Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

This past summer, I volunteered at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa.  Injured, poisoned, or abandoned wild animals and birds from all around South Africa are brought to Moholoholo where they are treated and cared for by a wonderful team of staff and volunteers. The primary goal of the rehab is to release these animals back into the wild. However, some animals are unable to return to the wild, either because their injuries are too severe or they become too habituated to humans. Those animals remain in the care of Moholoholo and become ambassadors for their species. People from all over the world tour Moholoholo and learn about the pressing issues facing wildlife in South Africa. They can also interact with some of the animals under controlled conditions and really learn from the hands-on experience.  

As a volunteer, I had the incredible opportunity to care for and connect with many of the beautiful animals at Moholoholo. I want to introduce you to a few of them. (I fell in love with all of them, but I don’t have nearly enough space to fully express my love for every single one of these animals).

This is Stoffel, one of the world’s most famous honey badgers. Don’t believe me? Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c36UNSoJenI People from all over the world travel to Moholoholo just to meet the famous Honey Badger Houdini! I can say from personal experience that he is absolutely as entertaining to be around as he is in the BBC special.

 

This is Elvara, a young male cheetah. He is one of Moholoholo’s ambassador cheetahs!  He was born at the rehab and has trained his whole life to be comfortable enough around specific humans to represent his species.  One of the biggest issues facing Africa’s most endangered big cat is human wildlife conflict. Elvara and staff members at Moholoholo travel around South Africa and educate the public about cheetah conservation. Because he is in contact with humans quite often, I had the opportunity to cut his dew claw! If it was too sharp, he could accidentally hurt someone!

 

This is my best friend Stompie the honey badger. As you can see, we are madly in love. In the top picture, we are sharing a tender moment as he shoves his hand in my mouth. The bottom picture is me reacting to a honey badger’s hand in my mouth while he executes his getaway. I love this creature so much and miss him more than you could ever imagine.  During my off hours, I would go hang out with him and his pal, Badji, in their enclosure. They are so much fun. Honey badgers are just as crazy as you would expect them to be.   

 

Speaking of, this is Badji!  Badji way more chill than Stompie, but just as much of a good time.  

 

This is Matimba, a nice old soul of a lion. He is a cranky old guy who did not enjoy the fact that I was taking a picture of him while he was eating, but I don’t care! He may be a little scary, but I still love him.

 

This is Savannah, a beautiful caracal who I got to take care of on my own. She was kept as a pet until her “owners” realized she was too wild to keep as a pet and abandoned her. Now, she is a permanent resident of Moholoholo because she is too comfortable around humans and would have no chance of survival in the wild. I got to hang out with her a lot and played with her all the time with a rope toy. She was my little beautiful baby girl and I miss her dearly.

  

This is Akila, an African wild dog. Such a magnificent animal. Absolutely gorgeous. Here’s a fun fact to be aware of: African wild dogs smell like doody. However, she was so pretty that it didn’t matter how bad she smelled. I would still watch her for hours.

 

This gorgeous boy is Bagheera the black leopard. Yes, he was named after The Jungle Book. I fell in love with him immediately. You can’t really see it clearly in the picture, but he has the same spot pattern as a normally colored leopard. His piercing bright eyes hit you right in the soul. I love him so much it hurts.

 

This is Scruffball! He is a serval, Africa’s third largest spotted predator cat. Moholoholo is a home to many servals, so I got to know these animals very well after working with them every day. Though, I guess I didn’t know them quite as well as I thought. One day, I stupidly went to feed another serval, Tigger, with no protective equipment and he swiped at me because he was hungry. I sustained very minor scratches, and the small scars on my wrist from this incident serve as a reminder to always respect wild animals.

 

I got to end my time at Moholoholo by participating in a cheetah enrichment activity. This is Adara, Elvara’s sister! She is also an ambassador for her species, so she regularly interacts with humans. In order to keep all the animals sane, volunteers and staff members regularly engage the animals in enrichment activities. A common enrichment activity for ambassador cheetahs is taking them on walks around the rehab center outside of their regular enclosures. Not only does this stimulate their brains by exposing them to new environments, but it also trains them to get used to their harnesses. Near the end of all volunteer’s visits, they have the opportunity to be the person holding the leash! Cheetahs have been one of my favorite animals since I was a little girl, so this was one of the most fun, if not the most fun, things I have ever done in my life. Being so close to such a powerful, majestic, absolutely gorgeous animal is utterly indescribable.       

 

A fitting caption for this picture is “Me, madly in love”

My time volunteering at Moholoholo was the best experience of my entire life. I am currently on the pre-vet track and I plan to work with animals in some capacity for the rest of my life. I love animals with my entire heart and am more than ready to dedicate my life to preserving incredible species at risk due to anthropogenic disturbances to the natural world. I hope you enjoyed meeting these incredible animals and that maybe I have inspired you in some way to think about how your actions affect the world around you in ways you may not realize. There are so many small things you can do to make the world a better place! Also, if you want to learn more about Moholoholo, or want to meet some more of the animals I got to work with, please reach out! I live for these animals and nothing gives me more pleasure than sharing my love with other people!