Hello, friends and family! I’m sorry that it’s been so long since my last post. It has been an incredibly busy past couple of weeks and I have been absolutely exhausted! Plus today is my first day off in 9 days, we’ve been that busy! I wanted to share with you some of the awesome things that I have gotten to take part in recently.
|Table Mountain view from Blaauwberg - two crazy surfers in the water|
Some of you that have researched Drakenstein Lion Park may know that this past November we took in several animals from a zoo that was closing in the area. They gave us two tigers, two white lions, goats, llamas, an ostrich, Shetland ponies, two caracals, six chimps, New Guinea Eclectes parrots, wallabies, duikers, spoonbills, ducks, and marmosets. The tigers and lions were incorporated into the lion park, but the chimps, marmosets, parrots, waterfowl, duikers, and wallabies we built a whole new part of the park to accommodate them. So this area is Chimp Haven. Now that you all know this I can go on with my story!
The past couple of weeks I was taught how to care for all of the “small animals” on that side. So everything minus the chimps. The chimps are highly intelligent animals and we have to be careful about new people around them etc. In the morning I dice fruit and vegetables into tiny pieces for little mouths to be able to eat. I start with the parrots. I go right into their enclosure with them and switch out food bowls, give them fresh water, pick up discarded food. At first they didn’t like me at all. They screamed in my ears and buzzed around my head constantly. But after two days, they came right around to me. The males especially will follow me around, begging for the best tidbits of food, nibbling at my clothes and hair, trying to rip open my rubbish bag. They are really quite sweet!
|One of the males begging for the best bits of food (sorry for the poor quality)|
The little antelope, wallabies, waterfowl and spoonbills are very easy to care for as they only need horse/duck pellets, lucerne, and chicken (for the spoonbills). The marmosets are my favorite though. At first, they hid from me when I went into the enclosure to switch out food bowls and clean their water. But now when they see me coming they start chirping, follow me along the enclosure and wait for me by the door, all lined up in a row along a branch. It’s usually five of them, the mother and her baby are still wary of me. One of the young ones climbs all over me, and they all want a specific piece of food. So one will want a raisin, while another will want a pea, another cheese, another a little slice of banana. I love how I can hold out a little piece of food, they curl their little hands around my fingers and take the food gently with their mouths. I’m also starting to see a difference in personalities with them as well. I just love them, even though they stink like a European man that hasn’t bathed in a month.
|Daddy marmoset with baby peeking over the back - I think the baby looks like an ewok|
I am coming around to the chimps. First of all, the chimps absolutely terrify me to high hell. I’ll be walking around the lion park and will hear all six of them start screaming/going-freaking-insane at once and it makes the hair stand on end all over my body and all I want to do is run for shelter for fear that one escaped and will come rip my arms from their sockets. Besides that, I was told that the chimps actually genuinely like me and they watch me go about my work all the time. Angus will wait for me to come inside the night room (where their night enclosures are) to get feed and lucerne, and then he will wave at me from his enclosure. As soon as I go outside, he goes outside to wait for me and wave to me again before he goes about his business. Charlie, the youngest of the chimps, watches me while I clean the parrots’ enclosure and will ‘dance’ with me through the fence. When I talk to him he will also sit there and grin at me like a little goblin. Then Emma sits and watches me work as well and just smiles at me. They really are extraordinary animals. It amazes me at how much speech they understand.
As for the lions, well they have been great as usual. With the weather getting cooler and wetter, the lions become more and more active. They are always extremely loud at night, although it has become my own little lullaby. And they are up and about much more often during the day now. I’ve also gotten the chance to feed more lions, which has been fun. I guess Paul has decided that my aim has improved enough for me to throw more (hah). Paul is still just as chipper as ever – always speaking to me in his best redneck “American” as possible. He even does it over the radio, which is hysterical.
I am still very much loving my life here in Africa. I constantly marvel at my surroundings and always find myself wondering if this could possibly be real. I’ve been here for two months already and it still hasn’t sunk in yet that this is my life! I’ve found a great circle of friends that have become family, I’m constantly surrounded by lions, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I hope that you all find joy in every day, no matter where you are.