The Rescue of Mr Bones, the Hyena

Kariba Animal Welfare Fund Trust (KAWFT) • 3 March 2017

Volunteers for the Kariba Animal Welfare Fund Trust (KAWFT), together with veterinarians from the AWARE Trust do incredible work assisting  with animal welfare and conservation in and around the Kariba area.  They do this in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.   Here are two wonderful success stories from early 2017.

In early February, 2017,  KAWFT and AWARE were responsible for saving two wild animals from certain death as a result of being caught in wire snares.  One of these was a young lion (whom they named Tawanda) whose front paw was badly swollen as a result of a nasty snare wound.

The other was a severely wounded hyena which was intitially reported wandering aimlessly around the Kariba urban area (very unusual behaviour for a hyena).  When residents finally located him, they discovered him almost dead, with a wire snare caught in his jaws and around the back of his head. Unable to eat as a result of the snare, this poor animal was starving and in a seriously emaciated state.

In both cases, vets were called and the animals were both darted and the snares removed.  The wounds were well cleaned, and medication and rehydration given. The lion was strong enough to be left to recover naturally in the wild.  

As if often the case with lions, which are charismatic animals which readily appeal to the public imagination, the rescue story of Tawanda the Lion was well publicised in the media (the video even appear on international news channels!)  However, hyenas are less charistmatic and often get bad Press. 

In this case, the snare wire had cut open the sides of the hyena's jaw and the back of his head.   Despite attempts to get him to feed, he could not swallow and understandably had no energy. He had been slowly deteriorating since the wire snare was caught in his mouth and behind the top of his head for a good 4 to 6  weeks. Unable to eat or drink for that prolonged period he had grown weaker and weaker, in horrendous pain. Completely starved and  dehydrated, he was weak and in terrible condition. Maggots had set in on his hips/pelvic/back area due to the bad condition, creating another life-threatening area on his body. 

It was decided that this horrifically wounded, emaciated animal could not be left to fend for himself, as he stood absolutely no chance.  Permission was requested from ZimParks Area Manager to keep him safely in a cage to see if he survived through the night and then proceed day to day with him

KAWFT volunteers loaded him into a cage and moved him to a safe area. Water was dribbled into his mouth and he gratefully managed to swallow it through to moisten his parched throat. 

A Kariba resident was asked to assist and helped out with monitoring the drip and keeping an eye on his vitals through the day. Water, milk and liquidised meat was syringed into his mouth. His wounds were continuously re-sprayed with wound spray.  He started lapping the milk himself and later, the first good sign was when he stood up to urinate.  

All in all it took 3 weeks for "Mr Bones" as he came to be called, to recover sufficiently to be released back into the wild.  The KAWFT team appealed for assistance with the costs of feeding and medicating him.   Response was immediate and overwhelming.  Local companies assisted with supplying and transporting meat and medical products.  Volunteers gave of their time and energy and kept records of his progress as follows:-

On Day 5 (12th February):  "Mr Bones ate a kg of liver during the night ON HIS OWN, drank a litre of milk and water and was sitting FOR THE FIRST TIME on his haunches in the morning and early evening when it is normal wake up time.  

He stood for the first time and started moving on wobbly legs, drinking plenty of water/milk mix and carefully eating his way through his chopped up meat.  He battles to chew if the pieces of meat are not cut into slithers due to the weeks of the large wire cable in and across the back of his jaws. So, he's a delicate eater at the moment but the daily improvements to his health and strength are momentous."

Day 7 & 8 (14th & 15th February):  "He shredded the foam initially placed in his cage to pieces!  So this has been replaced with grass which is not so much fun but cleaner and more comfy. Improvement continues.  He is drinking copious amounts of water all the time, good re-hydration and eating well.  He is improving in leaps and bounds, but has a long way to go before being fit for release. Sleeping a lot."

Day 10 (17th February):  "His back and pelvis wounds where all the maggots were are healing very well."

Day 17 (24th February): "Mr Bones now has a fat belly and is amassing weight. He is eating large chunks of meat now, that he rips apart himself."

Days 18 & 19  (25th & 26th February)
"Photos taken of main wounds and sent to the AWARE Trust vets – to ascertain if all is well enough for this boy to be taken back home!!"

Day 22 (1st March) HOMEWARD BOUND !!   "The cage with Mr Bones is loaded onto a trailer and covered with old sheets to avoid too much stress for him whilst travelling out of the Kariba area."

"ZimParks Rangers accompany the convoy to the release site.  As Hyenas do, Mr Bones shreds the sheets in no time and then manages to get under the steel sheet on the floor of the cage.  The convoy comes to a halt whilst everyone assists to lift the steel sheet up and secure it with wire, keeping fingers outside of the cage !!!

The door to freedom opens and he just sits !! Another vehicle arrives and whilst the team is trying to halt the vehicle so it does not drive into Mr Bones when he walks out the cage ............................... he makes a high-speed dash for freedom!  

This is the only photo the team luckily managed to get !! A FLASH IN THE DARK and he is gone.  This is the first run he has had in 3 weeks.. !!

Please keep a look out for Mr Bones, his scars will be a sure ID of him and KAWFT would appreciate any feedback and photos if possible.  Next year we may even see his progeny – Little Bones!"

Meanwhile KAWFT are fundraising to build a special critical rehabilitation unit.  This would house a long-term section – where the likes of Mr Bones would “get well” over a period of time, and another short-term section where the likes of Tawanda the snared young lion can go for a few days recuperation to make sure all is well before heading back into the wild. 

Please consider making a donation towards this very worthwhile cause.  See the Wild Zambezi KAWFT listings page for contact details. 

Comments (1)

Find the bastards that are setting the snares. If you need a decent rifle and ammo let me know , I'll be happy to pay for it.

Gil Johnston6 March 2017
Thanks for that, Gil! I'm sure KAWFT will be happy to take you up on your offer! We have passed your comment on to them!

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