I never really had a thing for birds. Don’t get me wrong I love all animals, but I’m just more of a mammal person. I never understood birds and always thought that you can’t really bond with them – until the first mousebird came into my life.
Mousebirds got their name because of their legs and their habit of scrubbing through leaves and sand. Mousebirds are slender and about 10cm long. They have a beautiful long and thin tail, and amazing, long legs that allow them to hang in trees like acrobats. One of our staff members found a little mousebird with a broken leg, he was just over two weeks old.
When I first find an animal that needs help I never try and get too attached to it, since the chance is high that the mother abandoned it for a reason and it might die. But soon I couldn’t help falling in love with him. They are just such adorable animals and they get so attached to you. The way they call you as soon as you enter the house and the way they cuddle up to you and kiss you is pure love.
Christo and I hand-raised Sniper and made him poo – which is really cute since they lift their tail up high to show you that it’s time – fed him, exercised with him so that he would learn to fly, and massaged his broken leg so that it would heal. Soon Sniper learned to do all these things by himself. He learned to fly, to find food and made friends with other wild mousebirds, but at the end of the day he would always come back.
One day he didn’t come back. We hope he found some friends and just flew away with them; but since that day I have been heartbroken and miss him every day. The first days without him were horrible, especially taking naps without him. That little chirping sound he would make cuddling up to me that used to keep me awake and annoy me was just missing.
Then two days ago I was on my way to the office when Christo said “I quickly need to show you something inside the house.” And there he was, this cute little ball of feathers: another mousebird. I immediately started crying, because I was so happy. Carmen, our lodge manager, found him. He had fallen out of the nest and didn’t look too good. Carmen says she immediately thought of me, since she had also given me Sniper and knew how much I loved him. I am so thankful for this great present she has given me twice. He will never replace Sniper, but that little chirping sound is back and we are happy.
It always amazes me how wild animals realise so quickly that they depend on you and just have to trust you. In the morning the little ball of feathers was so scared and tried to get away from me, but in the evening he had already realised that we are his family now and was cuddling up to us. He will also fly away one day, but hopefully he will come back.
It’s a risk we have to take with any wildlife. Keeping them in cages just so that we don’t have to miss them is wrong. That is probably the hardest part of my job. Rehabilitating animals means that you fall in love with something, head over heels, and then you might never see it again. It’s heart-breaking, but you know that you have done the best for the animal and that it’s happier now.