Pretzel the baboon has had an exciting few months! She’s moved into a new enclosure at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre – and made some new friends in the process.

Torie, our Animal Care and Rehabilitation Manager, told us: “Pretzel has made amazing progress since she came to us last year. She’s such a character – she likes to know everything that’s going on all of the time!”

After been kept on a chain in a village as an infant, it was clear that Pretzel’s development had been severely stunted. When she first came to us after being rescued our veterinary team suspected that she was suffering from rickets – most likely caused by malnutrition during her time in captivity.

Medical tests revealed that Pretzel was suffering from poor bone density caused by a severe calcium deficiency. Fortunately, this was one thing we could help fix, by giving her oral calcium and multivitamin supplements. The bigger problem was the bends in her bones, which are permanent. This will affect how well Pretzel can move as her joints don’t have the same extension as a regular skeleton, so she will always be at higher risk of fracture.

Due to Pretzel’s fragile condition, we took the initial rehabilitation slowly. But, given that primates are highly social animals, we were determined to give Pretzel every chance at having companions. 

Her first friend was Mwayi, another female baboon rescued after she was found roaming around a busy market place in the capital city. It was clear that Mwayi was very humanised – a sign that she too had likely been kept illegally as a pet. Mwayi’s calm temperament made her a perfect fit for Pretzel and the two clicked very quickly.

Encouraged by the positive interaction with Mwayi, Pretzel was introduced to two more new friends – Ivy and Gus – and we were able to make a large, wooded enclosure available to the small group. 

“They’ve been having such an amazing time crashing around!” said Torie. “The extra space also means that, over the last few months, we’ve been able to expand her troop.”

Pretzel is now part of a group of ten individuals, mostly young baboons who were also rescued from the illegal pet trade. This little gang – which includes Bones, Gus, Peter, Mia, Mwayi, Edwin, Yeet, Lock and Ivy – is going from strength to strength, with Mia earning the nickname “Mumma Mia” because she’s always the first to give the younger ones a hug!

Pretzel’s first friend Mwayi has also benefitted from the new environment, though her socialisation is going slowly as she has not had much baboon interaction before. This means that she can be nervous of the movement of the other baboons and the extra stimulus of being in a large, outdoor enclosure. At first she would run away when another baboon tried to approach her, but her confidence is growing day by day and she is slowly spending more time outside and less time hiding inside. 

The group still has a lot to learn but they have all come such a long way in the last few months and we’re thrilled that they are all enjoying their new lease of life. And as for Pretzel, now that she is on a healthy diet and is getting plenty of exercise with her new friends, she has well and truly left her old life behind her!