Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Saying goodbye is hard!

The Civet that I rescued a month ago is now ready to go to the wildlife conservation. He went from 1 1/2 pounds to almost 3 pounds doubling his weight! During this time his teeth came out along with his sharp claws. He is out of the danger zone and should start on solids this week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Civet babies

Today a villager came up to the orphanage with two little animals that he no longer wanted. He had killed and eaten the mother which he said was very tasty but the babies were just too small to eat. So he brought them to me to get a few extra dollars for his family.

  At first I didn't recognize these animals, but compared them to a local weasel called Akasama. When they exclaimed that it becomes as large as a dog I just couldn't believe it! Maybe it is a ferret, or another animal similar to a skunk.

 I did some research and even called my buddy, Fred in Lusaka who runs the Munda Wanga Wildlife Sanctuary and sent him a few pictures of the thing. The next day he wrote and said it was a Civet. I immediately went to Google to confirm this answer, and he was right.
 Fred connected me to a woman in Zimbabwe, Lisa Hywood who runs a trust for animals  and who has experience in raising Civets. Today I got an email from her with instructions on how to make a formula and the amount of times they need to be fed. I was very happy for this and started right away with this program.

  The formula is 120mls.-long life full cream milk in a box, 3 tablespoons-full cream powdered milk, children's multi vitamin and minerals.
  I feed them five times a day. 6 AM, 10 AM, 2 PM, 6 PM and 10 PM.  One is a bit bigger then the other so the amounts will be different. The big one (currently weighing 415 g.) will be getting 10-14 ml. (2-3 teaspoons) at a feeding, and the smaller one (at 250 g.) 6-8 ml. (1 1/2 teaspoons)  per feeding.

They have no teeth and make a squealing noise throughout the day. A noise that is equivalently aggravating to a baby's cry.

  They have many small fleas so she suggested Johnson's Baby powder, Savlon or Dettol for a temporary control until I get Frontline which is the best.

While feeding these creatures they paw me with their bear like feet and hands!

Their coat is soft and beautiful, a thing that contributes to their soon extinction

An interesting fact about the Civet is that it helps to give us the most expensive cup of coffee in the world. $50 a cup! How? You feed them ripe coffee beans, wait a few hours for them to digest and excrete,  collect, roast over a fire, grind and drink. The taste is supposed to be the best ever. Like coffee but without the bitterness, thick, a bit oily, and smooth.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Checkered Elephant Shrew

This is a very odd looking animal that came our way. A Checkered Elephant Shrew!

This animal can be handled without my special gloves, as it will not bite. But I did find out that his four figures are very sharp and can brake the skin.

They have a great pattern on their back. Three to four black stripes with white spots.

I thought that they eat through their nose, (silly me) but soon found out that there is a small mouth underneath his nose where a long tongue comes out like a dog to drink! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bush baby arrives!

Today, a villager arrived at the gate with a young Bush baby. She killed the mother for food and took the 2 babies home. The next day one died, so they decided to bring the remaining one to the orphanage to sell it before it too dies.
  After inspecting it, I paid $2,50 for it today and if he survives the week I will give another $2,50
   I am suspecting that he was still dependent on his mother so I will attempt to feed it with different things. First with a small specialized bottle with milk in it. If it doesn't take, I will put out fruits and yogurt, etc.
  If he survives for the next week, I will take him down to Munda Wanga to be with other bush babies.

Physical description: Including their relatively long, fluffy-tipped tails, these tiny primates are only about 37cm in length and weigh around 150g when fully grown. They have large orangey-brown eyes encircled by dark fur. Other than that, their fur is grey, with a lighter tummy and white stripe down the pinkish nose. Their ears are large and can be swivelled independently of each other.Until very recently, only 6 species of bushbaby were recognised. However, more intensive studies over the past 2 decades have proven that there are at least 25 different bushbabies, many of which look extremely similar (known as cryptic species). Detailed analysis has shown that some bushbaby species are even more distantly related to each other than humans are to gorillas! 
Habitat: Bushbabies inhabit all types of habitat in much of sub-Saharan Africa, except the most southern parts of South Africa. Southern lesser bushbabies (the particular species found at Birds of Eden) can be found in the region between Angola, Tanzania and South Africa. They like to live in semi-arid territories, such as savannah, scrub forest or on forest edges, especially in the vicinity of acacia and mopane trees. Although they are not normally found as far south as Birds of Eden, our animals did just fine during the winter months since they have a heat lamp near their cosy sleeping boxes. 
Diet: Bushbabies eat beetles, grasshoppers, scorpions, small reptiles, butterflies and moths. These amazing hunters can catch flying prey in mid-air whilst leaping from tree to tree. Bushbabies are also partial to acacia gum, which they gouge out of trees using their toothcomb. This dental apparatus is common amongst prosimians and consists of forward jutting teeth in the front of the lower jaw. Also helpful for tree-sap harvesting are the strong claws of bushbaby index fingers and their rough tongue, which feels just like sandpaper! Although some species of bushbaby eat fruit, Galago moholi only do so in captivity and have never been reported to eat fruit in the wild. 
Life history: Like humans, bushbabies normally give birth to one offspring at a time, though twins and even triplets are occasionally born. The gestation length is usually just over four months. Newborn infants are carried in the mother's mouth or cling to her belly during their first month of life, after which they are able to ride on her back. By two months, a little bushbaby can travel independently and weaning occurs by the age of five months. Females are sexually mature at about one year of age, and will leave the family group to make a separate nest in which to give birth. These little animals have a lifespan of around 15 years.
Associations: Southern lesser bushbabies share their homeranges with thick-tailed greater bushbaies, northern lesser bushbabies, Demidoff's busbabies and Zanzibar bushbabies. The fact that many bushbabies share their territories with each other has made it even more difficult for researchers to distinguish between species. In general, similar species sharing a habitat will focus on different food sources and heights in the canopy.
Social structure: Little is known about the social organisation of bushbabies, since their nocturnal habits and jumping speed make them difficult to observe in the wild and since all the different species exhibit vastly different social organisations. Generally, bushbabies are known to be solitary which appears to be untrue for most species. It seems that small groups of 1-3 Galago moholi may forage together at night. Whilst foraging, females usually "park" their young in a safe place until they can return for them. Up to 8 individuals, including only one male and often several females with their offspring, curl up together to sleep in tree hollows, abandoned bird's nest or self-made treetop nests during the day. Males occupy territories that overlap those of several females, especially if they are dominant over other males in the vicinity.
Territorial marking: Bushbabies scent-mark their territories with specialised scent glands and by urinating on their hands and feet, thereby spreading their sweet pungent smell anywhere they go. Their wet noses (rhinariums) and Jacobson's organ in the roof of the mouth allow them to detect complex information transmitted via liquid chemicals.
Communication: Bushbabies make loud vocalisations that sound like crying human infants, which is what earned them their funny name. The different species of bushbaby look extremely similar, but they can be told apart by analysing their differing vocalisations, especially the loud calls. Also helpful in differentiating the various galago are hand pad shapes, reproductive behaviours, genetic analysis and male genital comparisons.
Mating: During the mating season, males roam through larger areas than usual in an effort to mate with as many different females as possible, whereas females remain within their territory. Males pick up weight during mating seasons, which occur twice a year over a period of only a few days each time. Their testicles also increase significantly in size and individuals with the largest testes have by far the most mating success! Mating is particularly popular in late September and is usually initiated by males. Intercourse lasts about 10 minutes and the longest recorded mating time in the wild was 53 minutes! 

Other behaviour: These tiny animals can jump an astounding 5 meters from a vertical position on one tree to the next. They use their strong legs to push off for a jump and their tail works like a rudder to direct them to their desired landing spot. Bushbabies sleep very deeply, and therefore look endearingly stunned and confused immediately after waking up. This makes them rather easy prey, but if they wake up without danger they tend to groom a little before getting on with their nightly hunting and foraging.
Infornation taken from: 
Anderson, M.J., Ambrose, L., Bearder, S.K., Dixson, A.F. and Pullen, S. (2000) Intraspecific variation in the vocalizations and hand pad morphology of southern lesser bushbabies (Galago moholi). International Journal of Primatology, 21(3):537-555.
Butynski, T. & Members of the Primate Specialist Group 2000. Galago moholi. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 16 July 2006.
Nekaris, K.A.I. & Bearder, S. (2006) The Lorisiform Primates of Asia and Mainland Africa. In: Campbell et al. (eds.), Primates in Perspective. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Information supplied by:
Lara Mostert

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Giant African Pouched Rat

The other day, one boy came to our gate selling a male giant pouched rat and 3 babies. All for $5. This was a steal as in the states they go for up to $50. 
I asked where the mother of the babies were and he said he ate her yesterday. He was keeping them in a corner of his hut where he was feeding them peanuts, fish and casavah everyday. He was raising them to eat, but school fees were more of a priority, so he brought them to me.
The male, which you see above, is still not full grown. He can grow twice as big with a good diet. 
I have called him Bob, and he is very playful and curious not like the regular rats we have around the farm. Here is some quick info from Wikipedia on the rodent: 

The Gambian pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus), also known as the African giant pouched rat, is a nocturnal pouched rat of the giant pouched rat genus Cricetomys. It is among the largest muroids in the world, growing up to about 0.9 metres (3 ft) long including their tail which makes up half their length. It is widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, ranging geographically from Senegal to Kenya and from Angola to Mozambique (although it is absent from much of the DR Congo, where Emin's pouched rat is present) and in altitude from sea level to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft).
The Gambian pouched rat has very poor eyesight and so depends on its senses of smell and hearing. Its name comes from the large, hamster-like pouches in its cheeks. It is not a true rat but is part of a uniquely African branch of muroid rodents. It typically weighs between 1 and 1.4 kilograms (2.2 and 3.1 lb). In its native Africa, this pouched rat lives in colonies of up to twenty, usually in forests and thickets, but also commonly in termite mounds. It is omnivorous, feeding on vegetables,insects, crabs, snails, and other items, but apparently preferring palm fruits and palm kernels.
Unlike domestic rats, it has cheek pouches like a hamster. These cheek pouches allow it to gather up several kilograms of nuts per night for storage underground. It has been known to stuff its pouches so full of date palm nuts so as to be hardly able to squeeze through the entrance of its burrow. The burrow consists of a long passage with side alleys and several chambers, one for sleeping and the others for storage. The Gambian pouched rat reaches sexual maturity at 5–7 months of age. It has up to four litters every nine months, with up to six offspring in each litter. Males are territorial and tend to be aggressive when they encounter one another.
In Africa, it is routinely eaten as bushmeat.

I will keep bob and 2 of the babies for fun. Maybe I can teach them some tricks or even bread them. The other baby will be going down to Lusaka with me by then end of the month to Munda Wanga, There he will be with other pouched rats.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

African Genet and our Vervet Monkey!

This month I saved a Genet which is like a wild cat that lives in the trees.

  Some villagers were selling him for $10 so I got him. If I hadn't bought him they would have sold him to merchants or witch doctors in the village because it is believed Genets are 'good medicine'.

 He was in a bad state after being carried around in a sack with both his hands and feet bound. When I cut his ropes off and put him in a large cage, he just flopped around and couldn't walk. Plus he was disoriented so much that his eyes kept looking from left to right every second like he was dizzy. This condition went on for a few days until he normalized.
  I gave him fresh water and a rat everyday along with some fruit and cat food. He especially enjoyed eating the rats and would leap on them with incredible speed. After a week he seemed back to himself.

 I had planned on a trip to Lusaka this week with my car, so I put him in a small chicken carrier, and brought him to a place called Munda Wanga. This is a place where animals can be treated and live in a great environment. Plus after a special process they will be taken back to the wild to be free again.

 While I was there, I wanted to see if my vervet monkey, Kanono was still around. I went to the monkey area and saw a bunch of monkeys on a tree and I called out "Kanono". Kanono means Small in the local language. To my surprise, one monkey jumped down from the tree and galloped over to the fence and yes, it was my friend Kanono.

I could have cried. It was a beautiful experience that I cannot describe. All the memories came back when I used to lay in my hammock in his habitat and he would come over and groom my head and arms then lie down and take a nap with me.

After I let him groom my hair, he pressed his body to the fence signalling to me that it was his turn. Here in the picture on the right you can see him doing so.

 He is still on the list to be taken to the wild with his new group that he has accepted as his family. But in the meantime, he is in a very large enclosure with food and water, so I am very pleased with his care.

  I will check on his welfare again next month when I go down to Lusaka for more business. He is due to be released in October.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Agriculture and livestock show

This week I was contacted by Zawa to attend the Agriculture and livestock show in Mansa. They desperately needed me for my animals that I keep. Mainly my snakes! So I spent a few days constructing 2 cages that would hold my 4 Gaboon Vipers and 3 Savanna Monitor lizards that I would obtain for the show.
  I had to make it strong enough to withstand the sharp claws of the lizards along with their whipping tail.
After I finished I managed to load them up in my car and travel 2 hours away to the town of Mansa. There, I got a hotel for 3 days for the duration of the show.
On friday, I unloaded the cages and other things and placed them at a perfect viewing height.

This made our booth very interesting for all those who would pass by.

On top of the cages I placed my collection of preserved snakes with their identification both in Latin and English.

Only after a few minutes of putting everything up, we had scores of people crowding our booth. All pointing at the snakes and lizards. Most of these kids have never seen such animals and were amazed as there is no zoo in the province.

For the next 3 days, I stood out front of our booth explaining to all the people the answers to their questions.

The highlight of the show is when the guest of honor, (the provincial minister) came to view our booth and to learn what we have to say. He was very impressed with our knowledge and thanked us for our efforts in educating the public.

At the end of the show, 6 judges went around with clipboards filling out questions about the booths. And we won first prize in the category of law-enforcement. A certificate was awarded with zk.500,000 ($100)
To me this was a very beneficial 3 days spent educating the public.   

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How to trim Saanen goat hooves

Today it was time to give our goats a pedicure, or hoof trimming. This is needed as many problems can occur due to untrimmed hooves. These hooves grow very fast and need trimming each month. Just think of it as your own finger nails and how they need tending to, and the job will be much easier.

You first have to tie her up to a post or some place her in the milking station, I just use her feeder that way she can feed while I do my duty.

You should inspect all hooves to check for damage, conditions and concerns like foot rot caused by infections.

I then pull her leg up while she balance's on her other three legs. Her head also can rest on your shoulder or arm. watch out as the dam can bite your buttons off. Also be aware that she will resist a bit but if you stay with her and hold her tight, she will relax.
  While trimming the back hooves, I just find it easier to mount the goat reversed. This way I can control the goat from moving too much.

Here you can see the hoof curling inward trapping bacteria, feces and possible twigs. Also the hoof cracks, and has the potential to split up into the sensitive area that might make the dam to walk on it awkwardly which could lead the goat to be crippled.

With a sharp knife I trim a small portion at a time until I get down to the pad. Some use special sheers or hoof trimmers, but here in the bush this knife will due. As you get down to the pad, if you are not careful, you might take too much off causing a bit of bleeding. Don't worry, it will grow back. But another indicator will be that the hoof will turn a bit pinkish showing you are getting to the blood area.

Here is one hoof trimmed for the first time in her life. As it grows out properly, I will trim it further down. I just wanted the inside hoof to grow a bit more as it was in bad shape.
 Over all it is an intense job which takes about 20 min per goat. If you go too fast or are in a hurry, you run the risk of cutting too much off.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saanen Goats--CAE and Pelt Tanning

A few weeks ago I noticed that one of my Saanen goats, one that is pregnant, started to have problems in keeping her balance. She would sway from side to side and over half the day just sit in the shade. I thought was normal in her state, but just to be on the safe side, I did an examination and found that there was swelling in both of her front legs, the knees had become the size of tennis balls. There were no other problems on the rest of her body, no cuts and no broken bones. She finally got to the point where she couldn't get up at all and her front joints were even larger and painful to the touch. 

There is no qualified vet in the area so I turned to my great source--the internet. After doing research on the issue for many days, I found out that it was very possible that my goat has C.A.E. or Carpel Arthritis Encephalitis. There is no vaccine or cure for the virus. It is transmitted from the fluids of the mother to the kid after giving birth. This can be confirmed by a blood sample but as I live in the bush that way is not an option. 

This was a big blow to me as I was so happy that we finally got our dairy goats which were donated by Grey and Esther from Germany. A goat house was even constructed. So what should I do? 

There is a way to save the baby and that is to duct tape both of the teats on the doe right before birthing and then immediately after she gives birth, remove the kid from the mother and feed the kid with bottles. You can't even let her lick or clean the kid as her saliva could infect the kid. Then the dam (a female goat who has given birth) should be put down as she will only deteriorate in time. Also you don't want that virus to continue on. 

At one time, 90% of all dairy goats in the US were infected with the virus, only by separating the kids from their mothers has the virus in dairy goats now come down to 40%. In the States you can go to good closed farms (meaning they don't bring in new goats) and purchase a virus clear goat with no problems, but here in Zambia, its a gamble.

 So what decision should I make? There is also a chance the doe might infect the rest of the goats. I would need to isolate the doe and feed her until birthing and then deal with her kid--feeding her expensive purchased milk. So after talking with my wife, we decided that at this time we don't have the time, manpower or funds to keep the doe, Although I did consider it since it was a big deal to bring the goats here from over 1000 kilometers away. I finally had to make the decision to butcher the goat as she was eating feed which is costing us funds.

  After much time delaying, I finally did it. I decided to keep the pelt and give the meat to the staff (CAE is not transmittable to humans).

The following images may be disturbing to some viewers.

  We bled the goat out, much like you do a chicken, then after draining I hung the body upside down and put a bamboo through its tenons. This place has the strength to hold the goat. Then very carefully I cut only the skin off.

The skin was not too difficult to peel off the meat, a bit more difficult than a rabbit pelt but in the process I did manage to make a small hole in the center of the body. But hey, nobody's perfect.

The innards were thrown away and the brain was put in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for use in the tanning process.

   Then I salted both sides of the pelt and nailed it on a door out of the sun. This was left for 3 days. Then I found the skin completely stiff, so I started to scrape off the salt and extra fat that still remained on the skin. That took a good 2 hours. I then took the pelt and rinsed it in a basin for an hour until all the salt was gone.

Then I took the brains that I kept in the fridge and blended them up with a few cups of warm water. Getting a paint brush I painted on the brain liquid (which contains lecithin)  on both sides of the pelt doing it over and over until all was gone. A fire was made on a braizer and bark and grass put on it to make smoke. This seals the brain liquid in the leather. The smoking was done for about 3 hours. Then the long process of breaking started. That is when the stretching and pulling and twisting goes on to make the fibers in the leather soft and pliable. This was done for two days.

  The end result is a great goat pelt ready for a chair backing or a floor mat or even something to put on a wall. It still  feels a bit gummy from the brains and the smell of smoke is present. I'm researching to see if I should throw it in the washing machine.....   

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A beautiful Owl

Today we got a visit from this masked owl. He is a great bird with soft feathers. Again, the villagers threw rocks at it in the trees until they damaged one of the wings and then chased it down.
I think this bread is called an Australia masked owl. Because of the colors of his feathers. Or maybe a Tasmania masked owl.
 His condition was in bad shape. Besides the injured wing, toxins were already in his blood stream which caused his talons to be paralyzed. I tried in vain to let him fly away, but he just flew about 20 yards then flopped back down to earth.
I don't expect him to last the night. So I just placed him in a secure place where he can pass in peace.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

After exotic Animals are gone, Go Domestic!

I love cats, they are fun to play with and they keep the mice and rat population down. Our cat chie, does just that. She moves around hunting like a lion deep in our garden at times. But she mainly stays in the house or in our bathroom storage area. She was bought for $1 from a villager when she was just a little thing. Now she is all grown up and a little bulgy. Am I over feeding her or is she pregnant? Hmmm. I felt her underside but didn't feal a thing. I guess I'll wait.
  Today I heard a lot of noises coming from the back of the orphanage. A mixture of dogs barking and young teens. So I quickly rushed over to the edge of our fence line and yelled out to the people what was happening. They then replied that they were hunting, but now have meat to eat. Hmmmm.  Meat hmm. What kind of meat? I told them to bring it to me. Four teens and three dogs came out of the brush holding a black and white animal. I didn't have my glasses on so it looked like a large rabbit as I keep them in this area and in the past, a few escaped which I never recovered. But as they neared, I saw that it was a black and white cat! A large one at that. They had speared it through its neck and blood was gushing everywhere. As they showed me the cat, he was still quivering. Maybe it was the nerves. But I felt sad and ashamed that man has come down to this. They have killed so many of the natural exotic animals in this area, that all is left is a few domestic animals. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I had to turn away. They mentioned that they caught another cat a few days ago in the same place and it tasted good. I said that they should be careful what they eat as they could carry diseases like rabies etc. But they didn't care. It was for free!