Sand, potholes, and donkeys cont…….

Day 5 – 8/08/2017 Phabeni Gate to Palaborwa

Today we headed off on our own for the first time, back into the Kruger National Park. Heading north to exit at the Phalaborwa Gate.

It was a lovely drive from the Phabeni gate to Shokwane where we made a quick pit stop before continuing north towards Satara.


Shokwane pit stop


The vervet monkeys are very mischievous and can be very agressive especially towards women!


Glossy Starlings patiently waiting for any little morsel

We turned off when we saw a sign for a large baobab tree. Winding along a dirt road we came upon a lovely breeding herd of elephants in close proximity to the road almost blocking the way to the tree. It didn’t look like they were going to move soon and were not upset by our presence. Cautiously we edged past them so we could get closer to the tree. After circling round the tree we headed back to the main road once again edging past the elephants quietly going about the business of filling their bellies.


The big baobab


Babies and juveniles, part of the breeding herd

We continued on our way towards Letaba with a pit stop along the way at Satara.


Another pit stop at Satara and a close encounter with an elephant!

We came to a large bridge where quite a few cars had stopped and the occupants were standing looking over the edge onto the river bed. Curiousity got the better of us and we decided to see what it was that had grabbed everyones attention. There was a large monitor lizard swimming in shallow water below. He eventually climbed up the bank onto dry land.


Monitor lizard swimming in a shallow pool of water

There was an Italian man standing next to me who asked me if I had seen the snake? He pointed down below the edge of the bridge and there nestled on debris that had washed up against the concrete lay an enormous python! It looked to be about 5 meters in length. Shivers went up my spine at the sight. A magnificent specimen curled up basking in the sun. I havent seen a snake that size since I was a child living on our farm in Rhodesia.


Huge python basking in the sun

A little further on we spotted two saddle-billed storks. Beautiful large birds with the most colourful beaks.


Saddle-billed stork

The next bird highlight of the day was spotting four secretary birds. I was so excited as this was the first time seeing these birds in the wild. Previusly having only ever seen them in books. Wow, what a spectacular bird. The wind was blowing and they put on a show with their crests splayed out. The only problem was they were quite far so my photos aren’t great! However it didn’t matter I was completely enthralled. What luck!


Sectretary bird

Throughout the day we spotted giraffe x 15,  elephants x 40, buffalo x 50, wildebeest x 40, impala, crocodile, leopard, lioness with two cubs, duiker, zebra, steenbok, kudu x 12, bushbuck x 30, baboon, warthog and waterbuck. 


Burchells Zebra


A baboon just chilling!


Impala female, such a dainty and handsome animal

Unfortunately with the good also comes the bad and you see things that make you really sad. This happenned twice on this leg of the journey.

The first was when we came across the body of a giraffe. This is the first time I have seen this and it was so sad to see such a majestic animal who had recently lost his life. It wasn’t clear what had happenned. There was definate evidence that portion of the body had already been eaten judging by what we could see. The animal wasn’t long dead.


Giraffe body

Then a little further, on the side of the road we spotted a small black-backed jackal that seemed to be dazed and confused. We stopped to observe him. On closer inspection it looked like he was suffering from malnutrition and mange. The poor animal was in very poor health. Can’t imagine what happenned to him. 


Black-backed jackal

At Letaba we turned left and made our way back out of the park into the town of Phalaborwa.

We exited the Phalaborwa gate at 5 pm after a very satisfying day of game viewing exploring the middle region of the park.

After locating our accommodation which was only about 10 km from the gate we had a quick look  and everything seemed to be in order. The owner of the accommodation showed us where to go to do a bit of shopping at Checkers and Game and where we could have dinner. As it had been a long day we decided to go for an early dinner at the Big5 restaurant. Here we met the delightful owner Cheryl and her little puppy. Cheryl’s husband was the chef. The food was outstanding and proved to be one of the best!

By now we were both feeling quite weary and decided to get an early night. Well that’s what we thought???

As we walked back into our accommodation the most disgusting smell hit us between the eyes!! A ghastly sewerage smell permeated the air like a thick blanket! It was quite obvious there was a blocked drain exhaust and there was no way we could stay there! It was fowl and completely toxic. After discussion with the owner who admitted they had been working on the sewarage down the road, she agreed to find alternative accomodation for us. By now it was getting late and all I wanted to do was have a shower and sleep! Luckily she was able to find us alternative accomodation not too far away, even though it was at such short notice. Unfortunately it looked like it was in the industrial area but I didnt care, all I needed was a bed! 

When we arrived at reception we couldn’t find anyone to check us in.  They were all busy with the  restaurant which was buzzing. We waited and waited, finally someone came to our rescue. At last a hot shower, bed and sleep!

The next morning an early rise to a beautiful day, a hearty breakfast and we set off back into Kruger Park for another day of adventure in the African bush.



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Sand, potholes, and donkeys cont……

Day 3 – 6/08/2017 Kruger National Park, South Africa

After a leisurely rise, Russell & Janice said they wanted to take us into the southern region of the Kruger National Park. We set off about midday and our entry point was the Phabeni Gate There was much anticipation as to what might unfold during the course of the afternoon.


The day turned out to be extremely bountiful. We had the most amazing sightings and got treated to the big 5! This was just a perfect start to this expedition as this was my travelling companion David’s  first visit to Africa. I told David that he mustn’t expect this every day from now on as it was indeed a major treat, not only for him but for me as well! Africa put on a wonderful show setting a very high precedent indeed!



Couldn’t make out if this spotted hyaena was heavily pregnant or just engorged from a large feed?

Day 4 – 7/08/2017 Kruger National Park

Russell and Janice wanted to take us for a full day into the Kruger Park so we decided on an early start. Got up, had tea and rusks and set off for the Phabeni gate arriving at 7:30 thinking we had a good head start.

WRONG – we forgot it was a Sunday and school holidays so there was a queue a mile long!

We made our way to Skakuza where we decided to have brunch as we were all starting to feel hungry. This place holds a very special memory for me as it is where my husband Menno and I honeymooned 35 years ago! Unfortunately Menno wasn’t with me on this trip but maybe next time.


Skakuza outlook over the river just as I remember it

After brunch we made our way from Skakuza to the Lower Sabie stopping at a bird hide on the way. There were quite a few professional photographers in the hide set up with some very serious cameras. Some of which boasted the biggest, longest lenses I have ever seen with the added advantage of a camouflage finish! Very impressive! 


Here we spotted a large crocodile and a few water birds



A spectacular male Kudu

We continued on our way and when we arrived at a large bridge there were lots of cars parked, obviously something was going on? We couldn’t even get onto the bridge so we stopped just before the entry point with a small gap between us and the car in front. A car came off the bridge driving past us so we flagged him down to ask him what was happening. He told us there was a couple of rhino’s having a fight on the river bed and it was pretty heated. The next moment two female rhinos came rushing up an embankment towards our car with a very disgruntled male rhino in hot pursuit. The females ran past us, one behind the other in close proximity through the narrow gap between us and the car in front. Then shortly after in hot pursuit came the male bounding up the embankment. The male suddenly stopped abruptly right in front of our car and turned his head directly towards us, eyeballing the car! At this point I must admit I felt decidedly uncomfortable! I was thinking that if he thought our vehicle, which was grey in colour resembled a rhino we were in deep trouble as there was nowhere to go. There was not only a car in front of us there was also now a whole line of cars behind us too. We couldn’t have made an escape either right or left as it was too steep and also heavily wooded. I took a deep breath as this moment froze in time, hoping he would continue on his way. Much to our relief he decided the females demanded more attention and he trotted off much to our relief. By now with the action over the cars started moving on. We were able to drive forwards onto the bridge to give us a better vantage point of the goings on, on the opposite side of the bridge. The two females were standing quietly to one side while the male huffed and puffed, screeching angrily, trotting two and fro. Quite a spectacle as at times all four legs were off the ground as he seemed to effortlessly move around. Dont mess with an angry rhino!


Mr huffing and puffing!


A little later in the day we could not believe our luck! We spotted no less than 22 lions basking on rocks in the warmth of the day. Beautiful females preening their babies and young adults! They mingled happily moving from one group of rocks to the other. We spent quite a bit of time here soaking in this spectacle of the wild.

We made our way back via the S21 towards Skakuza and arrived just in time with only five minutes to closing! We headed back to White River with a short stop at Tanamera Lodge for sundowners. Another awesome day! Once again spotting all of the the big five plus a few extra birds and a variety of other animals! Wow, two days in a row the big5, how lucky were we!



On our way back we were treated to a sundowner at the beautiful Tanamera Lodge situated on the edge of a gorge. A spectacular view and amazing place.


Tanamera dining room and bar area


The end of another perfect day in Africa

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Sand, potholes and donkeys

African Safari Adventure – exploring South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe

Day 1- 4/08/2017

Left Dunsborough, South Western Australia at 5:30 on the South West Coach and headed for the Perth International Airport.


Dunsborough beach scene

Arrived at the Perth International Airport at 8:50pm and wheeled our luggage over to the airport departure to check it in. Excited to see Africa again and to explore places I had never been to before and to continue with my research into the conservation of endangered species. Hoped to have a smooth flight and get some much-needed shut-eye. The flight left at 23:40 and was due to arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa at 4:50am the next day.

The flight with SAA turned out to be relatively good with just one rather scary incident as we were descending to land. The plane suddenly leapt up leaving our hearts in our stomachs. It bounced about for a few minutes before stabilizing and dropping in altitude to settle in for the landing process. The explanation given was wind shear? No matter, it caused all the passengers to gasp in anticipation! Happily the plane landed without further adieu leaving us all very relieved to be on terra firma! With a 4 hour wait before our connecting flight to Nelspruit.

Day 2 -5/08/2017

 Our flight to Nelspruit was at 9am so didn’t have to wait too long. We, collected our luggage, made our way to the departure lounge and spent a bit of time looking around. Enjoyed stretching the legs after the long 11 hour flight. First stop a cup of tea!


Such a dinky little cast iron tea pot! Want one!

The one thing that always jumps out at me in Africa with the art and craft is the wonderful use of colour!



He just couldn’t take his eyes off all that delicious colour

Boarded the smaller plane on time and set off for the Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit, arrival time 9:50. Smooth flight with a snack included.



Spotted my first rhino at the airport

As soon as we arrived we headed off to Hertz to organise our hire car a silver Toyota Fortuna. This process took about 1 hour as we had to arrange to have papers prepared for multiple cross border entrances to avoid any issues down the line.

With all our luggage loaded, hire car full of fuel, gps set, we ventured off to friends Russel & Janice in White River, Mpumalanga.

As we soon discovered ‘Lady Jane’, our gps couldn’t pick up the exact location and we drove around for a while, until deciding to stop in at a local motel to ask for directions. Luckily the manager there was absolutely amazing. She phoned Russell, got directions and showed us on the map where to go. We weren’t terribly wrong but could never have found it without her assistance!

Arrived at our destination about 4pm to a wonderful welcome and a much-needed cup of tea!

Friends of Janice and Russell’s, Pam & Garry invited us to Pam’s birthday celebration at Nabana Lodge owned by a lovely lady called Magda. We were joined by Jackie & Neil from Hazyview and Tim and Dave from Durban. The meal was outstanding, the company great and it was a really fun evening.

Finally fell into bed and into a deep sleep. 

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While on a research trip recently to South Africa, together with a friend, we visited the Jane Goodall Institute ‘Chimp Eden’, situated in the Umhloti Nature Reserve, 15 kilometres outside Nelspruit.


Cissy and Paula at the entrance of Chimp Eden

Chimp Eden sanctuary  was established in 2006 as part of the Jane Goodall Institute and was set up as a safe haven for chimpanzees that have been rescued from a life of unbelievable abuse and illegal trade.

On arrival just as the tour was about to begin, we quickly paid our entrance fee and rushed outside eager not to miss a thing.

There was quite a large group of people and we had to try to find a good spot,  not only for taking photos but so that we could also adequately hear the presentation.

Many of the chimps were gathered around, each with their own personalities and identities. One of the larger animals sat perched on top of an anthill. Another kept his distance way on top of the branch of a nearby tree.



Chantelle, our tour guide on duty lovingly introduced us to each chimp by name. Among others we met Charles, Nina and Cozy.

The animals were in a large natural open air enclosure surrounded by bushes, trees and an anthill. The surrounding wire fence erected to keep the chimps safe was also to keep the visitors segregated for obvious reasons. 




As Chantelle’s  stories of the chimps previous lives unfolded I was grateful that I had kept my sunglasses on. Each story more sad than the next my tears flowed uncontrollably down my cheeks. Listening to the plight of each chimpanzee I was deeply affected by their life stories.


The photo speaks for itself

We were informed that a male named Cosy liked to throw things. Cosy’s throwing escapades had in the past wreaked havoc. On one occasion one of Cosy’s missiles had inadvertently broken someone’s nose as well as a camera lens. We were instructed to follow Chantelle closely as she lead us around the perimeter of the enclosure to a nearby viewing platform. On the other side of the enclosure we were joined by some of the chimps who followed alongside us equally as curious of us as we were of them. We were warned to take care as  Cosy was waiting for us. Standing tall in an upright position he was posturing to make sure we knew who was boss. Or at least that’s what he wanted us to think.

When we climbed the stairs to the platform we had a choice of standing either behind a protective screen or out in the open where when given the command we had to ‘Duck’ to avoid Cosy’s missiles and excellent throwing skills. Poor Cosy soon worked himself into a complete vocal and physical frenzy as he collected nut shells in preparation to unleash them with force at us. He continued to do this in bursts throughout Chantelle’s talk even though she constantly tried to reassure him that all was well.


Poor Cosy building up to hurl his missiles

Having previously been told of the extreme circumstances of Cosy’s life before he was rescued we understood completely how this animals frustration and anger was aimed squarely at humans.

Cosy who had been owned by a gypsy had lived in the back of a caravan for more than seven years. The details of Cosy’s life were extreme and this poor animal had been abused in the worst possible way. My heart broke into pieces knowing what he had endured and yet somehow managed  to survive.

During one of Cosy’s vocal and physical expressions a submissive female named Nina cautiously approached him in sympathy of his demeanor but also aware that she too could be on the receiving end of Cosy’s temper. If Cosy’s behavior got out of hand the older males apparently would put him in his place.

One of the oldest chimps has reached the grand old age of 72 years despite having lived a life of misery until his rescue.

Another chimp at the time of rescue was both a chain smoker and an alcoholic. Before being able to be introduced to the other animals he had to go into detox and underwent terrible withdrawals. Today he still has cravings and when he sees someone smoking he begs for a cigarette. Why any human would inflict these human vices on an animal is beyond my comprehension!


A group coming to see what the commotion is after one of Cosy’s tirades.

It was Nina’s story that really captured our hearts as her story unfolded. Nina was confiscated from bush meat hunters in Sudan and from there was transferred to a zoo in the town of WAU. Eventually she was taken to a safe house and from there went into quarantine in 2007. 

Brought up in captivity she had never know what it was to be naturally and foremost a wild chimp. On her arrival at Chimp Eden Nina was put onto contraceptives due to the fact that none of the chimps who had entered this haven could ever be introduced back into the wild and therefore breeding is not an option. They would however be able to live out the rest of their lives in peace unencumbered by human exploits.

Some time later it was noticed that Nina’s eating habits had changed and she had become lethargic and kept to herself. It was time to call in a vet to get to the bottom of Nina’s drastic change in health. After careful examination and blood tests  it was discovered much to everyone’s astonishment that Nina was pregnant. When baby Thabu arrived on January 23rd 2013 he brought untold joy to everyone in the sanctuary but there was immediate concern when it was evident that Nina had no mothering skills.

As Nina had never had the opportunity to learn from other chimps she was at a complete loss as how and what to do with her baby. Everyone was extremely concerned as they did not want to remove the newly born Thabu from his mother. How could they teach Nina how to breast feed Thabu? In desperation they decided to show Nina a video on an ipad of a chimp mum feeding her baby. However Nina was more curious about the ipad than the video on it. What were they going to do?

Fortunately there was a lady who had just given birth and was breastfeeding and she volunteered to come in and let Nina observe her feeding her own ba. It was worth a try to time was running out.

Nina watched as the mother fed her child and was very curious about what was happening. Well to everyone’s astonishment when Nina went back to her own enclose she lifted baby Thabu into her arms and started cuddling him and put him to her breast!

How could anyone deny the intelligence of these amazing animals?



Thabu and Nina  – photo courtesy  of Chimp Eden

After a very informative and interesting but heartbreaking presentation my friend and I decided to adopt Nina on 7 August 2016.  It was the least we could do for this incredible mother Nina and her precious baby Thabu. 

“Systematically humans are destroying the planet. Filled with greed and hate and ultimately for what? We are born and we die and you can’t take anything with you. At least we should try to preserve what is here for future generations”   ~ Paula Wiegmink

If you wish to support this wonderful sanctuary any donations will help towards the upkeep and constant care of these animals who have suffered so horrendously at the hands of humans.

Chimp Eden – webpage:

Chimp Eden Facebook page:


“Through consciousness, our minds have the power to change our planet and ourselves. It is time we heed the wisdom of the ancient indigenous people and channel our consciousness and spirit to tend the garden and not destroy it.” ~ Bruce Lipton

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Digging deep can be confronting

I was recently asked to participate in an exhibition at a local gallery of artists self portraits. My immediate reaction was definitely NO! I have never had the desire to paint myself yet if you look back at the history of art most artists have painted one at some point.

In a moment of weakness I agreed.

This proved to be one of the most challenging pieces I have ever tackled. It forced me to look deep inside myself and reveal who I am. This journey was confronting but I did it! There was a point where I was about to throw in the towel and pull out but its not in my nature to give up. I love a challenge but this really tested me!

This is my thought process and how the painting evolved:

I did not have the full concept immediately. It evolved as the painting morphed into what it wanted to be!

I started off with the background which is quite textural and neutral. That part was easy. It was the following stages that took their time and tole!

I chose to do the portrait using splashes of bright colour representing the paint on my palette, which is very much a part of me.

The right side of the portrait is who I am, first and foremost, a woman. The opposite side represents the most important part of my life and that is my family. I am fierce when it comes to the protection and love of my children like a lioness protecting her cubs. The lioness also represents my passion for animals who don’t have a voice.

On this planet we share, I believe we are all connected to each other by an invisible force and this is represented by the surrounding trees encompassing the portrait.

The strong contrast of colour against a subdued background is how I often feel about my place in the universe. We are surrounded by negativity and it is a constant battle to remain positive in the face of adversity. “My cup is always half full” and that is my choice!

The exhibition opened a week ago at the Studio Bistro Gallery, Yallingup, Western Australia.

It was very interesting to see each individuals portrait and they are all so varied. The exhibition will end this Sunday.

Self portraitsml

Paula Wiegmink – self portrait 2016

I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing about your experience with self portraiture!


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Can one person make a difference?

This is a question I ask myself all the time. Sometimes one gets so consumed by all the negativity that surrounds us on social media, in fact in most places that its difficult to find the light!

But we have choices. We can choose to see the glass half full or empty for that matter.

Trying to stay positive amidst the negativity is challenging and some days the weight can be enormous.

So do we as mere mortals sit back and just let it all happen or do we make a stand?

I am an ordinary person who chose to stand up and be a voice for our endangered wildlife.

I am an artist and by no means an expert on wildlife but I have a passion and a drive to fight for change.

Wildlife crime is out of control. Human greed is out of control. Poverty is out of control so where do we begin? Why fight for wildlife or any animal when humans are starving?

Isn’t every creature that inhabits this planet equally important? Is a human more important than an elephant?

I choose to think that we are all connected in some way by an invisible thread. When one of these threads is broken can this not in turn affect every other thread?

This brings me to my next topic and that is fund raising for charities and causes

There are so many organizations out there that it boggles the mind. It also appears that there are equally illegitimate organisations as legitimate ones! This makes it extremely hard to raise funds.

There are so many artists out there generously donating their artworks in good faith and equally as many organizations and charities freely accepting them. These artists can so easily be taken advantage of and need to make sure that when donating their work that they are being given for legitimate causes.

I have been donating artworks for more than 10 years to organizations for conservation fund raising, which I have done freely and willingly. Yet very seldom does one ever get any feed back and if indeed the painting was actually sold or not. The amount of time, effort and cost that goes into a painting varies for each piece and each artist.Weaving a piece of themselves into each piece they create, hoping just hoping that their work will carry their message. In my case awareness for the voiceless.

The ups and downs of social media

A very interesting observation about social media is that there are many people out there who are willing to comment, give advise be it good or bad and even more willing to bring you down. Why do humans feel the need to do this?

However there are very few who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is when push comes to shove! I am not criticizing but making an observation. Unless there is a high profile figure attached to draw attention or some obscure draw card no one is interested.

No matter what the future holds I will continue to fight for endangered species and my only hope is that we will all band together to take care of this planet. After all we are the caretakers and from what I can see we seem to be failing in so many ways! Maybe the next generation will do a better job?

You thoughts and comments are welcome.

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For many years I have been involved with wildlife conservation efforts  focusing on endangered species.

I have noticed that there has been a huge shift in the coverage of wildlife crime on social media, especially in the last year. This is understandable as there has been such a huge escalation in wildlife crime.

Last year I became very involved with the ONE FIGHT UNITE SAY NO poster awareness campaign. In a previous blog I wrote about the launch of the campaign in London last year. If you wish to find out more about this campaign you can follow this link:

5 Black Mambas South Africa

South African Black Mamba anti-poaching team – signing ‘Tears of the rhino’

A year down the track the poster of ‘Tears of the rhino’ has been signed by more than 50 high profile people across the globe. All these people are in some way or other involved with the preservation of the natural world. David Pocock was recently featured in a documentary about rhino poaching in Africa.

David Pocock  SAYS NO

David Pocock, South African/Australian rugby player signing ‘Tears of the rhino’

The campaign is ongoing and is being driven by Duke Ingram and Rubin Besureis from the ECO pop band Besureis – . Their dedication and contribution has been incredible. Duke and Rubin are avid activists and advocates for animal welfare, they are a force to be reckoned with!


Dr Jane Goodall flanked by  Rubin Besureis and Duke Ingram – London

This year ONE FIGHT UNITE launched another poster using an image of my painting ‘Tears are not enough’ of a chimpanzee. This painting was done especially for the campaign and was released to highlight the 25th anniversary celebration of Dr Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots program. 

1 Sir Peter Blake

Sir Peter Blake signing ‘Tears are not enough’ in London

It seems that the only hope for the future of this planet is education focusing on the next generation who will hopefully take better care of this planet than we have.

It is with this that I decided to ‘take the plunge’ and go back to Africa to conduct field research and that gave birth to ‘An Artists Quest for answers’. I am planning to do research in various parts of Africa to get an unbiased overall view of what so many dedicated people on the ground are facing in their fight to combat wildlife crime.

I realized that I could not handle this financially on my own and decided to crowd fund through GOFUND ME. This was fraught with apprehension not knowing if what I planned to do would be supported by the public or not. I took the plunge and launched my campaign this week.

Within minutes I received my first donation which was really encouraging. I was also contacted by Alex from HYDROCRYL art supplies, an Australian company who have donated a box full of art supplies. I am so incredibly grateful to Hydrocryl  and to those who believe in my research project. For the artists out there this is a superb product and the acrylics are deliciously creamy and vibrant with strong pigments of the highest quality. I used some of these products to paint ‘Tears of the rhino’and I highly recommend them!

It is now time for me to act and get out there to find out as much as I can so that I am able to put together a presentation for education purposes. It is hard for people in other countries to relate to the problems in Africa and the hardships endured by so many people who are dedicated to saving wildlife. Regardless of the fact that they have so little and receive practically no support at all they soldier on at great cost to their personal safety.

If you believe in what I am doing and wish to support me on my quest for answers, your contribution no matter how small will be greatly appreciated. I have a way to go yet to reach my target so any further assistance will be very much appreciated.

For any photographers out there I am looking for a good camera/video with at least an 80x optical zoom. I plan to document everything with photos, personal interviews etc to put together a presentation/documentary. I would appreciate some advice and or if perhaps any one has upgraded and might have a camera they are no longer using? Maybe there is a camera company out there that would be willing to sponsor me with this?

If you are unable to donate then sharing my quest would be absolutely fantastic!

Please follow this link:

I have never asked for assistance with anything in my life and would not be doing this except the animals need a voice and I have to do everything I can.

I know that what I am doing is but a drop in the ocean but surely if we all band together we can make a difference and put an end to the unspeakable cruelty and carnage of our precious wildlife?


“All over the world the wildlife that I write about is in grave danger. It is being exterminated by what we call the progress of civilization.” ~Gerald Durrell

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