LILONGWE WILDLIFE CENTRE NEWS: A blog from volunteer Anne-Marie Lub, from the Netherlands, accounting her first week working at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre…
Live Love Lilongwe
For a few years I have wanted to do volunteer work with wild animals. What started out as a vague concept of a wish, ended up as a journey to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, with the help of my friend who works at ‘Stichting AAP’ in the Netherlands. AAP has had a partnership with the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre for a few years now and when my friend told me about them I immediately got excited. The LWC is partly a rescue centre and partly a sanctuary for animals you cannot live in the wild anymore. The goal of the LWC is to release all the animals back into the wild. Animals who are no longer capable of living in the wild stay with them permanently.
Just a little after 12 at night a week ago I arrived at the Lilongwe airport. Andrew was already waiting for me, holding a sign with my name on it. After a sociable ride in which he happily kept me awake (his wife is going to have their second child very soon) I arrived at the centre. After a short chat with Shona, the volunteer manager, I went to bed. That night I slept for about an hour: so many new noises and smells! The next morning I walked out of the volunteer house to see where I was (I arrived in the pitch black) and the first thing I saw was a vervet monkey sitting on a tree quietly looking around. How beautiful is that!
Because I arrived at night I unfortunately did not have half a day off to adjust. I learned that I was the only volunteer who ever did not arrive at midday. If in the future any volunteers will be arriving at night like me, they will get the morning off. That’s the good thing about the people working here: they are open to anything and any questions and comments; they are sincere in asking how you are doing and actually do something with what you say.
Anway, I started working at 8 the first day in the OC (Orphan Care). Because I was so tired, they first day was somewhat of a daze to me. So much so that I needed to check what I actually did that first day! So after the OC I got a tour of the premises and all the animals that are staying here. We went into town in the afternoon and that really took me by surprise. There were so many people and noises, it was just too much for me at that moment. So I went for the best solution: turned in early!
Everyday Shona makes a schedule with who will be doing what. I was put on the newbies, the latest arrival of baby monkeys. They are too small to be alone (they are around three months old) and they need a surrogate mamma to be there for them. And they are so cute! Nkoko really holds on tight when he is scared and since he is scared of the rain and thunder and as it is rainy season in Malawi, it happens quite often. Whitney keeps her distance and as we say in Dutch: she looks the cat from the tree. Hopefully she will be able to be released to the wild more easily because of her attitude. She should be scared of people and not get too accustomed to us.
I really think about the fact that the monkeys may have the opportunity to return to the wild and therefore it has no use talking to them or stroking them, because than they will only get used to human language and affection. Eventually they should be scared of us (again) to diminish their chances of getting poached in the wild.
The balance between the wild animals who are killed for bushmeat (and when the mothers get killed the babies get sold by the side of the road as pets) and the humans is off because the number of people increased so much. Since people still eat bushmeat, wild animals are getting extinct, even though poaching is illegal in Malawi. It remains a bizarre thing because Malawi is one off the poorest countries in the wild so for many people a duiker or a monkey will be food for their children and they will not as likely think the about the animal as a species who is about to go extinct. There is always another side of the story…..
There are a lot of orphaned animals now being taken care of by the centre. There are currently seven baby monkeys (vervets and blue monkeys) who need someone to stay with them in their enclosure for the entire day. They also get milk from a bottle every 2 or 3 hours and twice a day fruit and vegetable. Somewhere this week another baby monkey will be brought here by people who found it elsewhere in Malawi.
We have vervets and blue monkeys here but also a lot of baboons. A baby baboon called Bo found a fostermother in a monkey and shares his enclosure with her. Bumi (vervet) also lives with a monkey fostermom called Target. These monkeys are getting fed through a fence to make sure they have as little human contact possible.
The duikers (a kind of antelope) are also very well represented. A few weeks ago a very small duiker was brought to the centre; he is so little! They named him Doxy, which is short for Doxycicline, an anti-malaria medicine. The last orphan to be taken care of is the serval Hamu.
A daily schedule is made every day based on the feeds the orphans need and the hours spent sitting in the enclosure with them.
Speaking of feeds, we have a cook named Joseph who makes us meals twice a day! Which is really great! And he makes my meals lactose free, without meat and without onion! Our ‘ enclosure’ is the volunteer house which consists of a bedroom for 12 people and a big living room. You can also stay in a two person chalet, you just have to pay more.
So Thursday I stayed with the newbies and afterwards fed the serval cat. That day we also got an introduction on how to observe the lions Simba and Bella. Simba is such a beautiful lion! Really gorgeous. At the end of my day I put Whitney and Nkoko to bed. After their last feed they go into their little crate (a basket filled with towels) and they stay there until I wake them up the next morning at 7.
That morning they were cuddling in their little bed and Nkoko jumped happily in my arms. After their milk it was time to run around and chase each other, preferably in circles around me. Nkoko still sleeps in the afternoon. He then comes and cuddles, holds on tight and just blissfully falls asleep.
I went and observed Simba afterwards. He kind of has a cold and had a big blue bogey. Enrichment was next on my list. All the animals that are kept in closed enclosures are given big branches full of leaves and the duikers also get fresh grass. And they could not be happier with their branches! Baby baboon Bo was the next one who I could give his milk. He stays in separate enclosures with his fostermom, so he gets fed through the fence. Afterwards I went back to the newbies and I got to know the African rainy season. It was pouring! As if somebody turned on the shower! Nkoko was very scared and jumped in my arms and didn’t let go. Whitney is super curious and even now she latched on to the fence to be able to look outside.
Saturday morning it was again time to wake up ‘my’ monkeys and sit with them till 10 o’clock. If you have free time in your schedule you are to help in the OC. For me that meant cutting up corn and help cleaning. The washing for instance is done by hand: first clean the towels with a brush in a bucket filled with water and soap, then into the second bucket to rinse in water, onto the third bucket with water and bleach and then to the fourth bucket to rinse again. Then I gave Bo his milk and spend a couple more hours with the newbies feeding them and putting them to bed.
Sunday was my day off! Together with another volunteer I went into the city centre on a tuktuk. And the city is so nice if you are not tired! We went to the crafts market where you can buy beautiful woodcarvings, paintings and fabrics, and then went into the supermarket for some food, a really big supermarket by the way, which has everything you need. We ended the day with some well-deserved Savanna’s (alcohol cider).
Yesterday I fed Doxy for the first time. He is such a sweet little animal. And still so little. He gets more feeds than any of the other animals because he is so young. At 6 in the morning he gets his first bottle and I gave him his last bottle at 7 in the evening. I started my day as any other day staying with the newbies, then collected branches and grass and put it into the enclosures, entertained the newbies again and then fed Doxy.
We work long days. I start working a quarter to 7, and we are done around 6 or 7 in the evening as there are so many orphans to take care of. And then of course there is the exception to the rule: today I am done by 4! Which is really nice because now I have time to finish my blog and e-mail it.
Like every morning I spend my morning with the newbies. And then they escaped! Whitney found out how to open the door and then they were gone! Luckily everybody helped and we got them back to their enclosure in five minutes. It really frightened me to death! So from now on we also look the door from the inside.
After my shower (every time we sit with the monkeys we shower afterwards and change our clothes – the monkeys are quarantined so we have to be very careful about hygiene) I helped collecting branches. Climbing trees! That’s always fun. In a moment I am going back to my newbies. Yeah!