THE STORY OF OVERBERG WILDnFREE
It was a beautiful morning on Friday 7 August 2015, when I happen to experience probably the worst day of my life. As an employee of a nature conservation company, I'm used to driving colleagues to and from reserve entrances on gravel roads and way into raw nature...where a lot of wild beauties feel safe and have inhabitated the area. One of these areas being Stanford. On my way to drop of an employee this morning an awesome and at the same time most horrible picture unfolded in front of me. As usual I was driving at about 40 to 50km/h when we suddenly saw the pair of caracals hopping out from the bushes along the road and were running just along the road in front of our vehicle. I slowed down even more so to have a good look as this is a rare sight to see a male and female together. Caracals, as I learned this morning , never walk in a pair....unless it is mating season....which it is now.
Now I understand why I always just saw one of them at a time in the mornings or late afternoons when driving that road.
As the vehicle approached the two, suddenly the two crossed the road right in front of the bakkie....there was no time to stop. They were too close. They rolled in underneath the bakkie and I knew it was not good...as I stopped and got out of the bakkie....there they were. The male was convulting .....it was a horrible horrible site....the young female was laying in the road, in tremendous pain, and trying to move out of the road to the side...but she was unable to.....the wheels of the bakkie had hit her back and her pulvic bone and both hips were broken...she was paralysed down from her lower back...! As I moved closer, she used her front body and legs to pull her paralysed back part away ....this site, together with her mating male a few meters further, was the most horrifying experience I have ever had...but even more worse, here was just NOTHING I could do!
I felt like running to her and embraced her and tell her how sorry I was, that I did not mean to hurt her, hit her, or to kill her mate...but she was in stress and tremendous shock...
All I could do was to call for help from the experts...
I got hold of Lizaene from Panthera Africa, a wild cat sanctuary in Stanford. What an extraordinary woman. Soft and kind-hearted, Lizaene wasted no time and was there in a very short period. She tried to captivate the female but this lady was in too much shock and pain to let us even touch her. She suggested that we call Dr Marc Walton from Hermanus Animal Hospital in an attempt to see if she could be rescued.
Dr Marc Walton was reached, cancelled two appointments and came in a flash....the dearest man, with a heart for animals I learned, but also for people. He immediately calmed me down before approaching the female who now was at the side of the road and very much in shock pain and agony. The news was devastating...she will have to be put down...there was nothing he could do. She would have have to lived paralysed for the rest of her life. She would not be able to hunt ever again and that is all she ever knew...so she would not be able to be rehabilitated.... And the seriousness of her injuries was fatal.
Dr Marc put this beauty down so softly, so quick and with so much care, knowledge and respect, it was hair raising beautiful to experience his love and respect as he chooses to inject the last medicine directly to a cardiac vein...to make it as easy for her ( and all of us there) as possible.
We all left the scene, but my heart was broken. I just could not move on. I cried for days, and even weeks. I stopped at the spot about twice or three times week and just broke down in tears again and again.
Lizaene from Panthera Africa offered to bury the two on their premises. She made a beautiful grave, with a little cross, and wrote "Lived wild and free"
I tried to connect a name to these two beauties, to have something personal to hold on to, and there it was, their names were Wild and Free!! Wild for the male , and Free for the female. ....
And this, dear friends, was how Overberg WildnFree and the project for the caracal signs on this road and other roads where the risk is also high, was born.....
Please support us to warn other motorist (that are actually speeding, not driving 40 or 50km per hour like I was, but up to 100km per hour! ) to PLEASE mind our beautiful wildlife, and drive slow in THEIR territory. We are the intruders, not them. They are suppose to be there, we not.