Earlier this month we said an emotional goodbye to one of our longest-term residents of the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, our african spotted hyena, Usiku.
Across the weekend Usiku made the 1,000 kilometre journey from Lilongwe to his brand new home in Zimbabwe where he met up with his new best friend for life, Tikaani.
Usiku has been with us at our rescue and rehabilitation centre in Lilongwe since he was just a cub, and through the generous support of the Olsen Animal Trust, we have been able to see him grow into strong, happy, and healthy adult hyena. Any member of our animal care and rehab team will tell you that Usiku developed a unique personality all of his own, and has been lovingly described as ‘goofy’, ‘playful’, and ‘sweet’.
However, as much as we cared Usiku and provided him everything we possibly could for him to grow into a contented and well-adjusted hyena, it has always been a priority for the team to find him a suitable home where he can express all of his natural behaviours in an appropriate environment.
Additionally, hyenas are intensely social creatures usually living in clans of up to 100 individuals in the wild. With the possibility of more hyenas arriving at our wildlife centre slim, and the ability to socialise being absolutely crucial to Usiku’s welfare and happiness, keeping him on his own was simply not an option.
Unfortunately, due to Usiku’s extended period in captivity from a young age, he wasn’t a candidate for a full release back into the wild. So the hunt for a new home for Usiku with fellow hyena companionship has been on since he reached adulthood — and on Sunday 8 September, Usiku’s wait was over.
After loading Usiku into his transportation crate and our truck pulled out of the gates of the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, our much-loved hyena who we had cared for since his infancy said goodbye to his Malawian home for the very last time. Usiku’s journey to his brand new sanctuary in Zimbabwe was underway.
Twenty-five hours of driving, 1,000 kilometres, and two national border crossings later, Usiku finally got his first glimpse of his extra-large, natural enclosure, located just outside Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare.
Usiku’s crate was unloaded, the enclosure gates opened, and under a setting Zimbabwean sun, without a moment’s more hesitation, Usiku sprang to freedom — home at last.
The Tikki Hywood Foundation’s sanctuary, where Usiku will spend the rest of his days, provides its hyenas with the space, conditions, and enrichment they need to express all their natural instincts among the sights, smells, and sounds of the Zimbabwean wild.
Our team and the dedicated staff at Tikki Hywood wasted no time introducing Usiku to his new enclosure buddy. Tikaani, another male, who was already a resident at the Tikki Hywood Foundation, is significantly larger than Usiku but shares his playfulness and care-free spirit. They promise to be a perfect match for each other!
Tikaani and Usiku are currently getting acquainted through the fence that separates their respective enclosures, just so they can get used to each other before they begin sharing the same living space. But the early signs are excellent and the team at Tikki Hywood are confident that we’re witnessing the blossoming of a beautiful friendship.
We are going to be in regular contact with the Tikki Hywood Foundation in Zimbabwe to get updates on how our favourite hyena is doing. And even though we’ll miss him and all of his antics that made our team smile every day, we know that Usiku has found a place where he truly belongs — and for us, that’s the happy ending to his story that he deserved.
Thank you to the Olsen Animal Trust without whom we could not have cared for Usiku for all this time. With your support we have seen Usiku raised from a tiny cub into the happy and healthy adult hyena he is today.
Thank you also to all the team at Tikki Hywood Foundation who have provided Usiku with the space and companionship he needs to flourish. Without your dedication to the wellbeing of rescued animals, Usiku could not have been given this shot at the fulfilling life he deserves.
Thank you to everyone who has helped to care for Usiku and who has worked so hard to achieve this wonderful result for a much-loved creature.
And thank you, Usiku for bringing us so much joy and happiness during your stay at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. We have loved watching you grow, and we’re so excited to see you embark on this next step of your life.
Usiku's story in pictures
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