The Voice of Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center
Voorspoedige Nuwe Jaar!
Unyaka Omusha Omuhle!
Happy New Year!
From our burrow to yours, we send blessings and wishes for dreams fulfilled in 2012 to all of our treasured mob members. We hope that the kindness you have given to others returns many times to you.
“Nothing happens unless first we dream.”
Last year was a very lean economic time for 501(c)3 non-profit sanctuaries and, unfortunately, we were no exception. The gloomy economic climate has cut the donations to the meerkats at Fellow Earthlings’ alarmingly and we have had to become extremely resourceful in finding ways to cut costs in order to provide optimum care to our winsome residents. Although we do not have any paid staff and all donations go exclusively to caring for the meerkats, our operating costs have continued to rise: The special “Kalahari” diets to keep the meerkats healthy and long-lived; electricity to warm their dens and to power the outdoor heat lamps; veterinary care; insurance; license and permit fees to California Fish and Game, U.S.D.A, and Fish and Wildlife Service; repairs to keep the enclosures secure and comfortable; work done on the animals’ evacuation/transportation vehicle; maintenance of fencing to keep the acreage secure for the meerkats; and removal of leaves, pine needles, and weeds to keep the property safe from fire.
We are enormously honored to have had the opportunity to care for one of the most strictly regulated animals in the world for 23 magnificent years and we plan to “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
We are a small, nose-to-nose facility and, thus, we are privileged to know all of our donors personally. When an envelope arrives in our post office box or a donation is received from PayPal we smile in recognition of the name of the person who sent it. We remember, with fondness and gratitude, the indelible memories of you and your visit with the meerkats. And, for the people who have yet to visit, we remember your abiding interest and generosity to the meerkats and we look forward to thanking you in person. We simply could not be more grateful to you for adopting or making a donation to the meerkats at Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center. Thank you!
AFRICAN MEERKAT TOURS
These tours benefit your adopted meerkats because a percentage of the clients’ fee is donated to Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center. The tours are guided by Dantes Liebenberg and accompanied by Pam Bennett-Wallberg.
Dantes Liebenberg, the owner of Kalahari Tours and Travel in South Africa, was born and raised in southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert. Seventeen years of guiding tours has made him an expert in the flora and fauna of Africa. He is licensed, accredited, affable, reliable, honest, and a remarkably fine chef. He will astonish you with his ability to spot animals and birds when they are, seemingly, invisible to everyone else in this dazzling region of Africa. These tours are “All Chalet” which means you will enjoy your own personal accommodations with private bathrooms, hot water showers, and electricity. Additionally, the tours are either “Adults Only” or “Family.”
Pam Bennett-Wallberg, the founder and director of Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center, has worked with meerkats for 23 years and that has led to remarkable opportunities for her. Disney chose her to be their consultant for the meerkat character of Timon in the movie The Lion King. Additionally, she has been the consultant for numerous wildlife documentaries by Animal Planet, BBC, and National Geographic.
Cambridge University selected her to join a team of nine zoologists doing field studies of meerkats in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert. Then, Animal Planet chose Pam to be the publicity spokesperson for their hit series Meerkat Manor. She has made frequent appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, 20/20, Nightline, Dateline, etc. Moreover, her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Los Angeles Times.
Pam is the author of a book and numerous magazine articles featuring her favorite subjects ~ meerkats and the flora and fauna of Africa’s Kalahari Desert. She is a popular speaker at various zoo and environmental conferences and was nominated for Animal Planet’s Hero of the Year.
Although Pam is not affiliated with Kalahari Tours and Travel, she will join the tour as the guest speaker and delight clients with stories of her 23 years of working with meerkats and the highlights of her extensive travels in Africa.
Clients who want to see meerkats in their native habitat will be pleased to know that the AFRICAN MEERKAT TOURS will also provide them with the thrilling opportunity of seeing Africa’s Big 5 ~ lions, elephants, rhinoceros, leopards, and Cape buffalo.
For more information about the itinerary, extended tour options, departure dates, and cost (look at the price for an eight-person tour since that makes it very affordable while still keeping the group small and intimate). Please contact us at Info@FellowEarthlings.org.
October – November 2011 African Meerkat Tour
Our wonderful group
L to R standing: Marilyn Cole, Marie Vester, Dave Valentino, Mary Hoverson, Sharon Campbell L to R seated: Pam Bennett-Wallberg, Sue Valentino, Bonnie Torkko, and Karen Anderson
Copyright: Dantes Liebenberg
“I have found that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
I am, once again, back from Africa and, as promised; I’ll share some details of the latest tour with you.
The tour could not have been more extraordinary. The weather was glorious, the animal sightings were spectacular, the scenery was breath-taking, and the “hand-picked” clients were utterly delightful. Perhaps part of the magic of these tours is that we limit the group size to eight people. Plus, all the people were specifically chosen with an eye to compatibility and common interests. I selected these eight extraordinary people for several reasons:
Each client had a fabulous sense of humor which complemented our guide, Dantes Liebenberg’s, dry South African wit beautifully. We laughed so much throughout the entire tour and a few life-long friendships were forged. In fact, several of the clients had such a good time that they want to plan a second trip. Lucky us!
Dantes astonished us with his uncanny ability to spot creatures that were seemingly not there. The clients were convinced that he had Bionic Eyes. Without Dantes we would have seen only a fraction of the magical animals, birds, and reptiles that dazzled us.
Each evening, after a stunning day of game drives, we enjoyed the luxury of gorgeous, private chalets with hot showers and electricity. Although the meals we had in restaurants were superb, the clients (now all good friends) especially enjoyed Dante’s exceptional culinary skills when he prepared luscious, braais (barbecues) under the glorious, star-studded sky as we listened to the animals “talk” until our hearts were beating chocolates ~~ an apt South African phrase that vividly expresses the joy we felt.
Our first braai (barbecue) together
Credit: Dantes Liebenberg
Dave Valentino and guide extraordinaire Dantes Liebenberg
Credit: Bonnie Torkko
The marvelous wild meerkat sightings made us sigh with delight and wonder. These curious, diminutive beings were so captivated by us that they came closer and closer until we could see the whisker patterns on their sweet little snouts. And, of course, the baby meerkats enthralled us with their mischief. True Magic.
Although Dantes and I encourage people not to think of Africa as a “once in a lifetime” experience, many do. Thus, we were pleased that most of the clients chose to experience the “extended tour options” and continue on to Cape Town with us. These are some of the highlights that the clients enjoyed on the extended tour:
Although I prefer truly wild places, Cape Town absolutely captured my heart and, in fact, I was so reluctant to leave that I stayed in Cape Town for three extra days. The joyous vibe of the place and its people will draw me back year after year.
So, if it is true that most people will make only one trip to the beloved continent then, at least, our clients have seen and enjoyed so much by making the enchanting trek with us to glorious Cape Town.
The best parts of the tour are too numerous to mention. The worst part of the tour can be succinctly and simply stated: It ended.
But, I look forward to the September 2012 tour with 8 more terrific people. And, to the tours that follow that.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Dream. Explore. Discover.”
All photos: Dantes Liebenberg
Jane Goodall and the Meerkats
Pam Bennett-Wallberg, Jane Goodall, and Ron Martin
Credit: S. Valentino
In March our Director, Pam Bennett-Wallberg, and our Operations Manager, Ron Martin, were invited to spend the evening with Jane Goodall. Pam and Ron have told the volunteers at Fellow Earthlings’ that it was one of the most inspiring evenings of their lives.
In 1960, Jane Goodall began her remarkable study of chimpanzees in Tanzania. Her work became the touchstone of primate research and redefined the relationship between chimpanzees and humans.
Dr. Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977 which is a world leader in conservation efforts to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. She has devoted her life to this visionary project and travels more than 300 days each year to educate and inspire others to make the world a better place for people and animals.
Coincidentally, Maureen Smith was with Jane on that evening in March. Maureen Smith is now the president of The Jane Goodall Institute, but previously she worked with Pam on Animal Planet’s Meerkat Manor. It’s a small world, indeed.
Dr. Goodall was complimentary of Pam’s 23 years of working with meerkats and, in fact, expressed an interest in visiting Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center. Of course, our gates will always be open to Dr. Goodall ~ a true heroine.
Work Projects at the Center
We are truly fortunate to have Ron Martin as our Operations Manager. He has so many talents: He’s wonderful with the animals and he flawlessly cares for all details of the Center’s operation when our director, Pam, is in Africa. He can do everything from building a computer from scratch to building a house. He’s a masterful electrician, plumber, mason, and carpenter. He’s fastidious in the planning of all projects and, thus, everything is done to the highest standard. Even Pam, who we know to be very fussy, is always delighted with everything he does. Additionally, our donors and guests adore him because he is funny, interesting, knowledgeable, kind, accomplished, and he makes everyone feel so welcome.
With the donations you so lovingly made, Ron was able to do the following projects recently.
We thank you, our faithful donors, for providing the funds for these projects that benefit the animals enormously. And, we thank Ron for doing the work happily, perfectly, patiently, and as a volunteer. Angels all.
Hurricane Katrina and the Meerkats
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. 1,836 people were killed and the property damage was estimated at 81 billion dollars. The most significant number of deaths occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana, which flooded as the levee system tragically failed.
An eleven-year-old girl by the name of Leah St. Amant survived the catastrophe, but many of her family members did not. Leah’s home was completely submerged in water over the roofline for 9 days. Leah, her mother Denise, and her sister Alyssa lost everything. In desperation, they moved from Louisiana to Indiana and lived in a communal home on a farm. The only work they could find was the arduous work of picking corn on the farm.
In August of 2006 our director, Pam, received a handwritten letter from Leah. She explained that, although she first learned about meerkats from the character of Timon in Disney’s The Lion King, she expanded her love of meerkats by watching Animal Planet’s Meerkat Manor for which Pam was the publicity spokesperson. As previously mentioned, our meerkat, “Kalahari,” was the model and inspiration for Timon. Pam and “Kalahari” were honored to work with 100 immensely talented animators on the movie.
Leah asked her mother if she could “adopt” a meerkat, but her mother told Leah that it would not be possible since they had lost everything and they barely could pay for their own food. Leah persisted and told her mother she wanted to do something for the meerkats at Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center. Leah went to the Wish List on our website and within the week she had mailed us new padlocks for the enclosures and paper towels.
We were touched beyond measure. We mailed Leah a meerkat tee shirt, Pam’s meerkat book, various meerkat items, and an Adoption Portfolio in Leah’s name with an invitation for her and her family to visit us at no charge. Leah’s mother later wrote and said that the invitation to meet the meerkats at Fellow Earthlings’ kept her little daughter from emotionally surrendering to all the hurt and devastation she had experienced.
Six years later Leah, her mother, sister, and grandmother made their dream come true and flew from Indiana to spend the day with Pam and the meerkats. We will always be inspired by Leah’s generosity of spirit, strength of character, resilience, and unrelenting desire to make her dream come true. She will forever be in our hearts.
Pam Bennett-Wallberg with Leah St. Amant and the meerkats
Credit: Ron Martin
If you can dream it, you can do it.