It started off like any other Monday at DAKTARI, the children going around on a tour, animals being fed and cleaned, optimism in the air for the new adventures of the week that lay ahead. However, what was discovered on the 19th of January, at around 13:00, would rock DAKTARI to its core.
" We would often go visit Shiloweni to see what he was doing, often we would find him patrolling his territory or more recently, up in his tree, taking cover from the heat. Today we were surprised to find him lying in the sun. He would normally have his tail moving or at least move his ears if we approached closer. This time, nothing. We immediately knew that something was wrong " said the two DAKTARI volunteers, Daniel and Anne-Sophie, that found Shiloweni's stiff and lifeless body laying in the grass.
Our leopard was then taken to local veterinary doctor, Peter Rodgers, who has played such an important role in the leopards’ life. He confirmed what we had already suspected, it was a snake bite that had taken the life of this majestic African beast. Even the might and power of this exquisite creature was no match for the deadly venom of a slithering serpent. There was evidence of a fight around his body, with blood and scratch marks present, probably with either a Snouted Cobra or the infamous Black Mamba. Dr. Rodgers then notified us that there has been many snake bite incidents reported in the last weeks. This one, we felt the most.
After the dust had settled, it was time to lay Shiloweni to rest. His grave was dug in the African Bush, which is where he belongs. It was an honour and privilege to be there as Ian, Michele, staff, volunteers and children payed their respects to this fallen giant. It was if a close friend had passed, and that's really what Shiloweni was, someone close to our hearts, a respected member of the family whose presence and majesty was not possible to ignore. He had played such a vital role in inspiring and motivating children and volunteers alike, to stop, and to take notice of the utter preciousness that surrounds all of us. To acknowledge how fragile life can be. Stop, breath, and contemplate this for a moment.
But with every end comes new beginnings, with every heart ache comes hope. Without a doubt, from the rubble of our broken hearts, something fresh and new will emerge from this tragic story.
Shiloweni encapsulated the spirit of what DAKTARI is about, his spirit will live on forever. This evening as the red sunsets, no matter where you find yourself in the world, you can still hear his mighty roar in your hearts.
To all you donors who have given selflessly of yourselves and resources to provide the food and care for Shiloweni, we salute you. This is the end of the story of this leopard, but the Bush School & Wildlife he called home for so many years continues. We ask that you continue to support DAKTARI for it purpose of saving animals like Shiloweni.