Ok slight variant on the spelling, but to my knowledge it can be spelt either way (it’s the Hebrew word for “hope”) – bit like my own name which has two options (spelling with an “i” or a “y”). Anyway – the more amazing thing is that this namesake is actually a remote cousin of his, and far better looking into the bargain :)) – that’s him in the bottom corner.

 

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And what do you make of those cubs – adorable aren’t they?? Takes me right back to when I was in S. Africa doing my pilot training a couple of years ago, and one of the airschool cadets (thanks again, JP!) took me to a wonderful lion sanctuary right behind his house in Port Elizabeth. I was privileged enough to be allowed to bottle feed some day old cubs – only because I was out of town and hadn’t had contact with any other felines as they’d not been vaccinated at that point. But I also got to ‘play’ with some older cubs – one 3 month old one called Luke who was utterly adorable and quite easy to handle.

 

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However, I was given the opportunity to spend some time with some 10 month old cubs and they were such a totally different experience I have to say I came away with a lot of my misconceptions about cubs being “cute and cuddly” being thoroughly put to bed for ever. The warden warned me before we went into the enclosure to not turn my back on them if at all possible but he didn’t explain why not – I soon found out!! I’d stupidly taken my crutch into the enclosure, although perhaps that was no bad thing as straight off 4 cubs came bounding over to investigate and one grabbed it while the others fought with him over it. In the meantime I’d found a friend in a beautiful hand reared female lynx who shared their enclosure and was as tame as any common garden house cat. So I sat down against the fence and played with her for a few minutes while watching the bigger cubs play. But then I got up and totally forgetting the warnings stood up with my back facing the cubs, and within a flash one of them had literally jumped on me with paws round my neck. Now being disabled and not great at balancing on thin air isn’t the most conducive to such boisterous activity, and I almost fell before the warden rescued me, but the cub was having none of it. He’d discovered ‘weak’ prey and he was determined to at least tackle it a bit further, grabbing me round a leg and holding on while the warden advised me to just stand very still and not move as he prised the cub off. I wasn’t overly scared partly because I could sense they were only playing – trust me – you can tell when you’re up this close as to their very mood by the body language – and also because of the reassuring presence of the warden who’d been involved in rearing them, and knew them intimately. Ultimately the staff wouldn’t allow visitors in with the cubs if they had the remotest of concerns for safety or welfare of either. We eventually managed to rescue my crutch and I got out okay without so much as a scratch, but as I said, it was a lesson well learnt. JP had also taken me on a car ‘run’ through the larger lion enclosure where the adults are freely roaming, and again it was really quite hard to overcome an inate (but extremely dangerous) desire to open a window and pet one, as they appeared so tame too circling the car (ok – I know, us ditzy women that think everything furry is cute!!LOL), but I appreciated much better the dangers involved having watched plenty of real life situations of wardens at work with them being mauled badly even by well known, or even hand reared felines of all types. Given what Tikvah can be like on a bad day, I’d certainly never want to have to deal with one of his larger cousins deciding to ‘play’ with me. With him though, playing ‘dead’ or being still doesn’t do a thing to stop him annihilating whatever limb he’s decided will do for his tea Smiley!!

Talking of things safari related I’m currently watching the C5 series on the life of the wardens of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in SA and the incredible work they’re doing on maintaining a number of endangered species in the compound. The series is very much up close and personal with a lot of the wildlife, and it’s been truly fascinating to see how much goes into that type of job. One of the wardens, Richard Moller, showed many times just how tough it is to undertake important decisions when it came to determining the best outcome for an injured animal, and one particular one has me impatient to see next week’s episode. Last week they showed an elephant who’d fallen foul of likely poachers or farmers who’d shot her, and sadly the wounds were proving very tough for her to keep up with her herd and cope with everyday life. Richard and the team had treated her twice, but the second time she couldn’t rouse herself off the ground when she came round from the anaesthetic. Watching the way she allowed the team to work around and with her so calmly and quietly, was either a measure of just how ill she was, or how much she recognised that they were (unlike the other humans) trying to help her. The episode ended where they did indeed manage to get her back on her feet, but it’s so touch and go, I’m dreading what the news may be on her. Just something about seeing one of the world’s largest land mammals struggling to survive because of man yet again! If you’re in any position to support their work, please consider it.

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