Any hound a porcupine nudges
Can’t be blamed for harbouring grudges.
I know one hound that laughed all winter
At a porcupine that sat on a splinter.
Like Ogden Nash I have a healthy respect for porcupines, particularly when viewed from a distance of about one metre, and with no barrier in between. Those quills are quite something! Fortunately this mother seemed quite relaxed about my presence. However, her daughter rattled her ‘soon-to-be quills’ and went through an impressive and noisy foot-stomping routine, before taking refuge next to her mom. By comparison, Stinton, the young barn owl, was more impassively friendly, and at one stage wandered over my shoulders before flying soundlessly up to a higher perch. He enjoyed having his head scratched, in between the silky-soft feathers. Two meerkats stood up excitedly to welcome us into their room, investigating our shoes and smells, and pausing every moment or two for a tickle. A young crocodile snoozed beneath a sun lamp, small tortoises browsed slowly, a chameleon rolled a wary eye, and a cinnamon coloured caracal pressed against the wire door so that his side could also be scratched.
This was at the Zoo’s version of the Joburg General Hospital. It plays an essential role in ensuring the health and welfare of the birds and animals, and in treating those who become injured or sick. There are a number of different Wards, equipped with small cages, as well as a row of approximately 12 larger rooms with access to open air enclosures. In addition, an operating theatre, X-ray room, Treatment Room, Reptile Ward, Laboratory, Dark Room and General Office, complete the complex. It is staffed by two veterinary surgeons, two veterinary nurses, two animal attendants, and one administration assistant. There are also volunteers who help out, normally those studying in the field. One of the veterinary surgeons will shortly be leaving to take up a post as head of the department at the Bristol Zoo in England.
As it operates on a very lean budget replacing old, and purchasing new, equipment is always a problem. So in July, which is VETERINARY NURSES MONTH, the hospital will be offering behind the scenes hospital tours, to help raise funds. People will be able to find out what a veterinary nurse does, and how to become one, as well as learning more about animal diets, husbandry and the legal requirements for keeping indigenous animals. Did you know that lettuce may not be good for some tortoises? And that to pick one up on the road and take it home may not be such a good idea? During the tours you will also be shown the facilities, introduced to the patients and meet and touch some of the ‘friendly critters.’ The tour lasts for approximately 40 minutes, and the fee of R50 includes entrance into the Zoo itself. Children under 12 years old might find some of it beyond them.
The Hospital’s list of urgent needs ranges from smaller items costing about R2500, to a Cardiac Monitor at R75000 and a Digital X-Ray Machine at over R245 000. A Tumble Dryer would also be useful, as would 3 more computers and a photocopier. At the other end, Extension cords, old towels, blankets, and plastic sealable containers are always needed.
I found my tour fascinating and very enlightening and, of course, being able to meet and touch some of the birds and animals made it all the more special and personal. I encourage you to go, enjoy yourselves and support a very important and less-publicised cause. The animals need us.
For further information follow the links alongside.