Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Lilongwe Wildlife Sanctuary

The best bit about Malawi for me was not the lake! It was actually Lilongwe. The city was fine, but the bit that interested me the most was the Lilongwe Wildlife Sanctuary right in the centre of the chaos. An oasis of calm in the most random of places! I was lucky enough to be invited to rest here a few days by the owners Kathy and Johnny who have been running the place since 2007. Their mission is to 'help Malawi's wild animals in need, combat wildlife crime and empower the guardians of the wild'. A truly worthwhile cause indeed. To help with this they have set up a program where volunteers can come and work here, learning new skills and caring for the animals that have yet to be, or cannot be released back into the wild. This is not a zoo. It keeps human contact to a minimum and only keeps animals that truly cannot be released, or need a bit more time and rehabilitation.


The sanctuary is set in a stunning 180 hectare reserve and is home 200 rescued animals including monkeys, crocodiles, bush pigs, birds and a Hyena!

Whilst there I was lucky enough to meet Simba and Bella, a pair of lions with a very sad story. Bella was rescued in 2009 from a run down Romanian zoo where she was kept alone and distraught since 2006 after her mates and cubs succumbed to disease. She suffered many health problems herself including being blind in one eye. This was removed after her rescue. Her relocation was followed by millions as it was covered extensively by tv channels around the world.

Simba was confiscated from an animal trainer in France in 2012 and a major operation was put underway to get him home to Africa.  He had lived a pitiful and unnatural existence in solitary confinement and was suffering from many health issues. Thankfully his new home was found here with Bella, and after some adjustment, the two grew to rely on each other, particularly as the sight in Bellas' second eye deteriorated. Finally with some company of their own kind, they became inseparable and in love.

Sadly they were both put to sleep a couple of days after my visit. Their quality of life had become questionable and the heart-breaking decision was made by the keepers. The right decision but a tough one none the less. Thank heavens for places like this who at least gave them their last few years in peace and with each other. They had an enormous space and most importantly they had each other. They were put to sleep at the same time.

If you are interested in learning more, adopting an animal, joining the volunteer program or contributing in anyway to this lovely project then visit the website www.lilongwewildlife.org




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