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News - April 2008

How AWARE started

As this is our first newsletter, we thought it appropriate to give you an insight into how the AWARE Trust came into being. The concept came to the Trustees in 2004 when they were looking for independent funding to perform an important disease surveillance project (* see 1 below for details) initiated by the Department of Veterinary Services Wildlife Veterinary Unit (WVU).

Despite the fact that the results of this work would provide crucial information affecting the development of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP), it took the better part of a year to procure international funding for the project. With each subsequent rejection because of ‘Zimbabwe’ being a four lettered word, we wished there was a local organisation backed up by donors that would be able to facilitate and fund worthy projects such as this. With this in mind, we visited our lawyer and registered the Animal and Wildlife Area REsearch Trust. As our ideas evolved, the deed of Trust was amended to include the word ‘rehabilitation’ in the AWARE acronym.

The disease surveillance project was eventually funded by the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), and with going to work in the field, plans for our Trust were temporarily put on hold. After three years of distractions, including figuring out a financially sustainable way to stay and work in Zimbabwe, the advent of ‘Frodo’ in our lives in October last year forced us once and for all to get the Trust up and running.

Frodo, the serval

As many of you already know, Frodo is an immature wild male serval that was involved in a road traffic accident (RTA) less than a kilometre from our Harare home. Frodo had a fractured left humerus and extensive de-gloving injuries of both his hind limbs. In a joint venture with the Tikki Hywood Trust, we undertook to surgically rehabilitate him and release him back into the wild. It took two intensive surgeries to fix the broken limb, and a third surgery to attempt to remove the metal plate from the limb. The latter proved impossible as the bone of the humerus had actually grown over the plate. Despite this, Frodo now has excellent mobility and has been relocated to his release boma in the Save Valley Conservancy. He has been radio-collared for continued monitoring and will be released as soon as he is habituated to his surroundings (see Addendum below, point 2, for full story).

We were overwhelmed with the local support we received for Frodo through wildlife artist Debby Hart’s exhibition at Zimbrellas in Harare. This cemented our belief that a large majority of the local and diasporan Zimbabwean public would contribute to wildlife conservation if they were more aware of the issues on the ground. We feel that this information is not as prominent as it should be, e.g. we are constantly amazed at how many people have never even heard of Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) - aka Peace Parks – despite Zimbabwe’s destined involvement in 6 such areas. This is just one of the issues we intend to raise AWAREness of.

Other animals we've helped

Other animals we have helped in the last few months include the following: ‘Jock’, a feral dog who was slowly being strangulated with a snare. The snare had been on for so long and had become so deeply embedded round his throat that the skin on the underside of his neck had healed over the wire. After surgery and treatment for infection Jock made a full recovery.

A subadult jackal that was hit by a car within the Harare surrounds was euthanased after Xrays revealed that her pelvic fracture was too severe to fix.

In a country fraught with land disputes, one of the requests we receive most often is to move wild animals that are under threat from poaching by settlers. This is a grey area for the Trust as our aim is primarily to help ownerless animals as opposed to animals that are owned by commercial operators. However the ownership of the animals is often subject to dispute, or the rightful owners have disappeared altogether. So when Bally Vaughan Animal Sanctuary (BVAS) called and asked us to move a zebra mare and her foal that were to be shot for eating a field of cabbages, we felt compelled to do what we could. The task was made a lot easier by the fact that the zebras were on a plot of land across the road from BVAS, so once darted, they could be transported to the sanctuary on the back of a bakkie. Both mare and foal have settled in beautifully amongst the rescued donkeys and horses that have the run of the sanctuary. Since BVAS was gaining ownership of the zebras, they covered fuel and drug costs, whilst vet time and expertise was donated by AWARE.

We would like the public to be aware that we do not have the necessary equipment (movement trucks and crates) for translocation of herbivores over a long distance. We feel that this should be left to professional outfits such as African Wildlife Management and Conservation (AWMC), especially when these animals belong to commercial operators. However, in an emergency situation, especially for individual animals where ownership is in doubt, we will assist with chemical restraint (darting) as long as transport logistics can be adequately worked out.

Our second adventure with BVAS involved their recent acquisition of a female hyena, who was rescued from a lion breeding programme near Masvingo. After 36 hours at the sanctuary she chewed through the wire of her pen and escaped into the neighbouring game park. We spent the better part of a morning trying to track her down, but she eventually escaped from the game park into the surrounding communal lands. In a sight none of us will forget, we caught a glimpse of her frantically loping down the main Shamva Road, pursued at a distance of about half a metre by a brand new 4x4 which had arms wildly gesticulating from all windows whilst music blared from its speakers. As Sarah said, it was like a scene from a Mad Max movie. In a nanosecond she had disappeared into the bush and we lost her for the day. Fortunately, having an identity crisis, she resurfaced at the lion enclosures 48 hours later, where she tried in vain to gain their acceptance by rubbing up along the fence whilst they desperately tried to hook her from the other side. After eating a baited chicken carcass she was calm enough to get a dart in, and she was finally returned to her pen in safety. Again vet time and expertise was donated by AWARE.

The Harare SPCA, Friend Animal Foundation (FAF) and BVAS animals benefited from AWARE last week through a generous donation of Frontline Spray (arguably the best defence against fleas and ticks) from Merial South Africa and Medi-Vet P/L, who paid freight and customs’ clearance. Drs Dutlow, Marabini and Huelin frontlined 33 dogs, 18 cats and 7 rabbits at the SPCA. At the FAF, Ashleigh Erlank donated her time and helped the vets to frontline over 120 dogs, 45 cats and over 30 puppies. Apart from Lisa being mildly savaged by a 3-legged brindle cross-breed that fancied its chances, the day went pretty smoothly (see Addendum below, point 3, for more on the SPCA and FAF).

Having already come across some pretty eccentric personalities in the animal welfare field (not referring to the animals here!), we would like to point out here that AWARE does not and will not discriminate against animals because of the policy of the organisation or people who may be trying to help them. We will work synergistically with any person or organisation if it is for the betterment of an animal’s life.

What next?

We are currently seeking funding for a disease surveillance study in cattle (similar to the one carried out in Sengwe) in the Maramani Communal Land which forms part of the recently formed Shashe-Limpopo TFCA. Depending on the amount of funding received we would also like to implement a neutering, vaccination and blood testing programme for the dogs and cats belonging to communal farmers in the area.

Other than that we will continue to carry out veterinary treatment and rehabilitation for needy animals. Please pass the message around Zimbabwe that we are here to help, particularly those animals that have suffered because of man (snares, traffic accidents, etc.).


As a final note, we would like to express our delight at the response to our initial email from people all over the world, who have offered their moral and financial support and donations of veterinary consumables. Instavet South Africa went as far as opening a ‘donations only’ bank account for us, the details of which can be had by replying to this email. Every little bit counts and we do believe it is the duty of every Zimbabwean to protect its wildlife heritage.

In particular we’d like to thank the following:

Dieter Balzer of KDB Holdings Rodger Savory
Bernie Stevens
Meryl Harrison
SPANA (Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad)
Dave and Zoe Bradshaw
Tracey Roberts
Steve Vos


  1. The GLTP is an amalgamation of national parks in 3 different countries – Gonarezhou National Park (GNP) in Zimbabwe, Kruger national Park (KNP) in South Africa, and Limpopo National Park (LNP) in Mozambique. The concept of this Peace Park was to have free movement of wildlife (and tourists) across political borders, unhindered by boundary fences.
    Unfortunately, this movement of animals could result in veterinary diseases being transferred from one country to the next. Bovine tuberculosis (BTB), a disease exotic to the African continent, and eradicated from Zimbabwe (except for sporadic cases) by the early 1980s, is one of the diseases that poses a serious risk for Zimbabwean wildlife, domestic animals and people. The disease occurs in buffalo herds in KNP, and over the last decade has made its way progressively northwards towards the Zimbabwean border. Millions of Rands have been spent trying to monitor and control the disease. Although buffalo can be asymptomatic, lions feasting on buffalo can develop alimentary tuberculosis which results in a chronic wasting disease as the animals cannot absorb nutrients from their food. In addition buffalo can transmit the disease to cattle by mingling, e.g. at water points, and cattle can subsequently pass the disease onto humans through drinking of unpasteurised milk or consumption of an infected carcass. BTB can be highly pathogenic to people, especially in the face of the current HIV crisis.
    Our surveillance project tested 2000 cattle in the Sengwe corridor area (the strip of communal land that presently connects KNP to GNP) for BTB, foot and mouth disease (FMD), brucellosis and trypanosomiasis. None of the animals we tested were positive for BTB. We feel that until an answer to the KNP BTB crisis is found, animals should not be allowed to move freely from South Africa into Zimbabwe.
  2. Frodo’s full story from a veterinary perspective:
    On 3 October 2007, Frodo, a young (immature) male serval was found near Willowmead Junction having been hit by a car. He was captured by Lisa Hywood (hereafter known as LH) using a net and taken to Chisipite Veterinary Surgery where Dr Lisa Marabini (hereafter known as LM) chemically immobilised him to assess his wounds. He was in shock and had an obviously broken left humerus and extensive de-gloving injuries on both hips/hind limbs where he had been dragged along the road by the car. Radiographs showed a spiral fracture of his left humerus in the distal (lower) third of the bone with 2 floating pieces of bone. Although he could not use his hindlimbs, Xrays revealed no osseous damage to the spine or pelvis. He was treated for shock, which included intra-venous fluids, vaccinated, and taken to the Tikki Hywood Trust (THT).
    After a neurological assessment the next day, which confirmed his bladder was in tact, we judged he was ready for surgery. On 4 October, the humeral fracture was repaired by Dr Keith Dutlow (hereafter known as KD) and LM using an intramedullary pin and 2 cerclage wires. The fracture ends were nicely apposed and Frodo was returned to the THT to recuperate in a small crate. He was de-wormed and Frontlined at this time. LH and Ellen Connelly of the THT did an excellent job of intensive nursing that was required to make sure he was well hydrated, fed and taking his medication on time.
    Over the next few days he recovered nicely and started to use the leg a little. However, being wild and confined, he spent a lot of time trying to dig his way out of the crate. This, in conjunction with a likely calcium deficiency which had made his bones very brittle, eventually led to compression at the fracture site which resulted in the pin protruding from the top of his shoulder joint. Frodo was knocked out on two more occasions to trim the top of the pin but on the night after the second trimming, the entire fracture broke down and the pin actually came out through the side of the lower bone fragment. Xrays showed that the upper bone fragment had split into two pieces and the lower fragment into 3 pieces.
    After a great deal of soul searching, we decided to give Frodo one last chance. KD cobbled together a plate of more or less the right size and 6 screws from 3 different vet surgeries (as due to the expense, plates are not used very often in Zimbabwean surgeries at all). The two vets operated on Frodo to realign the bone and place the bone plate on 15 October 2007. During the course of the four hour surgery, the bone plate was positioned, but unfortunately there was only enough room on the lower fragment to place one screw (the optimal would have been 3 screws on either side of the fracture). In order to add a little more stability to the repair (i.e. to secure the lower bone fragment against the plate), a cerclage wire was also threaded through a lower plate hole and around the lower bone fragment.
    Once again Frodo recovered quickly from the long operation and was soon starting to test the repaired leg. He was confined again in a crate until 26 October, when the vets anaesthetized him to remove the stitches and Xray the bone. The fracture repair looked good with the plate holding nicely. As Frodo was weight bearing on the broken leg and becoming increasingly bad tempered at the confinement, it was decided to move him in to a small pen with an electric fence.
    Two days later (once the long acting sedative that the vets had administered wore off) Frodo challenged the fence and became entangled in the electric wire. LH immediately called Dr Foggin to knock out and assess Frodo for any damage (as KD and LM were out of the country). No damage was found at this time but Frodo was moved back in doors in to a small room at the THT to limit his movement. Five days later LH found a screw in Frodo’s room which KD was able to identify as the lowest screw in the plate due to its size. The screw probably loosened from the still very soft bone during the fracas in the pen, and slowly migrated and was extruded through the healing surgical wound over the next few days. This meant that 20 days post surgery the only thing holding the plate against the lower bone fragment was the cerclage wire that the vets had applied. This did not seem to be hampering Frodo in the slightest as he was using the leg quite well by now-another testimony to his strong will to survive.
    Despite the excellent care administered by the THT, keeping him inside was obviously not ideal, especially as the room had a slippery parquet floor so KD and LM embarked on building a pen for Frodo at the vets’, with funding from the AWARE Trust, which had also paid all of Frodo’s surgical bills, and 95% of his medical bills - no small amount by now.
    In mid November it was noticed by LH that Frodo’s good right leg had swollen up. It was assumed that he had sprained it jumping around the room and he was treated with oral anti-inflammatories. The swelling gradually reduced over a few days.
    On the 29 November, the vets knocked Frodo out and xrayed his leg. The progress was encouraging, with a large amount of callus present-callus is the sign of new bone growth healing across the fracture site. At this time it was also found that he had actually fractured his accessory carpal bone (one of the larger bones in his right wrist) when LH had noticed the swollen right leg two weeks earlier. This was most likely a pathological fracture due to calcium deficiency and likely occurred from jumping down from the window sill on to the slippery floor in the room.
    Frodo was taken straight from the surgery to the vets’ home to wake up in his new outside pen. The vets supplemented calcium at over 1g per day, along with high levels of a glucosamine-chondroitin supplement (Mobiflex), and a multivitamin. He was again de-wormed, Frontlined and given a second rabies vaccination.
    As Frodo was going to be released into the wild, without regular vet checks, it was decided that the plate and cerclage wire (which might cause tissue irritation) should be removed if possible. On 4 February 2008 the vets knocked Frodo out again with the intention of removing the plate but on examining the radiograph decided to leave it for another month as there was a thin area where the callus had not fully calcified yet. On 18 March 2008, the vets attempted to remove the plate but found that the bone of the humerus had actually grown over the body of the plate. KD was unable to remove the plate even once the screws had been fully removed and the cerclage wire untied. Removing the plate would have required undue force which he did not feel was warranted as there would be a risk of re-breaking the humerus. As the plate was so firmly embedded it was decided to leave it on, replace the screws and trim the cerclage wire as much as possible, as there was very little chance that the plate will ever move. Frodo’s left leg was closed for the last time and unbelievably he was using the leg by that evening.
    He has never looked back post operatively. Three weeks later he was immobilized, we hope, for the final time, radiocollared and transported to Matendere by the vets with LH in close attendance. On arrival he was released into a large enclosure in the bush where he will spend some time becoming habituated to his surroundings. We left him (with heavy hearts) in the capable hands of Leon DuPlessis and the THT to monitor his future progress.
  3. We are often asked about the state of both the SPCA and FAF, given their difference in policy with regard to euthanasia. The SPCA euthanases stray animals that have not been claimed after 3 months, whereas FAF is described as having a ‘no-kill policy’. In fact, based on veterinary surgeons' assessments of individual animals’ quality of life, FAF does believe in euthanasia. In addition, longer-term inmates there are put in open-run communal 'old age homes' or given the run of the office and public areas.
    Both organisations have been affected by shortages in the country, pet meat being particularly hard to come by. Management has recently changed at the SPCA. The animals there were generally in good condition, and with the exception of the hospital pens which were flea infested, the kennels were clean and orderly. Several of the strays, such as daxies and border collies MUST have had good homes – please check the SPCA if your dog is missing, or pass the message on if you know someone else’s animal is missing!
    At the FAF, resources and workers are more thinly stretched because of the large number of animals. Many of the animals had severe flea infestations, and some of the animals were a bit on the thin side, probably requiring de-worming. De-worming medication is very expensive and hard to come by in Harare and we’d like to appeal to drug companies on behalf of the FAF for donations of any expiring de-wormer they can no longer sell. We’d also like to appeal to dog-loving members of the Harare public to go and walk a few dogs at the FAF in their spare time to provide more environmental enrichment for them.
    Whichever ethical standpoint you take regarding euthanasia, the main reason behind the problem of unwanted or stray animals is indiscriminate and irresponsible breeding. We feel that a spay and neuter campaign on a national level is the way forward. AWARE aims to start spaying and vaccinating dogs and cats in areas fringing wildlife zones, primarily to stop the spread of domestic animal to wildlife disease. Hopefully this can become a countrywide programme.
    In the meantime, please do not encourage back yard breeding by buying puppies off friends and acquaintances. Not only is this illegal without a breeding permit, there are countless dogs and cats at both organisations that would make fantastic pets if you are looking for a best friend.
More about AWARE
AWARE is the only conservation veterinary trust in Zimbabwe run by veterinarians. We focus on the welfare of wildlife and conservation of wildlife habitats. Read more


Address: 16 Southam Road, Greystone Park, Harare, Zimbabwe

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