by Ric Garvey
In 1946 Kenya's first wildlife park was formed, the Nairobi National Park, where animals were protected and the public could come to view and photograph them. Ric Garvey worked at the animal orphanage there, where injured and orphaned wildlife were cared for until they could be released, or found a new home in a zoo (a few remained at the orphanage their entire lives) Animal Orphanage not only tells about the author's experiences at the orphanage and the various animals they raised, but also of wildlife frequently observed in the surrounding area. Like No Room in the Ark, their opinions of the animals were often biased- the lion was considered noble, the camel haughty, the wild dog vile.
On the other hand, the writing is friendly and I enjoyed most of the stories. There are flamingos rescued from a dried-up lake, an infant giraffe coaxed to accept a bottle using marshmallows, chimps who steal glasses from visitors, a buffalo who refused freedom and wanted to return to his cage, and a rhino who repeatedly charged a train when the first railroad was built (the rhino lost). I also enjoyed the few bits of African folklore explaining things like how the leopard got his spots, or why a rhino spreads his dung around (these are not friendly children's stories like Rudyard Kipling!) There was also a most curious case of an unknown disease which spread through the orphanage, attacking only the cats. One leopard survived, his body covered in scabs. Astonishingly, his coat lost its beautiful colors and was all black and grey. After he healed, his usual colors returned. The author attributed this to something in sunlight, but when I searched online for an explanation, I could find none (all my google attempts coming up with info about sick geckos).
It was interesting to come across in the pages of Animal Orphanage reference to other books I own or have read. One of their lions, Ugas, was given to the Adamsons and used in the filming of Born Free. I'm pretty sure I've read about Ugas in one of the Adamson's books. Another lion went to live in the Whipsnade zoo, where Gerald Durrell worked during his apprenticeship. And when describing the physical attributes of the giant forest hog, Garvey quotes "Mr. C.T. Astley Maberly in his most accurate book Animals of East Africa". This sounded familiar, so I searched my shelves and came up with that very book (as yet unread), a field guide to African wildlife.
Rating 3/5 ......... 168 pages, 1967