I spent my early twenties living in the South African bush dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned and injured baboons. I personally raised 9 orphaned infants who all had such rich and varied personalities. (I would love to tell you all about them.)
Our mission at C.A.R.E. was to create viable troops with these rescued baboons, and to eventually release them back into the wild where they wouldn't come into conflict with humans and could have their freedom restored. C.A.R.E. was featured on Animal Planet's Growing Up Baboon , where you can see a 20-year-old me and my very first baby, Stew.
I was 19 when I first travel to C.A.R.E. and fell in love with the baboons and the bush. At 21, I left my life behind, sold all my possessions, and dedicated my life to these animals that I love with a fire and intensity that leaves me dumbstruck. On a visit back to the States, on November 20th 2006, at 23, I unexpectedly required heart surgery and could not return to C.A.R.E., to Africa, to my baboons.
While this turned my world upside-down and utterly devastated me, I found my way through (as I do) and created a new, meaningful life for myself rehabilitating a different kind of primate. ;) I make a point of honoring that day (Nov 20th) every year by doing something significant and special, something that I couldn't do if I wasn't alive and healthy.
This morning I discovered that my fantasy for so long, the release of the troop that is dearest to my heart -the first release of my babies- is happening. After all these years. I can't stop crying and I feel like I'm dreaming.
With your help, this is how I hope to honor my 8th anniversary: seeing my babies (now fully grown) finally walking free, as they deserve to be, as they were meant to be, as I've dreamt of from the moment I took each one into my arms.
I raised three baboons in this troop, was auntie to two, and was closely involved in the raising of the rest for the first two years of their lives. I'd like to tell you about my three babies in this troop.
My Golden Child. Our bond was instantaneous. Our souls recognized one another immediately. His troop had been shot by farmers and he was the only survivor, found clinging to his dead mother at 2months of age. I truly cannot put into words the depth of my love for Gabriel. He is the most intelligent, beautiful, tender, cheeky baboon I've ever witnessed. I honestly am afraid that if I start telling you about him I won't be able to stop.
My One-Legged Boy Wonder. Adam was born in one of our troops, but as an infant got caught in the middle of chaos and lost his left leg at the hip. His resilience was astonishing. Adam had a gracile frame - he was not a naturally hefty boy like Gabriel. But Adam was so tough. Everyday he would wrestle with the other boys in his young troop of rescued baboons (who were all bigger and had BOTH legs) and he'd never back down. As a result, he was ALWAYS covered in scabs unlike all the other boys. The other volunteers who would take turns sitting with them while they played tried to get him to sit with them and rest but he would refuse. It was only when I could come in that he would make a bee-line for me with his distinctive hoarse moan, dive into my arms, bury his face into my chest and fall fast asleep. Only then did he feel safe, like he could finally let his guard down; Mama was here.
Scarlett was rescued after her mother was hit and killed by a truck. The driver was kind to stop, rescue her, and pass her on to a reptile rescue that contacted us. As Rita and I drove out to collect her, she jokingly asked "So? How about three babies then?" I laughed at the preposterousness of such an idea. TWO babies was a big deal at the time; THREE had never been attempted. It seemed impossible and insane.... And then I realised that those are two things that never stood in Rita's way and that she was actually serious. So I threw sanity to the wind and adopted sweet, delicate little Scarlett along with her brothers Gabriel and Adam and we made a fine family. Gabriel always looked after his little sister and she could always find comfort nestling in to his big belly when Mama wasn't around. One of my favorite memories is watching Gabriel try to walk around carrying Scarlett ventrally - he just slightly bigger than she- her back dragging on the ground, head banging on things as he tried to climb over them. So precious.
It is truly difficult for me to organize all my thoughts and emotions in a concise and compelling way. It's hard for me to convey through words on a screen how much it means to me to know that they are finally going free, and the thought of witnessing their freedom... it's almost too good to bear. I am so grateful for any support to help make this dream come true.
Thank you with all my heart.
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