It has been six long and anxious weeks since Nduna the lion suffered a mysterious head injury that paralysed him and necessitated a move to a hospital pen for the hands-on nursing required for his rehabilitation.
Cocooned in his nest of fluffy blankets, duvets and hot water bottles each nihgt, hand-fed, bed-bathed and given water from a syringe every two hours, watched over and nurtured, Nduna’s remarkable recovery is testament to the will power and courage of a very special lion. The astonishing trust he placed in us made his rehabilitation possible. Happy to use a handy human body as a ballast as he learnt to walk again, revelling in the cuddles and pampering lavished upon him as we willed him to get better, the relationship we forged with Nduna during this time has inspired us all. Even Dr Vinay Ramlaul of the Twenty Four Hour Vet, who sponsored all Nduna’s treatment and got the unenviable task of giving Nduna several large injections each day got no more than a reproachful look as he sunk yet another huge needle into Nduna’s massive rump.
At last Nduna is up and walking, and although it will take months for him to have the full range of movement on his left side, we feel it is time for Nduna to return home to his companion Kadiki. Dr Keith Dutlow of the Aware Trust darts Nduna and we load his bulk onto the back of a truck for the short journey back to his enclosure. He is thoroughly examined by the vets who also give him a dental check (what big teeth he has!) and micro-chip him at the same time. When he comes round and finds himself at home the expression of utter delight on his beautiful, beloved face makes us laugh out loud with pleasure and relief. His joy at being back makes every second of his rehabilitation worthwhile.
He limps out into the late afternoon sunshine, still a little unsteady on his left side, crooning lovingly to mercurial Kadiki, who slides him several thoughtful, golden-lashed glances before strolling over nonchalantly and settling down beside him with a little sigh. Nduna inspects every single one of his toys (and there are many!), washing them vigorously with his huge pink tongue and muttering about Kadiki’s lack of house-keeping skills. Then he drops his enormous body onto the grass and does an exuberant victory roll, legs paddling the air, mouth open in a giant-toothed grin of sheer bliss, juggling his battered collection of tyres between the paws we had been so afraid he would never use again. Nduna has everything he could possibly want, including a large pork dinner served with a flourish by one of the smiling feeders.
It feels as though there should be a whole stadium of people up on their feet, cheering Nduna’s triumphant return, but he has to make do with the jubilant Sanctuary staff singing and dancing in celebration on the dusty road before him. Welcome home, beloved brave lion.
JOHANNA, the lioness we rescued in June continues to make progress. Each morning she comes to greet me, crooning softly as she limps across her beautiful new enclosure full of Msasa trees sporting their bright green, red and orange spring plumage. She has a routine now, bringing her collection of toys to show me, carrying them as if she killed them herself, and then showing off her football skills by dribbling a rock round and round her water dish, shooting quick golden glances in my direction to make sure I am paying attention. Then it is time for ‘Predator Yoga’ – a series of stretches and rolls accompanied by a running commentary of grunts and guttural exclamations. Once again I am expected to watch closely and offer lavish praise for her grace and skill.
Then she is off to the back of the enclosure to keep Joshua company. Johanna has been determined to befriend angry, aggressive Joshua, inching closer to him each day and bearing the brunt of his sudden frightening rages which are fortunately nowadays more noise than anything else. Now, after weeks of persistence, she settles with a happy sigh in a spot right beside him, giving them both comfort and companionship. If this lioness could smile, she would.
JOSHUA is still wary of us, too haunted by his past to shake off the demons of fear and mistrust just yet. But yesterday he lay a few metres from me, washing his calloused old paws and battered face after dinner, and I thought he finally looked content.
Our facebook site, Bally Vaughan Animal Sanctuary, has Nduna, Josh and Johanna’s stories in pictures.
We would like to thank you all for your fantastic support and encouragement during what has been a very challenging time at the Sanctuary. It makes such a difference to us all knowing we have so many wonderful people helping to keep the Sanctuary going, and the animals happy and safe. Special thanks to the Twenty Four Hour Vet and Dr Vinay Ramlaul, Cool Galah Australia, Sandie and Chalkie van Schalkwyk, Mogo Zoo, Friends of Paradise, Aware Trust, Sharon Nicholls whose positive thinking and fierce encouragement make things so much easier, Debs and Craig Sly, Andrew and Leigh Revolta, Di Fynn, Ashley-Kate Davidson, Chooks Langerman, Sarah Kenchington, Kerry Wallace of DV Productions, Jay and Rachel, Jackie Cocksedge, Ted and Carrie Perepeczko, Enid Graves, Carole Graham, Bev Lawes, Pauline Visser, Stuart Sylvester of Specialist Hire, Teresa Gaston and Alexa Volker, the Middleton family, Shane Zangel, the artist Heather Evans for a stunning, donated painting of one of our rescue lions, the artist Sheena Povall for constant and generous support through donating beautiful paintings to raise funds, Whelson Transport and Ian Silk, Sylvia Carter, Mike Garden, Sharon Wilson, Montana Meats, Douglyn Farm, Vera Taylor, Rose and Rogan Maclean, Lorraine Thomas and Mike Wedlock, George Kille and S&P, Prof Pat Kelly, Harare SPCA, The Cheeseman, Sherrol D’Elia and volunteer Sarah Stangle.
THE BALLY VAUGHAN SANCTUARY
Tel: 263 772 592 944 or 263 733 436 239