Yesterday morning we had a little weaver bird fly into the house and Catherine watched in awe as I raced Mr Wilson the cat to rescue him. Mr Wilson (so named because as a tiny kitten he would put his ears flat down when he got cross and he looked a bit like Mr Wilson from Denis the menace with his hat pulled down) is extremely quick and agile and it was a serious sprint from me to get to the bird who had flown onto a louver window and catch it milliseconds before Mr Wilson (who did a great impression of his namesake). Having captured the little bird I showed him to Catherine who cooed and stoked his little head gently with a tiny finger. I must say it was a real treat to see one of these little guys close up, they are very pretty birds but you don’t get to really appreciate the rich burnt orange head with a dramatic touch of black when they are flying past at speed or even when they are busy building their nests.

Catherine and I took the little bird outside and I opened my hands to let him fly back to his family. She loved watching him fly way but then got rather grumpy as she wanted me to catch him again and repeat the exercise.  This got me thinking about the mixed emotions of a wild animal release, it is a great feeling to watch an animal that you have rescued and spent countless hours “being Mum” to finally go back to where it belongs free and wild but the selfish part of me always also feels a twinge of regret and sadness at saying goodbye to another baby that I have poured my heart into and Catherine is going  to have to learn that whilst you do feel a bit sad the joy at seeing an animal back in its proper environment far out ways the sadness,


A few years ago I took Jim with me to help cater for a school trip to Kuti wildlife ranch, a place where I have released a number of animals over the years and one afternoon after catering for a hungry bunch of teenagers I took Jim for a game drive and we were chatting about the various animals that we saw amongst them a herd of wildebeest. Jim got quite excited a seeing them and told me how as a young child he remembered his grandfather telling him of the strange cow like animals that used to live near his home village when he was a boy but that he had not seen any of these animals for a long time and that he didn’t think there were any left alive. Jim had thought that the old man with his fading memory was probably just remembering a dream as he certainly had never seen anything like this before but today for the first time he had seen the animal that his grandfather had told him of.  This led to a conversation about the importance of looking after our wild life and preserving it for future generations so that we did not reach a situation where our children or grandchildren would only know of these wonderful creatures through stories or photographs of days gone by. I then told him that this was why I took in orphaned animals and looked after them until they were old enough to be released back into the wild and I could see a look of comprehension come over his face. He grinned and said “finally I have got an answer to a question that has been puzzling all of us for many years. We have watched you come home with a baby animal and spend many many hours every day feeding it and looking after it and then once it grows up and becomes independent so that it eats by itself and is no longer a big job to look after you take it away, the first time you did this we decided that you were tired of the animal and did not want it any more but then you got another one and after all the hard work you took it away again and you keep on doing this. Why would anyone spend all the money and do all the hard work when an animal is a baby and then just when it stops being hard work and becomes less expensive do you stop wanting it but then decide to get another one that is hard work again. We had really decided that maybe you were a little mad but you were still a good boss so we would still keep working with you and just shake our heads from time to time at the crazy boss we worked for. Finally today I understand why you have been doing this for so many years, it is to save the animals so that more people in the future can see them and know that the old people are not just remembering dreams or making up stories when they talk of the beautiful and strange animals of their childhood that they are really just talking of special memories that they have of seeing or interacting with these animals. I felt really warm inside after this conversation as finally I felt that I was making headway with getting my staff to understand the importance of conservation and  then took a couple of photos of the wildebeest for Jim to take back to his village to show his family.


It is often difficult in countries where extreme poverty exists and everyone man or beast needs to work and pay their way in order to just survive another day to explain the concept of conservation, of looking forward to a future generation and preserving a species just for the luxury of observing its beauty as this is how it is perceived in the minds of the less educated people who have not learned of the importance of preserving the entire ecological system and of how every plant, bird, insect, reptile or animal has its part to play in order to maintain harmony in nature which is essential to all life on earth including us humans and I can understand that if you are in a situation whereby you exist one day at a time hoping to be able to feed your family that day that  the long term future of our planet is not really a major concern in your life but I do believe that we have to keep on preserving whatever we can and slowly educate the children within all sectors of the population on the importance of the long term preservation of all of our species of life. What really angers me are those people who should know better and who can afford to look to the future who participate in the mindless slaughter of animals for pure pleasure, for fashion or trinkets not for survival.