Friday, December 18, 2015

Permanent Residents

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Lilongwe has two goals.  Whenever they can, the staff helps animals become strong enough to return to the wild. But, some animals have problems that would make it impossible to survive. Often those problems are the result of human actions. When an animal can’t be released, the Centre takes care of them permanently. As a volunteer, I’ve gotten to know these animals, so I thought I’d tell you about some of them. 

There are two crocodiles, Shelia and Bushdog, that cannot be released because they’ve have been in captivity for too long and don’t know how to hunt on their own. They are Nile crocodile which can grow up to 6.1 meters long. Ordinarily, they live in fresh water such as rivers and Lake Malawi. Both were rescued. Bushdog had been in a zoo after being rescued from a crocodile farm.

We have lots of vervet monkeys in the centre; we believe there are about 100. They live in big groups called troops. Some will be released, but some can’t go back to the wild because they have been in captivity for too long. Others have physical disabilities. I saw one vervet monkey with only one arm. Most of the vervet monkeys were rescued from people who were selling them as pets on the side of the road.

Monkeys do not make good pets, and often come here because they’ve been abandoned or abused. For example, Sprog, one of the male Vervet monkeys I’ve been caring for, was brought in by a man who bought him at the side of the road for 11,000 MKW. When Sprog arrived at the Centre, he was very dehydrated and malnourished and he had pneumonia. The man did the right thing bringing him in, but he should not have paid for him because that encourages the poaching and trade industry

We also have Blue monkeys. Despite their name, they are not actually blue! The hair on their faces has a slight blue tinge. Some of the Blue monkeys here were rescued from Holland and have been in captivity too long to release. Also, the Blue monkeys are not native to Malawi so we cannot release them into this country.

Two types of baboons live here, Olive and Yellow. The Olive baboons came to Lilongwe as part of an International Rescue Programme, after being rescued from circuses and illegal animal traders. They have been in captivity for too long and are not native to Malawi so they can’t be released.  The Yellow baboons have been mostly rescued from being kept as pets or sold illegally. The Wildlife Centre tries to release the Yellow baboons in the Kasungu National Park whenever possible. Baboons are some of the world’s largest monkeys so they don’t make good pets either.

We also have a few cats here. There are two servals, a small African wild cat. One named Charley was rescued from animal traders when he was just 6 weeks old. He has cataracts which make his vision cloudy so he wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild. The other serval is named Hamu.  He was found on the road and is too comfortable with people.  We are trying to minimize contact with him in the hope that he will eventually be able to go back to the wild.   

There are also a pair of African lions, Simba and Bella.  The female, Bella, only has one eye and joint problems because she was kept poorly in a zoo in Europe. Because of her disabilities and long captivity she cannot be released. Simba was rescued from a circus in Belgium by Born Free.  He now lives happily with Bella. Keeping these cats safe is a big deal because there are only 30 wild lions left in Malawi.

The sanctuary also has two types of antelope, Duiker and Bushbuck. Duiker are tiny, shy antelopes with horns. Some were brought in by people who thought the babies had been abandoned, even though the mother probably just left in search of food. Others have been rescued from people selling them as pets on the roadside. For example, one of our male Duiker, named Doxy, was  sold to a lecturer at Luanar College. A student, who works as a ranger, saw him and called Lilongwe. Doxy was confiscated and brought here.

Bushbucks are medium-sized antelopes with white stripes and dots on their sides. Often we see orphans whose mothers have been killed by people who trade in illegal bush meat.  Fortunately, most of the orphaned Bushbacks can be rehabilitated and released into Kuti Wildlife Reserve.

Last but not least, there’s also a big rock python named Henry. He joined us from the zoo so he doesn’t know how to hunt on his own. He’s 13 years old and 4 meters long. He’s not venomous but he could be deadly if he’s not handled properly.   

Caring for all of these permanent residents is a big job. That’s one of the reasons the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre needs so many volunteers and donations too. For myself, I just feel lucky to be in a place that tries to do the right thing for these animals. Wild animals simply don’t belong in people’s homes or circuses or zoos that can't care for them properly.  Whenever they can, the staff here tries to rehabilitate animals so they can live in the wild.  And, when that's not possible, they give the animals a permanent home where they won't be neglected or mistreated.


  1. Wow, Jessie! Keep the reports coming! They're fascinating.
    This is Sally from WCN : ))

  2. Hi Jessie.... I'm sorry to hear about the baby monkey's in your previous post. I admire how you handled the news - so professional and understanding the whys. Your posts are informative, educational and important - keep them coming! I am wondering how you will spend Christmas? Will it be a work day for you - doing what you love - spending time with the animals? Missing You! Sending hugs from Denise & Sam