Animal Rights

To preserve life is always worth it whether
it’s a baboon whether it’s a person whether it’s a worm for that matter they are all here for a purpose. So who are we to take it upon ourselves to decide who can live and who cant live? Rita Miljo loved all animals but she had a special place in her heart for baboons more specifically Southern Africa’s much maligned and persecuted Chachma baboons. Rita took in orphaned baboon youngsters after their parents were killed. Against all odds she
succeeded in creating new troops with these animals that she later successfully re-introduced back into the wild. This way she saved countless baboons from living out their lives in cages.
In 2012 Rita died tragically in a fire at the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education that she founded in 1989. This is an edited version of an interview with Rita during one
of her famous baboon releases. Why is a place CARE necessary where do all the baboons actually come from? They come from human interference from humans not letting them live it’s as simple as that. I mean there’s that vermin law for generations and so any baboon on sight was killed and then what was left over are the babies. And being so cute of course people would say ‘ag shame’ we cant kill it. Then people played with them, and then
eventually Nature Conservation stepped in and killed them because there was no such
thing as you could put baboons back into the wild. And that’s where I came in. That’s where you’ve changed everything. Why is it so important to rehabilitate and release them again? Well people have asked me that for years and years and why don’t you play with rhinos or cheetahs or something that is worthwhile to preserve, well I basically think that any animal any
wild animal is worthwhile to preserve because you don’t know when you are going to lose
them. And especially when people climb in and kill and kill and kill. They manage to get rid of anything. So why not start a little bit earlier while you still have some. How long does it take you to put together a release like this one? Well you know virtually I mean in ideal conditions four five years. That would be ideal. Then they are just in their prime, and you see the main thing of a baboon release was that people and it’s so stupid I mean they have been living with baboons closely and nobody bothered to study their ethology. And the main thing for baboons is their troop cohesion. You cannot of course just take one
baboon and say there you go. For living and being successful they need that troop cohesion,
and of course as you have just seen just now, you cant just push one out and say find a
troop they will never accept them. For the males it’s easier because there is this natural
crossover situation, they have got to leave one troop for genetic reasons, and go into
another one. But females as they born, they are born with the ranking of their mother
and that’s what they stay in the troop, and no troop will accept the female because it
would upset their whole ranking. So a female has got no chance whatsoever to get into a
troop. And so when we started looking at the whole thing of course I started looking at
the holistic thing how do they live what do they do how do they fit in and then of course with
all these millions of little babies coming you did not need to be a genius to say let’s
make our own troops. That’s how we started. How do you feel today when you look at this troop? I mean I’ve been seeing you smile all the time. Well you saw it how wonderful it
is to give an animal their freedom again and baboons are so they so much show their feelings
you don’t even have to explain you just look and you see how wonderful it is for them. This is groundbreaking work Rita I mean primate rehabilitaiton I mean it’s not easy work. What are the most important requirements do you think for successful releases? You know one has to bear in mind
that and there is perhaps a misperception with the public freedom here I come open
the door wonderful. Actually it’s the most stressful time in their lives especially when they’ve
grown up from orphan time and they don’t know. Luckily luckily enough they have a lot of instinctive knowledge. But as such this is you just have no idea how stressful it is for them. And
so the most important thing is to give them really as much support as you can from
the beginning to the end we stay normally about six month with them until we are really sure they know what they are doing, they know where they are going, they know where they
should not go. And in this particular situation they need extra time to show them the layout of the land. Baboons need a horizon to orientate themselves and as you can see there’s no horizon so this extra bit of time that we we’ve got, going out in winter, is for them to learn.

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