by Glen Vena
I have been at Shamwari for 10 years now and for the first time I think I’m finding it difficult to write to you all. I have very sad news about Pitou, the leopard we rehomed from Monaco Zoo in January 2008. She has died, bitten by a snake. Our vet, Dr Murray Stokoe, thinks it was a puff adder, from what he found on the autopsy.
The last time I saw her alive was on 23rd November just before I went on leave. My colleagues, Sidney and Christine had been seeing Pitou and her brother Sirius, while I was away, and it is only good things that I heard from them: about Pitou and Sirius grooming each other and chasing each other. They were both old, 19 years old, but they were good.
On my first day back after leave, Sidney had seen Pitou and Sirius early that morning, but only Aslan and Stella were out when I arrived and I joked to Sidney about the nice welcome the cats are giving me. However, when Pitou did not turn up on the next feed day I felt something was wrong, as Pitou loves her food. We went into the enclosure to investigate and found her under a spekboom tree, not far from their ‘jungle gym’ – curled up as if she was resting peacefully. It fell to me to bury her as I was alone on duty after the autopsy but I was glad to be alone so no-one could see me cry. She is resting next to the late Raffi and Anthea.
It is now a very sad time for all of us here, we got to know her, we loved her, it is still hard to let go. She is like family. The comfort for me is that she came to rest in a place where I wished she had been long ago.