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Entry 28D - Fourth Week with the Baboons

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Entry # 28D – Last Days with baboons

Monday, September 18

7:00 Bottles
8:00 Monitor
9:00 Crates
11:00-1:00 Small Babies
3:00-5:00 Nursery Babies

Lee caught me early this morning and asked if I would accompany her to the vet to take two baboons in for blood samples. The Center has seen several cases of cataracts in recent years and they suspect they are from a single male. Therefore, they are blood testing any cases that they see. I had to leave crates early to accompany Lee with Huckleberry and Valentine. Huckleberry is in the Big Babies Hok and Valentine is in the Small Babies. I was honored to be asked and to have a little time with Lee whom I respect tremendously for her caring and dedication to CARE and the baboons.

At 9:45 off we went with Huckleberry with 2 mls of ketamine in a cage and Valentine in a diaper on my lap. It was a 45-minute drive in the opposite direction of Phalaborwa toward Hyedspritz. The town is becoming quite a tourist destination and has a lovely mountain in the distance. In the car before we entered the vet, Lee asked me to administer .5 of ketamine IM to Valentine. Within 1 minute she was asleep in my arms as I carried her into the vet. The vet took all of 10 minutes to take the samples and we were off again to Wimpies for a burger to go as we drove back to CARE.

As I monitored today, a juvenile from Sindle kindly showed me that there was a perfect hole for him to enter the next cage belonging to another troop. In addition, Hart in the neighboring troop with the arm lesion was no moving his elbow at all and moving his arm from his shoulder. I called Sarah and she said the hole would be repaired before I returned from the vet and that Hart’s injury still needs to be watched, but that she has seen worse heal themselves in time. I have three more days to see Hart and to monitor how he is. I asked Sarah if someone will be assigned my troops immediately as I leave so that there is not interruption in monitoring. She was not aware that I was leaving in three days.

As I missed my Small Babies shift, I added an hour in the nursery instead. Poor Tortilla screamed for her mom for 50 minutes but finally a regular mommy appeared so she calmed down. A rather nice afternoon with both Elle and Koyoshi sleeping on me. At one point, the volunteers in the Small Babies crooned and said that the dying rat was back. Pam looked out and said that he needed to be euthanized. As there were now 5 people in the nursery, I went and again, euthanized the rat. Hopefully that is the last one before I leave.

As I entered the nursery pen, we could hear elephants trumpeting. Lee said that they were chasing up and down the far riverbank. I had heard two near the house last night during the lighting and thunder. I wished I had been able to see them, but the trees are coming into leaf and therefore, the view is becoming more and more obscured.

As we carried the babies in, it appears that pink eye is running through the Small Babies pens, so in addition to Star’s elbow; there were two to receive eye drops. We had also had one volunteer with eye problems, not sure if it was pink eye or not. Lee and Sarah had indicated recently that it is not uncommon with volunteers in contacts to have eye infections. Coincidence? I suggested that they maybe not bring up illnesses of former volunteers, as some within the group are highly suggestible.

Tuesday, September 19

7:00 Bottles
7:45m- 9:00 Small Babies
9:00 Crates
10:00 Monitor
3:00-4:00 Dogs
4:00 Bottles

4 hours off in the middle of the day found Verene and I walking to the bat cave and spending some time at the beach. What started out as a cold day with me in two fleeces, found me in short sleeves by 8:00 am and the mid-day at the beach was hot indeed.

I only have one more full day of work with the baboons and I will miss their little faces and expressions. So human like at times, you really can tell what they are thinking from their eyes. They have the most amazing capacity to watch what you do and know exactly where you put something in your pockets. They are tenacious when it comes to trying to open a pocket or your hand if you have something to conceal. They are also incredibly jealous if you give something to one, you better have enough for all, or more than enough. The dominant animals always get the lion’s share and the only way the low pecking orders get any is if the dominants are busy with excess.

We have many of the small babies with pink eye and they will be receiving tetanus vaccinations tomorrow if they are well enough to receive the shot. Little Oros Lemos sprang a 42degree temp, when it should have been 38. He peed on Lynn and she said it was like fire due to the fever he was carrying. Lee said that they have incredible pain tolerance and only spring symptoms when it is really serious. Lee says the pink eye will run through the herd but that ointment will clear it up quickly. The one concern is that it can be passed to the volunteers, so we must be vigilant with hand washing and good hygiene. Luckily, it was shopping day so there is more hand soap at all the sinks.

Kirsten and I cooked tonight and following Kirsten’s recipe, it was cottage pie and my recipe for Mexican brownies. Well received by all and very filling.

I have an 8am start tomorrow, but lots to do, so I may chose to rise early and get some of the word processing on the procedures done before I start my first shift. We will see how the night goes.
Wednesday, September 20

8:00 Mediums
9:00 Crates
11:00-1:00 Small Babies
1:00 Bottles
3:00-4:00 Monitor
4:00 Bottles

I tried to take this day as slow as possible to savor every minute. The Mediums were in rare form and I had my typical lap mates, Violet and Caley, but also Basil and his tasting my fingers as I groomed him, and also little Pickle and Paris. The group had decimated their food that had arrived at 7:30 and would need more at 11:00 am bottles.

Crates were much the same except I took pictures of the process, a crate, and the group. Pam asked if I didn’t want a picture of me with my favorite machete.

PHOTO - Machete

Verene and I had smalls together and we ended up each having an hour in the nursery and then one hour in the smalls. Most of the smalls are coming down with a cold that may very well move into the volunteers. Little Oros Lemos has quite a fever and cough and is back with Sarah is foster mom for 24/7 duty. Along with the cold, is an outbreak of pinkeye, that one volunteer has already had. I will take care that I don’t arrive at the penguins dripping.

I took picture of Verene with the smalls and she did the same for me. My favorite pictures from the entire trip are included for you to see. I think I am in love.

Photo – Nigelrobics

Photo – Nigel and I

Photo – Valentine and I

1:00 pm bottles got off to a rocky start, as my co-volunteer was 15 minutes delayed in arriving. Leilani is still having jet lag difficulty. It ended fine and she did the clean up.

My last day of monitoring, I had hoped for new babies in the Sindle troop, and I wanted to make sure that Hart was doing better with his arm. No babies and Harts arm appears to be improving, but his movement is still restricted. I cannot get over that they day after I saw the injury, Hart came over to sit by the fence as if to show it to me. I assured him that we would look into it and keep track of it for him. I had had the same experience with Star in the smalls when she opened up her elbow. She would come over and sit on my lap and show me her elbow. I would groom around it for her and again, assured her that we would keep an eye on her elbow. It was much improved by the time I left.

4:00 Bottles went without a hitch and I helped Sarah get the cage out for Icarus and Tortilla, so that she can focus on Oros during the night. As we were getting the cage, Rita was sitting on the bank looking at the river. I went to sit with her and suddenly, a large Kudu male with spiraling antlers walked across the sandbar. It was the first time I had seen a Kudu male. At the same time, a large monitor lizard was going in the opposite direction on the sand bar. Rita remarked how wonderful and accepting nature can be with multiple species sharing the same territory without any fights. The only animal that does not seem to be able to do that is man. HMMMM.

The final dinner was Pam and her wonderful stir-fry. Fabulous.

I ended the day exhausted and happy and feeling complete, sad but complete, for this visit at least.

Thursday, September 21 – Annie’s Birthday – Happy Birthday!

This morning was filled with packing and finishing the documents on procedures for CARE to be put on DVD for their files.

As I went to down to drop off the presents for Lee and Rita, I said goodbye to the baboons along the way. Rita and staff were discussing the situation of a baboon that had been hand raised until he reached 5, his sexual maturity, and who is now too much a handful for the man and his private zoo. They want Rita to take him, but as he has reached his maturity, the chances of having him accepted by a troop are slim. Add to that, CARE already has 14 troops, over 500 baboons and at least 20 adult males in the cue to go. He would have to join the end of the line of priority and the choices for him are either life in an individual cage surrounded by other males in the same boat, or possibly, try to find a troop to take him. It is not an easy decision because if they don’t take him, who will? The current owner has a history of looking for his profit in the long run. As he was hand raised, he had no capacity to care for himself in the wild right now and the only hope would be if he came to CARE and learned from watching the long tits troop outside his pen. Lee wanted to evaluate other options before taking him as cage space is not available, Davi said it would be a jail sentence, Sarah said take him and try to get him in the troop, Rita was of two minds; take him but also ask for the juvenile the owner also has to avoid this problem in 4 years time or, not take him and tell the owner that due to the delay, the chances for this baboon are not good for release. Had he come prior to his sexual maturity, his chances would have been far greater. Final decision – Take him and have the administrator at CARE have a discussion with the owner about the effects of the delay and the chances of the baboon for any future life in the wild.

A tradition of leaving is to receive a CARE T-shirt. Lee had told Rita how I seemed to manage to get the teenagers off their butts and on to their feet and had done much to clean up the house. Rita said that deserved something special so he disappeared upstairs and returned with a lovely woodcarving of a baboon. It made me cry.

I went out to say goodbye to Charlie and the troops, in hopes that there might be a new baby waiting for me in the Sindle pen. Charlie came over and gave me a good by grunt and stuck his hand through the cage at me. I told him that I hoped not to see him the next time I was there. (Rita had told me that when they finally put Charlie with the two considerably smaller females, they terrorized him so bad that he tried to escape through the roof and ended up falling at least 20 feet to the ground and breaking his leg). Rita had said that his only chance would be if the troop is to be released in an area where there are other Samango, that Charlie goes with them and if the troop females chase him away, at least he will have unlimited area to run and a greater possibility of finding others of his kind. I hope so.

I said good-bye to the troops, but no new babies were seen. Hart’s leg appears better, but the hole is still very deep and I wonder if he hasn’t severed the tendons that allow him to pull his forearm to his elbow. My hope for him is that he develops other muscles that will allow him that movement.

I took one last turn in the nursery and peaked at the smalls and mediums without going in. One last good bye to my little Nigel, who lip smacked me and made me smile. I will miss that little tyke!

Soon, Rita, Lynn, Kim and I were off to the airport, me to fly and Lynn and Kim to change their tickets. Before we got to the main road, Rita called our attention to the three giraffes that were right next to the road. Absolutely magnificent! If I had known how the baboons would have affected me, I would have stayed longer had I not had the penguins locked in behind them. (Next time, at least 8 weeks).


This placement, as with all of them, needs funds to keep their work going. While they have been fortunate enough to have wonderful volunteers who generously send needed provisions such a bottles, nipples, hand tools, or items that ease the volunteers or staff’s days. If I had unlimited resources, what would I send? Lee says pick something that was difficult or a nuisance for me
and figure out what would make a difference to the program.

My personal mission is to come up with a clip, carabineer, bull snap or something of the like that will make the cages secure from the ingenuity of those little baboon minds and hand, but is not very complicated for the volunteers to use as they go through the gates multiple times each day.

I plan to contact Playtex and Pampers to see about the donations of useable seconds of their items that would help the baboons.

As with so many of my other animal placements, we are far from civilization, internet and a break from the world and company.

Of the things that I will remember from this placement will be the sounds of Will and Grace from next door. One of the American college students has brought her computer and collection of DVD’s, thereby the American TV shows. I will remember the sound of little rat feet above my head. I will remember the sound and the feel of the Baboon Alarm at 6:15 every morning as the entire house shakes as the troop leaps around on the tin roof. How can I explain the absolute silence that happens when the troops have spotted something interesting out side the pens? Or the ear splitting shrieks when one of the troop is either being beat up from within, or is threatened from the outside.

I will remember the smell of the baboons (rather like diluted bleach).

I will remember the fleabites from the straw thatch that used to cover the ceiling of my bedroom. I hope to forget the bites and bruises received by their teeth and worse, from their long fingernails. Maybe I should arrange for monthly manicures for all the baby hoks?

I will remember how lovely the river looks from the house and the amazing sightings of warthogs and baboons on a daily basis. I will remember how cute the faces are when they are sleeping while sitting up, either sucking on a teat or toy. I will remember how they look as they sleep suspended on a sling with each of the four appendages hanging down. I will remember Cricket from Casey Hok who thrilled to have stolen a wrap and then ran through her hok with it streaming behind her like a pennant or her wearing it like a shawl or a mantilla. How will I ever be able to forget the sweet look in the eyes of the baboons as they are being groomed and their eyes so trusting and calm, just before they are landed upon by a troop member and then rocket off my lap to go play?

Who will I miss most? Roxie? Nigel? Star? Basil? Caley? Violet? Or the tinies – Corey, Mica, Elle, Tortilla, Icarus or Koyoshi? The next time I will see any of them, they will be big and may be too large to cuddle or pet.

The volunteers on this project were primarily from Britain and North America. The ages were spread between 18 and 50. Many of the US volunteers, this was their first time in Africa, and some of them, their first time out of the US. Work ethic was uneven amongst the group that was frustrating at times and the slackers were not always from the same age group.

There was again the misinterpretation of what was really to be expected of the volunteers with this placement. This placement really makes use of their volunteers well and gets lots of work accomplished. For the first time during this year, I really feel that I worked to my capacity and feel very proud and pretty fit. One volunteer was heard to say, ”I didn’t come here to work, but to volunteer”. I am not sure what they were expecting. Working with animals is 95% hard, dirty, tiring, necessary work and 5% glamour, public adoration and accolades. Bottle-feeding the babies was 10% of our time and all the rest of our time was doing necessary work to assist in the running of the operation. Animals need to be fed even when the weather is hot, cold, dry, humid, even if you are well, ill with diarrhea, sleep deprived with your tiny baboon baby who kept you up all night, frustrated or feeling incredibly balanced and healthy. Luckily there were very wonderful women who made this experience very positive and fun.

Who will I keep in touch with? Aletheia? Lee? Pam? Gemma? Kim? Verene? Alice? Vanessa?

Thank you CARE, Rita, Lee, Sarah, Bennet and the marvelous Josephine. I will return.


No dramas on the flight or arrival, except I misread the signs to baggage claim and had to be let back in to the area to take the elevator down to the baggage area. I then went to the postnet for some WIFI time and 64 emails that awaited me. I also had to print out my hostel reservation sheet so that I could show the cab driver where I needed to go. I went to retrieve my luggage that I had left at the airport and realized that I will take my bag to Cape Town even if it means paying excess baggage. (It will probably work out to the be the same cost, if it leave it or take it with me)

My cab was more that I needed to pay, but the driver was nice and considering the distance and the traffic he would face going back to town, it was worth it. I am in the Northern suburbs of JoBurg at a YHA on a horse farm on Inchanga Road.

I arrived exhausted at about 4:30 pm, but my room was not ready. So I went to the bar and had a cider and read and wrote post cards. At 5:30, the room was still not ready and they were very anxious that I wasn’t angry. I told them, not angry, just exhausted and wanting to go to my room. They suggested I have dinner and then the room and the keys would be ready for me. During dinner of a wonderful warm chicken salad, the keys had arrived. As it was dark, the guard walked me over the hill towards a shed. (In my not balanced and very tired mind, I decided if I was to live in the shed, I had overpaid.) We passed the shed and ducked under two fences before angry, growling dogs greeted us.

My room is part of a large house and is a lovely room with a double bed that had not been made up yet. The room has three large windows without curtains and lots of neighbors. They helped me make the bed and told me that the woman was coming with the curtains. She finally arrived with two curtains in the contrasting fabric. That left one window without a curtain and the fabric that was left would not cover the distance without modification. I suggested we use the two towels that just fit over the opening, but I needed clothespins to fix them to the rod. They stood around talking about how the curtains did not match and how smart I was to think of the towels. I finally waved them off and got into bed and turned out the light at 8:oo pm. Thank heavens I had my fuzzy pink pillow. It was nice to have something familiar.

Good Night!

Friday, September 22

I did not sleep well, bed was not very comfortable and it was too quiet, no croaking frogs or baboon alarm calls during the night.

The staff was most apologetic about last night and told me that I had overpaid. They said for the cab ride back to the airport, I would only pay 100R instead of 200R. Great breakfast and more postcards and then I caught a cab ride to the local mall. I had lots of shopping to do on basic necessities that were running low after 4 weeks away and I needed to do some more internetting.

I also contacted I to I regarding my lion park placement in November. Lee had indicated that the park has not always done what was best for the animals and from what I see, it appears to be quite a tourist magnet, which does not sound like something I will be happy with. I am investigating other I to I options in Cape Town and will see what evolves.

Found some wonderful books to read including one from Sonia Choquette and another one called the White Masai. I had hoped to see the movie when I was in Sydney but never made it, so I am anxious to read the book that is based on a true story. Currently I am engrossed in a book by a South African writer called, Spud. It is a diary of a 13 year-old schoolboy going to boarding school. By the way that I am devouring it, I can tell that I have not been reading much lately.

Went back to the YHA for dinner, internetting and a shower. Up early tomorrow to get to Cape Town. I begin work on Monday, so I will have Sunday to get my feet on the ground.

Posted by ladyjanes 09:20 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards

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