Sunday, 9 August 2015

Is it a croc or a gator?

It seems that Malawi is a bit of a mecca for Sheffield alumni and I have been bumping into them in one way or another all week.

Today I paid a visit to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre in search of their famous one eyed lion Bella, who was rescued from Romania. The centre is actually run by two alumni from the University of Sheffield, and as I'm here on university business I will be going back out to meet them towards the end of my trip. Today was a pleasure trip.

I was surprised by how many people were at the centre. Your entry fee includes a guided tour of the sanctuary and there's a tour leaving on the hour every hour so I expected there to be, maybe, five or six other people joining me. I was one of about 40 people, most of whom were Malawian families. It's obviously popular.

We headed straight for the reptiles and found two alligators sunning themselves by a stream. Our guide, Henry, told us that they had been sterilised because if they were allowed to breed, they could have up to 60 baby 'gators creeping about each year and they'd soon become overrun. You can tell these are alligators and not crocs by the shape of their jaw - crocs have a pointy jaw where alligators have a shorter, more square one. I didn't get close enough to check, so I took Henry's word for it.

Next were the monkeys, always a favourite of mine because watching them is a bit like people watching. I love how they always look deep in thought like they've got something really important on their mind and how they behave towards their babies, just like a human mum would (except for picking and eating fleas - I've never observed a human mum doing that).

The serval was hiding behind a tree so we didn't get to see her, which was a shame, but Bella the lion was sprawled out by the railings of the park, gazing out beyond. Bella had glaucoma in her left eye and it had to be removed so unfortunately she'll never be released back into the wild. For most of the animals at the centre, though, the plan is rehabilitation and release.

Apparently 4pm on a Sunday afternoon is not the best time to visit the centre as a lot of the animals were asleep or hiding, as was the rock python who we could just about see coiled up inside an old tyre. Better there than coiled around your ankles, I guess.

Last stop were the baboons.

The lazy sleepy baboons.

If you could just say Aaaaaa sir...

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