From: Sharon Nicholls firstname.lastname@example.org
At Twala, there are literally creatures everywhere. Any attempt at ‘me’ time is swiftly abandoned as an influx of animals swarms onto your lap or your bed, pulling your eyelids open to see if you are really asleep, biting your feet, interrupting a yoga session by breathing hotly and noisily into your face, helping themselves to your food and hovering round the bath hunting the soap or putting fur and damp foot prints all over the towels. A swim in our beautiful pool results in mayhem – the duikers race round and round the edge squeaking in alarm and crashing into each other, the cats gaze over the edge with wide-eyed, hackles-raised horror, the peacocks wail is dismay from the roof and the dogs sit at the gate and bark hysterically as the words get out that you are, apparently, drowning.
The noise levels are raised by the ever-increasing and utterly foolish families of guinea fowl that scurry in speckled flocks through the undergrowth, shepherding their chicks past dogs and cats and other bright-eyed predators with increasing feathery hysteria, and the whoops and screeches from Twitter the parrot.
The farmyard is heaving with a variety of creatures. Huge white geese open mean orange beaks to hiss and honk, beating the air with their immensely powerful wings. Forty two fat-bottomed mallard ducks quack and waddle round the pond, the exquisite iridescent blue and green feathers of the males shining in the sun as they hector their demure brown and white wives. There is a surfeit of duck eggs and the animals are growing sleek and shiny on this rich addition to their diets.
Our tiny spotted bantams dart back and forth in search of insects and the remains of Patrick the pig’s breakfast. Patrick is oblivious to these little creatures scattering and squawking before him. He is like a sultan moving through his subjects, pink piggy nose up in the air and clever little eyes fixed on his mud bath ahead. His consorts, Tracy the sheep and Tyrone the goat, trot along behind him. They will spend the day attending to him, standing or lying on either side of him, two hairy mad-eyed sentries who never let him out of their sight.
Pygmalion, a tiny orphaned bush pig, is desperate to be accepted into Patrick’s inner circle. He hovers uncertainly with his tiny bald tail quivering with expectation, the bristly stripes of hair on his minute body standing to attention as he tiptoes forward on his pink trotters towards the vast object of his porcine affection. Fast as lightning, Tracy and Tyrone charge into action, jealously fending him off and bleating furious insults at this cheeky usurper. Pyg’s fur is like the very best sort of tweed – a herringbone pattern of yellow, brown and white that covers his solid body in a wiry mat. Each evening he is put to bed in a dog basket with a stuffed tiger for company, snuggled on a hot water bottle, deep in the soft billows of a duvet that is the closest we can come to where he should be sleeping – in a warm burrow with his mum. Pyg will be released into the wild once he is mature but in the meantime is absolutely determined to be Patrick’s best friend. Having recently experienced his very sharp teeth, I think Tracy and Tyrone may be facing demotion fairly soon.
Henrietta the heron lives away from the mayhem and bad behaviour of the farmyard in an enormous aviary. She will be released on the Twala dam once her feather have grown back but in the meantime has 3 members of staff frantically scouring the river for fish for her. She can eat up to forty small fish a day and we know her currently supply has been consumed when we hear her outraged nasal honking floating down from the hill. Thinking it would be a good photo opportunity I following the staff down to the river one morning to witness the fishing expedition. Everyone seemed a little tense and uncomfortable as I stood about with my camera and I was puzzled and irritable at the lack of action until Richard said to me, quite coldly, “Excuse me, but we take off some of our clothes when we do this....”. I beat a hasty and red-faced retreat.
We have successfully released an exquisite white-faced owl, the third white-faced released at Twala so far, and her place was swiftly taken by two eagle owls. One has the tip of a wing missing so he will be a ‘garden owl’ – free to roam the Twala grounds but monitored and fed each evening. The other owl was hit by a car and has a head injury – he is currently in the hospital being hand-red and nurtured back to health. Thank you to Lara Clements for rescuing him. Many birds come in to Twala in need of rehabilitation and we have also released two lizard buzzards, several eagle owls and many smaller birds. We are presently rehabilitating a beautiful Abdim’s stork who is sharing Henrietta’s spacious quarters but is a lot less trouble than she is!
Two fat, silky puppies from the village next door are frequent visitors to Twala. Having lost their mum to a snake bite, we are providing food and care for the puppies and each morning they come in for a check and go home with a day’s supply of food. They will be vaccinated and castrated and we hope will have a decent quality of life through our community clinic that provides free vet care to rural dogs and other animals. Suzie, one of those fantastic bat-eared brown dogs that we love so much, also benefited from the clinic after a huge, infected wound was treated free of charge at the Twenty Four Hour Vet. Our puppy feeding programme improves the lives of several puppies in the area. Each puppy has a lunch box that is brought to Twala by the owners each day and filled with a mixture of dog food, baby food and milk, thanks to Moldon Marketing, Sky Pharmaceuticals and Caboodle Baby Shop, and the puppies are inspected regularly. Needless to say, they are all looking fantastic.
Chloe on Arrival Chloe Now
Our newest rescue dog is making wonderful progress. Chloe suffered terrible abuse before she came in to the SPCA and her spirit seemed utterly broken. She is now my shadow, trotting beside me everywhere I go with her plumy tail up proudly and her smart red collar offsetting her thick black fur. She is utterly endearing with her huge brown eyes and clever little face, guarding me with fierce loyalty, and so quick to learn. She is overcoming her heart-breaking food issues (she would not eat if anyone was watching her and cowered and trembled if you offered her food or if she saw me eating anything). Now she will take a biscuit from my hand and her beautiful face lights up with joy and pleasure when she realises it is a reward. Life at Twala is so much richer thanks to the Waggly Tail Club, and our motley gang of rescued cats. We love them all and they are a constant source of companionship, entertainment and love, and sometimes drama such as discovering Gomez the kitten had been trapped in the filing cabinet and Simon the ginger ninja had eaten the bank statements.
With the arrival of Harriet the serval kitten, our predator family is growing. Harriet was found on the roadside, dehydrated, dirty and terrified. She is now a confident, healthy and adored member of the Twala family – harassing the cats, making an unlikely friend in the form of Pippin the wide-eyed and rather naive duiker and spending happy, sunny days practising predator leaps with wide spread, velvety paws chasing an endless parade of imaginary prey.
We are very privileged to have two African hedgehogs in our care. These fascinating, spiky new additions are nocturnal so we have to wait til dusk to see their exquisite pixie faces peeking out of the snug nest of hay they spend all day rolled up in. They trot about in the waning shadowy light nibbling on cat biscuits, chicken mince and grubs with their spines smoothed back over their tiny bodies like someone who has used too much hair gel. When threatened, however, these ferocious spikes stand to attention and bristle with aggression. We have a mother and a baby, although the baby is now bigger than mum – weighing an impressive fifty five grams!
Shani and Shungu, the Twala lions, are thriving. Shungu is now so confident that he does little mock charges at dinner time (but will let cheeky Shani steal his dinner). Shani is hugely powerful and extremely clever, always up to something. Every day a white helicopter flies over Twala. Shani waits for it, ears pricked forward intently as she hears the approaching clatter. Then as it flies overhead, she leaps and gambols along beneath it, loving the pursuit of this enormous, noisy bird. She is definitely a challenge to Shungu’s attempts at machismo. She absolutely refuses to roar, much to his disgruntlement. He lets out a series of enormous, impressive bellows and then really gets into it with a long series of guttural coughs and grunts, glaring furiously at his stubborn companion as she nonchalantly nibbles on her claws or, worse still, rolls over and yawns. They are still greatly enamoured of the interactive lion toy brought by Chris Wade. It has proved to be indestructible and an endless source of entertainment.
Twala feels like home now – helped by the addition of a donkey! I think you all know how much we love donkeys, and baby Alex is a delightful, if boisterous addition. He lives in the farmyard and has learnt that if he stands at the gate and hoots in his beguilingly breathless baby donkey voice, someone will immediately come running bearing treats. Chopped carrots and popcorn are his favourites. Our magnificent white horse Griffin and his tubby chestnut companion Uno, are now sharing their idyllic life roaming free on Twala(with dinner and breakfast served every day) with a new rescue horse called Chance. Chance has had a terrible time and suffered years of neglect. He is thin and scruffy and blind in one eye, but hopefully Twala will work its magic on this sad soul and restore his health and happiness to him.
Twala is constantly growing, and it is thanks to all of you – to our sponsors and friends, to all those people who take the time to contact us with details of animals in need and who give those animals a second change by doing so, to all our neighbours who are so kind and supportive and make it such a pleasure to live at Twala, to all the people who do so many thoughtful, generous and helpful things for the animals and make it all possible – THANK YOU FROM US ALL.
The Twala Trust is open to visitors by prior booking only. Tours of the orphanage and rescue centre are at 10am and 2:30pm. Morning or afternoon tea are included, and you are welcome to bring a picnic. Picnic sites are in our beautiful gardens overlooking the dam, and no doubt you will be joined by our sociable duikers, the occasional tortoise or bird and our inquisitive cats! The day ends with lion feeding at 4pm. Bookings can be made on 0733436239 or 0772592944 or 0774312887.
You can follow the stories of the animals on our facebook site The Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary which is updated several times a week.
FaceBook: The Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary