Friday, June 3, 2011

Elephants, Monkeys and Birds (oh my!)

Alison: Hi! We will soon be home in your arms. Here's some more journal til then:

Caryn: We spent a day in The Crags- mostly visiting animal sanctuaries and having car troubles. The first sanctuary that we visited was the Elephant sanctuary, where they have 6 Elephants that they have rescued from different situations. The three that we spent the morning with were supposed to be exported from Botswana to China and so were at the airport. Except the Chinese didn't have papers for them. So they were in this bunker at the airport for 3 months and only survived because people would feed them fruit. The sanctuary rescued them, and they are now happily abiding in South Africa.

Alison with Amarula

It was a fun morning. First we walked with them into the forest- you 'walk' with an elephant by holding its trunk- which is actually its nose, so your hand gets all hot and wet. Amarula really puts the weight of her trunk into your hands... so heavy!!

Fun and interesting facts about Elephants:
They are pregnate for 42 months.
They are matriarical animals and the largest female is the leader. Males are loners who only catch up to the females to mate with them.
Elephants cry, but not from their eyes! They cry from their temporal glands, which are between their eyes and ears.
An elephant uses its ears mostly to cool off. They have a vast network of bloodveins and capilaries that run through their ears, so they flap them when they are hot. They also will spray themselves with mud to cool off.
An elephant's skin is 2 cm thick! And they are very rough.

Africian elephants have two 'fingers' at the end of their trunk that they use to pick things up, hold onto things etc. Two of the elephants that were rescued from Botswana no longer have these fingers. The staff reported that is due to injury they sustained from being caught in a trap. Needless to say these two fellows have adapted the way that they eat! They now use a scooping motion to get things into their mouths (you can see this in the picture below- the far elephant has its trunk twisted waiting for food.) Yes i am an OT. And i would very much like to be an elephant OT i think...

Alison feeding the elephants.

After the elephant sanctuary, we went to a monkey sanctuary. We parked. Went in. Promptly realized that we had locked the keys in the car. Luckily, breaking into cars is a skill one might aquire when growing up in SA (jokes). But really- one of the staff was able to get into our car for us, which saved us a lot of hassle! Phew.

Alison: The monkeys were previously pets or from labratories or zoos. One was from Canada even. They come here to be "free" in a super-large area. They have some stands with food, and the rest the monkeys find in the forest. They put the food out when the monkeys aren't looking so they don't associate humans with food.

For our tour we walked with a guide through the forest and he told us all about the ones that crossed our path.

They are from all over the world and all live together happily. Well... a couple don't so they have these few separated from the rest. The mix of species can create interesting results... for example, one monkey always associates with the little spider monkeys because it thinks they are its babies and looks after them.

Monkey lesson: monkeys have tails, apes do not. Lemurs are neither, rather, they are pre-simian.

I love monkeys so this was an excellent time.

Longest foot bridge in somewhere apparently. I'm losing track of who has the most famous whatever. Some Indiana sequel has a scene here.

Caryn: After this we went to the bird sanctuary where I learned that Alison is a bird whisperer. For real. Anyways, the bird sanctuary is home to many birds who have been rescued (or donated) from captivity. At first we were a bit sceptical, because any kind of cage seems horrible for a bird!!! However the birds here had SO much space! It was this HUGE area that was netted off. Here are a few pictures of pretty birds...

On a supension brige. Here i am looking like a balerina. Trying to imitate the arches.

Making friends.

So: It turns out that Alison is a bird whisperer. Here is the first documented instance. There was this bird who was kind of looking friendly. Then alison presents her arm to it and VOILA!!!!

All of a sudden it is on her arm!!! And then her shoulder!!! And she cannot for the life of her get it off!! She tried and tried and tried. And i killed myself laughing. Finally she got it off...which was good. Apparently you aren't supposed to encourage them to climb on you!

However at almost the end of the bird sanctuary, Alison was making sounds to this one that was in a tree. And then we were in the gazibo and the bird FOLLOWED her and landed on her shoulder!!! More unbelievable was this giant parrot of some sort swooped and clawed her head and chased this one off her shoulder! It was crazy!

Anyways we are missing home, but not really believing that our 4 months is (quickly) drawing to a end!!! We are home in 12 days!! unbelievable!!!

Miss you!!!


  1. I am loving these posts and pictures. my favourite here is the series of Ali with bird. xoxoxo I MISS YOU SO MUCH I CAN HARDLY COMMENT.

  2. i am so not surprised that the birds loved her!!!

  3. Really really good. See you monday morning!!! Czech yo email, please. Imp. biznuss to attend to.

  4. Ali the bird whisperer.....I knew it!

    BBQ, fire & hot tub waiting for you here....


  5. hi, Ali and Caryn I KNEW you couldn't travel without once communing with elephants! Tricksters, leaving it 'til the end. You both look marvellous with the elephants and the monkeys and the birds --- You just look at home with 'em all! Pretty sweet with the birds, Ali!

    Love, Pat