grown up and able to take care of herself. She had returned to the wild successfully after being born and raised in captivity – this is huge, this is over whelming.

So now I sit here writing about a beautiful cat that had entered my life and had affected me in many more ways than I would ever know. She mapped out the way for so many other orphaned serval in captivity and serval who are to be released. I had let her down; I was not there to protect her from the fate which was to be her ultimate death. How do we protect wildlife in a country like Zimbabwe? Is there a future for these wild creatures, who stories are made from and who roam our land with no malice? In my hearts of hearts I fear that Zimbabwe can not protect her wildlife unless massive changes are made, and the land tenure and law and order are restored. I have reached a turning point once again in my conservation journey thanks to Muffet. My heart is very heavy.

The Trust will do everything we can with the help of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Authority to prosecute the culprit. However no matter what we do, Muffet is gone. Her light has been snuffed out by man, and with her death, a light has been blown out in my life.

 

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In Loving Memory Of Muffet 1998 – 2009
Buddhist saying:
Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
 

Return of the Prodical Serval

 

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Rafiki has returned home! How odd does that sound? Here at the Trust, we spend every day preparing these animals, which remain in our care, for their return to the wild. Believing, in our hearts that freedom is the ultimate joy which any mammal would want to attain. How wrong were we when it came to Rafiki!

Rafiki entered this world on 12 October 2005. Being the only offspring in this litter, sired by Muffet and Geronimo, Rafiki’s genetics were very strong or so we thought! We felt that Rafiki was bound to have a will of his own and if he did not get his own way – a fairly bad attitude, similar to that of both his parents! He could not have been more of the opposite, Rafiki was a timid kitten, who stayed very close to mum at all times, even when Muffet was hissing and spitting at the poor little fellow. As he grew up, Rafiki’s nature continue to be a gentle one. Even though he was totally raised by Muffet, Rafiki was happy to have human interaction from an early age. As he developed into an adult serval, he remained calm and totally accepting of a captive life. Muffet of course had developed an increasing desire to want more from life than captivity. And so, it was decided that the serval mother and son would be released at Stonehills Wildlife Sanctuary in Marula. As Muffet was reaching an age where I felt she would soon, be too old to be released. On 14 June 2006, Muffet and Rafiki were crated and travelled with Lisa to Stonehills Wildlife Sanctuary, where, with the support and help of both Richard and Bookey Peek, a release site had been developed.

Muffet being bold as brass, walked out of her travel crate and started to explore. Rafiki on the other hand was not so bold and remained in his crate for most of the day. In fact it was only with food that we were able to entice him out of the security of his crate. In December 2006, Muffet being totally ready and wanting to explore her new environment was released into ‘freedom’. As Rafiki was still rather young and growing, he was not released until December 2007, when he was now 2 years of age an old enough to have a collar fitted.

Release for Rafiki was not as smooth as it had been for Muffet. For the first few days Rafiki did not really explore very far from his enclosure. Then on the 10 January 2008, we lost his signal for four days. Thankfully on the 15 January he was located just outside the main boundary fence. As soon as he saw and heard familiar people, he came running towards them. He was very thin and extremely hungry. His left back leg had a wound and he was limping. His coat was very matte, and altogether he was a very unhappy serval. It was decided he needed to be recaptured and nursed back to good health. Two dormicum (sedative) were administered in a piece of meat and 30 minutes later, he was calm enough to move him into a crate and back into his familiar enclosure. After looking at his injury, it seemed likely Rafiki had crossed paths with a large male serval also seen in the area, and had received a rather meaningful telling off. This was enough for Rafiki to confirm his insecurities, and he just wanted to come back to a safe and familiar environment. He had found it difficult to hunt, which is unusual for a serval as most of them are hunting in captivity from very early on in their lives.

So, where do we go, from here with Rafiki? This is a very good question. As with the current land issues still facing Zimbabwe, the Tikki Hywood Trust has implanted all the female species, so that they can not breed for the next 18 months. The animals we have implanted have not had research done on them with these implants which is a very good chance for us to try and monitor them and document our findings. As we all know when it comes to smaller mammals, they all too often are forgotten. The first step with Rafiki, is to improve his condition and then see if we can recondition him to a captive world. Having king serval genetics, he is rather different to the other serval we have had, which may prove important in the future. It is hoped the Rafiki will become an ambassador for his species however we are a very long way from that, as he is not at all tame. But for me Rafiki’s story has made me stop and think! Like with the human race each and every animal that passes our way has a character of their own. Not every animal wants to be wild, not every animal has the strength of character to be released, and this is something which we must take in to account when dealing with the future life of these animals. To see a wild animal roaming freely in an environment it was born into is one thing, but to know that I have returned an animal into an environment where he is scared, unable to hunt successfully and not at peace, is something that I do not want to be responsible for.

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Rafiki’s parents : Above : Geronimo his father,

 

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Above– Muffet his mother.

For Rafiki, we have recorded the following measurements when he was collared for the first release:

DATE                                 29-Oct-07
NAME                                Rafiki
SEX                                     Male
SPECIES                            Serval
ARKS NO.                          SVA501
CAPTIVE BORN               Yes

BODY MEASUREMENTS
Body length (Crown to rump)                                 77.5 cm
Ear length Inner                                                            8 cm
Girth (at last set of ribs)                                            43 cm
Head (tip of nose to crown)                                       11 cm
Length front paw to elbow (at rest)                        32 cm
Length back paw to hock (at rest)                       19.5 cm
Circumference of neck                                             26 cm
Circumference of scrotum                                     11.5 cm
Length of scrotum (anus to bottom of scrotum)    4 cm
Ground to top of shoulder (standing height)        51 cm
Length of tail                                                          32.5 cm
Length of canines upper left / right                         1.5 cm 2 cm

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OR MARKS / EYE COLOUR Jet black spots. 4 stripes to end of rib cage – he is a half king serval. 2 solid matching stripes bending on inside of front legs.

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Return to Nature – Mufasa

Mufasa as a baby

Mufasa as as kitten

On 28 February 2009, Mufasa was released at Chishakwe Ranch which is part of the SAVE Valley Conservancy in the south eastern part of Zimbabwe’s lowveld. Mufasa was rather reluctant to just walk out of his new enclosure which had been his home for the past three months. It took us a lot of enticing to get Mufasa to the open gate where we had placed meat. However, once he saw the open gate, he grabbed a piece of the meat and headed off into the veld surrounding the enclosure. Both Nick and I had the telemetry a receiver so that we could track Mufasa. At first he headed north, which was not quite where we wanted him to go, but he needed to explore on his own. This is his first time into the wild and I had the privilege of being a part of that. Once we had managed to redirect Mufasa from continuing his exploration to the North, we left him for an hour to be on his own. Later that same evening, we went back out to track Mufasa. At first I could not get a reading – you can just imagine my panic, the thoughts which travelled through my mind! Has he been attacked, killed? After 20 or so minutes the “beep beep” was heard and my heart relaxed! It is one thing to hear the beep and quite another to actually locate the animal which you are tracking. But after a while, there Mufasa stood, totally relaxed and at ease with our presence. There was, lots to tell about this new adventure. So over the next 20 minutes Mufasa and I walked together in the bush. It does not get better than this feeling. To walk and observe an animal whom you have raised – finally being free and doing what it is that wild animals do, is priceless. With him spraying branches and trees and talking all the while, it made me realise that Mufasa was where he was born to be. He came back to the enclosures, called to Arwen and then trotted back through his gate and into his own enclosure. I followed. Once in his enclosure, he started calling and making a lot of noise. Pawing and scratching at the ground, very excited, and chuffing all the while.

Mufasa coming out of his crate

Mufasa coming out of the crate when first moved to Chishakwe Ranch

Mufasa was hand raised by myself (Lisa) and obviously a bond had developed over time, between us. As a human, I am always surprised at my own selfishness in wanting to keep all the animals I raise – just so that I know they are safe forever, and that I know that every day they have food, warmth and what I think they need. But do we as humans really know what these wild creatures need? With each release I am sure a piece of my heart goes with each one of these animals, who have become part of my family. However, when I finally do have the joy of seeing them, walking freely in what is their new freedom – I realise that there is still, so much that we do not understand and that being wild is a gift beyond measure, which as humans, we can give to our fellow mammals, whom we share this planet with. Releasing is a very emotional step which I continue to struggle with even after doing it for so many years. Each animal who takes their first steps into the wild, makes my heart stop and my mind full of what can go wrong. It is so difficult being wild, when you are born into it. So to be captive born, with all the theoretical warmth and comfort that goes with that, and then enter into this new world, has so much against these captive born animals. Have we prepared them sufficiently, will they know how to react to all the new dangerous situations that they might find themselves in? Only time, will tell and we will be the first to report back to you re the adventures in the wild.

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Update on Arwen and the babies

Dear Readers,

It is a month since Arwen gave birth to Evenstar and Quickbeam. In a country where chaos reigns it is amazing to see this precious gift to the world in the form of two perfect little furry bundles. It never ceases to amaze me just how much there is to learn, each animal who enters my world has so much to teach me. Evenstar and Quickbeam are no different. Incidentally, these two new additions to our family are named after Tolkien characters from the Lord of the Rings trilogy – as is their mother. Evenstar was named first (the first to appear!) and then Quickbeam.
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For a first time mother, Arwen has been brilliant. She is very relaxed showing no signs of aggression toward me when approaching her kittens. This is unusual, as normally with the serval, if the mother decides to raise her babies on her own she becomes very protective over her kittens and does not allow their human caretaker anywhere close to the kittens. She has cleaned and fed her kittens diligently since their birth. The first litter is always a difficult litter for both the human caretakers as well as the natural mother. Many first time litters are abandoned or do not survive due to the mothers inexperience. Even though Arwen is only two years old, which is still young for a serval, she has been an incredible mum. Because of this I have left the kittens with her in the hope that together the three of us can adjust to a different way of raising the kittens. The natural mother is always the best option, as there is no substitute for mother’s milk. However being in captivity it is also important that we as the caretakers can manage the animals so as to monitor things such as parasite control, de worming and weighing. If the kittens grow up not being happy in our company it makes life in captivity both difficult for us as well as them. Our aim here at the Trust is to always minimalize all forms of stress. We do not believe that ‘knocking down’ an animal every time you have to treat him or her is very good for the animal. So we aim for each animal to be content in this environment, to alleviate any stress. Even when an animal has been hand raised, there normally comes a time when this animals natural instincts kick in and they want to be returned to the wild. In my experience the average time when an animal develops this natural urge is shortly after mating – this is even more apparent with the males. Each night when it comes time to feed Arwen, we move her into a neighbouring enclosure, ( our enclosures are interlinked in such a way that we can rotate the animals with ease) she then starts to eat her daily dinner whilst I go into her enclosure to be with the kittens. I spend a minimum of 20 minutes with the kittens where I talk to them and start to introduce myself to them so that they are not scared of me and will adjusted to being handled and interacted with. The feeling is quite remarkable, when sitting in amongst the foliage with these two furry bundles and they wobble unsteadily up to me, unafraid and typically cat-curious! It has been phenomenal how accepting Arwen is of the whole situation. Whilst eating her evening meal she is relaxed and her youth betrays her in playful exploration of the new smells and the odd floating rubber duck in the pond. This is all a totally new concept to me as under normal circumstances the mother serval would not be so trusting. When she is re-united with her babies, Arwen spends a lot of time smelling my smell near them, and they then get a thorough bathing! I hope that we can continue on this vein and that Evenstar and Quickbeam will come to see me as the second mother, or at the very least a devoted member of the family.

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The Tikki Hywood Trust would like to thank all our Blog readers, as well as Wildlife Direct, who have been so understanding and supportive of our current situation here in Zimbabwe. Each day brings with it a new, and interesting challenges. When the economic climate faces total decline, you realise just how cheap life becomes. The carnage continues in both the human and wildlife world here in Zimbabwe. The strength of the Zimbabwe person has been amazing.

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Frodo’s Release – News Flash

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The Tikki Hywood Trust is delighted to report that Frodo is now in the final stage of being released. On the 12 April 2008, Frodo was sedated, for what we hope will be the last time in his life and fitted with a radio collar. Once he was crated, Frodo travelled to the Matendere Ranch which is situated in the SAVÉ Valley in the Southeast Lowveld of Zimbabwe.

For all of us this was a very happy day. As Frodo has not only been incredibly patient and brave but has survived an ordeal second to none on his road to recovery. Over the years I have come to realise that sometimes an animal enters your life, and you are the one who has to learn a tremendous lesson. Frodo, I believe has been one such lesson for me. Since his accident we have seen an awe-inspiring will to over come all the difficult obstacles which he was presented with. Frodo’s recovery is not only about him overcoming a broken limb, but how Frodo taught us to be better at the undertaking of returning animals back to the wild.

The mentality of a wild animal is one which still has so much misunderstanding I believe. Only to often we as humans, are arrogant enough to assume that we know what is best for an animal. The question is: “do we”? With 14 years of working with wild animals, I can quite honestly say that for me, each animal is different and with that comes a unique character. So to generalize is not possible, but with a guideline of how difficult it is to survive in the wild as a wild animal we have to make sure we have given each animal destined for release the best possible opportunity. With Frodo, even though his injuries are against his release into the wild, the fact that he came from the wild is an enormous bonus. This young serval had survived, if not well he had made it to at least 6 months of age on his own.

Lisa collaring Frodo

For any wild animal to come from an environment of no rules and unlimited space, then to a crate and complete and utter capture – must in itself be nothing short of complete mental anguish. Yet Frodo, who entered our lives from the wild and remained in a crate for 23 days, began to feed from our hands with the use of tweezers, drink milk (which contained his daily antibiotics and sedatives) from a bowl. He allowed us to spray wound spray on his bare and exposed hind leg wounds. During this all I asked myself, “what innocence allows an animal to trust us to such an extent? What must be going through Frodo’s mind whilst we went through the daily routine of dressing his wounds, feeding him and moving him from one crate to another so that we could clean?” I have no answers, only admiration for this animal.

In conclusion to Frodo and his final release, we at the Trust have gained a tremendous amount of experience. As with any animal the emotive side, is huge and affects each and every one of us differently. It has to be said that there have been many a moment when I wondered whether we were doing the right thing by Frodo. Operation after operation, close confinement, trauma and then again more trauma! My heart has on so many occasions gone out to Frodo. Were we really doing what was right for Frodo or rather what we felt was right for us? This is a hard and strong question but one which we at the Trust have to ask on so many occasions. After much deliberation it was decided that with Frodo we would stop at nothing except to do everything in our capabilities to return him to the wild as a healthy animal. For me Frodo has been a great patient and teacher. There is a remarkable difference between a captive born animal and a wild animal brought into captivity. There is an extreme potential for stress to be caused and one thing our experience with Frodo’s has confirmed, is that no wild animal should ever be taken out of its natural environment for any reason what so ever!!! The stress is far too much; at this point we do not know what the long term physiological results will be to Frodo. However by collaring him we will be able to monitor his progress back into the wild. It is vital to collect the data on Frodo once he has been released to see how he can fend for himself as well as to see how he is able to interact with other serval and the other wild animals in the area where we have released him. Has Frodo been a success? From a surgical point of view – yes, from being released it is too soon for us to know. What I do know is that right now Frodo is more content than he has been for the past six months. He is in a wild enclosure, with the sounds of the wild surrounding him both day and night, natural prey such as guinea fowl and doves for supper and more importantly, space. For now my heart rests a littler easier for Frodo than it has done in the last six months.

With any project, great efforts are made by many people. What each person brings to a wild animals, return to the wild is immense. Frodo’s return has been made possible due to the support of so many of you. The Tikki Hywood Trust would like to sincerely thank you all and the following people and organisations, without whom Frodo would not have made it this far.

Note the photo below showing Frodo’s leg all healed.

Frodo broken leg healed

Frodo after final op

This is Frodo’s leg after the final operation.

Frodo’s return to the wild has been a joint venture with the AWARE Trust. The Tikki Hywood Trust would like to thank Dr Keith Dutlow and Dr Lisa Marabini of the AWARE Trust for their hard work and persistence towards the long road to recovery of Frodo over the past six months. Dr Keith Dutlow and Dr Lisa Marabini of the AWARE Trust performed surgery on Frodo, and covered his surgical expenses. The AWARE Trust also paid for the majority of the medical treatment of Frodo, and constructed a convalescing enclosure for him.

Beit Trust
Brilley Nicholson
Chris Foggin
Croplink
Department of National Parks & Wildlife Management
Geoff and Kim Hoody
Irvines Chickens
Judy and Leon du Plessis
Mim Bauman
Paule and Kim Wolf
Save Australia

Note to Readers,

Thank you all for reading about Frodo. For those who might be further interested, we can email  you a spreadsheet detailing major events and operations.

Rafiki’s Story

Rafiki’s story:

Sire: Geronimo
Dam: Muffet (4th Litter)
Sex: Male
Origin: Born at THT
Date of Birth: 12th October 2005
Littermate: none.
Other Siblings: Nala

Rafiki

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).

Road to being wild – Muffets story (female serval part 2)

When a captive bred animal returns to the wild it is no mean feat. There is a considerable amount of preparation which is required for both the animal being released and the community surrounding the area in which the release is to take place. With any release the management team on the ground is vital for the release to be successful.

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At Stone Hills the management team which consists of Bookey & Richard Peek, Mabhena (Scout), Khanye (Community liaison officer & Scout) have all been incredibly instrumental in making the release of these animals a success. The communities which surround Stone Hills have been visited by the management team and the value of these animals and their importance has been explained to them. Some of the children of these farmers in the surrounding communities are students of the local primary school, Marula, which is where the Tikki Hywood Trust has developed and implemented the “Kusanganisa” educational program. The importance of this community liaison is evident in the results achieved by Khanye when visiting the surrounding communities – on one such visit he persuaded the people to remove snares set around their maize fields.

On the 29th of Jan 2007 Muffet was sighted near the enclosure. When Bookey went out to investigate the reasons for her return she realised that Muffet wanted to re-enter the enclosure and she was very hungry. In 2006/2007 the southern part of Zimbabwe experienced a drought. The effects of any drought impact heavily on carnivores and is essentially due to the lack of prey; e.g. rodents, birds etc. On discussion with THT & Stone Hills, it was agreed that due to the severity of the drought, it would be better to leave Muffet inside the enclosure and await the next rains. Perhaps many of you who are reading this excerpt, are wondering why we allowed Muffet to go back in the enclosure. The reason quite simply is that the THT belief on releasing any animal is to keep that animal’s welfare intact and themselves in peak condition for as long as possible, so that animal may go on and procreate to give rise to a wild generation of offspring. They ultimately form the breeding nuclei who restock the area in which they are released and in addition, provide us with a closer insight as to their habits and behaviours in the wild. These animals which are bred in captivity are a lifetime commitment, and I feel that this is something that is often overlooked or not given the importance it deserves.

To continue the story – Muffet remained in the enclosure with Rafiki during the dry months. At the first release, both Muffet and Rafiki were given the opportunity to exit the enclosure, but Rafiki simply did not go! We put this down to immaturity or insecurity or both, and thus we made the decision to keep him in the enclosure until he gained confidence in himself. With the release of any animal, it is up to the individual animal to decide as to whether they wish to exit the release enclosure or not. Technically this is referred to as a “soft” release as the animal is given the option to stay or to go. Why do we do this? – it is vital that the animal being released feels comfortable and confident in the new surroundings, so the first thing they do when exiting the enclosure is not to bolt. They form a new breeding nucleus so therefore it is important that they remain in the area where they are released so that they can also be monitored.

During the period that Muffet was back in the enclosure with Rafiki, we had the opportunity to address some problems that we had with her tracking collar. Being a petite serval, the current collar was slightly loose fitting and would swivel around her neck. The result was irritating to her, to the extent that she actually chewed on the antenna and eventually bit the end off!

With good rains, the avifauna and the rodent populations had re-established themselves to acceptable levels for the re-release of Muffet & Rafiki. The date decided on was 17th Dec 2007. Prior to this date, Muffet was chomping at the bit and ready to go. Her condition had been restored to its former glory and she was fit and ready for release. Rafiki on the other hand, never having experienced the wild, did know what to expect. The night before the release, both cats received larger portions of food than normal in preparation for the potential of not eating for a couple of days post release. The gate was opened early evening, just after feed time. Muffet strolled out with all the assurety and confidence she had shown the first time. Tail twitching, ears forward, she strode into the environment which was now familiar to her. Rafiki on the other hand sat and watched as his mother walked further and further away from him.

As Muffet left him behind to contemplate his situation we were concerned that Rafiki would again show a lack of confidence and stay in the enclosure.

Brief Individual Serval Histories

Muffet : Received in April 2000 and released in June 2006 at Stone Hills Sanctuary, Marula.
Tigger: Received in April 2000, littermate to Muffet, released in August 2004 on Cawston Ranch.
Tom Cat: Received as an adult male problematic animal from ostrich farm. Received in 2000 and was soft released on Triandra in 2000.
Bakita: born in March 2000, she was received as an orphan along with her littermate, William. She was released on Triandra in 2001 and later mated with Tom Cat in the wild.

William: born in March 2000 and received as an orphan along with littermate Bakita. These two kittens were raised at the same time as Muffet and Tigger at the Trust.

Cleo: Rescued adult female, came to Trust amidst land issues in mid 2002 via Mukuvisi Woodlands Wildlife park, Harare. For a wild born cat she settled into captivity and had a gentle and loving nature. She produced 5 litters with William, but unfortunately died in September 2006 before she could be released.

Zoey: Received in early 2002 as a year old serval as a donation from another facility, she remained a nervous cat. Unexpectedly she died in May 2002, after having spend a short few months with the Trust. Cause of death is not conclusive.

Tilly: Raised at another wildlife orphanage facility, Tilly came to the Trust as a mature serval. Ideally, she was going to form part of a breeding nucleus at Chedgelow Farm together with Esmeralda and Duke. Esmeralda released herself prematurely, leaving Duke and Tilly in the enclosure together. Duke mated with Tilly, but she subsequently lost all three kittens. It was then decided to bring Tilly back to the Trust and let her breed again to see if she could have another litter successfully. Back at the Trust she bred with Geronimo to produce a litter of 3. One of the babies was extremely small and died shortly after birth. The second survived for ten days and then died, cause unknown. Tilly ate both dead kittens (which is expected) but the third survived and is a happy, healthy female – Arwen. When Arwen was old enough to be weaned Tilly was then relocated to the Mavuradohna release site with Geronimo. They mated once again there but tragically the kittens did not survive. Tilly was released in May 2007 from the enclosure collared and was unfortunately killed in June 2007.

Tilly & Arwen

Gandalf : Obtained from Private Farm in Goromonzi, a chicken farm, in April 2007. The farmer thought a snake killing his chickens, went to dig out ‘snake burrow’ and found two male serval kittens approximately one month old. The farmer was going to destroy them but was persuaded to allow them to come to Tikki Hywood Trust. Birth date was then estimated to be sometime in March 2007. They were raised at the Trust until Gandalf was separated from his sibling as he was very aggressive and it was hoped that by separating them they might calm down. Both young serval were then subsequently relocated to Bushman Rock Estates release site for their eventual release.

Bilbo: Sibling to Gandalf, born in March 2007. Bilbo was raised at the Trust until moved to Bushman Rock Estates release site with his brother. It is hoped that Bilbo will mate with Shenzi at the release site before his release.

Bilbo & Gandalf orphans

OFFSPRING BORN THROUGH TRUST BREEDING

Matings of Cleo & William:

1st Litter : Born on 20th August 2002, one female kitten was born and she only lived for 5 days. A post-mortem was performed and it seems the baby died of lack of food.

2nd Litter: Born on 25th January 2003, a male and female. These kittens were hand raised by Lisa as Cleo did not seem to accept them. This is often the case with inexperienced mothers in the wild.
Geronimo: Mated with other females in the program before being collared and taken to a soft release boma in the Mavuradohna wilderness area in November 2006. Was released in early 2007.
Esmeralda: Was never bred to any of the other males in the program as she had an aggressive nature and this is brought into consideration for captive breeding. She was taken to Chedgelow Farm for release but managed to release herself early from the enclosure. She has been sighted on the farm since.

3rd Litter: Born on 7th June 2003 , a female kitten.
Makaviti: Makaviti was Cleo’s second litter and she performed the labour and raising by herself with no difficulties or any of the stress seen with her first litter. Makaviti was always destined to be released as soon as possible. She was released on Cawston Ranch in the Nyamandlovu region in Sep 2004.

4th Litter: Born on 17th December 2003, a single male kitten.
Rumpole : Also raised by his mother Cleo, grew up without any complications and was placed in the release program at Cawston Ranch in September 2004 along with his older sibling Makaviti.

5th Litter: Born on 29th August 2004, 4 kittens, all males!
Oscar: Was a weak kitten at birth and was rejected by his mother Cleo. Lisa continued to hand raise him (whilst Cleo continued to raise the other 3 males herself). Oscar unfortunately died at one month old and post mortem revealed that he had kidney malfunction and water on the brain.
Ed , Scar , Zazu: Cleo raised these three kittens until they were 3 months old and then abandoned them. Lisa then raised them until they were old enough to go into an enclosure by themselves and they were released together on Triandra in May 2005.

Matings of Muffet & William:

1st Litter: Born on 12th august 2003, two kittens, male and female.
Duke: As is the case with a lot of first litters, Muffet had no interest in the kittens and they were subsequently hand-raised by Lisa. Duke was relocated to Chedgelow Farm for release once he was mature and subsequently mated with Tilly who was in the same enclosure. After mating, Duke released himself out of the enclosure on 6th February 2006.
Duchess: This serval was unfortunately born with a condition known as myopathy (inverted eyelashes). From the ages of three weeks until two months old, all the eyelashes that grew had to be plucked out manually by Lisa with tweezers otherwise infection would set in and her eyes would run continuously. Duchess endured the daily distress of plucking out her eyelashes with an amazing amount of tolerance, although it was painful for her and she cried she never fought with or retaliated against Lisa’s ministrations. She was later operated on to solve the problem and it was a success. It was decided to allow her to mate at the Trust to see if her condition was genetically transferable to her offspring. For this reason she was introduced to Sarabi. Unfortunately, something went very wrong and the outcome was that Duchess had broken the radius and ulna of her right front leg.

2nd Litter: Born on 20th November 2003, male and female.
Mungo: He was a very inquisitive, playful, healthy kitten who looked just like his mother. His destiny was always to be released and this was achieved in Sept 2004 at Cawston Ranch.
Jerry: She was very much more distant than her litter mate Mungo and never really seemed to feel the need to interact with humans. She was successfully released in Sep 2004 at Cawston Ranch.

Matings of Tilly & Duke:

1st Litter : Born on 1st November 2004 3 kittens, sex all unkown and none survived the first day.

Matings of Tilly & Geronimo:

1st Litter: Born on 1st June 2006, 3 kittens, 2 unkown sex, 1 female. Only the last female survived.
Arwen: She was the healthiest of the three kittens and was successfully raised by her mother Tilly. Arwen remains with us at the Trust in the hopes of becoming a breeding female but she will be destined for release after producing her first litter.

2nd Litter: Born on 4th February 2007 2 kittens, both only survived till 7th February 2007 and then died. They were eaten by Tilly.

Matings of Muffet & Geronimo:

1st Litter: 1 female kitten born on 30th August 2004.

Nala: She had a very dark undercoat, rather than being golden with black spots she tended toward dark brown with very black spots and stripes. She was a big, shy cat and spent most of her time up trees. Her mother, Muffet, who was very dominant over her, raised her and they had to be separated at eight months as they were fighting all the time. She was then moved to a release enclosure at Stone Hills Sanctuary where she mated with Sarabi and produced three kittens which she abandoned. (They were then hand raised). She was collared and released from the enclosure in June 2006.

2nd Litter: Born on 12th October 2005, one male and one female.

Rafiki: . Like Nala who is also from Muffet and Geronimo, his coat was a dark golden colour with very black spots. Rafiki, was a healthy kitten who never had any problems. He was raised by his mother but became quite tame. Due to lack of a genetically independent female there was no one for Rafiki to breed with so he was always destined to go for an early release.
He and Muffet were released at Stone Hills in June 2006.

Rafiki

Isabella: Isabella was Rafiki’s littermate, she was rejected by her mother and then hand raised by Lisa until she died at five weeks old. The cause of death is uncertain.

Matings of Sarabi and Nala:

1st litter: Born on 15th April 2006. 3 kittens, two males and one female.

Pumba: After giving birth and allowing the kittens to take a little colostrum, Nala abandoned the kittens, as is quite common with first litters. The kittens were then taken away for hand rearing. Unfortunately they were started on a different milk formula than the one developed by the Trust and they were exposed to bacteria which caused them to become very ill. When the gut infection was diagnosed all three kittens were immediately put onto antibiotics, but sadly it was too late for Pumba and he died on 1st May 2006.

Mufasa: Fortunately was stronger than his male sibling and survived the bacterial infection. He has grown into a beautiful cat with a very calm and gentle nature and we hope that he will take on the role of primary breeding male at the Trust. It is hoped that he will produce his first litter with Arwen.

Mufasa

Shenzi: She has grown into a beautiful cat, with a more forceful personality than her brother. She is very intelligent and has been known to be quite stubborn, but since she was disciplined once, has been much more responsive. She is very well collar trained and will walk with any of her carers. Due to a lack of suitable breeding partners currently at the Trust, Shenzi was relocated to a release site Bushman Rock. It is hoped that she will breed with one of the orphan males, Bilbo and produce a litter before she is collared and released.

Shenzi