Orphaned sable calf

7 weeks ago, reserve assistant manager Andrew was called to the Sable breeding camps. Cedrick, who checks on the herds every day, had noticed that one small calf could not keep up with the herd. When it tried to suckle from mum it couldn’t manage as it’s neck wouldn’t bend that way. Having found a dead calf just a few days earlier, the decision was made to catch this one and see what was wrong. The capture was very easy….the little animal being so weak that it couldn’t put up a fight. He was brought back to Askari where is became clear he had been attacked by a leopard and had a huge infection.

The calf was made as comfortable as possible overnight then raced through to the surgery of Dr Pete Rogers the next morning. Under slight sedation his wounds were flushed and a long-term antibiotic was administered. We collected him later that day and he returned home with us. Over the following days we struggled, but finally managed, to get him to take milk. His wounds were also flushed daily. A messy and traumatic ordeal for staff and sable alike!

By the end of the week he was not looking great and Dr Pete Rogers came back out to see him. The wound was opened up so that infection could drain out and more antibiotics administered. By this stage he had moved to an outdoor enclosure built in the garden with a little shelter and heating pad inside. He struggled on, but never looking in great condition. In week 3 we collected a goat from a local farmer, on loan, to be a companion to our sable. We hoped this may speed the recovery. Each week Dr Rogers returned to drain yet more infection, pull out dead tissue and muscle and update antibiotics.

By some miracle, he started to come together. He was given the name ‘Albie’ –  a slight variation on the letters LB standing for leopard bait! His half brown and half white goat friend was named “Top deck” after the Cadbury’s chocolate variety.

This week we felt Albie was strong enough to travel further afield and he now roams the Askari garden. He knows home well enough to return to the heat at night but otherwise seems very happy and strong and has been seen galloping the length of the garden at top speeds! He drinks 3 litres of milk (full cream cows) during the day and a further litre in the middle of the night. Egg yolk and various other powders are mixed in to simulate the natural nutrition he would get from his mum. There is still the risk of tick-borne diseases but for now we are quietly confident that Albie is through the worst of it. We hope to be able to move him out the garden and into the neighbouring nyala camp. This will preceed a bonding with other young sable males in a few months time.

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