December 13 was a very hard day.
I woke up early like I always do. I can't seem to help myself, I always wake up at sunrise or just before sunrise whenever I'm in Africa. Maybe I know my time here is short so I don't want to miss a single moment or maybe there's a special energy from the land in Africa that wakes me up in the morning.
But this morning was different from other mornings. I had a sinking feeling that something was very wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it or figure out why I had this feeling, but it made me very uneasy. I decided to use the WiFi real quick to check my emails, thinking maybe there was something wrong with my family or my friends. But no, that wasn't it.
I was getting ready for my day at the Center, preparing milk for a young vervet monkey named Sprog. And then I noticed everybody looking very concerned and staring at the enclosure where Morrisey and Maymoun were staying. I looked over and noticed one of other volunteers who had been sharing the care of M & M with me. He was holding his head in his hands. I looked down at the floor of the enclosure. Morrisey was lying lifeless on the floor and Maymoun was motionless inside the crate. My heart broke right there and then.
I had no idea what to think. I wanted to run into the enclosure to wake them up, but I had a job to do. I took the milk to Sprog and waited for him to finish his breakfast. My mind was spinning. I couldn't believe it. The two baby vervet monkeys I have been caring for during the past 12 days are gone forever. I had formed such a strong bond with the two babies in such a short time. It seems like I was feeling uneasy because somehow I knew they were already gone before I even saw them.
It really broke my heart, and I had the hardest time maintaining my face and myself. Since I was supposed to care for M & M during the day, I ended up with an easier workday. That gave me a chance to grieve and pick myself up again.
I had to remind myself that working in rehabilitation will always be hard. In some ways, it's almost like being a doctor. Much as you want to, you can't save every animals. Sometimes their injuries are too great. Sometimes they are simply too weak. Sometimes we don't really know what they need. And losing the babies is especially sad.
I thought back to the first time I felt a life end while I was holding a baby bird in my hands. I was only a volunteer at SB Wildlife Care Network, and the staff had sheltered me from some of the hard parts of the job. When I got home that day, I wept. And, on Sunday, I have to admit that I shed some tears for M & M.
The day was hard, but we still have many other animals to take care of and worry about at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. We simply don't have time to dwell on the losses. So, as the day went on, I reminded myself of all the times we have succeeded. In so many cases, I've been part of the team that nursed animals back to health so they could be released into the wild. Remembering those successes brought a small smile back to my face and a more peaceful feeling to my broken heart.