Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Julie Ward Centre December 2010

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.

The report on Pitou's death

Pitou - Photo BFF/Shamwari
Pitou a few months ago

Sirius, rehomed from Monaco Zoo in January 2008

He is eating well and seems to be well, and it is difficult to tell if he is missing Pitou.  Sometimes you would see them close together and then sometimes, when Pitou was in season it would be hard on him as she would pester him for attention and he was not interested. He still loves his privacy and I have to be honest with you all, it does make my heart beat very fast sometimes now if I do not see him, then he will appear from nowhere just like that.  He loves to go up on a Scotia tree, to look over the reserve.

Sinbad, rescued from a Romanian zoo in 2007

He is looking great, loves his food. We always have a smile during feeding as he gets so exited and when he gets his food he gets so protective, he would be growling and would hold the portion with his front paws, he would make a big scene of it and when he sees no one is looking he would pick it up and walk away with the proudest walk you can imagine!

He loves to look at the girls next door, Achee and Ma Juah; my colleague Sidney reports on many occasions he had also seen him looking at the late Pitou too. He never showed aggression towards her.

Photo Glen Vena / BFF Shamwari
This is on one of my patrols, Sinbad had just woken up, isn't he looking good?

Leopard triplets – Sami, Alam and Nimira, found motherless in the Sudan and bought to Shamwari on 5th July, 2001

I think they look great, they have lost a bit of fat around the pot bellies, sticking to what the vets are saying about their diet, so far so good.

Our guests see them more than all the other rescued cats. They can be anywhere in the enclosure from the ‘jungle gym’, by the water trough or right in front of the deck, but our visitors will get a glimpse of them.

Sami I saw one morning stalking me, I got a picture of him doing so.  This was really funny as he did it all around the enclosure, Alam and Nimira was fine with me they walked round with me.

Photo Glen Vena / BFF Shamwari
Well this is Sami. On the morning I took these pictures, all cats were very playful and were hiding behing bushes as I was walking aroung looking for them

Ma Juah and Achee.  Ma Juah was rescued in July 2004 from a zoo in Liberia, belonging to the ex-dictator, Charles Taylor; Achee was rehomed a few weeks later, in September 2004, from a private home in Romania.

The girls look great, they spend most of their time at the top of the enclosure, now and then they will come and look at Sinbad. Ma Juah would keep an eye on him, well he is harmless, and he just looks at them without any expression in his face. MJ would roar and mark her turf, to try and make Sinbad stop looking at Achee. MJ is very protective of Achee! I think Sinbad has got the message by now.

Achee would just sleep on her side with paws in the air and now and then roll on her back and MJ would come and stand about two metres from her, feeling very proud of herself for roaring at Sinbad.

Credit Glen Vena / BFF Shamwari
Ma Jua on the right and Achee stalking me. This is in the main camp looking very green here lately as we got some much needed rain, grass all over

Aslan and Stella, rescued from zoos in Greece, Aslan in 1999 and Stella in 2002.

These two cats look good.  They are very old, about 21 – 22 years old, but seem very happy with the new hospital camp that we have built for them.

They love to spend time in the hospital camp and for me it is sometimes difficult to get them out to go in main camp to do cleaning out, as they love those indoor quarters. Tony Wiles, Born Free’s consultant, knew exactly what he was doing when he came out here to oversee the building of the camp!

Aslan still challenges the fence (it is non-electrified in the hospital camp) and has taken a big bite at it, he is still a very strong lion.

Stella is good, if she is in there she is relaxed, she eats well and seems to feel at home. She is a bit worried if you hang around while she is eating, perhaps she is wondering if we are going to dart her, but if we walk away and watch from the bushes you would she how much more relaxed she is, she would even roar.

In general they good and still eat very well for cats their age, keeping a close eye on them.

This picture below I took it just after Aslan finished his load roar and he was marking his turf.

Credit Glen Vena / Shamwari BFF
Aslan rubbing his head on an aloe, Stella with him
Stella, taking a siesta in the hospital camp. As you can see we planted some grass and with this rain it is coming up nicely. With her deafness she did not see or hear me coming to take this picture
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906


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