King Charles picked me up after breakfast to take me to Maholoholo, the injured animal conservation site. Derrick, our guide, showed us injured birds and animals, explained how they were injured, what their chances for rehabilitation and being released into the wild were, and how each animal plays a part in a delicate ecosystem that works perfectly when all players are in place.
As an English woman and I cooed over a cute tiny bunny hopping freely around, he laughed and said, “Don’t get too attached to her,” then glanced at the vultures’ cage next to which we were standing. Oh.
We entered the vultures’ cage; they eyed us suspiciously. Derrick explained, first in English, then in Afrikaans, about the different species of vultures. He then asked who would like to feed them. I do, I do! He placed the gauntlet on my arm and instructed me to hold tight to a piece of raw meat. As a watched a slew of massive vultures fight to light upon my arm, he mentioned I shouldn’t look directly at the vultures; they might mistake my dark eyes for food. Holy crap.
We continued on to the lion and leopard areas – what beautiful, massive animals. There were a few Italian tourists in our group who didn’t understand English, especially the verbal and written instructions not to pet the animals. I watched with anticipated horror as one of the women started to reach out through the fence to pet the lion. Holy crap. Did she not realize these were injured wild, WILD, animals? They may look cute, but they eat her body weight equivalent of raw meat each day. That’s just crazy. Fortunately a translator arrived to explain to “KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM THE ANIMALS!”
As we were leaving, a baby rhino came charging across the yard, playfully bumping into objects in its path. Over went a solid picnic table, over went a chair, a tree budged. He came closer to our group, nothing separating us. Derrick explained that baby rhinos need constant attention and he was lonely. He instructed us to pet him, just not on the face. The Italians went straight for the horn. I got my camera ready, figuring the tabloids would pay good money for the pictures to accompany their headlines, “TASTES GREAT, LESS FILLING – ITALIAN TOURISTS MAULED AT MOHOLOHOLO.”