Saturday, 27 July 2013

Thembi's Tough Young Life

This female giraffe, Thembi, was nine months old at the beginning of last year’s drought, just weaned, but unable to reach far enough up the trees to the leaves that sustain the adults when the rest have been eaten by other browsers.  Her mother needed to travel constantly in search of food, but Thembi didn’t always have the strength to keep up. Sometimes she would appear, with a slow and unsteady walk, for a brief meal at the raised drums in front of the house, but more often than not, we would find her lying alone in the veld.   By November, we had lost sight of her altogether and were sure that she had met the same fate as the other seven giraffe that had died that year.   But the name "Thembi" comes from “hope” in Sindebele, and the little giraffe had never given up. Somehow, she managed to stagger into summer and though still not as strong as she should be, if she keeps coming in for food, she has a good chance of surviving until the next rains.

Learn more how we are helping Thembi and all the animals at Stone Hills during the drought... [Read More]

Patience, Vicky and the Dassies

Hunger brought them to us, but what an honour it is to have earned
the trust of completely wild animals
These two wild kudu cows, Patience and Vicky, are struggling to support their dependent calves, so we’ve taken to giving them extra feed in a secluded spot behind the house, out of sight of the others.   Originally, I gave them dishes on the ground, but now, they feed from the top of drums.  
And the dassies are the reason why....

The dassie (Heterohyrax) can
balance on the thinnest of twigs to
reach those last leaves.
Hundreds of dassies (hyrax) live on the hill behind the house: around three-quarters of them are Procavia, with a black spot on the back, and the rest are the smaller Heterohyrax, with a yellow-spot. To the inexperienced eye, both are fluffy, endearing little creatures with ironic smiles, who would look equally at home alongside the teddy bears on a nursery shelf, as they do sunning themselves on the rocks of Dibe Hill.

Teddy, an orphaned yellow-spot whom we raised seven years ago at his insistence, comes to my call every afternoon if he is within earshot, then jumps down from the trees to sit on my lap for his bowl of chopped apple.  

Chumley, another yellow-spot, is a recent addition to our house-guests.   He has a crooked back leg, probably from a fall, and has taken to sitting on the dividing wall in the dining room, awaiting a handful of greens from the kitchen.   Both are relatively well behaved.

Dibe Hill, however, is ruled by the far larger and more adaptable dassie, Procavia – in particular some pretty tough-looking individuals like Popeye the Pirate – who was leading the crowd of dassies which began circling the feeding kudu a few days ago, like a pack of wolves.  Before I could stop him, Popeye darted in and instead of taking a bite of food, fastened himself to the end of Vicky’s nose.

What a shock - Poor timorous Vicky, who wouldn’t say boo to a legless lizard, being savaged by an apparently pumped-up guinea pig* with a set of teeth like miniature ice picks!  Well, she threw her head up into the air with an agonized roar -  Popeye still grimly swinging from the end of it – and then flung him skywards, where he executed a couple of graceful somersaults before landing with a thump in the dust.   I rushed over to deliver a swift boot to that fat little bum, but it was already disappearing through the fence.

And now I’m wondering what to do when the cunning devils start swarming up the kudu’s legs and onto the top of the barrels.  Knowing them, when they’ve finished the cubes, they’ll start eating the kudu.

Learn more about how we are helping Patience, Vicky, the dassies and all the animals at Stone Hills during the drought... [Read More]


*Although they resemble large guinea pigs, hyrax are not rodents.  They are in fact related to elephant…(and, I imagine, the sabre-toothed tiger).

Monday, 1 July 2013

We Were in Trouble...

Some of our more vulnerable animals, like this eland bull, have already succumbed to drought.  Without supplementary feeding, all of them will face possible starvation.
Stone Hills has provided sanctuary and care for generations of wild animals, allowing them to live free, undisturbed lives in their natural environment. But a two-year drought has left them with almost no browse or edible grass, and it won’t be long before there is nothing at all to eat.  Our first chance of relief may come only in November, when the rains normally start but that, of course, cannot be guaranteed.

Drought is only one of the huge challenges facing Zimbabwe’s beleaguered wildlife, which is being poached and hunted even in traditionally “protected” areas; shot, stoned, chased with dogs and trapped in wire snares to die deaths of monstrous cruelty.

On Stone Hills we have seven scouts patrolling daily, so poaching is rare, but it is rampant throughout most of the country. Tragically, wildlife conservation is a low priority to the authorities - making it even more crucial for us to safeguard those animals that survive.
[Read more about the drought here]

For a malnourished mother, a calf can be an impossible burden.
It has been a hard decision to ask for help – but ask we did. We hoped you would consider helping us through the drought – not for us, but for the eight hundred and more wonderful animals who depend on Stone Hills for their survival. 

And help you did! In an overwhelming month of generosity from all around the world we raised the funds to purchase 53 tonnes of feed and a futher 15 plus tonnes were donated by Centra, Front-Line Farming and Mac Crawford.

Stone Hills is a safe haven for its animals – a true sanctuary – and they are the reason that we are still here.   Despite all the insecurities of life in Zimbabwe, we are determined to do everything in our power to ensure their survival and the continuation of the project we began 24 years ago. Luckily, we are not alone.  So many people around the world have read our books and seen the honey badger documentary, and they’ve written to us expressing their empathy and support for our work.

In order to save the 800 plus larger ungulates on Stone Hills, we must give them supplementary food until the end of November. The cost is US$25 for each animal, so we needed US$20,000 to get them all through the drought.

This is where you came in – as friends and supporters of our wildlife. With your help, we are giving our animals the future that is rightfully theirs. We are enormously grateful for all assistance you have given, and we promise you that 100% of it has gone to feeding the animals.