“Why wait until a species is on the brink of extinction before we try to help”.

27th July 2020

Rita Miljo was the founder of The Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education C.A.R.E.

Rita Miljo was born in Litunaia, she moved to South Africa in the the 1950’s where she became a renowned conservation and animals rights pioneer.  

On the 27th July 2012 Rita Miljo tragically died in a fire which swept through her home and the sanctuary which is located on the banks of the Olifants River. 

The first baboon she rescued was called Bobby, they
were inseparable, he died in the fire with her; they were buried together according to her wishes.

 Her first group of rescued baboons were released back into the wild in 1994 confounding many skeptical professional primatologists.  

All in all, more than dozen troops totalling some 250 baboons were released back into wild during the last twenty years of Rita Miljo’s life. 

Incredibly, Rita Miljo had no formal scientific training, she was motivated to help animals for humanitarian reasons.

In 2002 Nelson Mandela was with her for a release of troop of baboons at Shambala Wildlife Reserve in Limpopo in South Africa. The image above is from that special time, with grateful thanks to the management of C.A.R.E.

Baboons are regarded as vermin in South Africa despite their high intelligence and social skils.  Baboons have long been shot and killed because people find them to be a nuisance.  At one time monetary rewards were offered for handing in a scalp and tail of baboons, it is still legal to shoot baboons in some instances.

Rita Miljo was repeatedly charged with transporting and keeping baboons without the correct permits. Her devotion to rescue, to rehabilitate and release baboons into the wild was much greater than her fear of the law. When provoked her answer was always the same: “Who are you to tell God that he should not have created baboons?”

The C.A.R.E Sanctuary was formally established in
1989 for primate conservation and rehabilitation and since then C.A.R.E.  has become a pioneer in the field of Chacma Baboons.

Stephen Munro, (BSc Animal Welfare) is the managing Director of C.A.R.E. and together with Samantha Dewhirst (MSc Primate Conservationist), they have formed a perfect partnership. Their combined a wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge and their dedication to primate rehabilitation and release the C.A.R.E. sanctuary is continuing to fulfil every one of Rita Miljo visions.

C.A.R.E. is also committed to educating local communities and tourists about the positive aspects of the co-existence of humans and wildlife.  They have partnered with many schools in the area and they provide field trips to the centre.

The EMS Foundation is a proud financial supporter of the C.A.R.E. sanctuary where they have four semi-wild enclosures, an environmental educational centre, outdoor classroom, offices quarantine facilities, a quarantine orphan nursery, bonding and integration enclosures, accommodation for students and volunteers, a veterinary clinic and an animal food prep kitchen. 


© 2020 EMS Foundation. All rights reserved.



EMS Foundation Ensures Release Back into the Wild of Twelve Young Baboons Destined for Research at the University of the Free State

On Wednesday 20th September 12 young and highly stressed baboons, who weeks before had ruthlessly been ripped from their families by controversial primate trapper and zoo (Eventiera) owner Erich Venter for heartless use in biomedical research (vivisection) at the University of the Free State, were released back into the wild.

This uncommon, but soul-stirring event came about as a result of cooperation between the CARE (Centre for Animal Rehabilitation), the EMS FOUNDATION, and Shambala Private Reserve.  Only 2 days after their release, 5 of these baboons were already spotted with one of the existing troops on Shambala, and since then there have been several other sightings.

After a desperate email from CARE, and within a matter of hours, the EMS FOUNDATION, working closely with Shambala, was able to ensure that these innocent victims would once again taste freedom.

But there is also a very dark side to this story and many questions need to be asked by the public, of the government, the research laboratories (who are mainly part of universities) and the NSPCA.



Why did the Limpopo provincial government (through LEDET: the Limpopo department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism) sanction and issue permits to Erich Venter to remove wild baboons from their families and social group? Not only is this act of kidnapping very cruel, but it obviously severely, and negatively, impacts on the family members left behind and on the entire social structure of the baboon troop (which in turn promotes human-baboon “conflict”). Not to mention the extreme damage it has had on the traumatised trapped individuals themselves, who although now have a second chance at a life in the wild, they have to try and form new bonds in totally unfamiliar surroundings. LEDET’s primary mandate is to promote biodiversity and conservation not destroy it: their action is irresponsible and their lack of compassion inexcusable. The public needs urgent reassurances from government that this will never happen again and that they have policies in place to prevent baboons from being used in research.


The baboon trapper and supplier of wild-caught primates to universities in South Africa, Erich Venter is an extremely controversial figure and has a long history of brutality to our indigenous primates. Why are the universities and government supporting this man?


The role of the universities in actively perpetuating cruelty needs to become front and centre of public scrutiny. Universities core activities are knowledge production based on access to information – and they all scream out loudly in support of access to information. But the worrying truth is that if you are seeking information about their own activities, to put into the public domain, they are obstructionist and secretive. Ask for full disclosure on their vivisection and animal ‘use’ activities and you will get the door closed in your face. As publicly funded institutions, they need to be opened to public scrutiny. The EMS Foundation calls on WITS, UCT, UFS, UNW, UKZN, UJ, Monash, Rhodes, the MRC and all other institutions that practice vivisection to open their doors!


The lack of transparency and accountability in the vivisection industry in South Africa is aided and abetted by the lack of legislation to protect animals in laboratories and the clear lack of political will to deal with this issue. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that most animal research goes nowhere, animal research is still erroneously regarded as part of the research toolbox. It is a self-perpetuating industry and it is very difficult to get those whose livelihoods depend on doing research that involves animals, no matter how unnecessary or useless, to stop.  University administrators are turning a blind eye to the moral and questionable scientific issues as long as the research money flows in.


Although this is a relatively happy ending for these particular baboons, we will never fully know the details of this case. This is because the NSPCA sits on so-called ‘Animal Ethics Committee’s’ only with the proviso that they sign confidentiality agreements with the research institutions. In this way everything is dealt with ‘in-house’ and vivisection in South Africa remains publicly unaccountable and the public therefore has virtually no idea about what is actually going on in this problematic industry. Under the watch of the NSPCA, non-human primates and other animals continue to be used in research in South Africa. This is why deals with NGOs, where ‘Animal Ethics Committees’ remain effectively closed to public scrutiny and which do not reveal to the public what is happening in labs in South Africa, are unacceptable.  For an animal welfare organisation to participate in these committees on the basis that they will keep ‘violations’ and problems confidential and out of the public domain is counter intuitive and protects the industry and universities at the expense of public accountability. The extent of the vivisection industry and the suffering of the animals caught up in it remains secret. The consequence of all of this is that the public outcry is muted. Very convenient for the industry, its proponents, and protectors, no doubt.

© 2017 EMS Foundation. All rights reserved.



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