Monday brought an early morning at the bush camp. We drove to Moholoholo which is another wildlife rehabilitation center for animals- their sole purpose was to rehabilitate with the ultimate goal of releasing the animal back into the wild. We had a chance to meet with the owner and talk with him prior to touring the facilities. His name was Brian and he had such a passion for wildlife. He never had any formal training, but has spent his entire life around wildlife and therefore is still very knowledgeable when treating animals and their injuries. We had a chance to tour the clinic where veterinary practices take place. It was amazing how small the facilities was as well as how there is no formal training or set of standards that needs to be practiced there.
The tour itself was very cool to see the animals and hear about their stories as to how they ended up in rehabilitation at Moholoholo. There are two very interesting animals they have at Moholoholo. One of which is their Southern ground hornbill bird. His name is Dodo and he loves the ladies- human ladies that is. It is innate for these types of birds to give a gift (usually a rock, stick, or some other mess of objects) to a female as a mating offering. If the female accepts, the two birds mate for life. However, Dodo thinks that he is a human and therefore continuously offers women gifts, in hopes of having a mate. If accepted by a human woman, he wouldn’t mate with another Southern ground hornbill. Poor guy. Can’t imagine trying to give women gifts on the daily and never having them accept the gifts. Must be a depressing life. Another interesting animal they have there is a Honey badger named Stoffel. He is the next Houdini. Over the years he has escaped numerous enclosures. He even went so far as to manually unlocking gates with his paws. Youtube him for videos! When the facilities introduced a female into the enclosure in hopes of calming him down so he wouldn’t attempt to escape as much, he used the female as a stepping stool to spring free! The entire time we spent around his enclosure, he was still searching for ways to get out. Maybe next time, Stoffel.
The next stop for the day was one of the most amazing experiences of my South Africa trip. We visited Jessica the Hippo. For those of you that don’t know Jessica, she is a wild hippo that was raised by humans. She has a website if you want to look her up. She was found on the edge of a river near the home of Tonie and Shirley Joubert, washed away from her mother by a flood the same day she was born. Her umbilical cord was still attached even. Tonie and Shirley took her in and raised her as their own child. They never put her in an enclosure however. She is free to roam wherever she wishes. What’s amazing is that even after 18 years, Jessica still returns to the Joubert home every night to sleep and for meals that tourists can feed her. She can even open their doors and she walks into their home when she is hungry. They’ve had to replace about 15 beds on account of Jessica making herself comfortable in their home. She even protects her parents- her parents swim with her in the hippo and crocodile infested river behind their home. One time, a crocodile decided it was going to come in for a closer look and Jessica killed the crocodile to protect her mother. This amazed me.
Jessica eats sweet potatoes and drinks rooibos tea. When you visit her, you get to feed her and give her drink as well as petting her and kissing her. This was one of my favorite locations because it was absolutely amazing to see Jessica’s relationship with humans. She is so intelligent. I never thought I would ever in my life to have such an interaction with a wild animal. She amazed me. She was very gentle with everyone that interacted with her. Just a look between her and a human is communication enough. It is amazing how tight of a bond she has grown to have with the Jouberts. I would love to return back here another time. This was a magical experience.
Night time brought another game drive and an outdoor shower. I really enjoyed the night time game drives at the Pridelands. It was really cool to be driving through the South Africa wildlife as the sun was going down around us. I got a bit more sleep the second night at the bush camp, but still not a full night’s sleep as I was listening to hyenas howling once again as I fell asleep. It is still crazy to think that I camped in the wilderness halfway across the world.