The Voice of Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center
2019 - 2020
Written and respectfully submitted by Riaan Nel
Volunteer Communications Coordinator
“Happiness makes the BIRD OF TIME fly fast”
So many exciting and happy events have occurred in the last year that we had to “peddle” fast just to keep pace.
PAM’S NEWEST BOOK .
Our director, Pam Bennett-Wallberg’s newest book was bought by Pelican Publishing Company which has successfully published numerous bestsellers since 1926. In fact, the company was the first to publish William Faulkner.
Pam’s book titled GREAT GRUB FROM THE MEERKAT CAFÉ is an interactive family cookbook paired with hilarious and wildly educational facts about the creatures of southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert. The book’s simple recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts with names like Dung Beetle Pancakes and Spaghetti with Grasshopper Heads have just enough “yuck factor” to greatly appeal to children while adults will be pleased that the recipes provide savory substitutions. Sliced Brown and Serve sausages can be substituted for Dung Beetles. Frozen peas can be substituted for Grasshopper heads. Families will have loads of fun preparing a “smorgas-bug” in their own kitchen burrow. THE GRUB’S ON!
In addition to feeding the stomach, feed the soul! Each recipe has a FOOD FOR THOUGHT sidebar which provides families with surprising, funny, and sometimes yucky information about the animals, birds, and insects of southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert. The recipes were tested by a professional chef and the measurements are in standard and metric. A wise AFRICAN PROVERB reflects the theme of each recipe.
The book is illustrated with dazzling art by internationally known and award-winning graphic artist Kristen Perry.
This book promises to “worm” its way into the heart of every family member. If you are looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind, fun cookbook to give as a gift or to get your future chef cooking in the kitchen with you . . . this is it!
A percentage of the book’s proceeds benefit the meerkats at Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center, Inc.
TO BUY PAM’S BOOK
Additionally, there is another way to benefit the meerkats at Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center at NO COST to you. Plus, you can buy Pam’s book and benefit the meerkats even more. Here’s all you have to do:
JACK HANNA’S VISIT TO FELLOW EARTHLINGS
Jack Hanna, the beloved wildlife expert and television star visited Fellow Earthlings with his charming wife Suzi to film a television program about our 30 year history of caring for meerkats. The broadcast date is to be decided.
Pam Bennett-Wallberg with Jack Hanna (R), Ron Martin, and Suzi Hanna (L) filming a television program at Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center..
Jack Hanna’s film crew at Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center.
It was Pam Bennett-Wallberg’s great pleasure to introduce Jack and Suzi Hanna to the meerkats which was their first experience with this enchanting species.
Jack and Suzi are just as likeable in person as they are on television. Their almost childlike enthusiasm for our meerkats was delightful to see and experience.
UPDATE ON THE MEERKATS THAT WE RESCUED FROM THE BLACK MARKET EXOTIC PET TRADE
In our thirty year history of caring for and rescuing meerkats, we are always surprised by how each meerkat’s personality is so wildly different.
Hakuna was found starving and wandering alone on the streets of Kuwait City. He was temporarily placed at a dog and cat sanctuary in Kuwait until we could get him to his “forever” home at Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center.
He was named Hakuna (think of the song Hakuna Matata) in Kuwait in honor of Pam Bennett-Wallberg’s work as the consultant for the Timon character in the blockbuster movie THE LION KING.
However, Hakuna’s nickname is “Hip check” because of his talent of knocking everything over: Water bottles that our guests bring into the enclosures, toys, food dishes, toy furniture such as tents, picnic tables, and upholstered chairs. Of course, it is our job to put the items upright which he quickly knocks over again as he looks us straight in the eye. His record for knocking over water bottles is 42 times during a two hour visit with guests. Such a cheeky boy!
Hakuna is also a “Bug Bandit” and he shamelessly steals from the other meerkats with stealth, speed, and cunning. And, because of his talent for thievery, he is becoming a rather “stout little tea pot.”
Hakuna is also endlessly nosey and alerts us to every small thing that he thinks is vital for us to know: “There’s a flock of turkey vultures heading our way, the deer are coming too close to the fence, the mail truck is stopping by the gate, the wild peacocks are on the roof again, there’s some person walking on our dirt road, or the coyotes are howling too loudly.” His monologue is endless.
Hakuna has a toy barn made of heavy duty red felt. Hakuna does not allow his roommates to enter the barn. The barn has a window and a large double door. Hakuna’s bum will fit through the barn door but he never, ever uses the door. He only tries to gain entrance to the barn via the window. Hakuna’s bum does NOT fit going through the window so he gets “stuck” which he seems to love. Sometimes, when he tries to get out of the barn quickly, his bum impedes his departure so the entire barn becomes a “tortoise shell” that accompanies him to his next destination.
Delaney Martin holds Hakuna in his beloved red barn.
Ubuntu was rescued from a pet arcade in Okinawa. He spent many years alone in a small glass prison. He had no companionship, no sunshine, and no dirt to dig in. He was kept on wood chips and was given an improper diet.
Since being given a forever home at Fellow Earthlings’, Ubuntu has really blossomed. He’s always busy with important projects like removing the porches from the den boxes, helping us clean the den boxes, and re-arranging all the clean blankets in the den boxes. It seems that we humans never place “linen” correctly.
When we waggle our fingers at Ubuntu he smiles at us. Yes, he actually smiles. And, he has an endearing habit of hugging our hands and arms with his whole body.
However, he does slow us down when we are cleaning the enclosures because he simply drapes his entire body over the instep of our boots and won’t move. He has trained us well because, he knows that by draping his body over our boots, we will stop our work and pet him. Clever boy!
Ubuntu in his glass prison in Okinawa.
Ubuntu’s first step to freedom in America.
Pam Bennett-Wallberg enjoys a sweet hug from Ubuntu.
THE NEXT RESCUE FROM THE BLACK MARKET EXOTIC PET TRADE
We are currently working diligently on the next rescue of a meerkat in dire conditions in Japan. We are being helped with the rescue by an angel named Sara. She is a true blessing.
The unnamed male meerkat is four years old and has been living alone in a small wire cage. He paces endlessly on an open wire floor that is painful for his feet. His cries of distress are heart-wrenching. Meerkats are considered one of the most social animals in the world and, yet, he has lived his entire life alone. He has no blankets, no toys, no burrow, no sunshine to bask in, no dirt to dig in, and no place to get away from people teasing him. Plus, he is not being fed what a meerkat should eat. The picture of him below will make you cry. We will keep you posted on our progress.
Waiting, in desperation, for his new home at Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center.
FIRE SAFETY PROJECTS TO PROTECT THE MEERKATS
Although we thought we were fully prepared for a wildfire, the recent and catastrophic fires in California made us wonder if we should do more to protect the meerkats and the acreage from fire. We consulted with officials from two fire departments and they suggested that we do the following:
Thanks to a few of our angelic donors who made donations to keep the meerkats safe from wildfires, we have been able to “check off” quite a few of the project on the list. You know who you are and so do WE! Thank you so very much. However, there is still much to be done.
Assistant director, Ron Martin, moving old out-buildings off acreage.
Demolishing and hauling off the old “firetrap” shop.
Cutting fire breaks around the acreage.
Replacing 171 wooden fence posts (that burned in our last fire) with metal fence posts.
Hauling off the vegetation from the fire break cuts.
Limbing up all 150 trees to 8 feet for fire protection.
We hope that your love of meerkats will extend to helping us keep them safe. If so, we kindly ask you to make a donation to protect the meerkats from fire.
Additionally, checks made out to Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center can be mailed to the sanctuary at 11427 West Drive, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.
Tax deductible receipts for donations of $250.00 or more will be issued for your files.
THE MEERKATS SEND YOU LOVE AND THANKS!
IN SEARCH OF THE MEERKATS’ COUSINS
Pam Bennett-Wallberg ~ Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society, London, England
Recently, after organizing and accompanying a month-long African photo safari for my clients ended, I headed to Madagascar, by myself, for three weeks.
I was hired to do a research project on fossas which, curiously, are related to meerkats. (The funds from my research projects and from the photo safaris for clients financially benefit the meerkats at Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center enormously.) Sadly, fossas are classified as a vulnerable species and it is estimated that only 2,500 exist in the wild. Fossas are only found in Madagascar, the 4th largest island in the world, which is located off of the east coast of Africa.
Fossas, like meerkats, are members of the mongoose family. However, that’s where many of the similarities end. Fossas look like small mountain lions. They weigh up to 22 pounds have retractable claws and very flexible ankle joints which enable them to descend trees head first. Their main prey is lemurs which are found only in Madagascar.
Until recently, it was believed that fossas were strictly nocturnal because they are so difficult to find in the wild. Now, scientists know that fossa can be seasonally active during the day and night.
For almost all of the photo safaris that I have organized in Africa, we drive in vehicles to see the animals. That’s not the case in Madagascar. If you want to see the majority of the wildlife in Madagascar you must HIKE on trails that are steep, slick, and difficult. It frequently rains in the forests so there are lots of leeches.
Before I departed from South Africa to Madagascar, I gave my boots to a woman in need. I felt confident that I could wear my flip-flops while trekking for fossas and lemurs. I was quite wrong! My improper (stupid) footwear made hiking the steep, slippery, wet forests enormously difficult. However, even with proper footwear, the trek would have been difficult. The “up” side was that I made a lot of leeches happy!
I hired a man named Anjatoky to guide me on my mission to find fossas because even experienced people get lost in the forests of Madagascar.
Anjatoky, my guide, is the size of a greyhound, just as lean as a greyhound, and just a fast as a greyhound. So, keeping up with Anjatoky was exhausting in my flip-flops.
Pam Bennett-Wallberg with guide, Anjatoky, in Madagascar.
Communication with Anjatoky was also difficult because he only spoke Malagasy French. (Note to self: Learn Malagasy French before returning to Madagascar.)
However, despite our language difficulties, there was no mistaking his contempt of my footgear. Anjatoky smirked, pointed his finger at my flip-flops, and shook his head vigorously side to side in derision.
Often we had to travel by canoe in search of fossas. The photo below shows me perched in a canoe prior to swimming in the river. Anjatoky’s head is to the right of me and almost totally submerged. It was only after we finished our swim that we spotted several crocodiles lurking nearby.
Pam Bennett-Wallberg in search of fossas in Madagascar.
The plague (Black Death) is prevalent in Madagascar because the Malagasy people have a custom of digging up their dead relatives every 5 – 9 years. The ceremony is called Famadihana and it works like this: Relatives of the deceased invite family and friends to help dig up the relative. Famadihana is actually a huge party with lots of food and alcohol. The party can last a day or a week depending on the family’s finances. After the dead person is exhumed, the “party goers” hold up a drawing or a photograph of the deceased as they parade through the village with the corpse. Then, at the end of the party, the corpse is dressed in new clothes and re-buried. Of course, this custom is a splendid way to get the Plague which breaks out in Madagascar frequently.
As I walked through two separate villages on two occasions, I saw people who were joyfully dancing and singing. On each occasion I thought I was witnessing a wedding. That is, until the crowd came very close to me and I saw the corpse which was badly in need of “new clothes.” I held my breath until I thought I would pop. Then, I monitored myself for symptoms during my entire stay in Madagascar. I’m happy to report that I didn’t get the Plague.
Anjatoky and I searched for fossas for three weeks to no avail. Although we found the fossas’ nesting places, found their scat, and occasionally even smelled their distinctive scent, we never saw these ghosts of the forest.
Despite the fact that I was dazzled to see so many critically endangered species that are only found in Madagascar, I need to return to Madagascar to complete my research project and find the elusive and mysterious fossa.
However, when I return, I will know not to wear flip-flops. I simply wouldn’t be able to endure any more of Anjatoky’s smirks.
“They who drink the water from the Manangareza River will always return to Madagascar”