Saturday, January 16, 2010

chaos reigns supreme

A small tragedy here yesterday. The electricity had been going on and off all day (this is remote AFrica, after all), and during one outage, some of the big baboons jumped the usually-electrified fence of their enclosure and came over to the garden area. I heard the commotion and looked out my door to see two big males on top of the baby baboon enclosure where Jessie and Coco were playing. This is usually fine--they're safe there--so I herded some dogs into my room, locked the door, and waited for the bushmen to chase the baboons back to the home (they're very experienced at this).

An hour or so later, I fixed two baby bottles of formula and took them out to Jessie and Coco. When I picked up Jessie, I noticed lots of small dots of what looked like mud on her. I looked closer: it was blood. I looked her over from head to toe and found a horrible truth: the big baboon had grabbed her through the fence and bit off (yes, BIT off) two of her fingers and one of her toes. The wounds had stopped bleeding, but Jessie's eyes were at half-mast and her gums were white--a sure sign of an animal in shock.

I grabbed both babies and ran to the clinic where I radioed for help. Marieta was still in Windhoek for the conference, her son Schalk was in Gobabis picking his son up from school, and our vet had gone for the week to South Africa to renew his work visa. It appeared that the inmates were running the asylum, so I had to learn fast from the two people who helped. We washed the wounds, put on antiseptic and antibiotics, bandaged the wounds and gave her two injections--one for shock and one for pain.

Jessie was so brave. Through it all, she hardly made a squeak. I held the two baboons all afternoon and into the night (Marieta is coming home today). Jessie gradually improved and we fell into a semi-sleep. This morning her foot looks good, but the hand not so much. The vet is coming today to work on several animals, and we'll have him look at her.

This, too, is Africa. Along with the amazing people, places, and animals comes danger and occasional chaos. And I've learned to do what I have to do--while not crying and falling apart (which is my first impulse). We could learn a lot from the stoicism of animals: they don't dramatize their pain, and when they get better, they don't dwell on it. They just get back to the business of living.


  1. The cheetah video was great, baba!I hope you have fun! love, Jack.

  2. That sounds like an incredible experience. That poor little baby baboon! I guess it's just nature, but I still have a hard time understanding how the adult baboons could be so cruel towards babies of their own kind.

    Love, Carolyn

  3. This brought tears to my eyes...not only for the baby, but for your analogy at the end.