More up close and personal at another wildlife rehab facility in Hoedspruit...Lions, vultures, cheetah and more! Crazy photo of Tom!



Tom volunteered to feed the vultures raw meat.  He wore a leather sleeve on his right arm from fingertips to shoulder.  As soon as our guide put the raw meat into his hand, several vultures flew at him to grab it, leaving two to fight over it.  Exciting, to say the least!
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, one of several in South Africa was definitely on our "to do" list when we spent three days in nearby Blyde River Canyon, beginning on Wednesday, returning to Marloth Park on Saturday.
This handsome cheetah is recovering from a poisoning, as the result of an attempt to kill him for his hide will be unable to return to the wild, due to the risk of being killed by his own species.  He's been made an "ambassador" to represent the  rehab center in saving his and other species from becoming endangered.  Watching him through the electrified fencing, we were anxious to get inside and "hands on."

Both Tom and I were anxious to touch him.  If we had any apprehension, which we didn't the fact that he was "purring" welcomed our touch.  Wow!

We each had a turn at touching his tail after being warned not to pet his head.

The  conscientious guide ensured our safety.  But, we had no fear.
We'd anticipated seeing a array of injured wildlife in various stages of healing.  Little did we anticipate the education we'd receive about the dwindling of natural wildlife habitats in South Africa and all of Africa due to man's intervention.  It is down from 100% a century ago, to approximately 10% today.  Where is the wildlife able to survive?

This mating pair of honey badgers were kept together when one was injured.  It was delightful to watch their playful antics.  In the wild, they are dangerous animals known to be able to rip the genitalia from any animal in a single bite. Yikes.
We were made further aware of the heartbreaking loss of rhinos (45 killed in Kruger National Park in the past three weeks) as well as elephants and the curious pangolin through their senseless slaughter by poachers for the purpose of selling them to religious zealots who wrongfully believe that their tusks and hides have mystical powers (the scales on the Pangolin sell for ZAR $1087, $100 each).

The small serval is a vicious hunter in the wild.  We were not allowed inside her habitat.
The Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre mission is to not only medically treat injured, ill or poisoned wildlife but, to prepare them to return to the wild to their natural habitat.


After we were allowed inside the vulture habitat, it was exciting to interact with them.

This adorable, yet  deadly eagle was more than willing to lower his head for me to pet her.
We learned that for some of the animals, returning to their familiar habitat, is a certain death sentence. Thus, in time many are returned to other areas, where they can begin anew. 
The birds of prey were beautiful up close.  Seeing them gave us an entirely new perspective of their behavior, their importance to the environment, their anatomy and the colorful plumage. vultures, all species are being poisoned for their heart, liver, brain and other internal organs.  The fanatics believe that these organs will improve their ability to see into the future, based on the acuity of the Vulture's vision.

The exquisite plumage on these two vultures was a complete surprise.
 
This vulture seemed a little shy as compared to the others.  He bent his head when I approached to take his photo.

This is our usual perception of a vulture.  This particular bird was involved in the scuffle for the piece of meat in Tom's hand.  Each Vulture species had a particular neck and body commensurate with which part of the body of their prey that they are known to eat.  The longest neck vultures eat the internal organs while those with shorter necks go after the flesh.
In extreme cases, when their are virtually no options for survival in the wild, as in the case of an animal having lost a limb, a wing, or the ability to eat and thrive, they are kept in the facility as "ambassadors" aiding in the center's goals of creating awareness for the preservation of the species.  The loving attention and care for these various "ambassadors" was heartwarming.
We weren't allowed to get face to face with this Vulture.  He offers tourists a stick with the appearance of being generous when in reality, if the gift is accepted through the fence, he'll bite their finger off!
Vulture head shot, one of my favorite vulture photos.  He seemed to pose for me when I took this without zoom, while standing directly in front of him.  Our guide told us to move around frequently while in the vulture area.  They eat "dead" meat, except for the above red and orange Vulture above who likes human fingers.
After the meaningful educational session that we experienced in a classroom environment, we were excited to get the opportunity to see the animals in person. 
This male lion leisurely recovering walked our way as we approached the electrified fence.  I was able to take this photo through an open small space in the fence, using a bit of zoom.  Of course, we weren't allowed inside his area.

 As he approached us, he seemed gentle and sweet.  We were warned that he is neither.
Without a doubt, it was hard to witness some of the animal's  injuries.  On the other hand, it was comforting to see how each species was treated with such care, the natural habitat created for them, eating food they'd hunt or forage in the wild, and housed in a manner conducive to their environmental needs. 
Our guide explained that male Lions are the laziest animals on the planet.  They watch the female lion or other animals catch their prey and then he steals it away with his massive strength.  While in the Masai Mara on safari in October, 2013, we witnessed this behavior when we saw a lion steal from a female hoping to feed her cubs.  Not unlike humans, through past generations; women cooked, men ate. 
The vast size of Kruger National Park is the source of many of the injured and ill animals.  As soon as the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is notified of an injured animal, they initiate a process that will get the animal to the center as quickly as possible with the least amount of harm.  Imagine, capturing an injured lion to transport it, often by plane or helicopter with medical staff onboard, to the center to return it to health.  We were impressed.
This female lion showed little interest is our visit.  She was more interested in the bucket of raw meat our guide had in his hands.
Our photos here will illustrate how special this experience was for both of us.  Once again, we had a new perspective of the life cycle of many species and the dedication of many people to ensure the various forms of wildlife survive and not become yet another endangered species.
Other wildlife meandered the open areas of the rehab center, which is located in the bush including many vultures, eagles, impalas and other species.  This young impala was enjoying quiet time in the shade.
For us, traveling the world is not about luxuriating in comfort and convenience, although at times, such as the three glorious nights we spent at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we were exquisitely comfortable and at ease. 

The opportunity to expand our horizons with a greater understanding of the world around us, through the eyes of those that came before us, makes our travels all the more rich and meaningful .

Tomorrow, we'll be back with photos and story of our boat ride on Thursday on the Blyde River.  Thank you for sharing in our ongoing adventures.

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