Yesterday, I took the kids to Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre – about 35 kilometres outside of Hoedspruit.  

The work they do is humbling.  They care for and treat hundreds of abandoned, injured or poisoned wildlife…  raptors with broken wings, leopard and cheetah that have been caught in traps… lion cubs abandoned by their mother… even a baby giraffe (also rejected by her mother).

Wherever possible, they treat and release animals back into the wild… but many of the animals have become permanent residents (for various reasons).  It was a fascinating morning… and a lovely learning experience for the kids (and also for me!).

We got to stroke a cheetah…

cheetah

…hang with a baby giraffe…

moholoholo 2

… feed a Cape Vulture…

Moholoholo

… and I learned that female hyena have “fake” testicles and a retractable penis! (and thus often get mistaken for males)…!  Now – there’s something I never knew!

We also learned that Honey Badgers are vicious, resilient creatures – and very hard to kill!  They get bitten by poisonous snakes… and don’t die.  Bees can’t sting them.  Lions find them very hard to kill (lots of loose skin… and sharp claws and teeth…).

Morgan and I both scratched the head of a beautiful Bateleur Eagle and learned that the #$%@! poachers that are killing all of our precious rhino… (to sell to Chinese potion-peddlers who believe that rhino horns cure impotence and other such BS)… actually kill rhino without horns just so they don’t have to “waste their time” tracking the spoor of rhino that lead them on a wild-goose-chase.

We also learned that a certain species of vulture are also on the brink of extinction – because the local potion-brewers believe that stewing up dead vulture will give potion-drinkers the gift of foresight (because these specific vultures fly very high – and can “see” in every direction for hundreds of kilometres).

This kind of ignorance makes me very frustrated… because it’s relentless.  And nobody really seems to know how it can be stopped…

Anyway…

We also discussed elephants.  The Kruger National Park has way too many elephants – and there is a raging debate going on about culling.  Other species are now being threatened by too many elephants (the Honey Badger being one of them).

Here is Morgan next to an elephant bone:

moholoholo 3

And here’s a pic of the 3 of us (with the baby giraffe in the background)…

moholoholo 4

And here’s a photo that Morgan took (she’s at Cheetah height):

moholoholo 5

After Moholoholo, we drove up the road to The Silk Farm.

I really wanted the kids to see silk worms in action… but was very disappointed to learn that they no longer farm silk themselves.  They stopped 6 years ago (something to do with their Mulberry trees being affected by the neighbouring farmers’ crop-spraying).  Anyway, they now import their silk from China (another source of much local, opinionated debate).

They have a store that sells all kinds of things that they make from the Chinese silk… including bedding… scarves… and (interestingly)… an entire skin-care range which has powdered silk mixed with various goodies.  Who knew?  A body lotion made from powdered silk??

Here’s pics of their factory store:

silk farm 2

silk farm

The silk factory is situated in a very picturesque neck of the woods with big trees and green lawns and a lovely little restaurant – but it’s definitely not kid friendly.  The silk factory shop assistant actually grimaced when my kids walked into the shop… and she barked at Joah when he leaned his forehead on her window!  (we left pretty quickly after that)…

But, at the restaurant… we did enjoy a fabulous chicken, ham & mushroom pie… and possibly the best chocolate cake I have eaten in a very long time…  here’s pics:

pie

chocolate cake

… and Joah didn’t seem particularly perturbed by the anti-kid sentiment…

joah at silk farm

After our family expedition… it was back to Madhams (my favourite haunt)… to catch up on some e-mailing and to slurp more of their fabulous coffee…

The only downside to this whole experience?  The fact that we’re not sharing it with Nick!!  It feels very odd not having him here…  I know how much he would love it.  But – he’s on set in the Karoo (and we’ll be joining him in just a few, short days!).  Can’t wait to see him!  I feel like a big, important chunk of “us” is missing…  in spite of all the fun.