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News - May 2012

You have to have a tough heart and a thick skin to stay in this business. Our rehabilitation cases so far this year have brought much angst, but also some hope in the sheer resilience of wild animals and their uncompromising instinct to live.


At the end of February disaster struck for Sylvie the duiker when she pronked off her bad leg and it broke through the growth plate at the level of her metatarso-phalangeal joint. In a bid to save the leg Keith performed a cross pinning operation with an attempt to fuse the joint. In retrospect this was probably too ambitious as the skin was already broken over the joint. She developed an osteomyelitis which was resistant to the oral antibiotics she was on. After ten weeks the fracture site broke down necessitating amputation of the Sylvie with mateslimb. We were a little worried to see if she would adapt as well as a dog of her weight on three legs. If it’s one thing you do learn it’s that animals don’t feel sorry for themselves and she was soon pronking around again as if she had no disability at all. She has gone back to Wild is Life to live out her days in comfort with Cordelia the baby impala and Churchill the baby wildebeest. Dudley the impala (treated in December 2011) fared much better and he has made a full recovery from his fractured foreleg (photos on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Aware-Trust-Zimbabwe/208441509209247).

Owlie 2, a beautiful spotted eagle owl with a dislocated wing also came in at the end of February. She was confined for rest, initially with her wing strapped, although this didn’t stop her dominating her caregivers with mock charges every time her bedding was changed or food was brought to her. She’s a fighter, and has made good progress. She has now been moved to Bally Vaughan Animal Sanctuary where she is in the next stage of her rehabilitation prior to release.

Perhaps our most interesting case was a sick cape pangolin that was brought to Wild is Life due to the latter’s unprecedented success with keeping cape pangolin in captivity. This animal was allegedly caught by two men, and came to Wild is Life through a welfare organization and the police at least 5 days after its initial capture, having not been fed in that time. The animal was very ill and despite intensive veterinary treatment by AWARE and round-the-clock care from Roxy at Cut section through liver tumour of pangolinWild is Life, the pangolin succumbed. Post mortem examination revealed a large tumour on the liver which has been confirmed by a well respected histopathologist to be a hepatocellular carcinoma. Pangolin tongue in cartilage sheath in abdomenWe learnt a lot about the anatomy and physiology of this animal (which not much is known about) during this case, including how to sex them and where to take a blood sample from, and we will be better equipped to deal with future pangolin emergencies. This post mortem picture shows the animal’s tongue, used for licking up ants in deep antholes, which extends from his mouth then runs in a cartilage sheath and attaches to the abdominal body wall at about the level of the kidneys.     

Other cases with sad endings included euthanasing the ‘wild’ horse that we rescued last year, since the solid swelling on her hock started to cause her extreme discomfort. On post mortem examination this too was confirmed to be a tumour. Our thanks go to Anton Newall for taking this horse in, taming her down and giving her a decent quality of life for her last few months. Bushbaby with respiratory problemAn emaciated bushbaby found on the edge of town with severe respiratory difficulty was also euthanased. On post mortem examination we discovered an old scar which must have been a bite from a cat or dog penetrating the chest. The pleural cavity was full of foul smelling black fluid and the lung tissue had been destroyed by infection. Sadly too, we have recently diagnosed a large splenic tumour in Teddy, the icon of lions on our website’s ‘Home’ page who has been living at Imire Game Park for the last few years. He too is soon to be euthanased.

Our most recent rehabilitation case made the headlines in our local paper, and is worth a read for its sheer ludicrousness: http://www.myzimbabwe.co.zw/news/1567-witchcraft-rumours-circulate-after-zebra-was-found-in-toilet.html. The initial (pretty heroic) rescue was performed by Anton, who rushed to the scene and darted the terrified zebras amongst a sea of local residents who had somehow managed to get a noose over the 8 month old stallion’s neck. Riot police had to beat the crowd back from the truck carrying the immobilized creature. The 2 zebra were taken to Lion and Cheetah Park game farm Extracting zebra from a difficult rocky positionone at a time as an intermediate safe location. The next morning a third zebra was desperately trying to get into the park from the outside and when the fences were cut it quickly joined up with the 2 newcomers. Unfortunately the youngster escaped the following morning and headed towards the Chivero dam. Whilst scouts were tracking it, members of the public kept appearing and causing it to take fright. In a state of panic it ran onto what appeared to be a solid mass of water hyacinth at the lake edge, which it tragically disappeared underneath and drowned. The other 2 zebra were later successfully (although far from easily!) darted by Lisa, Keith and Anton and moved to their new home at Chivero National Park.

These cases and more can be seen on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Aware-Trust-Zimbabwe/208441509209247).

 Masvingo Lions:

In February 9 female lionesses that had started exhibiting mating behaviour were again implanted with contraceptives by Keith and Lisa. Further negotiations are taking place to install the water at these premises but all parties have not yet been able to agree. Sadly last week a lioness escaped from her pen and before we were alerted we discovered she had allegedly been shot due to the risk of having a roaming lioness around. We anticipate implanting the remaining females as they come into season in the near future.

The rhino plight – PLEASE HELP:

More depressing news as we learned of another rhino death in our camera trap study area. The numbers of rhinos left in our National Parks are at critical levels. Of the 7 National Parks that still have rhino, 3 of the areas have less than 10 rhino in each park. In 3 other areas the numbers are less than 20. Unless we all take this on as a matter of national pride and contribute to the solution, rhino will soon be extinct from Zimbabwe’s National Parks.

What are the solutions? Logic dictates that a holistic approach is the most effective. The first line of defence for four of the smaller parks would be secure fencing with adequate patrolling of the perimeter boundary by well trained, well equipped rangers. These parks would benefit hugely from having secure Bonnox fencing. Bonnox cannot be cut for snare wires. It keeps the rhinos in and makes it easy for rangers to detect a perimeter breach. The downside? $15000/km. Takers, anyone?

Comprehensive dehorning of these smaller populations is a valuable tool to reduce the reward: risk ratio, but is only effective together with increased security. AWARE will soon be running further dehorning exercises in two areas that were previously dehorned two years ago. Both areas have not lost a rhino since the previous operation and we intend to keep dehorning every rhino in these areas to supplement the hard work of the rangers on the ground. Meanwhile, keeping rangers motivated to protect the rhino is key. You could help by donating rations to rangers for every month they keep their full complement of animals alive. It’s just turned really cold here too. How about sleeping bags, tents and blankets for the guys who are on the frontline of the rhino war?


To end on a happier note, the donkey clinics are going well with a brand new vehicle, lab equipment and a visit from veterinary supervisor Jane Harry. Erick has so far managed to treat 1370 donkeys and counting.


Congratulations to Medi-Vet, who has launched the Five Star ID pet identifying microchip system in Zimbabwe. As well as being staunch supporters of AWARE, they have donated microchip scanners to NSPCA, HSPCA, VAWZ, Friend Foundation and AWARE. Microchips were previously unavailable in Zimbabwe and we hope this will go a long way to reducing the amount of kennel time that a rescued dog has to stay at shelters. Don’t forget to get your animals chipped at your local vet.


To the following, our heartfelt thanks for your generous support:

  • Colcom
  • Medi-Vet
  • Ian Macpherson
  • Dave Bradshaw
  • Charlie Pinkham
  • Zoe Van Zyl
  • Bally Vaughan
  • Anton Newall
  • Roxy Danckwerts
  • Clare Savage
  • Katrin Kerber
  • Surreal CMS
  • Darren Lanca

 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

Website: www.awaretrust.org

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

Copyright © AWARE. All rights reserved. Registered Trust number: MA470/2004.