Monday 25 February 2013

Bulawayo's Animal Orphanage

Photographs by STEPHEN BLAKE

Above: These young black-backed jackals form a viable group, which when they have grown a little larger will be released Into the wild, probably in a game reserve. They are very apprehensive of humans, but tolerate each other well.

THE idea of animals in enclosures may seem an anomaly to the visitor to Rhodesia — who comes to see the country's rich wild life in its splendid natural setting. But what happens to injured, orphaned, abandoned  and confiscated animals, which cannot fend for themselves in the wild ?

One school of wild life experts says they should be destroyed or left to die, as a natural consequence of their inability to find food and protect themselves. Others think that they should be placed in a sanctuary where they can be kept alive, providing the public with an interesting and educational amenity, and the scientist with an opportunity for detailed study.

Viv Wilson and his wife Paddy, are definitely of the second school of thought, and their inability to turn their back on any animal brought to them has led to the creation of an extensive animal orphanage on their 100-acre property near Bulawayo.

They have called their sanctuary Chipangali — "open, friendly country" — and it lies 24 km from the city on the Beitbridge road, facing the distant Matopo Hills.

Here they have gathered a fascinating collection of animals, many of whom, due to their rarity or nocturnal nature, would not be seen by visitors to Rhodesia's game reserves. Among these are the aardwolf, bat-earedfoxes, serval cats, civets, bush babies, samango monkeys and a porcupine.

Among the birds which have found a home here are eagle owls, barn owls, yellow-billed kites, a bataleur eagle and a tawny eagle, as well as a flamingo and other water birds.

They are contained in neat, spotlessly clean cages and enclosures built around a central block that will eventually contain a laboratory, hospital and reptile house.

The animals have been brought to Chipangali by National Parks staff from the game reserves; police,  district commissioners and the SPCA who confiscate poached animals; and individuals who bring injured  animals or who find that a charming pet of a few months old can be a problem when it becomes mature.

Above: Two barn owls perch each side of an eagle owl (rufous phased), a fairly rare bird which will become a National Museum specimen when it dies.

Below: Impala, kudu, zebra, ostrich and warthog co-exist quite happily in a large open enclosure. These are all pets which have outgrown their owners.

Once an animal has been brought to maturity as a pet it cannot survive in the harsh world of the wild. Animals and birds that have a permanent injury would also receive short shrift from predators.

The Wilsons have never purchased an animal, nor have they ever sold one. They have established Chipangali because they could not afford to keep the animals without some financial support. As nothing  was available from official sources, they now make an admission charge of 35c for adults and 15c for  children.

Above: A young visitor makes an acquaintance with an immature yellow-billed kite. 

Above: One of the most charming of the animals at Chipangali, the bat-eared fox. This is rarely seen in game reserves as it is strictly nocturnal. 

Below: A real rarity — the aardwolf, a distant cousin of the hyena, which eats only termites. This animal cannot be freed, as it sustained leg injuries
 which prevent it from running. 

Viv Wilson is no starry-eyed, sentimental animal lover. He is the curator of the National Museum and its mammalogist, and his practical bush experience dates back to years spent in the game departments of the then Northern Rhodesia and Rhodesia. When this writer spoke to him he was preparing for a two-month trip to the Antarctic to take part in a survey of seal population.

Several of the specimens at Chipangali, particularly the rufous-phased eagle owl, are rarities sought after by museums. But his attitude is that one day the animal will die, and then it can be mounted for scientific display. Until that happens, let it live, and let the interested public enjoy seeing it alive.

Above: Viv and Paddy Wilson wrestle with a python, brought to them with an injured mouth. They will feed and treat it until it Is recovered, and then release It In the bush.

Below: Dassies, shy creatures which inhabit the rocky kopjes found all over Rhodesia.

Below:  Porcupine raises its formidable quills, which are an almost impenetrable protection against any predator.


Source: Rhodesia Calls January - February 1975 made available by Denise Taylor. Thanks Denise
Extracted and recompiled by Eddy Norris for use on "Our Rhodesian Heritage" blog.

Thanks to the author, the photographer, the publishers for the use of their material.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

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At 1 March 2013 at 11:46 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Nick Baalbergen (Intaf) Writes:-

Years ahead of its time!


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