14 August 2016

Tenikwa - Wildlife Awareness Centre Plettenberg Bay

Meeting people with passion is always humbling - this is surely the case at Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre where the staff are incredibly passionate about the animals that they care for, as well as those who are able to be rehabilitated after surgery or medication.

One gets a sense of pride in all that they have achieved since their humble beginnings in 2002.
The atmosphere is calming despite the fact that there are big cats so close by!!

Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre - Leopard
 "This cat, in its melanistic color phase, is often mistakenly referred to as a black panther. This species has been (and is still) illegally hunted throughout its range for sport and for its fur"
"Leopards are solitary cats and use the same methods as the other cats for defining their territory: scent marking, feces and scratch marks. It has a variety of vocalizations including grunting, growling, hissing and meowing. One of their most recognized sounds is their distance call which sounds something like someone sawing wood"

 "The leopard is the smallest member of the 4 “great cats” and most closely resembles its cousin the Jaguar. Leopards vary in length from 3 – 6.25 ft with a tail length of 22.5 – 43 inches and stand 17.5 – 30.5 inches high at the shoulder. Males weigh between 80 – 150 pounds and females between 62.5 – 100 pounds. This spotted cat has short powerful limbs, heavy torso, thick neck and long tail. Its short sleek coat varies greatly from pale straw and gray buff to bright, deep ochre and chestnut and sometimes black (found mostly in wetter, dense forests). Large black spots grouped into rosettes on the shoulders, upper arms, back, flanks and haunches and smaller scattered spots on the lower limbs, head, throat and chest and the belly has large black blotches"

Leopard at Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre

Serval At Tenikwa

"Often referred to as the cat of spare parts, this unusual, but beautiful cat is among the feline family’s most successful. It has a small, delicate head and extremely large ears set on an elongated neck, long slim legs (hind legs longer than front), long slender body and a short tail. The ears are black on the back with a distinctive white spot and the tail has 6 or 7 black rings and a black tip. The coat color is pale yellow with black markings, either of large spots that tend to merge into longitudinal stripes on the neck and back, or of numerous small spots, which give a speckled appearance".

This one is very friendly and we were warned to stand still so that the cat could rub against our legs!
There is a NO TOUCHING policy so please do abide by this when visiting Tenikwa!
The Rehabilitation Centre is not open to the public as the injured animals require rest and a quiet space in which to recover. Most are returned to the wild unless they are unable to fend for themselves due to the nature of their injuries. This type of work takes dedication and passion for wildlife.

Animals that are not able to be released into the wild for various reasons, are housed in large tracts of land. Boardwalks offer great views of these animals so that the public can be educated on the various species of cats such as African Wild Cat, Caracals, Cheetah, Leopard and Servals.

"The word “Cheetah” is derived from the Hindi word ” Chita ” meaning “spotted one”. The Cheetah is the fastest land animal reaching speeds of 45 – 70 mph".

My favourite of the big cats has always been the cheetah and Tenikwa offer both a Sunrise and Sunset Cheetah walk to view these magnificent animals. Unfortunately, our time was limited - next time we are in Plett, this will be top of our "MUST DO" list!

"The Cheetah is a tall and elegant cat in appearance. Large chest, narrow waist, long thin legs and a slim well muscled build this animal was definitely made for speed. The Cheetahs coat varies from a tawny to golden tone covered in a pattern of solid black spots averaging .75″-1.5″ in diameter. The Cheetahs beautiful pelt became more protected in 1970, when the fur trade regulations were strengthened. The fur is coarse to the touch not silky as it appears. The Cheetah’s long thick tail has spots, which turn into rings and at the end is tipped with white. The throat and abdomen are a creamy white in color. The Cheetah has a small head with high set eyes and short rounded ears tipped with white on the back. The most well known characteristic is however the distinct black “tear mark”, which runs from the inside corner of the eye down to the corner of the mouth".

Lion at Tenikwa

The lions are very happy in their large enclosure and certainly made for some interesting moments.
The boardwalk is very well done - so one is safe but able to view the animals up close if they happen to be near by.

"The white lion is not a separate subspecies but rather caused by a recessive gene. Big, dark manes on male lions are an indication of health and vigor and these males are favoured by females. White lions do occur naturally in the wild but they are rare"

" Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day.  Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socialising, grooming, and defecating. Intermittent bursts of activity follow through the night hours until dawn, when hunting most often takes place. They spend an average of two hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating".

Social Interaction of Lions at Tenikwa

" The most common peaceful communications whilst lions are resting, are head rubbing and social licking which has been compared to grooming in primates. Nuzzling one’s forehead, face and neck against another lion – appears to be a form of greeting.  Lions tend to roar in a very characteristic manner, starting with a few deep, long roars that trail off into a series of shorter ones. They most often roar at night; the sound, which can be heard from a distance of 8 kilometres, is used to advertise the animal’s presence. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat".

Tenikwa offers a number of guest experience with the cats - do contact them for further information if you are in the Plettenberg Bay area of South Africa.

As they say and I quote:
"Come with an Open Mind, Tread with a lighter Step, Leave with a change of Heart"

We thoroughly enjoyed out tour at Tenikwa and hope to be back one day!  

(Text in " " Courtesy of Tenikwa) 

© Judelle Drake

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