Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Two pictures I wish I had

My last full day at Harnas for this trip. I leave tomorrow morning for a day in Windhoek--then the next day on to home--via Addis Ababba (in Ethiopia_, a short stop in Dublin (for fuel), and a layover in Washington DC.

Today I was just going about my business, feeding my babies, and I had an amusing experience. I was taking the baby baboons their bottles and got to the enclosure and noticed they were a bit wired up--running around, screaming--you know, baboon stuff. I also noticed that it was a mud fest. I got in the enclosure and found out why. The sprinkler nearby (the industrial type, not the gentle backyard type) was turned wrong, and it occasionally sent a stream of water into the enclosure, soaking everyone and everything.

Suddenly, it shot through the enclosure and the baboons (five of them) went NUTS, screaming and running for their lives. I didn't want to get hit by the water, so I stood in the one dry corner and was joined immediately by five soaked, muddy, screaming baboons. They all jumped on me and I had three in my arms and two standing on my shoulders, holding my head (hair). It was hilarious, and I smiled and thought, first--I wish I had a picture of this, and second--this is a pure Harnas moment. I'm wet, muddy, covered in lunatic baboons, and no one would believe me. I slid to the ground and we sat there. Eventually the sprinkler turned its spray and the baboons, one by one, got off me. I tried to get them to drink their milk. The sprinkler happened again. Ditto response. And it happened a third time. I was pretty trapped. But a bushman came along, readjusted the spray, and everything calmed down.

I don't have a picture, but this is one of me holding two baboons about the same size a few years ago. Add three baboons, mix with water and mud, and make everyone scream, and you'll have the picture.

The second picture I wish I had happened not long afterwards--and is also a pure Harnas moment, but much different. Every day I walk out to see my favorite cheetah Atheno. When I got there, I called for him, but lately he's been waiting for me to find him under a shady tree. I did very shortly--I know his favorite spots. I sat down and stretched my legs out in front of me, and he moved over to me, lay down, and put his head in my lap and began to purr. I stroked his cheeks, chin, and head and he kept purring. We sat like that for about 10-15 minutes, and I told him I had to go home tomorrow but that I loved him. He kept his head in my lap, stretched one paw over my legs, and we just sat there for awhile. I so wish I had a picture of that idyllic moment. Just me and my guy in perfect natural harmony. But I couldn't have reached for my camera in my pocket without disturbing him, so I just let him be and I made special note of every sensation, every sound, and every emotion I had. It was perfect.

I do have a short video from the other day, though. This is will give you an idea of our moment together.

So time to go home again. I miss my dogs, American toilet paper, and good water pressure. But I love it here and am so happy that I was once again able to spend time with all my Harnas friends. See you on the other side of the world. BB

Monday, January 1, 2018

Some short tales

See this rooster?
He's my nemesis. Every morning as I walk to the food prep area, I stop at the enclosure that holds many birds, including 2 big beautiful macaws that I feed peanuts to. But while I'm focused on them, this rooster sneaks up behind me and attacks me. I scream at it, charge it, and wave my arms wildly--but it continues to attack. I have a fairly good sized wound on my leg where it caught me from behind one day.

One day I saw Marieta at the same time and yelled to her, "This rooster is trying to kill me!" She said, "RUN!" So I did--and bloody thing chased me halfway home. I could hear Marieta's laugh all the way. With all the dangerous animals here, it would be a shame if I was most wounded by a rooster. Pathetic


In the morning, I open the little kitchen where I prepare my bottles for various babies, and greet Willem, a baby duiker that was orphaned. He's sleeping under a table on a blanket--so cute. Soon after, a 6-8 month old puppy, Alaska, enters and goes immediately to Willem, curls up next to him and starts to lick him. She's a natural mother (she also grooms the puppy I showed in an earlier post). The two of them often go nose to nose, and sometimes wander the garden area together while I work. I keep an eye on them through the window, and  Alaska is like a nanny--following Willem everywhere and making sure he doesn't get hurt. It's adorable.


Outside my front door you can find a variety of animals. Five cheetahs live across the road, but you might see baboons, goats, mongooses, cats, dogs wandering around. One pair that is almost always about are ostriches--a male and a female. I give them wide berth because I remember that they can only kick in one direction--a powerful kick--but I can't remember if it's forward or backward. They get fairly close, though, and sometimes I have to wave my arms and shoo them away.

Did you know that the females are brown because they sit on the nest during the day, so they blend in with the dirt. And the males are black because they sit on the nest at night. Fascinating. This one today, a male, looks like he was smiling at me, but I doubt his intentions were friendly.


Here is the picture I didn't have before of the baboon Ollie grooming me on our baboon walk.

Unfortunately, I have bad news about Ollie. First let me tell you about her. She loves grabbing the sides of your face and staring into your eyes. We think she's looking at her reflection in them because she does the same thing with sunglasses. Then she makes funny faces, especially wagging her tongue back and forth as if to amuse herself. She's special.

She's been sick a lot. They figured out she had liver disease and was occasionally taken to Windhoek to be treated. This past week the vet said that he thinks she has cancer. She's having surgery later this week to verify, and then Marieta will have to make a hard decision about her.

Beginnings and endings--they are ever present here at Harnas.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Baby Hyenas

I don't think I really did credit to the baby hyenas in the last post. Hyenas get such a bad rap in the movies and popular culture (think of The Lion King) but I'm here to say they are very cool animals. Every morning I feed them two bottles of milk each. Noon they get another two. And at 5:00 they get one bottle and some big pieces of meat. Here's me doing the noon feeding.

You can see they're small because they're just pups. When they're fully grown, they'll be about twice as big. They make all kinds of funny sounds when they drink. They get soooo excited when they see me coming.

As they drink, they look directly into my eyes. What cute faces!

One of my favorite things about them is their striped legs. They look like they're wearing striped socks. What an odd combination of parts, but it all comes together in a weird wonderful way.

Well, I hope I've cleared up any misunderstandings of hyenas personalities. They're cute, personable, and strangely beautiful. I'm so privileged to spend time with them each day.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

some pictures

This is my bungalow. Some people think I live in a tent or something, but I have this one room and bath guest house. It's perfect for me.

This is Minky. She was three days old when I got here. I visit her and her mother (a Weimerramer--I know that spelling is wrong) every day. She has my heart.

One of my jobs is to feed the two baby hyenas a bottle of milk three times a day and a big bowl of meat once a day. They're like puppies--big weird puppies with striped legs. But they're sweet and  I found that I really like them. They big and dopey.

This is one of our newest animals--actually I think there are five of them. They're always tangled up with each other so I cant count them. They're GENETS--think of a mixture of a cat and a weasel. Very tame and will climb onto your shoulder if you're patient.

So that's a few of my favorite animals here. Hope you like the pics. B

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas at Harnas

My WiFi here is very slow today so I don't know if I'll get any pictures, but I definitely wanted to write since it's been several days since I have.

Christmas at Harnas is very low key. Last night we had a big buffet and then Santa showed up to give everyone a present.  Today we're having a brunch and the bushmen children will be putting on a live nativity scene--with real goats and sheep and a lame miniature horse. Should be fun. In between the meals, life goes on as usual. The animals don't know it's a holiday and must all be fed.  I counted up yesterday, and on an average day, I make 65 bottles for various baby animals. There are three different recipes for milk--for example, some get a mixture of cow's milk, cream, egg yolk, and several kinds of protein and vitamin powder. Mix well and heat before putting it in bottles and feeding it to the right baby. Yesterday I got up to feed at 6:00 and did my final feeding after the festivities at 11:00. Up again at 6:00 today. It's hard work but it's so fulfilling to be making a difference.

I also want to say how lucky I feel to be here among my favorite animals. My guesthouse is situated perfectly among the animal enclosures. Many mornings, I wake up and see herds of wildebeest, springboks, or impalas. I'm only 100 yards from a lion enclosure and less from a baboon enclosure. Out my front window is an enclosure of 5 cheetahs that often hang out right by the fence because the ostriches (spectacularly stupid animals) wander about. I'm sure they're thinking "so close but so far." I'm amazed at the variety of animals surrounding me--and that's just as I stand by my front door. I'm so lucky and I try to remind myself of that every night as I fall into bed exhausted. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Well, I see my picture hasn't downloaded yet, so I'll just post this and hope for better internet tomorrow. Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Baboon walk

The other night I joined the volunteers for a baboon walk. There are 4 babies and about 9 or 10 teenagers. We release them all from their enclosures and run for the bridge. Surprisingly, they follow. They're so excited to get out and play. Some walk by themselves and some ride on dogs--as above--and some ride on us. I got some great pictures on my phone, but I can't get the pictures so send to the blog. I'll work on it.

After about a half hour of walking, we sit down and the baboons play around us. One female, Olli, became my best buddy and groomed me, throwing my hair up and going through it carefully. Then she did my arms and lifted them up so she could look at my armpits. It was quite the ordeal--a voluteer took some pics for me and said she would send them but hasn't yet, but when she does, I'll put them up. Then we walked home and amazingly got them all back in their right homes.

I haven't had much time to write lately. Marieta has me doing some special projects for her and working pretty much full time since people have left for the holidays that she usually counts on. This morning for example, I was up at 6:00 and got ready. I went to the food prep area and made 15 bottles of milk--from three different recipes--for 15 different babies. Then I had to go around and feed everyone--some within walking distance, like the baby hyenas, and some I had to drive to. That's right--I've got KEYS now, to rooms, gates, trucks, and enclosures. I'm the real deal now, working full time. All animals, all the time.

That takes me to about 10:00 when I have a couple of hours to go see Atheno and write this blog before I have the noon feeding--same thing. Then I do another one at 5:00 and a final one at 10:00, although I think I'm going to ask Marieta if someone else can take the late one since I'm dead on my feet by 8:30. It's just one set of animals, so it will be easy.

So things are great. I'm working very hard but feeling valued. I know Marieta wouldn't let me do all this stuff without trusting me. It's an honor and privilege to do it all. Okay, off we go.

Monday, December 18, 2017

All My Cheetahs

Ah, so many cheetahs and the day is so short. But I always make it out to Atheno's enclosure. He's WAY out there and I walk through the desert summer sun because I absolutely adore him. I open the gate and lock it behind me. He hears me because I only have to call his name a few times and his head appears above the grass as he runs toward me. You probably think I'm crazy, but I believe he remembers me from year to year. We find a spot under a tree (usually with thorns, so getting down on the ground is a feat) and he lets me pet him while he purrs. Turn up your volume on the video above so that you can hear it clearly. Nothing like it. I listen to videos like these when I have to go home. They help me make it to the next time I can come to Harnas.

I've also been visiting Koema, Sesa, and Sesadi every day. When I was here a year and a half ago, they were all small kittens--the last two only a few days old with their eyes not even open yet. I spent a lot of time with Koema, as he was bigger, playful, and in need to lots of love and attention. Now they're all living together in one enclosure, three happy boys. They surround me and purr and I can hardly find enough hands to pet them all. Today when I went in to see them, Sesadi and Koema were on the roof of a little shed and wouldn't come down from their spot where they could watch the world, so I had to be content with Sesa--he's the one that was neglected by his mother out in the wild cheetah enclosure and had his tail chewed off by a mongoose. He can never be released because cheetahs need their tails to maneuver when they hunt.

There's just something about cheetahs. I'd have a house full of them if I could--but of course that wouldn't be fair for the cheetahs, so I'll have to be happy with coming here and loving them as much as I can.