What is orphan season and why is it happening now?

Orphan season can be one of the busiest times of the year for our team at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, when we receive a number of abandoned or orphaned animals that require high levels of around-the-clock care and support.

The term ‘orphan season’ is often used in reference to vervet monkeys and, to a lesser extent, baboons. The primate orphan season is between November and March, which generally coincides with both the vervet birthing season and the rainy season in Malawi which brings significant growth in trees and food sources. Baboons see an increase in births during this period too, but also breed all year round. 

Orphaned animals end up in our care for a number of reasons. Sometimes, they are taken from their mothers and sold on the side of the road as part of the illegal pet trade. Other times, their mothers are killed by cars or as a result of natural causes. Preparing for orphan season sees our team busy with stocking up on milk powders, baby proofing enclosures and training staff and volunteers on orphan care procedures.

Zwere with Sella
Zwere with Sella first orphan of the season

When a baby arrives, our first priority is to stabilise it medically and then provide emotional support. Orphans are often very traumatised by what has happened to them and require 24/7 care. A volunteer or staff member will sit with the babies around the clock to feed them every two hours and help them adapt to life without their birth troops. Following this, our focus turns to helping the babies to integrate by introducing them to a new foster mother.

AN UPDATE ON SELLA

Sella was our first vervet orphan at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre this year. She was a little over two weeks old when she first arrived, after being found alone by scouts at Kuti Wildlife Reserve in Salima. She is seen in the above photos with our Orphan Care Coordinator, Zwere.

This week Sella was introduced to her new foster mum, Lulu. Creating a strong bond with Lulu will be crucial to enabling Sella to join a troop and find her independence back in the wild. Thankfully, the introduction went brilliantly on both sides! Sella was instantly confident around Lulu, showing signs of wanting to be as close to her as possible. Lulu is an experienced mum and knew exactly what to do with her new baby. The pair spent their first night sleeping together, which was hugely encouraging as this doesn’t always happen when we introduce orphans to their new mums. Sella is quite a character – she prefers to travel on Lulu’s back instead of clinging to her belly (which is the more conventional mode of transport), but the pair have settled in well together and we can’t wait to see how they continue to bond.