A Travellerspoint blog

Entry 28C - Third week with the baboons

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Entry # 28C – Third full week with baboons

Monday, September 11

7:00 Bottles
8-9:00 Mediums
9:00 Crates
10:00 Monitor
11:00 – 1:00 Smalls
1:00 Bottles
2:00 Dogs
3:00 Mediums
4:30 Ship

Busy day including ship and then cooking dinner with Kim. We had planned to do Tuna Noodle Casserole and Brownies, so I made the pasta during my lunch break.

It was fun to get back to the babies and see them again. Not too many bite from them, but I got hit in the nose and eyebrows a lot today and was little grouchy by the time I was exiting mediums.

Crates took longer than expected and as I was sitting at monitoring, I heard rustling behind me. I had assumed it was a baboon, but when I looked, it was in fact, a medium size monitor lizard right behind me and heading around to my right toward the water drain. Twice the size of the ones that I had worked on Kangaroo Island, not quite as colorful but still very impressive.

Today we were down 4 volunteers, 2 newbie’s and 2 sick with dehydration. I must admit, I am a little weary of having the under 25’s not taking care of themselves to the point that the rest of the volunteers have to take on extra duties. I told Sarah that I would bring up the topic of respect at dinner, respect for self and for the team.

Star is much improved in temperament and today when I was with the smalls, she only had one minor altercation with the mediums and was quickly diverted away from the ledge. New for today, Flash was put into the biggest babies, as he was rather a bully in the mediums. There was very little drama surrounding his visit today and when I looked over in the middle of the afternoon, he was being groomed by one of the females, something that never happened in mediums, as he was also being big and running around scaring all the little guys. When we picked him up this afternoon to put him back in his pen, he looked very sleepy and was very calm. No bites from him today, which was a rare occurrence when he was in mediums. Not sure where he will end up tomorrow.

The tuna noodle casserole and brownies were a huge hit, even with the two that had been sick. Lee came for dessert and helped us discover how to turn the light on in the shower. NO MORE TAKING THE TORCH TO THE SHOWER WITH YOU.

I found out when I went to look at the schedule for tomorrow that I had 7 am monitoring (Great! I get to document how they sleep!) and that she had changed my laundry day to Wednesday instead of my usual Tuesday. CRAP! I am out of tops as I had planned my attire to end exactly on laundry day. I am feeling very tired after my safari yesterday and am probably not dealing with life’s little bumps as easily as I should. Well, tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to excel!

We watched a DVD about the release that is currently in the field that was filmed by a professional film company. It was lovely and I think we were all happy to see the results of so much work and care. The only hope is that the process can speed up so that more troops can be released in a timely basis. It will mean more staff or permanent or long-term volunteers to go to multiple sites, but with 14 troops waiting and permits pending, there will be a permanent backlog if the current system stays in place.

Tuesday, September 12 – Alethea’s last workday.

7:00 Monitoring with Pam
8:00 Clean Up
9:00-11:00 Small Babies
12:00 Mediums
2:00 Lounge
3:00 Dogs
4:00 Bottles

I woke at 4am and had a hard time getting back to sleep but did not really feel like I was sleep deprived all day. I had a wonderful realization about waltzing through life as my metaphor for the proper balance of give and take, leading and following, giving and taking, accepting and receiving within a structure and framework that works for me. WONDERFUL!

Except for getting up early, monitoring first thing in the am was great and the troops were doing lots of things. I took Alethea to see my babies as this was her last day. She also tried to get some shots of Charlie, but not sure if he posed for her.

I feel totally in the routine here and realized as I sat in Medium Babies for my hour that I really do know most of their names and have my little system them. As I went in with 4pm bottles, there were several melt downs that resulted in diarrhea on the back of my head and all down my left side. Poor Billie Bob was having a bit of a drama.

At one point, I was learning how to put the Meer Cats away with Sarah when Verena came running past looking for Sarah and saying that there was an emergency and an injury in the baby hok. She went flying out leaving me with the responsibility of getting the second Meer Cat caged, which was a little daunting as I had been told that they have a fierce bite. Luckily, she left me a blanket so I shooed the little guy into the cage. YAAH!

The kitchen is looking better and better and the rats have less and less to eat of our foodstuffs daily. The last two blue plastic containers have been washed and are ready to receive our supplies and maybe we will be able to get the milk out of the freezer so that we can use it, as we need it.

Dinner will be a wonderful stir-fry ala Pam and Alethea has made a pear, chocolate, marshmallow crisp? Should be interesting.

We have three new volunteers over the last three days - Alice from Toronto who was down for the count today, Leilani from Hawaii and more recently Boise, ID who will stay for 10 weeks and yesterdays addition, Jack (or Jacqueline) from Red Deer Alberta. All enthusiastic, and on their first trip to Africa and first major international trip.

Wednesday, September 13

7:00 Bottles
7:45-9:00 Small Babies
10:00 Medium Babies
12:00 Monitor
1:00 Medium Babies
3:00 Bathrooms
4:00-4:30 Mediums
4:30 Ship

I ended today with a star pattern of 5 scratches on my left cheek from someone’s fingernails in Small Babies first thing this am. Took a bite by one of the mediums when I was helping with ship, probably justified because I took the shovel away from him.

What does Bottles mean? Depending on what time of the day, when you are assigned bottles you are preparing somewhere between 10 – 45 bottles with up to three different milk concoctions. The largest bottle duties are 7am and 4pm, beginning and end of the day with every enclosure needing to be fed and bottled. Also included at 7 and 4 are two groups of adult animals that need extra nutrition and the Samango’s. Various groups get either their second or third bottle of the day during the mid-day bottles and if needed, more food is cut up.

What are in the food buckets? The daily selection varies widely but can include apples, pears, oranges, carrots, melon, squash, peanuts or other nuts, hard kernel corn, sweet potatoes, bread, assorted veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, green peppers, corn on the cob, cabbage and sometimes dried fruit such as bananas or apricots. Depending where I am with my meals, sometimes what comes out of the bucket looks pretty good.


Paprika – Yellowish female who is rather obsessive about getting into the nursery enclosure and races around like a lunatic when she does.

Roxy – Gray female - really a Medium baby, but with her injury from her previous owner, she was having a hard time in Mediums. Now in the Smalls, she has taken two of the smaller ones under her wing and carries them around like infants.

Star – Ms. ADHD with a tendency to taste all new volunteers for several days before she accepts them. Grayish with a wild fringe of hair and sort of blank look until her eyes really focus on you.

Valentine – born 2/14/06, smooth yet fluffy coated petit little girl. She had cataracts and has already had the surgery. Very sweet, but is very particular who gets to hold her. Whinges a lot.


Nigel – Smooth coated with and equal mix of yellow and grey hair. Lovely profile, fragile ego and loves to play. Likes green peppers and broccoli. He loves me to groom him and he appears very preppy. I can see him in a letterman sweater and surrounded by adoring cheerleaders.

Goku – Grey coarse hair with sort of a permanent surprised look on his face. I also monitor his mom, who’s really name is Queen Louise. Sort of bumbly and lots of energy. Always looking for action and if it is not happening, makes it happen.

Mr. Stubbs – One of the small guys, grey and yellow. He was very friendly at first, but has pretty much ignored me except to race by on his circuits with the other guys playing.

Oros Lemos – One of the little guys, dark grey named after the lemon-flavored drink popular in South Africa. Very sweet and missing three of five digits on one of his front hands.

Zorro – Feisty and hugely particular on who gets him, dark grey with a yellow eyebrows and a very serious face and bare tail. Roxy’s special little charge.

Bowie (as in David) – Skinny, sparse haired of grey and yellow, sort of the underdog of the group.


7:45 - 9:00 Small Babies
10:00 Medium Babies
11:00 Lower Deck
1:00 Bottles
2:00 Medium Babies
3:00 Monitoring
4:00 Bottles

During my breaks today, I took my camera and began to get some shots of the compound and the babies. I was in the nursery for a while trying to get shots of the mediums and the smalls and ended up with tiny babies approaching me. Lee took some photos of me and I am happy that they are finally coming to me.

I am determined to make my final week one of wonderful days and experiences. Sarah said at one point that they were thinking of expanding the minimum stay to maybe 8 weeks. I said that would be better for them and the volunteers, but it may limit who can volunteer as 8 weeks off for someone who works in the US is highly unlikely unless you are in the school system. Lee also said that she was ignoring that I was taking pictures because that is usually a sign that someone is leaving soon. I will be sorry to go in so many ways, but in other ways, I will be happy to be back in contact with civilization. This place can get under your skins and time just shoots past. I admit it is only in the 4th week that I am feeling totally integrated and effective. Week one, everything was so foreign, week two the tiredness sets in and the make wrong and anxiety of not knowing how exactly everything works was eating at me, week three was getting in the groove and now, week 4 I feel that I can be very effective.

As Sarah was doing the schedule, I saw that I had another early morning, my 5th in a row. I whinged to her and reminded her that I had not had a late start in a while. We will see what the next days schedule brings to me. My whinge left me in disrupted energy.

Friday, September 15

7:00 Bottles
9:00 Crates
10:00 Break but I ended up doing dogs
11:00 – 1:00 Nursery
1:00 Dogs, but I had traded with Verene
2:00 Mediums
3:00 Monitor
4:30 Ship

Very strange energy this morning (probably a result of my whinging last night) and as I descended the hill for my first shift, I had hip hit by a wild male. Proof positive that they are not all tame and that I must constantly be on my guard.

I took several bites from the mediums as I was carrying them into the pens this am, so it looked like the energy was weird for them too. As I had a break after my first shift, I decided to put on my Ipod, have a cup of tea, spend some time grounding and balancing, pull a vibes card and change my mind about how my day was going to go. I was approached my one of the workers to come to the river to see the lion tracks, but my intuition told me to follow through with my original plans. Vibes Card – Call on the Your Helper Guides! It was wonderful and really helped to change the outcome of my day.

As I ended crates, Verene indicated that she had not had orientation, so I offered to exchange my dog shift for hers so that she could be free at 10am. As we got into the mountain lodge, Pam said that the freezer was working and had begun to clean it out. I pitched in, as Pam had to leave to get her visa sorted out to extend her stay so that she can spend a little more time with her baby, Koyoshi. Sarah said that those type jobs can be assigned, but I told her that I didn’t mind doing it as to delay would mean a bigger, smellier mess tomorrow. As it turns out, the freezer is not working as Davi found that the switch was bad.

I had my second wonderful day with the tinies in the nursery, and Jack and I were covered in babies for two hours. Also pee and poo and spilt milk, but it was worth it to have littlies asleep on your lap or chest. We were without any of the mommies, that changed the energy and it was a very calm time, except for the mediums trying and succeed in pulling my hair through the wire fence.

During the pm dog shift, Mollie managed to catch but not quite kill a rat in the lower bedroom. I took the rat by the tail and put it outside, but it was obvious that it was not going to recover. I took it farther away from the house and euthanized it. I hate to have them in my bedroom, but I couldn’t stand to think of it suffering.

The Medium babies are having a trial run at being by themselves for several hours during the day. I was the first people to have them after 4 hours alone so they were very happy to see and jump on me. My usual lap attendants are Violet and Caley, sometimes Belle, Alice and Zoey, the screaming Jane with various fly bys from Pickle and Paris. The only boys that make regular appearances that I can recognize are Beau and Basil and recently, Hilton.



Belle – Yellowish, slender dominant female. Has learned that I give good monkey massage and is content to sit next to me if the lap is too full

Caley – Miss pushy, blow-in-her-mouth all the time with a tendency to bite when she is happy, stressed, playing. Usually we have 35 minutes to leaping around and over me and finally after a confrontation, she will settle and begin her nap about 3 minutes before the end of my shift.

Jane – The hysteric who is low on the pecking order and if anyone looks at her funny, screams loudly and races around the cage. She ends up in my lap for 3 seconds, tried to lodge under my right arm and them launches herself back into the troop for another cycle of chase, whinge, land and leap again. If she does settle for a minute, she obsessively grooms my hair rather painfully and then leaps off again.

Violet – Second dominant female, yellow and a little tubby. She and Caley are my two most common lap attendants but they know the rules, no fighting on the lap or you get ousted. Violet tends to take longer naps and how she can manage to sleep with Caley grooming her eyeballs I will never understand.

Pickle – One of the lower females who only gets lap time when new food has been introduced or everyone else is off somewhere else. I can only recognize her by a scar on her hind foot.

Paris – The smallest of the girls and well down on the list, she is very petit of the girls with a very narrow face. Her coat is the softest and I think she is the one who runs past and offers me her butt to scratch but hardly ever comes up on the lap.

Alice – Out pickpocket, Alice is very adept at getting every button or snap on your clothes off you and into her and someone else’s mouth. A lot weight challenged, Alice needs to cut down on how many bottles she steels from others or she will never fit into her clothes again.

Zoey – Miss Tubarina with a double chin. Similar to Alice in weight challenge and is pretty low on the dominance chart. She is pretty funny and knows her name very well and when called to come over, she sometimes does a little dance with her hind legs before she comes over.


Beau – The primary male, yellowish and slender. He only this week has been on my lap and loves his monkey massage and pushes everyone else off except Belle or Violet. He came my lap recently and was content to suck on my rain slicker and be held.

Basil – The larges, chunkiest, dark male, who was the first boy to come to the massage lap. He will usually try and take one of my fingers in his mouth and gently chew or lick the finger. I guess that is his attempt at grooming.

Flash – Was in with the mediums until this last week and is now in the Big Babies. He is the one with the scar on his head from when he was in the lab and they tried to surgically change his appearance so that he appeared to be permanently flashing, a sign of aggression. He had been fairly aggressive when he was in the mediums and stirred things up a lot. A constant reminder that none of these babies had anything close to a normal childhood and it is amazing that any of them come to us.

Womble – I have only gotten to know him this week, another yellowish male, and he is quite an instigator of play and therefore, bites.

Billie Bob – Dark and fairly quiet, he was the first medium I got to carry in as he is not that particular about who has him. Very sweet, but low in the order, so lap time with him is minimal.

Hilton – A Major instigator, sort of the Star of the Mediums, and very bitey.

I made it an early evening and I opted out of dinner. As it gets hotter, hot food at dinner sounds less and less appealing. I have decided if I cook again, I will do a cold pasta salad and Mexican brownies.

I got up early in the am and looked at the schedule and I had the gift of a 9:00 am start. I must remember to thank Sarah.

Saturday, September 16

9:00-11:00 Small Babies
11:00 Bottles
2:00 Monitor
3:00 Mediums
4:00 Bottles

Alice and Verene are going to Kruger today and I sent Verene with money to purchase the Big Tusker Book from the Elephant Museum and the Big Five Pins that I left behind and decided that I wanted.

It was lovely to get to sleep in, except that Josephine starts very early every day and Leilani and the dogs at 8 am were very loud.

I bought a DVD with the Animal Planet footage of CARE and a book written about CARE.

Very hot today and I am beginning to carry my water bottle with me when I can. It is impossible to have one with you in the nursery, smalls or mediums, as there is nowhere to put it where the babies cannot get it. I can only imagine how hot it will get and during the rainy season, the humidity.

PIZZA TONIGHT! I was put on pizza coordination to get orders and money rounded up by 2:30. At 1:10 Sarah appeared and said that Lee was going early, so I had to hurry up and get the last few orders. I put in more than I needed in order to speed things up, and I will reconcile the money after I see the final bill.

Hello new person – Vanessa from Seattle, New Jersey and recently Boise, ID

Sunday, September 17

7:00 Medium Babies with Leilani
11:00 – 1:00 Nursery
1:00 Bottles
2:00 Monitor
3:00 Small Babies
4:00 Bottles

Leilani had major problems with Hilton this am and took several bites. I am and think others are feeling hesitant to discipline any of the babies since the Star episode. I know in the past that if I put someone down, the rest of the troop would end up coming to their aid, so I ended up with more bites than I originally started with. Leilani will not be in medium babies at 7am for a while until they get more used to her and she used to the system.

Looking back on the hour, I now feel that I should have done more to assist her. I know that I have been hesitant to put down any of the babies recently and have had better results by avoiding their teeth and tolerating a few nips. I feel I should have supported her more and come to her aid. I will apologize to her later today.

There was still a lot of weird energy today, possible because the weather was preparing for our first rain storm and was overcast, still and muggy all day. Paprika in Smalls was going after Charlotte so Lynn went in to assist. Sarah went in within 30 minutes with Vanessa the new volunteers and Paprika went for her. Sarah coached her into putting her down to show your dominance, not as a punishment. That coaching has helped me to understand why we do what we do. It is simply a way to discipline and establish the hierarchy that will be important for them within their troop. I feel better able to cope with aggression when I see it again.

Right after Sarah assisted Vanessa with Paprika, she took Leilani into Mediums and sat with her. I am not sure if Hilton went for her again, but I think she ended the session feeling better about how to handle the mediums.

In my troop today, Hart had a new lesion on his right forearm. Sarah was watering the pens nearby and said it looked like a canine slash and they are common with young males who are sorting themselves into the troop. I also got a good video of Charlie the Samango who posed beautifully for the camera.

I had a lovely hour with Alice in small babies. She has a lovely energy and is very good with the animals. She will go home to Toronto and possible begin a pet sitting business to augment her illustrations. Just as we were bringing in the babies, the sky opened and it began to rain. There was also lots of thunder and lovely streaks of lighting across the sky.

As we were getting ready for dinner, there was a scream from the shower area and Jack announced that there was a snake near the shower room. Earlier in the day, Lee had said that they had found one in the lower bedroom and patched the hole. Rita and her gun were called in and after 4 shots, the snake was dead. It turned out to be a spitting cobra, very dangerous as they can propel their venom at you from 6 feet and they usually aim for your eyes. I was upstairs wrestling with my mosquito netting poles that keep changing positions on a daily basis. Sometimes the nets are taunt, sometimes very floppy. I figured they didn’t need another person on the scene so I stayed upstairs until dinner was called.

Three day of work and then I am off. Bittersweet.

Posted by ladyjanes 09:19 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 28B - Second Week with Baboons

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Entry # 28 B – Second week with baboons

Monday, September 4

7:00 Mediums
9:00 Crates
10:00 Monitor
11:00 Mediums
1:00 Bottles
3:00 Kitchen
4:00 Bottles

An overcast day with a little breeze that was a nice change from the cold nights and hot, warm days recently. I did not put on sun block today.

The new baby in Bip Bop is doing well. I still have not settled on an appropriate name for her. I am feeling much more comfortable with this troop and identifying the individuals.

I have not started taking any photographs. I need to start soon, but I am having a hard time figuring out how to capture what I am experiencing. Not even a video could capture the total experience.

Several things happened today, which were unexpected.

First, I have a roommate – Verena from Germany. I was unaware that more people were coming and I am not sure why I got her versus the other bedroom that has spare beds. She seems nice, is older and has already done a volunteer placement in Swaziland two years ago. I think she will be fine.

The infant baboon baby that was being carried by a sub adult was finally visible to the kitchen staff. The only problem with this situation is that a sub adult will not be able to feed an infant that young and the hope was that we could get the baby into out custody and start feeding her. This pair had been spotted several days ago, but they were never in a position to be caught and we knew that we would have only one chance, as the troop might descend on the rescuer if there was too much alarm given. There was a little discussion about how best to catch her and Lee spread corn and peanuts all over the area, so that the troop would be distracted. Bennet was ready with the dart and it was hoped that as soon as she was darted, she would drop the baby. Then the plan was to catch the baby and get it inside as soon as possible.

Once she was darted, she disappeared like a shot and went far up into the property. At one point, the sub adult was asleep and had let go of the baby, but before Lee could get the baby, a huge male from the troop took up the baby. They left and were planning to try again later but a few hours later, the sub adult was back awake with the baby, but the baby was obviously dead. The group felt sad and yet realized that the chances of the baby living within our care was jeopardized by the length of time that she had been without her mother. Nature sometimes appears cruel.

The last thing was that I did not have any time with the small babies today and I missed them terribly. I had two individual hours with the mediums and I felt very beaten up by them. Both hours were before noon when they are at their most active. I was bit and had my hair pulled and unfortunately, they got me on both shins within one minute of each other. OUCH!

I also made large inroads in the volunteer laundry and the freezer clean out in preparation for the shopping to be done tomorrow. No one has said much about it, but I feel I have done well and am pleased with the results.

Tuesday, September 5 – Lynn’s 23rd birthday, bbq, goodbye Sara.

7:45-9:00 Smalls
10:00 Lower Deck
11:00 Bottles
1:00-3:00 Nursery babies
3:00 Monitor
4:00 Mediums

Sara, the American girl from Virginia who goes to Ohio State and who had a bout of major diarrhea and feels she is leaving Africa with intestinal worms, left today. She lived next door with Lynn and spent my first week in bed watching DVD’s and drinking Energyaid (similar to Gatorade).

It was lovely to be back with the small babies. They all stopped by for a little hello and cuddle and Paprika even had her first massage and nap.

As I had mentioned, my mission is to contribute to the areas that caused me concern or which benefited me when I arrived – the communal food organization, the shower, the laundry line and the extra clothes. Today, with the laundry line empty for the first time in weeks, I was able to clean the lower deck as assigned. YAAAH!.

Bottles at 11 showed me that after 10 days on location, I still did not have all the details in my head. I had made larger than necessary bottles for the small babies and fed them in the wrong order. Not that much of deal, except if you give them the food first, they have no interest in the bottles. Early on, Sara had asked if I had any suggestions about their set up for volunteers, and I will bring up this topic.

SIX ELEPHANTS! They were drinking at the river and when I had them in my binoculars, I could hear their sounds from where I was. Without seeing them, I don’t believe the sounds that they were making would have registered to my ears.

I spent some time with Charlie, the Samango, and I can now recognize his unique call. He is still incredibly handsome, which I tell him, every time I see him. I

I have been trying to figure out how to describe the call that the large male baboons make when they are excited. It sounds like WAHOO with an emphasis on the WAH and the hoo is very much an after thought.

I also make a special effort to say Hi to Naked Guy every time I pass him and tell him he is handsome, the meer cats (2 of them and very cute) and the ground squirrel.


Currently, we have four ladies who are acting as foster mom’s to the tiniest babies; Lee, who is staff, with Elle (who is long and elegant and only 10 weeks of age), Sarah, who is staff, with Icarus and Tortilla (Icarus is 11 weeks, Tortilla is 10 weeks), Kim with Corey (who is 4 weeks) and our birthday girl, Lynn with Mica (4 weeks). People who stay a longer time receive babies to foster, as you need to spend lots of time with them early. Both, Lynn and Kim are staying at least two months. When the tinies are 6 months, they may be ready to go into an existing baby pen. This group, if more babies come, may become their own troop and the current older pens may move up.

There is one pen that we call the nursery and typically, each of the foster moms will spend several hours in the pen watching all the babies. The mom’s that are not there will leave a shirt of sweater with their scent so that if the baby stresses when they are away, they can lay on it and smell the mom. When the baby is really stressed they will flatten themselves on the shirt as much as possible. When the babies are with us in the house, they all wear little preemie nappies with a hole cut in the butt for the tail to stick out. When they are in the pen, most of them go without diapers. They are very cute with the little nappies on.

Early in the relationship, the foster mom and baby are on light duties so that babies can bond with the mom. At this point, the schedule looks a little out of balance, but when you consider that they are up, sometimes all night with a baby who wants to play, you soon realize that any extra work that comes your way is easier than what they go through in the beginning. Lynn lives next door to me and the walls are not solid, but I almost never hear the baby during the night.

Today, was my first day to really spend time with the nursery babies. They generally have stranger anxiety until they get to know you and for the first hour, they did a perimeter check and gave me a wide berth. Finally, with Alethia, who they knew a little better, they were finally coming over to me and counting coo. A new foster baby arrived today at 6 weeks of age and Pam is the new foster mom. She has named him Kiyoshi in honor of her grandfather. By the second hour, Lee arrived with the lady who brought in Kiyoshi and finally, little Icarus was coming over and flopping on the

Miscommunication with Sara from staff today about my final assignment with Medium Babies. The third person for ship was in small babies and I offered to trade with her for a while so that they could do ship. I also admit, that I prefer the smalls, but I intended to go back as soon as they had finished in the medium’s pen.

Today was had a BBQ for Lynn’s birthday which would include chicken, corn on the cob and sausage on an wood fire pit BBQ. Before the BBQ, Sarah asked Gemma and I to go get the crate from the mamba kitchen. It was getting dark so off we went with our flashlight to find it. We came back empty handed and were told to look for a rectangular grate with legs on it. We went back again and were still empty handed. Luckily, Lee arrived and said it was in a different location and it did not have feet. Ah! Communication.

I was on dish clean up tonight which was a large number of dishes, but as I not had many shifts as this, I felt it was fair. I had lots of people wanting to help me, so they did my part of clearing the table and putting things away, the part of clean up that I don’t like.

Wednesday, September 6

7:00 Bottles
7:45-9:00 Small Babies
10:00 Monitor
11:00 Upper Deck and lounge
1:00 Medium Babies
4:30 Ship

Pam was in the throws of new mommydom, so I monitored by myself. Other workers were in the area feeding the pens, so they were stirred up as where the wild troop. At one point, two big males came chasing down the narrow corridor I was standing in and the first one grabbed at my pocket. Another example of how they are wild animals and never to be taken for granted. The nice thing about seeing the troops when they are fed is that you get a better handle on the dominance order of the groups. I am still trying to figure out by the amount of swellings and the colors if I can determine which of the females may be pregnant or at the peak of heat. Two more weeks to work it out.

Today I had the lounge clean up which is where most of the communal clothes are kept. I took them all out before I vacuumed and organized them into what needed to be pitched, laundered and what was ready for storage. In the chest of drawers, the clothes all needed to be laundered and they drawers vacuumed to remove the tons of rat turds. Another thing on my list accomplished. I just need to keep up with the clothes that are left by other departing volunteers and let Lee and Sara know where I have put things.

The vacuum! It is a shop vac and I had a bit of a time figuring out how to make the thing suck. I finally realized that there is only one way to place the top so that it seals and has a vacuum. With help from above with those with wings, I finally had it in place and began to vacuum. I was so enthusiastic; I managed to break the bit of attachment for the largest carpet head. I am now trying to remember where I hid the duct tape from myself so that I can repair it. I will tell Lee tomorrow.

Even with not much sleep last night due to the late evening and the soon to be full moon, I had a good day.

Thursday, September 7

8:00 Clean up
9:00 Crates
10:00 Medium Babies
11:00 – 2:00 Break and signs
2:00 Monitor
3:00 Small Babies
4:00 Bottles

Let’s see, besides hitting a co-volunteer in the head with a rock, not much else happened today. It was when we were giving Big Babies their bottles, and they are notorious for escaping into the tree house with bottles and nipples and not giving them back, that I pitched a rock to encourage one to drop the bottle and caught Catarina on the side of the head. No blood and she was very generous to accept my apology.

We are still having issues with Star in Small Babies, our ADHD candidate, who is becoming very aggressive with the other cages and getting herself bitten and therefore bites us. We have been told when she bites, we are supposed to hold her close and give her positive attention and/or try to distract her with grooming, cuddles or food. As I entered the pen, she was on the ledge being pulled by 4 from the medium babies. When I finally got her away, I took her over to the water pool and tried to calm and hug her. She did not bite me, but fought to get away. Immediately, she was back up the tree and doing it again. I retrieved her again and offered her a potato. Once down on the ground, she went up for the third time and I went to retrieve her and this time, once given food, she settled and began to eat and play with the others.

She was fine for another 25 minutes, and then she had one more trip up to intimidate the neighbors, so I brought her back down and offered her a potato. Finally, when she was playing with others, I gave her the play face and she jumped at me and I swung her around and played for a minute. I think she will be fine if she can just continue to receive consistent treatment from the volunteers. My estimation of Star is that she is highly anxious, is nervous with too many people in the pen, is typical ADHD and easily distracted and that you have got to think ahead for her, because she acts off her spinal cord. Most of the more experience volunteers know when and how to intervene, but the new people are still intimidated and do more screaming than effective movements. If people cannot handle her appropriately, they will not be able to monitor the small babies.

Kim, one of our volunteers who has ADD, told me the following joke – How many ADHD does it take to change a light bulb? Let’s ride bikes!

There was a bit a drama for one of the young volunteers from the UK who was taking it personally that the baboons would not come to her to be cuddled or carried in at the end of the day. I remember feeling that way with human babies and I know now that you cannot force them. They will pick who they pick and they will come to people that they know and people with calm energy. Making them wrong and announcing to one and all what a failure you are will not turn the situation around.

The new item on the list for me today was putting up the newly painted signs on some of the individual cages. I had the signs, but needed the handsaw, drill and adapter with power to accomplish my task. I also had several, but not enough, pieces of wire, and pliers to twist the ends together. (NOTE TO SELF – Don’t tell people that you know how to work with wire!) It took a while to gather all the supplies and glean additional bits of wire needed to hold them to the fence. The drill had a bit with the longest shank I have ever seen. After all was said and done, I realized that I had miscounted and had forgotten to do the sign for Colin. At least tomorrow, I know where all the equipment is and should be able to do it quickly given an hour off from my regular scheduled duties.

Also today, Josephine, the cleaner who works for Rita, came up to the Mountain Lodge and gave the kitchen a really good clean. Around lunchtime, Rita came up with I think the architect who will remodel the lodge for future volunteers. I can’t wait to see or hear about all the improvements. I hope they figure out a way to get rid of the rats, which is my main issue at this point.

I am at the stage of this placement where I am feeling the strain of the community and never being able to get away from them. Chain link fences surround all of our houses and areas and you begin to wonder, who is in the cage. We are not encouraged to go into the bush with out company as we are in a game reserve that includes all the wildlife, even the carnivores. I have been here for 14 days and have not had even a half - day off, and I most likely will not get one, except for the day excursion to Kruger one weekend. I find the age and inexperience of some of the volunteer team a challenge. I keep asking for a new way at looking at things and the words that will get my needs met without burning any bridges. This will be my mantra for the next two weeks.

Friday, September 8

7:00 Bottles
8:00 Dogs
9:00-11:00 Small babies
12:00 Lower deck
1:00 Medium Babies
2:00 Monitor
3:00-5:00 – Nursery Babies

Another breezy, overcast day which was nice.

Not a lot new today. Josephine has been designated at the manager for the Mountain Lodge. Yesterday she totally cleaned the kitchen and it is a sight to see. Today she attacked the lower deck with hose and scrub brush. She ended up doing my assigned duties for Noon so I took the time to finally get Colin’s sign up on his cage. I could not find the drill and suspected that Bennet had it with him. Cleverly I brought the sign with me and sure enough, he had the drill and a power source. Colin’s sign went up in less than 15 minutes. YAAAH! Completion.

The Tinies still do no more than come up and touch me, but I have hope by the time that I leave they will accept me.

Star is still having issues, but we have noticed that she is not the instigator, just a willing participant. The other pen gets up at the grill, usually 5-6 of them, and flash their eyes and she responds. I had to remove her 9 times before she finally settled. She ended up really biting me, so I pined her down, and within 5 minutes had forgiven me and was back on my lap with a potato.

Tomorrow, I was supposed to cook, so I was planning how to get the noodles cooked for tuna noodle casserole during the day. What I learned at dinner was that we were going to be treated to a proper South African Bri (BBQ) so I am off the hook to cook until Monday.

I go to Kruger with Charlotte on Sunday that will be a welcome break from work and CARE for one day. I won’t have to wear my contacts that will be good as my eyes are getting a little tired. One more day of work and then my first photo safari!

Saturday, September 9

7:45 Small Babies
9:00 Crates
10:00-11:00 Medium Babies
11:00 Bottles
Noon Monitor
1:00 Dogs
2:00-3:00 Medium Babies
3:00 Tidy crates
4:00 Bottles

Hello to Alice from Toronto today.

Long day today with lots of things to do. Two shifts of medium babies with the standard two Violet and Caley vying for my lap. Violet was named because her face was so bruised by the mom dropping her from height before they managed to get her away. My second shift found them both on my lap, Violet napping and Caley being ridiculous until she finally bit a co-volunteer and then 7 minutes before my shift was up, finally fell asleep on my chest. Just as I was leaving I had four, two asleep and two trying to be groomed or massaged. One of them was Alice, the pickpocket and chubby girl. I try to tell them to get in early to get their massages but some times their schedules are such that they cannot manage it.

Huge monitor lizard walked down the hill between the lower house and cages towards the river. Four times the size of the ones on Kangaroo Island. Very impressive and the baboons thought so too and they all went to the side of the cage where they could see him. They are very curious and nosey and know what is going on around them at all times.

Monitoring today by myself with no dramas. Charlie is still handsome and I have officially named the two babies, one in each troop. The one in Sindle that had been born 10 days before I arrived is Elf and the new baby in Bip Bop is Button. Both little girls and mighty sweet.

A list of things that the baboons will be offered to eat include sweet potato, bell peppers, bread, apples, cabbage, melon or pumpkin and occasionally other assorted fruits and veggies. In the milk kitchen there are also peanuts, hard corn kernels, nuts and sometimes little candies such as gummy worms. Also in the milk kitchen are eggs (19 twice a day) that are filled with vitamin supplements and are given to the elderly baboons.

The new item on the list today was tidy the crate area or the food shed area. As we receive different foodstuffs on a daily basis, there are usually different food scrapes on the floor. Today we were raking up the huge outer cabbage leaves and bread remnants. Those were loaded into crates and then taken outside the compound and given to the wild troop to eat.

After that task, we had a mountain of boxes to be cut down and stacked neatly. It was obvious that this procedure had not been done in a long time and in fact, there is a huge garbage pile to be taken to the dump as soon as the schedule will allow. My co-volunteers were not enthusiastic participants in the box destruction, as we would unearth large cockroaches and other crawlies. (IF THEY WOULD WEAR CLOSE TOED SHOES INSTEAD OF FLIP FLOPS, IT WOULD BE HELPFUL!) We made a small dent in the pile and there will most likely be more tidy assignments in the future.

I am pooped today after work and grabbed the first shower and threw away my disposal contacts that I have been wearing for two weeks. YAAAH!

Tonight is the bbq called a Braai and include Pap, the corn maize mush that is standard South African fare. I had hoped for an early night, as I will be on the road at 6:30 tomorrow for my first photo safari! We will see.

Gemma leaves tomorrow when I am away and Alethia leaves on Monday. Alethia has been down and out for the past two days with a stomach bug but hopes to be back in action tomorrow. I will miss both these ladies, as they are very positive people and excellent workers


Hello to Leilani from Moscow, Idaho today.

6:30 am start

I was up at 6 to be ready to be picked up at 6:30 by Davi, our guide who is also a local volunteer at CARE.

We had been warned that it might be cool, so I wore my fleece and took my jacket. I did not need the later and was out of my fleece at 9:00 am. Our vehicle was an old jeep with canvas cover over the roll bar. The front passenger seat was very comfortable and included a sheepskin. The back seat had a seat about 8 inches deep with an extra cushion on top trying to make it longer and failing miserably. Charlotte and I agreed to change at each of the four planned stops, mainly to relieve the bum, but also to increase your chances of seeing things as the view from the back was minimal to the front and limited at the sides.

We stopped at the petrol station for the ATM and to stock up on treats for the trip. Once we were in Kruger, we would not be able to get out of the vehicle except at the designated stops. Kruger is a 50,000 hectares park that runs along the Eastern perimeter of South Africa near Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Recently, Mozambique added another 40, 000 hectares for a combined park. Admission was $120 rand, not quite $20.

The first things that I noticed was the number and size of the termite mounds. They are huge, twice the size of the ones in Australia. Davi said that they were grass-cutting termites and that the mound is like an iceberg with only the top 1/3 above ground. He also said that many animals use the mounds for various things including the elephants that will rest next to them and lean on them so that they can sleep standing and supported. Very impressive.

My wish was to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos and as many other things as possible. The “Big 5”, from the Great White Hunter Days is the Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Cape Buffalo and the Rhino. There is also the “Small 5” which is the Lion???, Leopard Tortoise, Elephant ???, Buffalo???? and the Rhinoceros Beetle. (Not much hope of seeing any of them, but who knows!)

On the way to the first stop we saw 13 bachelor African Elephants. They are truly the most amazing animals. Magnificent and huge, elegant and slow moving, it was fascinating to see their tracks on the road and on the dirt shoulder and to watch their hind feet hit the exact same spot that their front foot as just left. I wished we had the chance to just sit and watch them, but not today. Charlotte, who had been in Botswana last year, had already done a safari and was excellent at spotting animals in the bush. She spotted our first giraffe across the river and the only zebras we saw for the entire day were far off and in the bush. I could not see them properly and they only appeared as dark figures, could have been zebra, could have been deer.

Davi told us that there are over 100,000 Impala in Kruger and they are the main food source for all the carnivores. We came across them all during the day, usually in small groups hiding in the shade. It was 32 degrees Celsius today, hot and very sunny.

Our first stop was at a one of the “camps” which is a fenced compound with a shop, restaurant and little huts with air conditioners that people can rent like hotel rooms. It looked very civilized and a little commercial. It had a large shop with lots of souvenirs and foodstuffs, as people had a choice of self-catering or eating at the restaurant. I took a picture of the stands of the plant “mother’s in laws tongue” that people buy in the shops in the US. I got in the back at this point.

As we proceeded down the road, I could tell that there were some large, dark animals in front of us. They turned out to be four very large Cape Buffalo Bulls. Known for the nasty temper, we weren’t sure if they would charge us or not, but they ended up posing for photos and then moving along the side of the road.

As we went down yet another bumpy dirt road towards an overlook over the Oliphant’s River (which is the same river that runs next to CARE), we finally came upon a female elephant herd with several calves and two large males, one obviously in Muste with the glands on his head draining. Davi was not comfortable with the bull so we moved. There were several cars that were getting way to close for comfort and Davi told us the time that he was in a seriously dangerous situation with an elephant and her calf. I must admit, I wanted to be able to stop and stay put and just enjoy them for a long time. I could hear them eating and munching and it was a soothing sound. Maybe when I am at the Lion Park, I will be able to go on another safari and we will have more time to spend in one place.

I asked Davi to point out the two most famous trees that I have heard so much about – the acacia and the baobab tree. The Acacia was just beginning to bloom and you can usually tell them apart and they are the ones with the amazingly long and sharp thorns. The Baobab tree has a massive trunk and branches that at this time of the year look absolutely bare. All the animals know that this a tree that can be a resource for them and the elephants love to eat the bark as well as the leaves. Very impressive

We were on the hunt along the river for the hippos. They can sometimes be seen by CARE, but only when the water is deeper with many pools for them to bath in. As we approach one river lookout, there they were! 4 hippos, one getting a sun tan and flat out on her side on the beach, one in the water and heading away from us and two that were climbing out of the water an beginning to graze. They were very cute and I was so happy to see them.

We were close to out lunch break at another camp with a high river lookout. As we exited the jeep, I heard a sound and wondered what I had heard. As I went around the jeep, it turned out to be Charlotte who was ill and very likely suffering with either dehydration or many a minor tummy upset due to too many baboon fingers in her mouth. Poor sweetie. She felt embarrassed and awful at the same time. We brought her bottled water and Gatorade and had her lay down in the shade on a bench.

Davi and I got a little lunch and I bought postcards and then went to over look the river. At one point, there were more hippos in view. One that I could only see the ears, eye sockets and nostrils. I think he was winking at me.

On the whole, the animal sightings that we saw were minor compared to what they can be on other days. Unfortunately, with only one day in the park, we were only able to see what we saw.

Charlotte in the front as we left the lunch stop, which I said was fine, but that I was not willing to spend the entire rest of the trip in the backseat. As Charlotte was in the front, I asked her to please draw giraffes closer to the car for us, as I had not been able to get a good shot of the only one we had seen so far. Within 5 minutes, two lovely Giraffes, on my side of the vehicle, were munching and posing for photos. FABULOUS!

After that, I asked Charlotte to please do the same thing with the zebra. No luck with zebra, but we did have positive sightings of a huge elephant herd on the horizon, a lovely Kudu buck with curling horns and very close sightings of the Yellow Beaked Hornbill and the African Fish Eagle.

Our final stop and potty break was at a location where guides sometimes bring you to a sight were there are archeological remnants of iron ore processing and spearhead manufacturing. The local guide had closed up shop for the night, but it was nice to potty and to finally get back into the front seat. On the door to the toilet, it asked you to please keep the door closed, as the baboons are very curious. I looked at the handle and after my experience at CARE now that it will take more than a closed door to keep them out.

No additional animals spotted on the way out of the park but we did see three stripped mongooses on the road up to CARE and a tree squirrel like we have at the center. We arrived back at CARE at 5:20 pm we are pooped and hot.

As I got back to my room, I looked at the calendar and I realized that although it is hard to believe, that I leave in 11 days.

Posted by ladyjanes 09:11 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 28A - First week with Baboons

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Entry # 28 A – First full week with baboons

Monday, August 28

I went to bed feeling a little sorry for myself as I had misread my schedule and assumed I had 10 hours straight of work. I woke at 3am and could not get back to sleep. I think I will try and stay up a little longer tonight and take a pill in order to sleep until 6am at least.

I was determined to get more regular meals today and to get into my groove. I was also determined it would be a better day than yesterday.


7:00 Bottles – This is a huge bottle and work start up session that also includes moving the troops outside. I took Beau out today and he made such a fuss, that I scuffed him and he bit me most of the way. Not an auspicious start to my animal communication for today.

7:45-9:00 Small Babies – Nigel is still my best friend, although Mr. Stubbs, Oros and Valentine all made an appearance. Even Star was okay today as I would acknowledge her and then ignore her, which seemed to work. At the end of the session, Nigel was being a poop and when I restrained him, he got really pissy with me and is no longer my friend (for today!). Sigh! Their egos are so fragile, any discipline upsets the apple cart and they hold a grudge. I miss my friend.

9:00 – Crates- I thought that crates would be a lot easier today as we did not have any more melons, but that just meant we had to cut up 3 times the number of cabbages. This is the second day of crates and we have had a hard time getting through the entire cutting and sorting within one hour. Extra people might help, but with only three machetes, there is only so much the extra people can do. Not mine to fix.

10:00 – Monitoring – Sindle troop much calmer today and very cute. The large sequestered male in Bip Bop still did not like my presence, but after he was fed, he was concentrating elsewhere.

11-12 – Bottles – I am the bottle queen.

12-1 Medium babies – It is getting hotter during the days, so sitting in the hoks in your hooded windbreaker is not always the most fun, but the only way to keep your arms out of teeth and your hair in your head. The troop was much calmer today, sort of sleepy in the midday sun.

I had an hour break during which I hand washed some clothes, heated up and ate soup with an apple and cheese and actually relaxed for a minute.

2:00 Lower deck – the lower level of our house with the kitchen has one side as our dining room that I needed to sweep and clean. With the thatch finally gone, I tried to get all the little remnants out. Just as I began, the three new girls from the UK arrived and I helped to settle them in. I also took my rag and attacked the rat terds in the shower room. More organization still needed in the shower as the floor is littered with bottles of shampoo, etc most likely from previous volunteers.

3-5 – Small babies – A rather hectic afternoon for this troop and with the additional visitors, at one point, Star was very anxious and kept attacking one of the new girls. I had to restrain her. Finally, Kim pulled two of the girls out and they rotated one at a time into each of the three pens. Things settled a little, but Star was still too aggressive and really went after Charlotte. Kim came in and intervened. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a calmer day.

I find that every time I intervene, I end up being bit. However, Sara says that we cannot allow bad behavior to continue or it can endanger others. I will continue to ask for support from Francis and Lillith and keep trying to be gentle yet firm with my little charges. As I watch them, they really are so childlike, a group of very athletic 2 years old with the world by the tail. Their expressions are priceless and their manual dexterity amazing. I feel this is great warm up training for my time with the orphans in Romania.

I spent some time blogging that caught me up and have made up my shopping list for the weekly shopping tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 29



7:30 – Dogs – This went better today in that I took all three of the dogs up the hill for the half hour, but it wasn’t enough time and I was anxious to get to my next task. I learned after the fact that most of the ladies take each dog for 10 minutes for the 7:30 shift and only bring him or her to the house when they have one of the hour shifts. Next time!

8:00 – Clean up with 2 of the new girls – I had dreamt about this the night before. I was anxious as I had only done parts of this before and here I was with 2 new people to work with. It worked out fine as Sarah was around, but we had some issues with the water and Colin! Kirsten was washing buckets and Colin; the large male baboon came up and pushed her with both his hands. They seem to know if you are new or weak and pick on you. His behavior is becoming more and more of a problem. He even pushed Rita down yesterday, which is almost unheard of as they usually respect her. More about Colin later. I was back in the milk kitchen doing something when Bennet, the head worker came and asked if we had seen the Oliphant! Sure enough, across the river from us was an African Elephant eating from the trees. YAAAAH! ANOTHER GOAL! I can go home now! I wasn’t really close enough get a good look or to see how large he was, but I am sure I will have another opportunity.

9:00–11:00 – Medium babies - This group is very self sufficient for the most part and plays amongst themselves. You may be a pedestal or a launching pad or landing strip for some of the games, but with 15, there is usually at least one on your lap. It is hard for them to really cuddle and sleep as this group has tons of energy.

At one point, I was looking over into Biggest babies pen and there was one laying with all four appendages dangling down and her stomach was support by a canvas strap, similar to a narrow hammock. Very cute. Another time, one of them had stolen a nipple from one of the baby bottles and was sucking on it, with her eyes closed and her head tilted. I asked Kim if there were some “special” individuals in the group. She said yes!

As I exited the pen for my break, Pam asked if anyone could take her place for shopping as she had an unremembered guest arriving. I ended up going which was interesting and easier for me to buy some things that I needed. I missed monitoring today, but I would have anyway as Pam and I have to go together as it is in section 3.

On the way back. Aletheia spotted more elephants in the bush so we stopped to watch, 5 including a smallish baby. We also saw one of the native antelopes, a bush buck, with huge v shaped horns. ABSOUTELY AMAZING!

We got back with all the stuff (16-5 liter jugs of water to name a few of the items) and then sorted them by person. We will sort the money later. I sprang for bottles of hand soap for each of the bathrooms and kitchen.

3:00-4:30 – Small babies – I am beginning realize how fragile their egos are. Nigel is still irritated at me and won’t give me the time of day. When he shoots past in the circuit of play, he is as likely to bite me as to say hello. It sort of hurts my feelings, but it also offers me time to get to know others like Goku and Oros. I have decided to play it cool with Nigel and let him approach me.

Outside of our cage were two female gazelles. I will have to get a book of African wildlife so I can determine the proper names of everything I will see!

4:30 – Ship – This is where a team of three cleans the three hoks for the tinies, smalls and medium babies. With rake, broom and shovel and hose, we take out all the left over food and straw and then wash down the 2 enclosures that have drains. The tinies does not have a drain so we just sweep and shovel in there. All this is being done with the occupants racing around and leaping on your from above. After we have all the stuff gathered, we carry it in buckets around the corner and down and spread it on the ground for the wild troops to pick through.

In the Tinies enclosure there is a gap in the roof cover and the medium pen has a platform above our heads. It is not uncommon to be walking underneath the space and be peed, pooped or barfed on, or have your hair pulled. Some times it is only milk being spilled from one of the bottles. That is when you are lucky.

It was a weird energy day for me again. LET GO LET GO LET GO keeps being my lesson.


Wednesday, August 30

VIBES Card – Take your time.

My laundry day – YAAH! And just in the nick of time. I had rinsed out my pants for the last three days, but they were beginning to have a life of their own.

7:00 Medium Babies – This also includes moving the troop outside and most are very anxious to get out. I was gnawed on by all of them and I have many new scrapes and bites before the morning was out. Today my special friends were Violet, Jane and Basil, a very handsome male. Star from the smalls was being such a pistol to the new girls, that Sara put her in the with mediums. She did one circuit screaming and then launched into my lap and hide under my right arm under my jacket. Occasionally, Kim would call her and she would go to the fence, finish the circuit and then scramble back into my jacket. My understanding is when she was returned to her pen, she was much calmer and nicer to everyone else.

9:00 Crates – Not too bad today, as the crates would have cabbage, carrots, bread, potatoes, apples. My machete technique is getting quite good, but I am still amazed where the blade falls considering where I am focusing.

10:00 Monitoring – We stopped by to see the samango’s again and my goodness, Charlie is handsome.


Their pen is right next to my biggest troop and I properly introduced myself to the sequestered male who had been agitated to see me before. He was friendly and kept showing me his butt. I told him it was a lovely butt and he seemed happy with that. During our time with the troops, Pam pointed out a hole in her pen that would allow the babies to entered one of the sequestered male’s pens. During our time, the workers went in to make the repair.

11-12:00 – Medium Babies – Sara gave them gummy treats! IS SHE HIGH? Why would you give pure sugar to a bunch of ADHD 2 year olds? It was funny to see them grab the treats and stick them in their cheek pouches and then grab more. The little girl I was holding, Jane, is very skittish and keeps getting chased, so she didn’t get any. Sara gave me some to hold back for her. I was pleased that she finally came to me and settled down enough to have her treats. Needless to say, after all that sugar, there was lots of energy and a fair amount of barfing going on. I really feel sorry for the ship people today.

1:00 - Bottles – No dramas here today.

2:00-4:00 – Small Babies – I am making friends with Roxie. She is a medium baby who had been a pet and had been abandoned by her human parents. She had been left chained around the waist and you can still see the band where the chain was. One of her back legs does not work well and she is very anxious and wants to be held a lot. She loves the tinies and is a great Auntie. She has not really have much to do with me, but today came over and finally sat next to me and rested her head on my shoulder. She was very unhappy with me when I had to leave. She has been carrying around little Zorro who is another special baby who does not bond with people especially well. When he does bond, he becomes absolutely hysterical when they leave. Roxie steps in and comforts them. But with her bad back leg and the weight of the baby, she labors around. Finally, I asked her to just settle next to me and keep still and rest, which she did for a while.

4:00 – Bottles – This is very similar to the 7am bottles with extras made for all the outlying cages. The added complication today was that in one of the outlying pens, a baby had managed to get through a hole in the fence and into another troops enclosure. Both troops were going crazy. Sara finally managed to get the baby back to the right troop. As all this is going on, Colin had been sighted and they have two pens rigged to capture him. They don’t want to dart him because once darted he will run and then they may not be able to find him. They will not euthanize him, but want to catch him and then determine if they will relocate him into the wild or keep him in an enclosure.

One of the new groups I came in contact with this afternoon is in the pen that is attached to the medium babies, called the Biggest babies. This troop is considerably bigger, heavier and livelier. 18 of the them and a high platform that they can hide in. By the end of our time, we had 16 bottles and the other two were up in the box on the platform. I was beginning to climb up and get them, but luckily, Pam lured them out and encouraged them to give up their bottles.

5:15 – Carry in the babies – remember all the gummy treats they all got? Did I forget to mention that the troops diet changes daily due to the availability of certain foods? Did I mention that today we began feeding red peppers? Can you guess what ended up all of my left leg as I was carrying Violet inside? Correct in one, diarrhea all down my left leg. Thank God I was cooking tonight because it means that I get the shower first!

Cook Dinner – Chili and chips – We have a cabinet full of flavored powdered soya products and I tested the chili one for lunch. It was fine so I add lots of bean, onions, and peppers and with sour cream and tortilla chips, it was almost like my chili at home.

I feel much calmer and more into this placement.

Thursday, August 31


7:00 bottles - So much to do early in the day and as we were delivering the first shift of babies to the outside pens, Bennett told Sara that most of the other staff has quit as yesterday was pay day. Not great news, but with the volunteers, we should be able to get all the feeding done at least for today. One of the things that was new for me today was I had to cut up a bucket of food for Stevie. I thought he was blind, but I went to help Catarina by distracting him as she tried to get food in the door to him. I finally ended up feeding him a bottle through the cage to keep him occupied. He was so pissed when the food finally made it inside and barked at me. I told him that I hadn’t lied to him; he did get some of the bottle. My animal communication skills still need work.

Naked Guy used to receive medicine in the milk and still gets one bottle a day. He is even more handsome up close.

I had about 40 minutes of a break and took a cup of tea up to the upper deck and looked at the landscape and thought about how I was in AFRICA and feeling at peace with the world and myself. I find that I am stronger than I imagined I would be, but I can’t quite say how. I am amazed how I can be patient with these small creatures as they landed on my exposed stomach or head and pull my hair. I remember in the past when I was holding a human baby, if they grabbed at me and pinched, I would loose it. I really believe that this placement will help prepare me for Romania and the orphans. I watch them and they have so many traits that could be compared to human; their little egos, alliances and friendships, misunderstandings and makeup’s and physically, working through issues and problem solving solutions. They are a miracle and I am so pleased that I am here.

9:00-11:00 – Small Babies – I think I have discovered the pattern and the solution to making it through the day without a melt down with one of my little friends resulting in me getting bit. First thing in the morning, they are all working through the hierarchy including with the volunteers and that means some good-natured hello bites or tastes as they rush past. By not making is mean something, the day is much better for me and them. With this new realization, Nigel is back as my friend and as long as I wait for him to approach, which is usually later in the day, we are back to grooming and having a little cuddle. He is usually too busy playing and trying to be big in the morning to have time in his schedule for a cuddle. I am content to wait and let him dictate the pace. (Not bad, I have at least identified this lesson within one week of arriving!)

Roxie came over and had a little sleep on me. As I held her, I just cried as I thought about her previous abuse and her ability to trust again and to allow us in to her world.

Noon – Monitoring with Pam – Stopped by and said Hi to Charlie, the Samango, who is still incredibly handsome. Sindle troop was doing well today and they are fun to watch. I spent the rest of the time with Bip Bop troop and tried to recognize the key players. They were all eating when I arrived, so not much activity. It is a great time to determine seniority as the dominant animals eat first and the lower ranked wait until they are finished.

1:00-2:00 – Medium Babies – this group was slowing down for the day, and again, Star from the Small babies was banished to the Mediums to work on her getting along with others skills. She still screeched and spent the majority of her time in my lap. I spoke to her and told her this was her own doing. It was her choice to behave in her pen, or to come into this larger pen with the bigger babies. Sara said I should not baby her too much as she had to learn to make her way. She really was doing much better by the time Rita came up to the pen. Star had one more tiff and screamed which upset Rita and she said that we were not to change things without letting her know. (We had not done anything that Lee and Sara were unaware of, but she must have forgotten that she had been told about the possible switch the day before). I took Star back into smalls as I exited the pen.

I spent a half hour in the tinies pen to try and get them accustomed to me. As long as one of the surrogate mothers was in the pen, Icarus and Tortilla are happy to have me and they would count coo on me by running up, lip smacking, touching my foot or leg and then run away. Lynn, one of the newest surrogate mothers told me it took her three weeks to have them used to her. Good, I should be in like Flint in two more weeks.

I ended up going into Small babies at 2:00 because I offered to cover Pam in Smalls as she had not had a break earlier in the day. As Aletheia was arriving with the 2:00 pm bottles, she noticed Colin hanging around. She managed to lure him into the air lock around the biggest babies pen and he was captured. He was darted and will most likely live out his life in an enclosure at the center. He is not afraid enough of humans, in fact he is down right aggressive, to be releasable.
When Lee returns from Jburg, I think the decision will be made. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we had begun to move in groups and carry a stick wherever we went. Colin is incredibly smart and knew the schedule better than the volunteers, including the times and routes that we would take with bottles or buckets of food.

3:00-5:00 – Small Babies – I spent another hour in the tinies to give them more face time. At one point, in the medium pen, Alice, the pickpocket, had stolen the flip-flop from one of the new volunteers and would not give it back. (What anyone would be doing in flip-flops in these pens with the poo, dirt and the little fingers, I cannot imagine!) I spent time banging on the floor of the alcove above the tinies pen to try and get her to go back into the main pen where she could be caught and the shoe retrieved. When it was finally retrieved she was furious and shouted at all of us. Boy, They do not like being thwarted!

The wind was up and I had been peed on several times and I was getting cold. Luckily, Goku took a nap on my chest, which warmed me up. I am now able to recognize the alarm call, which is usually a single bark like sound. It is usually followed immediately by 5 small babies arriving on your lap, head or your waist. Alarm calls are not specific and the troops first inclination is to climb as high as possible, which usually means you!

After the Goku nap, finally Roxie can back by for another cuddle and nap. She has been mothering two of the little guys Mr. Stubbs and Zorro and she will be penned overnight with them from now on. Her back leg seems to be getting worse, which may be a function of her being more active in the Small Babies pen then she was in the Medium pen. My understanding is that she will be going to the vet for an X-ray on her hips. Not sure when that will happen.

Friday, September 1 – Week one anniversary.

Today is the start of week two for me. I find that I am becoming more tired and finding 6:15 a little early these days. I end up waking up during the night and having a hard time getting back to sleep.


7:15 – Unload truck – I had assumed that this meant a feed truck was coming, but it was unloading Lee’s truck who had returned from Jburg the prior evening. She had taken a wild baboon in for cataract surgery. She had brought back lots of milk powder, dog food, t-shirts and assorted treats for the baboons. As two of the new girls and I began to pile in the stuff in the world’s oldest and heaviest wheelbarrow, we were accosted by baboons who made off with one bag of dog food. At that point, we loaded our arms instead of the wheelbarrow and toted the stuff to the kitchen. The milk powder was very heavy, so Lee ended up moving the truck a little closer to the kitchen. The two girls were a little slow to jump in, so I took on the task of job assignments. I realized after the fact that I had the directions for Lee about what needed to happen and had neglected to explain the plan properly to the crew. I apologized to them once I had realized my non-communication. We finally had it done just before 9:00.

9:00-10:00- Medium Babies – no dramas, no fights, no screaming and no visitation by Star from the Smalls.

10-Noon – Feed – I had been assigned to help with the feeding of the enclosures with the lack of staff, but Sara canceled it. Apparently, there were enough people to handle it. So I had two hours on my hands. I decided to work on my monitoring logbooks to try and get a handle on my bigger troop. Aletheia found me reading and asked if I would like to accompany her to he river to take pictures. It was my first time to go to the river and in the middle of the day, there wasn’t much wildlife to be seen. I know that the next time I go, I will take not only my camera but also my binoculars.

1:00-3:00 – Small Babies – Again, no dramas, no major fights, not much screaming and no bites for Kirsten who had had a run-in with Star earlier in the day. The funniest things that happened was that Roxie, our surrogate Auntie, during an alarm call, dropped her young charge, Zorro, head first into the water trough. He came up sputtering and finally screaming until she retrieved and comforted him. Not a very good Auntie to jettison your charge during an emergency - (rather like a kangaroo mum!)

Roxie and zorro.JPG
3:30-4:30 – Monitor- Nothing new to report, except that I finally got to sit and observe my larger troop and work out who was who. They still have lots of places that I can’t see if I sit, but if I move around, I get a pretty good view of everyone.

4:30 – Ship – Not one of my most favorite tasks, as we have to clean the three hoks and two of them still have inhabitants as we are trying to clean. Not the most efficient way to work, but we got it done.

We had been told to keep a look out for a young sub-adult female who was carrying a tiny baby. It appears that the mom must have died and the sister or aunt is carrying it around. The “new” mother does not have milk for the baby and if we cannot locate her and get her into custody, the baby will die. The other dilemma is that the “new” mother will most likely shriek when we take away the baby, which will cause the entire troop to descend in support of the screecher. No sign of her by the end of the day.

As I looked at my schedule for tomorrow, I have been designated as housemaster for the week. This means that I follow up on the four areas of the house that are to cleaned daily. I will also be working to clean up the shower area and distribute or get rid of all the extraneous clothing on the clothesline during the weekend.

Both Saturday and Sunday, we will be light two people, as they will be taking a daylong visit to Kruger Park. I will also be doing this on one of my weekends. I look forward to the trip away from the center as I will be in clean clothes and won’t have to wear my contacts for day.

Saturday, September 2


7:00 – Bottles – I got to feed Naked Man today, who is one of my favorite guys. As you may remember, he has a condition and has lost all of his hair, which makes him appear very chiseled and lean. Very Handsome.

7:45-9:00 – Small babies – The early shift finds them interested in letting off steam, playing an eating, but Nigel came over at one point for a little grooming.

9:00- Crates – Easy today with only apples and sweet potatoes to handle.

10:00 Monitoring – Remember yesterday when I was scheduled for feeding but it was cancelled? Well, today I was not scheduled for feeding but they needed us, so I carried crates and stuffed food through the holes in the cages for the individual animals. Sara did not want everyone to do it as the males are very unpredictable and one volunteer was silly enough to put his entire hand through the opening and ended up with plastic surgery on his thumb. It was exhausting in the heat and hard on my wrists. By the end, I got some electrolytes and rested until my next shift.


12-1:00 – Medium babies – At one point, all the babies where at my side of the fence looking out at something, that I could not see. Finally, I turned to see what they were watching and it turned out to be a 12-inch long snake, silver and moving away from the cage. One of the guys was passing and I asked him to handle it. He killed it and when I asked what kind it was, he said dangerous. Later, Lee said that she would not have killed it and moved it into the bush. The African’s assume each snake is a bad one and don’t give it the benefit of the doubt.

2:00-3:00 – Dogs – I brought all the dogs up to the house and spent the time organizing the pantry, ready for additional rat proof containers. Lots of rat poop!

3:00-5:00 – Small babies – I was pulled early out of this in order to help with 4pm bottles. During the bottles, I got to feed more of the adult’s bottles through the bars. They are very sweet, but I am not sure why such large animals are still getting milk.

I am finally in the swing of this place, but understand why some of the people that are leaving soon and counting down the days. The work is alternately physically difficult and there are inconsistencies of preparedness and procedures that can be frustrating at times. I can also see why this place gets into your blood, because the babies are delightful, except for the biting, and how it can consume your entire life.

The ladies that went to Kruger today saw lots of elephants, giraffes, impalas and hoofed species, hippos, zebras but no carnivores. I am looking forward to the time that I will get to go, especially as it will be a day with no contacts!

My contacts are really working better than I expected even without sunglasses, but my eyes are tired and I feel that I look exhausted. HMMMM?

I found by the end of the day that my right wrist was feeling jammed again. My masculine side again and I find that when others under do, I overdo. It was probably a combination of carrying four crates at one time and the tug-a-war with the baboons in the largest enclosure for the turquoise shirt. I will learn eventually to let it flow and let it go.

Sunday, September 3

It was lovely to be able to lie in for another hour and have the house essentially to myself before I went off to clean up. I took a cup of tea up to my room to get ready. I went off to my first assignment feeling refreshed and balanced.

We were down Pam today as she accompanied Lee to the release site to retrieve one of the females. The baboon is not with the pack and is therefore not being groomed and finding food on her own. She keeps coming back to the two people who are monitoring the troop. If she does not stay with the troop, she will die, therefore they will retrieve her.

8:00 - Clean up - It went much easier today with three of us and we were even finished early.

9:00 – Medium Babies – I realized today that I prefer these babies in the afternoon after they have gotten rid of most of their extra energy.

10:00 – Feed – Frustrating and hot again without sufficient people to get it done in an hour. One of our feeders had diarrhea and had to leave for at least half of the shift. We finally called in Aletheia to take up the slack and she could carry and feed which helped us tremendously.

11:00 – 1:00 – Small Babies – I was 20 minutes late for this shift but I had a wonderful time with the little guys. They are my favorite and I know them all and their little personalities. Even Star is coming up and getting hugs and cuddles and is nicer to everyone in the pen.

2:00 – 3:00 – Medium Babies – Another anxious hour with the whirling dervishes and one with a piece of glass in his mouth. At one point, I was frustrated with 4 on my head or hanging on my hair and I abruptly stood up and dumped the one in my lap rather hard on the deck. Poor baby! The piece of glass finally ended up in Caley’s mouth, and I finally managed to get it out of her.

3:00-4:00 – Monitor – without Pam as she was going on a pick up from the release site.

I went around to my monitoring spot and checked in with Sindle troop, with the yellow baboons and then on to Bip Bop. Almost immediately, I thought I saw a new baby in the pen. I kept counting the ever-moving assortment of heads and finally came up with 17 twice in a row. I consulted my list and sure enough, two days ago it was only 16. This is the troop that I don’t have as good a handle on and it took me a while to determine which female it was. From the previous person’s notes, it appeared that Eye’s Mom was pregnant. I had done a swelling assessment on each pen two days ago to try and get a better feel for the females. As I have had a difficult time seeing each of them daily, I am finally going on vaginal swelling size to determine who is who. Sure enough, it was Eye’s Mom. I AM AN AUNTIE! I get to name the baby, but I don’t want to rush into just any name. I wanted to quickly go and tell Sarah about the baby, but I had just started my shift. So I took notes for 55 minutes and then rushed back to the milk kitchen. Sarah and I went back out to the pen and she said due to the presence of the umbilical cord, the baby was most likely born late last night or early this morning.

Button and Eye's Mom.JPG

Charlotte and I were cooking dinner and we took the beans left over from last night and made baked potatoes. Simple and early dinner. Just as well, I am pooped and want to sleep.

Posted by ladyjanes 09:11 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 28 - Arriving in South Africa and early baboons

Another new continent - only Antartica left!

sunny 0 °F

Entry # 28 – Arriving in South Africa – August 24

Thursday, August 24 – First day in Africa and a new continent

Obviously as we left late, we arrived late, 1.5 hours to be exact at 8:20 am. It was a much better flight with plenty of legroom. I arrived feeling much better able to attend to the day and at this point, felt I probably could have been able to go directly to the baboon sanctuary.
I had plenty of time, as my next flight did not leave until 4 in the afternoon so I took it slow. We were shuttled via bus from the aircraft to the terminal and I got to step on to my next continent. At this point, I only have Antarctica left on my list and then I will have been on each of them at least once. YAAAH! No real impression of the smell or feel of Africa from this brief encounter. Airports around the world smell the same – airline fuel and diesel, dust and concrete.

Early errands included exchanging money, going to the ATM, breakfast, looking for the luggage storage and seeing if I could find internet. The luggage storage was in the international terminal and would end up costing around $4 per day. I had determined it was going to be worth it, as I would be flying very small commuter planes to Phalaborwa with strict 20 k limits.

In South Africa, the porters wear orange coveralls with numbers on them and they are very helpful if you are in a hurry or don’t know where you are going. Godfrey helped me get from the international to the domestic terminal and was very nice. It was not that far so I knew that I could get back there once I had sorted and recombined my luggage later in the day. The domestic terminal is very modern and nice with the loveliest inlays in the floor in the colors of the earth, browns, reds, and yellows.

They had a wonderfully convenient internet/post office/phone store called the postnet that had wireless hookup. A good thing to know, as I will be in the terminal several times before I leave. At the postnet I confirmed my room for the night at the B&B in Phalaborwa which I not managed to do on the web, bought stamps and called Annie.

My flight in the afternoon was on a Jet stream 44 with seats in the 1 X 2 configuration with about 25 seats. I had a single seat and tried to see the view, but it was coming on dusk and we flew above the clouds most of the way. A one-hour flight and I was picked up by Daan and Xena’s B&B, only 5 minutes from the airport. Phalaborwa is very small, a copper mining town in the middle of nowhere and close to Kruger Park, full of wildlife. The B&B is painted in wild colors and was charming and clean. They have many dogs, Rotties mostly who are very overweight and friendly. I was very pleased to be in my room by 6:30 as I was beginning to fade. The bed felt wonderful and I went to sleep. Woke at 1pm, and took a sleeping pill.

Friday, August 25 – Arriving at the baboon placement

A great breakfast prepared me to be picked up by Lee from CARE (Center for Animal Rehabilitation and Education) at 10am. Lee had some errands in town such a food shopping and banking and picking up a piece of pipe to fix the water system that had been destroyed by an elephant recently. We are still in the winter here and food supplies are not very lush right now. The center has had a visiting elephant twice is the last 3 weeks who has destroyed two cages and evacuated the contents. All of the monkeys except one have been retrieved

During our 40-minute drive to CARE I could see that locally the terrain was mainly low rolling hills with under brush and no many trees.

The staff and volunteers that are currently at the center include:

Rita Milgo – founder from 1980, Dutch and very nice. We don’t have a lot of direct contact with her, but she is always around.
Lee – originally from Zimbabwe is Rita’s right hand person and very knowledgeable
Sarah Denny – is originally from Ireland and has been on site, off and on, for at least two years.
??? - There is another staff member, a man who is currently sitting in the bush with a recently released troop. I may get to meet him before this ends.
There are also around 10 other South Africans that work on the grounds and do all the heavy maintenance and cleaning and feeding of all the major enclosures.

The work that is handled by the volunteer includes preparing bottles and food for the babies, playing and entertaining the adolescents and cleaning their area and pens, monitoring troops for behavior, sectioning out food for the rest of the compound and anything else that we are requested to do.

The current team of 8 includes – 2 Portuguese girls in their 20’s, Gemma from England, Kim from Laguna Beach, 50 and on her second trip within 3 months, Lynn from St. Louis for 6 weeks, Sara (who was ill when I arrived, so I don’t have a good feel for her and who she is), Aletheia, a zoology student originally from Seattle but studying in Scotland, Pam a research zoologist who is planning for vet school.

Most of us are housed in the Mountain Lodge – a two-story house on the top of the hill before you descend into the compound and go down towards the river. I am on the upper level that has three bedrooms and a toilet and a lovely screen porch that faces the river. My bedroom is wart hog and has two beds with mosquito netting tents over them. The other bedrooms are the hippos and cheetahs and the toilet is the zebra. The lower level has one additional bedroom, kitchen, toilet and sink, outside shower that is walled and the laundry lines.

Room sign.JPG

Other buildings or compounds on site include the feed shed, milk kitchen, mamba kitchen, baby hok’s (more on this later) and individual and troop baboon enclosures. Currently 14 troops are ready for release. More on releases later.

In addition to the baboons, Rita and staff look after the following animals that have come under their care including 1 tree squirrel (about the size of chipmunk), 2 meer cats or suricats (just as cute as they appear), (and a partridge in a pear tree… just kidding) and samango monkeys. The samango’s are hard to describe other than they walk on all fours, have a very long tail and their hair forms a curtain around their bodies. Charlie, the largest male is very handsome and approaches the edge of the cage so that we can get a better look.

Other wildlife outside the pens includes two troops of baboons called the long tits (total number uncounted but probably at least 120 animals) wart hogs and vervet monkeys. Imagine to my surprise the first time I exited the milk kitchen to find 2 wart hogs among the baboons eating the scrapes that had been thrown out the door. They are more afraid of us than we are of them and are funny when they run away, their tail is held straight up like an antenna. The Vervet monkeys are similar to the samango’s in style of hair and length of tail, but they are much smaller in size and lighter in color. The males are very distinctive in that their scrotum is robin egg blue and their penis is bright red. The Vervet Monkeys was another placement I was considering, but they would not have been as hands on as the baboons.

Elephants have recently been foraging for food and have destroyed two cages and let the inhabitants out. This has necessitated the installation of electric fences around all of the main structures. All of the animals have been retrieved except for one female that was old enough to be on her own. This is one of those necessary but not anticipated expenses that have to be paid, but cause a strain on the resources.

From the sight of the little dark droppings, we have LOTS OF RATS! In my bedroom on the top floor, the ceiling is thatch and as you sit on the toilet, at times, a little head pops out to stare at you. My understanding is that the thatch will be removed in an effort of get rid or reduce the rats. Lee had said that mosquitoes would be my least worry. I didn’t know she meant rats would be our main worry.

After I had made up my bed and had gotten organized, I went down to the baby hok (hok is the name from cage in one of the South African language) to get my first experience with the youngsters.

My bed.JPG

As we were moving between the pens, a large male from the wild troop called Colin during his first attack of the day tried, to take Corey (aged 3 weeks) from Kim, his human foster mother’s pouch with his teeth. Later in the day, Kim was walking with a baby bottle exposed (an absolute no no) and again Colin stole it and ran off with it. He has been a persistent problem and they plan to dart him and relocated him into the wild.

The hoks are a unit of 5 pens – two large ones that are very high for the oldest juveniles with three smaller pens in front of them. They all have interconnecting doors that can serve as air locks if you are moving supplies into one of the more populated pens. I was in the middle small pen with the tiniest babies - Icarus, Tortilla, Elle (between 8-11 weeks of age), Corey (3 weeks of age) and visitor – Roxy from the medium juveniles. All of these, except Roxie, have a surrogate mother who carries them around, bottle feed them and are generally with them 24-7

At the end of the shift, after I had learned about baboon language such as lip smacking, eye flashing, presenting and aggressive vs. submissive fear responses, I got to help carry one of the babies in from the pen for the night. This was a special treat as not everyone gets to do this. It all depends if the baboons accept you. I am obvious in!

Dinner will usually be late, 7:30 or so, but tonight, we had a special treat of chicken from one of the volunteers’ special cache of food.

Bed at 8:00 – 2 sleeping pills – to get on cycle in Africa and to avoid listening for the rats.

Saturday, August 26 – First day on the job

The rats found the corner of my bag, they didn’t blast through but I will need duct tape to repair it.

I had been advised to not wear my glasses or a hat in the pens for two reasons - 1) the babies will find and break them and 2) they recognize you by your face and the glasses form a barrier. So I am in my contacts after a 9-month hiatus. We will see how the eyes hold up, as usually I only wear them with sunglasses over them.


9:00-11 – Small babies – Think of a pen of 2 year olds left to themselves and you will see why at least two people are needed to keep an eye on 9 baboons. There are tires, toys, swings, ramps, tree stumps and a ledge to launch yourself off onto the head of the unsuspecting volunteer. Not listed in the enkosini literature, but I will suggest that they add it, is the importance of hooded jackets in these pens. The babies arrive from above when you least expected it and as their balance is not always stellar, your hair is their anchor to hold on to. If they can’t find your hair, sometimes you find a hand in your mouth, up your nose, in your eyes or your ears. There are 5 pens that share a common wall, so as I sit with the littles, I am looking into a larger pen with sub adults charging around and to my right is the tiny babies where I was yesterday. To the right to the tinies are the medium size babies and behind them is another large pen of juveniles.

At one point, Lee’s wrap that she uses to carry her tiny with her had been pulled into the sub adult pen by the dominate female, Cricket. Cricket is quite the fashion model of the troop and wrapped it like a sarong at one point, or would sit with it draped over one shoulder or over her head. Finally, you would look across and it would appear as a pennant streaming behind her as she raced all around her pen. My special friends in order of appearance were Mr. Stubbs, Oros, and Paprika. I was not well liked by Nigel or Star this visit, but I have been told this can change day to day. Valentine was attacked by wild male through the bars and bitten on the nose. There was quite a bit of noise and some blood. She needed lots of cuddles after that.

11:00 bottles – Some of the sets of babies get three bottles a day, others only two. There are bottles to be made, distributed, recollected and then washed. At different times of the day, we also cut up additional food for them.

Noon lunch – usually left over. The food situation is a little strange in that what CARE buys appears very limited and the volunteers supplement with lots of personal groceries. It is hard to know what is communal and what isn’t. More on this later.

1:00 orientation – Sarah, the Irish volunteer who has been her 4 times and is the foster mom of both Icarus and Tortilla, gave me the tour. She is the staff person who makes up the schedule and knows a lot about this placement. She took me to all the different sectors. I also got to meet Mr. Naked, a mature male baboon who has some type of skin disorder and has lost all of his hair. He looks like a martian or one of the Mexican hairless dogs that I say in Peru. Very handsome and rather chiseled without all that hair in the way.

Naked Guy.JPG

2:00 bottles – At this rate, I will be an expert at bottles soon.

3:00 monitoring – Pam is my monitoring buddy as our troops are in Sector 3. This section is out of sight of the main campus and we must always travel in pairs, as the wild troop can be very close at times. We can see the river from our enclosures and I keep hoping to see in elephant. My two 2 troops are Sindle and Bip Bop. Sindle (which means survivor) has two stunning examples of the subspecies of the Chacma Baboon that appear yellow. This is small troop and the individuals are easier to identify. The Bip Bop troop is large, about 18 individual and I did not even bother to watch them the first day as we only had an hour for both troops.

4:00 Small babies – It was fun to go back and have the babies remember me and be happy to see me.

5:00 carry the babies in and put them in cages

As we entered the milk kitchen to deposit the last of the babies in their pens for the night, Lee appeared with a female baboon that she thought had tetanus. Her name is George Bush. I got to help give an IV injection with the tetanus antitoxin. She looks pretty bad, but they have had luck with this serum before. It is from Germany, as the South African manufacturer only makes a batch every 10 years and they are currently out.

During the day, all of the thatch was removed from our ceiling. We hope that this will dramatically reduce the number of rats. There a little bits of thatch everywhere, but we will clean daily and continue to pick up. I am looking forward to a night with fewer rats.

Sunday, August 27

I was awake in the middle of the night and heard the rats, not as bad as before, but still around. It was too late to take a sleeping pill, so I blogged instead. I should have slept instead. I am running far behind each day and every day is so packed with things that I want to say that I am afraid I will leave something out.

George Bush did not make it through the night. She was in a really bad way yesterday, but they had experience success with the antiserum before. Rita and Lee hope to get the troops released as soon as possible, as there is tetanus in the ground and the troops will be better in the wild.

Day 2 itis struck and energy was off, voice was complaining and felt put upon today without a break for lunch. I was one of four where the schedule was like that.


7:30 - Dogs – first time so I took them all one at a time. Sindle, the three legged one, wanted a longer walk than I could accomplish so I ended up having to carry her, which did not please her.

8:00 - Clean up – Inside in Rita’s bathroom, three pens are set up daily to house most of the small babies. During this shift, you load out all the pens that had been brought inside over night and clean them thoroughly. I was washing all the pens outside and all the buckets with the wild troop around me. A little daunting at times as the big males came by.

9:00 - Crates – Most of the troop enclosures are fed by the staff, but there are pens with individual animals that each need food. The volunteers cut up fruit and veg for 80 crates for the individual males and 21 for the individual females. You will laugh to hear that I was cutting up huge watermelons and cabbages with a machete. Hopefully, my technique will kick in soon.

My Machete and me.JPG

10:00 - Monitor – back to the two troops from yesterday and I will spend more time with the second troop to begin to get to know them. The first troop was not as calm as they had been the day before and one of the sequestered males in the second troop took offence at my presence.

11:00- 1:00 - Small babies – back to see my friends. Mr. Stubbs who was my best pal yesterday would not give me the time of day because of his new best friend, Pam. Luckily, Nigel became my new best friend. At one point Pam was having difficulty with Nigel who was very upset with her and was complaining loudly and Mr. Stubbs was trying to help by biting Nigel. I was trying to get Mr. Stubbs off Nigel and during the fracas, Star (who I don’t get along with yet) came over to lend her support to Mr. Stubbs and bit me on the arm. NOTE TO SELF – When they are stressed, don’t butt in!!

1:00- Bottles - Pam and I did bottles as fast as we could in order to have a short break for lunch. Aletheia heard of our plights and finished the last 20 minutes of our bottles for us. Thank you Aletheia. I stuffed down some cheese and two apples and went off again.

2:00-4:00 - Medium babies – This was my first time in with this group who weigh at least twice that of the little guys. There are 15 in this troop and immediately, Caley came over and introduced herself and also pickpocket Alice who tried every pocket, zipper and Velcro on my pants to no avail. At one point, I had Paris on my knee and Basil on the other one peeing and one wanting to be groomed.

I had a wonderful time watching Paris, a little female, with a plastic crate and a rock. She would put the rock under the crate and then lift it up to get it out. She would drop it in from above and then retrieve out of the slot for the handle. She was amazing and lovely to watch. This group has its acrobatics down and is very adept at carrying soccer balls up the ramp to the loft. At one point, they managed to find a bit of the wrap that had been stolen the day before into the larger pen and were off to the races. These animals are much heavier, much rougher in their play and less intimidated by new people.

At one point, I watched a male see that Zoey (our weight challenged girl) bending over to drink. He streaked across the entire pen and pushed her in the water. She was so furious and chased him and caught him on top of Pam’s lap. When Pam would not allow Zoey to bite him, she turned her energy and aggression against Jane who would not leave Pam’s side. Even when Pam would push Zoey off her lap, Zoey would come up under the crates Pam was sitting on and bite Jane’s tail. Finally, Pam had to seriously chastise Zoey by pining her to the ground with one arm back. Once Pam released Zoey, Zoey would get on to higher ground flash her eyes and act aggressively to Pam and Jane. Finally Zoey settled down. During all this, two of the lowest members of the troop were in my lap clinging like leeches and trying to be as small as possible.

5:00 -Carry the babies in – I ended up with only one – Flash who was a little skittish and I needed to hold both his arm and the scruff of his neck. Flash had been a lab animal and they had done surgery on him so that his eyebrows would always be raised to show him in a constant aggressive pose. Hmmmm?

I was finally going to take a shower and as cooks always get first in the shower, Jemma and I went first. The shower was out on the porch, enclosed by walls, no light and the floor was absolutely littered with partially used shampoo bottles. The wall where you might put your shampoo was covered in rat poop. My organizing brain was already deciding that what it needed beside a light was a plastic crate for all the bottles to be housed in and a rag to get rid of the rat terds.

One of the things that sort of set me off energy wise this am is that the food supplied for the volunteers appears very limited. I knew the food would be vegetarian, but I had expected a little more variety. Add on top of that that most of the volunteers has bought additional supplies that take up all the room in the fridge and cabinet. I was having a hard time locating what supplies would be available for me to use for cooking. The one item they have in abundance was frozen soup, but no crackers, no bread, nothing to serve with it. I finally thought that maybe soup and deviled eggs would work. Jemma the other cook, wanted jacket potatoes (we had had mashed potatoes and stuffing the night before). So what we settled on was twice baked potatoes, two types of deviled eggs and frozen veggies.

The schedule posted on the fridge shows the two who cook and the two who clean up. I had cooked tonight, but I also appeared on the clean up schedule. The schedule was shifted so I did not also have to clean up.

Tomorrow we get three new volunteers. Hopefully, with the added bodies, we will all get lunch breaks and can spread the jobs around.

Posted by ladyjanes 09:10 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Entry 27 - Australia to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific for the first time. - OUCH!

sunny 0 °F

Entry # 27 – Leaving OZ and arriving in Hong Kong – August 19 - 23

Sunday, August 20 – Last Day in Sydney

Checked out and stored my luggage at the hotel and then took the train with things to be mailed to Global Gossip - 2 boxes. I wish they had Global Gossip stores all over as they are the wonderful combination of internet café, phone booths, fax station and mail services.

I had made a shuttle reservation on the line the day before and when I called to confirm, they had not received it and were booked solid.

I ended up calling a cab and my taxi driver had been to Hong Kong many times and gave me excellent information on restaurants and things to see. I arrived 5 hours early at the airport and was told that the counter would not open for another two hours. So I found some snacks and watched my DVD from Against the Wind and munched away. It was wonderful to be able to entertain myself. I may try to find other DVD’s with either 1 or 0 zones to carry just in case.

As I checked in, my bags were 25 kilos and only 20 were allowed. (NOTE TO SELF AND TO ALL INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS – International airlines have lower limits than the US Airlines. Suggestion - Check ahead with any airline you will use for their baggage limits and go pack to the lowest number) I did not end up being charged for it, but I plan to either only fly with one of my two bags in future and store one, and after Africa, I will mail one of my bags home. In the interim, it is time to jettison stuff again.

NOTE TO SELF – Next Round the World Trip – Only one bag and the carry on back pack!!!

Went to claim the refund on tax I had paid on a high-ticket item. I did not receive it because you have to have bought your item within 30 days of departure. For my original departure date, my purchase would have been fine, but not after I extended my visa. As they were trying to process me, the computer did not find my passport or me. I was beginning to feel like Mr. Cellophane from Chicago. By this time, my energy was rather low and my optimism dampened. Had I known/or remembered the rules that I would not have been able to claim a refund, I would have shipped the item home from Australia instead of having to wait for Hong Kong. I have the email to write to explain my concerns and will do so at my earliest convenience.

Cathay Pacific – first time on this airline and the Aircraft #330 has the seat configuration of 2 by 4 by 2. I had a window and a very large man on the aisle. The flight was absolutely full and no additional seats anywhere. With not much legroom and the person in front of me fully reclined, it was a very uncomfortable flight. Add to this that there wasn’t anything fun to watch on the videos, but the food was pretty good and you got this cute little bag with socks, a tooth brush and tooth paste and a breath mint, so it wasn’t all bad. I tried my best to sleep but ended up arriving tired with a backache and feeling a little overwhelmed.

Monday, August 21 – Arriving in Hong Kong

I landed in China at 5:10 am, pooped and stiff. As I looked out the window, I could not see the ground until we were on it. I had forgotten what humidity and an abundance of water can do for water vapor and fog in the air.

Immigration was no problem and was exchanging money by 6:15, bought a phone card, octopus card (more later) and debated about storing some luggage at the airport. Realized that I would need all of it to sort it, dump some things and get ready for South Africa.

As I was standing in line to exchange my Aust $ into KH$, I consulted my free map that I found in the arrival concourse. I have had fabulous luck with these maps that are in every airport that I have seen. NOTE TO ALL TRAVELERS - These are great maps and usually have good street detail. I finally located the YWCA and finally had a feel about where I would be staying. I found I was nicely situated close to the harbor and the peak tram system. YAAH!

I knew that the YWCA would not have my room ready, so I did not hustle around to get the bus into town. A bakery was open in the airport and I bought two pastries and guava juice. It was nice to be back to a location that venerates the humble guava. YAAH!

The octopus card is a prepaid card that allows you to use on the buses, train, and at many stores and attractions. You simply swipe it as you enter and it deducts the fare. You even get a rebate of $50HK when you return it at the end of your trip.

I caught the bus that would take me from the island of Lantau through Kowloon and finally to Hong Kong Island. I was getting really sleepy from the no sleep on the plane and the carbohydrates. I missed my first place to get off, but managed to find the call button on the bus for the next best place to get off. I had read in the guide book that the taxis don’t use the same curbs as the buses, but I knew they were around. I found a queue, after I had bashed my ankle with my larger suitcase. (Sleep deprivation and I are not the best combination at times.) I had a cute elderly cab driver that very nicely took me to the YMCA on the harbor, but quickly recovered when I said that I needed to go to the YWCA up the hill. Having become fairly comfortable with my map, I knew where I was supposed to be going.

I left my bags and the front desk, took a business card from the front desk, had the numbers of the buses that would get be back to the Y, and went off to amuse myself for 5 hours until my room would be ready. I walked down the hill towards the harbor and came across the Pacific Coffee Company that I had heard offered free wireless internet. YUMMY COFFEE and more recommendations on what to do in a limited number of days in HK. On my list was the tram ride to the peak for the view, a harbor cruise, the harbor front tram, the island of Lantau and the big Buddha, the world’s longest network of escalators and the Museum of tea ware.

Hong Kong is very clean, does not really have a smell except a little irritation in your nose of dust from the smog/fog. There are signs everywhere telling you that there is up to a $5000 fine for littering, spitting and dropping cig butts. The first thing I noticed was how relatively quiet it is as compared to other cities. No honking to speak of. The city is full of double decker buses that careen around tight corners with great efficiency. The city is a labyrinth of twisted roads and disappearing sidewalks. Built on a hill, unless you are right by the harbor, you will be navigating steps or escalators and climbing sometimes quickly and very steeply up the side of the hill.

I had been advised to wait until later in the day or night to do the peak, as the smog would clear. So I began to walk further down closer to the water and found the tea ware museum. It was in a very large park with multiple attractions and was housed in an old colonial building. The entrance to the park was right across from the US Embassy that had roped off lines for people wanting to enter the embassy. The tea museum was fun and it had one section where you could listen to various songs, all about tea making and harvesting. Very interesting and lovely music. I then ended up in one of the huge and ubiquitous shopping malls full of high priced goods. Why was I in a shopping mall, when I could be out seeing Hkong? So I went out and found the little tram that was recommended and got on the one going east. It is electric, has two levels, you enter on the back and I quickly went upstairs to try and get a front row seat. For only $2HK ($.25US) you can ride as far as you like. I finally had spent enough time and knew that my room would be ready so I got back on a tram going west and got off to find my bus. Again between my wonderful free map and the bus numbers from the guys at the front desk, I found my bus and was home in 10 minutes.

HK Trolley.JPG

The YWCA is a tall VERY WELL AIRCONDITIONED building. The hall carpets are new, but the rooms are showing their wear. It is clean otherwise, I was on the 9th floor and it had a great view, plus my own bathroom and a shower with amazing water pressure. I was pooped and had intended to rest for a few hours and then do the peak. 6 hours later I was still in my room and still pooped so I decided to do it tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 22– Hong Kong

Sent laundry out (and had I known the quality it would come back in, I would have sent my entire suit case. Why I should have been surprised, because I guess the saying about Chinese laundries are true – they are excellent), poodled around and finally left the room at 11am. I stopped by the desk because they offer internet connection in the rooms and I needed my password and connection cable.

I went off to find the post office for stamps and to find where I needed to go tomorrow to mail more stuff home. I found a delightful display in the post office of a mural of the HK skyline done entirely in stamps.

HK in Stamps.JPG

Next, it was time for the Star Ferry ride. One hour around the harbor and I could have gotten off in several locations to explore, but decided to just ride around.


I wandered around in a street market district and found the central market, which has been shut since the SARS outbreak. I was on the hunt for two things – the longest escalator network and some souvenirs. You are going to laugh when I tell you this – I COULD NOT FIND ANY SOUVENIRS SHOPS! All I wanted were some little silk purses, maybe a photo album, Chinese flag, etc and I could not find one shop. Maybe they are all over on the other side on Kowloon.

HK Side Street Market.JPG

As I was wandering around in the streets looking for souvenirs, I managed to find the dried fish market and the section that I believe was for Chinese medicines. It wasn’t too smelly. There was shop after shop of bags of dried stuff, that all appeared beige. At one point, I looked up and saw what I assume was a shark fin and then, not looking too closely, I saw antlers still in velvet. The thing that constantly amazes me is in the east, when you find these markets, one type of store is all in one area. Store after store selling, what to my eyes, was exactly the same stuff. How can any of them make any money?

I finally found the escalators and sure enough, there are progressively higher and higher sets of moving steps or moving walkways interrupted every so often with a little bit of sidewalk. Prior to it being built, it was doubted if it would be used, but it transports thousands of people daily. In the am until 10am, it only goes down and after that it only goes up. After I was done riding that, I made my way with my trusty map and the wonderfully signposted streets to the peak tram terminal. Less than a 10 minute ride to the top, up an incredibly steep track, to the point where you have get a crick in your neck. The peak was still fairly foggy, but I walked around, had a coffee and guess what? I FOUND A SOUVENIR SHOP! Plus a huge shopping mall up on this peak. I had assumed that the tram was the only way up, but you can drive as well.

HK view from the Peak.JPG

I got back to the Y and had to have the front desk come and help me reconfigure my computer for the network. I still have to make reservations for the final stages of this year and feel a need to get as many of them in place before I get to Africa. I must admit, I am feeling a little tired of all the logistics and just want it to be easy for a while. I will definitely go down to only one suitcase and backpack after Africa and am looking forward to lightening the load.

NOT TO SELF – Next round the world trip – pick one type of volunteer work in order to limit what things I need to bring. From this experience, I know that I need so much less than I had thought when I left Colorado. In addition, most of the extra things that I needed, I could find almost anywhere – toothpaste, soap, and shampoo.

Wednesday, Aug 23 – Last Day in Hong Kong

This morning was involved spraying premetherin on the clothes for Africa (mosquito repellent), discarding or determining what to mail home and packing. Having left my luggage at the Y, I walked to the post office (and had one last Pacific Coffee – very yummy) and cabbed it back to the Y.

I took another cab to the bus stop that would take me to the airport where I would store or check my bags until my flight close to midnight. Luckily, I could check my bags in early but they were still 25 kilos and I had taken stuff out. Hmmmmmmm? The extra weight was no issue this time and again, no charges. I found it would be a 13-hour flight and I got an aisle seat in one of the exit rows with more legroom! YAAAAH! I was amazed it would be a relatively short flight. I had assumed the flight would be a lot longer when you consider how it looks on the map.

I wanted to see the largest outdoor Buddha at the Lo Pin Monastery. The bus system sounded too complicated, so I took a cab. The road on the way to the monastery was under construction and at times went down to one lane. As the road was very windy, instead of having flag people, they had traffic lights set up to let each direction of traffic through. My cab driver was determined to get me there quickly and I felt like I was in a pinball machine.

HK at the .. Buddha.JPG

The Buddha is huge – 276 steps to the top. A man asked if I wanted my photo and I said yes and pulled Quen out. As I descended at one point, there were about 100 dragonfly’s swarming in front of us. A lovely moment with one of my favorite totems.

HK Quen at..Buddha1.JPG

I had planned to go back via cab, but there did not appear to be any coming. So I got into the bus queue and figured I could find my way back. The man that had offered to take my picture was also on the bus and also on his way to the airport. I figured I would follow him. On our second bus to the airport, we talked and he is Mike, a physician from South Africa who is returning home after 5 months around the world and he will be on my flight.

Mike and I separated at the airport for a while as he was in search of a shower and internetting and I wanted dinner, shopping and internetting. We figured we would catch up with each other late at the gate.

It has been a challenging couple of days. Lots of make wrong and feeling out of sorts. Very much looking forward to getting all my final logistics booked and confirmed, and staying in one place for a while. The biggest thing that is hanging over my head are final flights and hotel reservations for both South Africa and Europe. Not sure why, but am not having much luck booking on line with some airlines. I think I am really tired as I keep longing for things to be easier.

Flight to Johannesburg

The Hong Kong airport, while modern and clean, is laid out in almost a straight line with a few offshoots. We had arrived back from the Buddha in plenty of time and I had planned to do a little more looking, dinner, internetting, some phone calling to the US for business issues and then reading. The flight was supposed to leave at 11:45 with an 11:20 check in, but the gate was not even posted until 9:30. I had hedged my bets and had found an internet station around gate 44 and once posted, my gate was 67. With Starbucks in hand (I know I know, I don’t like Starbucks, but it was the only coffee on the concourse and I didn’t want to make the march back to gate 10 for other options), I was off to gate 67.

Got my banking done and was prepared to wait, half expecting to see Mike after his shower and email checking. At 10:45, we got the announcement that our new gate was gate 5. Off we all went to the other end of the terminal with the announcements ringing in our ears that they were about to turn off the moving walkways in 10-15 minutes. We made it and I settle down with my suduko and expected to board in about 20 minutes. 30 minutes later we had the announcement that we were delayed by 30 minutes and our new departure time would be 12:10 am. At 12:05, we had the announcement that we were still delayed and would be departing at 1:00 am. (Funny, I had just told Mike today that my only delay in the trip had been my 4-hour delay in the middle of the night in Bali.)

We were finally able to load, so on to buses we went to be ferried out to the plane. One woman looked out the fogged over window and told us she thought we were heading back towards gate 67. We ended up in the middle of the field and went on the plane. I had very wisely asked the exit aisle with the extra legroom. I was not going to suffer with bruised knees again. My seatmate was a woman who seemed to have the drill down and knew where to stow all of her stuff. It looked like the four seats in the middle were unoccupied and I planned to jump across the aisle and sit on the end so that I could at least prop my feet up to sleep. Just before we took off, a man from the other cabin jumped into one of the middle seats and went to sleep. CRAP!

During the flight, he ended up lying across two of the middle seats, because the end seats arm rests were locked down, and snored loudly. Several people including a flight attendant had come by to see if there were over flow seats to offer to people and turned away unhappy. Some people’s children! I was plugged in for a while with him and finally asked for assistance to let it go and be a peace. The universe said yes.

I slept much better on this flight and felt much more relaxed and ready to face my day in the airport in Africa

Posted by ladyjanes 09:10 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

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