Consilium Escapes Signatory & Supporter of the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust Zimbabwe
Consilium Escapes is proud to be a signatory and active supporter to the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust in Zimbabwe.
The trust undertakes a number of initiatives for the protection and welfare of wildlife in Zimbabwe including:
- Rescue & Rehabilitation Programs
- Wildlife Research
- Wildlife Laboratory
- Community Outreach
In May 2018 Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust completed the building of a brand new wildlife high-care rehabilitation center. This facility consists of a laboratory/storage room, 3 small and one large outdoor enclosures that allows the team to hold rescued animals for short-term, high-care rehabilitation until they can be released back into the wild.
It is always the Trust’s goal to release animals back into the wild where they belong. In some cases where the animal can’t be released due to the extent of having permanent injuries or deformities, or the nature of the species, the team will look after those animals for the duration of their life. Here are two of the cases the Trust have cared for over the years, who have become ambassadors for their species:
Sylvester the Cheetah
In April 2010, in the Lowveld area of Zimbabwe, a cheetah gave birth to five cubs. Sadly within two days, in a cruel act of nature, she and four of her cubs were fatally attacked by a male lion, something which is common between apex predators in the wild. The sole survivor was discovered by a game scout, who witnessed the event and brought him to Norman and Penny English who became his surrogate parents. Norman had experience formerly in the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority for many years. Penny was a registered nurse and having both their experience was invaluable in the attempt to keep this young cheetah alive. At two days old, Sylvester still had his umbilical cord attached and unopened eyes.
Over the following six months the hard work and devotion from the English family was rewarded but it did not come easily. Feeding was complicated and Sylvester grew faster than his bones could grow but the struggle to find a suitable formula was assisted by the many cheetah experts who passed on information. In time a dietary plan that suited Sylvester was formulated and he began to respond.
As Sylvester was never destined to become a pet, and being a specially protected animal on the endangered species list, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have naturally been involved from the outset with Sylvester’s welfare. A plan needed to be formulated for a future permanent home for Sylvester, and in this regard the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust became involved.
Despite numerous release attempts, cheetah, do not survive in the wild without experiencing the maternal care of a mother for the initial twenty two months of their lives. The human imprints of upbringing in captivity are not conducive to a wild release with rehabilitated cheetah often coming into contact with human settlements and being seen as “problem” animals.
The Sanctuary that the Trust operates from has large areas of open space where a cheetah can exercise naturally and build up the speed for which they are renowned. With no large predators around and the support from his three carers who exercise him extensively and assist in nurturing this orphan, Sylvester has settled in to his new life with vigour.
There are less than 200 cheetah estimated to exist in the wild in Zimbabwe, a population reduction of more than 85% according to Cheetah Conservation Project, Zimbabwe. The biggest threat to Cheetah is conflict with humans, caused by increasing human populations and the destruction of natural habitat for farming and grazing land.
Sylvester then became an ‘Ambassador for Cheetahs’, interacting with the public to raise awareness of their peril as a species and the challenges they face being on the endangered species list. Sylvester interacted with schoolchildren through our Conservation Education Programme, guests who stay at The Elephant Camp, and travel groups who visit the Elephant Wallow. Sylvester became the face for cheetah conservation here in Zimbabwe. Sadly in January 2019 Sylvester passed away, leaving behind a legacy in his name.
Judge the Vulture
In late December 2013 a white backed vulture fledgling was found at the base of a tree in the Zambezi National Park and brought to The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust‘s facilities, it was very ill and unable to fly. Slowly we were able to improve the bird’s health and get it to both eat and drink on its own. Unfortunately, its wing was severely deformed, suspected as a result of a collision with another vulture or toxicity when it was still in the nest. The vulture (now called “Judge”) will never be able to fly, so the Trust agreed to look after Judge for the remainder of her life.
Judge is a very social animal and enjoys the company of people especially her keepers and when she has visitors who come for an interaction. Judge is very inquisitive and is always interested in noises and commotion at the Trust, often hopping over to see what is going on, and sometimes even participating in the action.
Through training as a fledgling, Judge has become an ‘Ambassador for Vultures’, educating local school children and teachers about the critical need for vulture conservation through our weekly Conservation Education Program. As well as with schools, Judge makes an appearance at agricultural shows, air rallies, and hotel presentations and has become the face for vulture conservation here in Zimbabwe. Read more about the Trust’s Vulture Conservation work.
Judge is an African White-Backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) – one of the 4 species of vultures found in Zimbabwe. This species is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Redlist.
White-backed vultures have a lifespan of up to approximately 50 years, breeding pairs mate for life and have only one chick per year. Because of these slow growth and breeding rates, white-backed vultures are extremely vulnerable to threats such as malicious poisoning of wildlife.
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