Here at Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, we have a proud history of coming to the aid of injured and orphaned wild animals, bringing them into our wildlife centre, giving them the medical treatment and rehabilitation they need, and hopefully, one day, releasing them back into the wild where they belong.
We do this because we believe no wild animal should suffer where its life can be improved by our intervention. However, with this responsibility comes the duty to know when to take a backseat, and to hopefully let nature, and an animal’s innate instinct, to take its course to rectify the situation.
And so it was in the case of the serval kittens…
Yesterday afternoon we received word from our friends at Wildlife Action Group Malawi (WAG) that three serval kittens had been stumbled upon in a man’s garden in the Salima area, about 90 minutes outside of Lilongwe. In the process of discovering the cats, the man had inadvertently scared the mother off, who he saw scurry away from garden.
Unsure of what to do, and concerned for the cats’ safety, the man put brought the kittens to the local police station who phoned WAG for support. In need of specialist advice on how to handle the infant servals, WAG turned to us, and our Captive Care and Rehabilitation Manager, Alma, was on hand to give her expert opinion.
It was Alma’s view that the kittens be returned to the spot where they were found, in the hope that the mother would return to collect her young and move them to safer location. Her reasoning was that for a wild animal found alone, the best outcome will always be a quick reunion with the mother. No one can fully replicate the care that cats would receive from its parent.
However, engineering a reunion is only possible when we are 100% sure where the animals came from and if they have not been exposed to humans for a prolonged. Luckily for us, these conditions were met in the case of the serval kittens. So last night, WAG returned the three servals to the spot where they were found in the hope that the mother would follow her natural instinct to the return to them during the night. All there was left to do was wait and cross our fingers whilst we slept.
This morning, members of WAG went to check the on the serval kittens, and what they found — or rather, what they didn’t find — put a smile on all of our faces.
There was no sign of the baby servals, but clear tracks indicated that the mother had indeed returned in the night to collect the kittens and move them to a safer spot. A wonderful result for all involved and a great demonstration of nature’s ability to restore order and harmony to animal family.
Here at Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, we will always be there for the animals that need us. But the natural habitats of Malawi will always be the best place for wild animals, including these serval kittens, as Alma explains:
“The rehabilitation process for a serval kitten to be released back into the wild can be up to two years at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. It is a long process and carnivores that are hand-reared are more prone to become humanised and stay humanised over time which compromises their safety once they go back into the wild. Depending on the individual character and how an animal develops, it is not guaranteed that a serval (or any other animal) can actually make it back to the wild, although we always try our level best. The implications of a captive setting, where animals are not exposed to all natural stimuli, especially when they’re young, should never be taken for granted, and keeping animals in the wild is always better.”