RITA MILJO, REMEMBERING THE FEARLESS HEROINE OF BABOONS IN SOUTH AFRICA
“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.
IMAGE CREDIT: C.A.R.E
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