Category Archives: Cataract Operation for Rosy

Rosy and Girl part 2.

Rosy and Girl part 2.

Before finishing on Rosy and Girl’s breeding attempt I am happy to see that they still have followers of the blog! I apologise to them all for failing to keep up a routine. Truth is that exciting and positive things to report have been few and mundane entries are strictly prohibited in my book. However we are recognising a need to keep with it so as to raise awareness, and at some point try to expand and get raptor rehabilitation back on its feet again. Not that it is not so today, but all would admit it is low profile and coasting along awaiting official recognition and encouragement. I could get red in the face about various aspects of animal rehabilitation that are so often ignored that ultimately proves fatal. These are practised largely to conform to the myriad restrictions placed upon us.  But today there is a perceptible change back towards accepting public involvement and it is probable that we can grow and fill a sourly needed niche. There are thousands of raptors in need of care each year, but only a handful are brought in. This was not the case 20 years ago when I and others, were inundated with crippled birds. I guess one of the first things to do is to inform, and the internet (blogs) are one way of doing so.

So here goes: Rosy and Girl on eggs.

Rosy and Girl on nest

Rosy and Girl on nest

Just before February 2011 I was busy in Athi and the Mara doing other things, thinking all the while that I was more needed at Naivasha to tend to Rosy and Girl. Hatching can go wrong, and one can assist if need be, by prying miniscule pieces of egg shell away if the chick is exhausted. Easy to say as one would be having to fend off two fierce Velocaraptors with one arm. When I returned on the 2nd Feb to look in the shed, they were still on eggs. The eggs failed to hatch. We all hung on hope for a few more days until we knew nothing would happen. A great pity, for Girl seldom incubates an infertile egg. In the past she would sit on ¾ of the term and leave it without much concern. This time both she and Rosy sat determinedly and hung on well after the end.

Sarah Higgins, Mwanzia and I all felt it possible that disturbance may have contributed. It only needs a 20 minute period of absence during intense heat or cold for the eggs to die. There are fighting hippo crashing up against their shed, wandering students (not sure which is worse), and the occasional tractor. We closed up the area and crossed fingers.

In mid June they started to rebuild, in late June they were very active, in early July they were mating, in mid July things calmed down. We are having a problem feeding them the right food. I have to admit here that we feed them rabbits too seldom (dead rabbits). It is the only food that nears their diet (of monkeys, small antelope etc). To fill in the bulk is beef, and turkey heads. Neither have the nutritional value to keep them in prime health or get them breeding. Rabbits now cost as much as a goat did and contrary to popular belief they do not breed anywhere near fast enough to feed one pair of eagles. However we found some good food in mid June and hey presto, they were mating again. On 21 of July I came back from fixing my car to find them incubating! I think it is one egg, but will leave them a few days before I check.

Boo Boo the Tawny Eagle

Boo Boo the Tawny Eagle

In the next few days I will be releasing a Tawny Eagle called BooBoo. This is a bird that was found being sold on the side of the street, rescued by a pilot, part trained, rescued by another pilot and given to Sarah Higgins. I would pass by and fly it down below the house near the lake shore. Now BooBoo is ready to go. I’ll put a radio on her and have a team of volunteers at Soy Sambu Conservancy all fired up to keep a daily eye on her.

Rosy and Girl, back together.

News on Rosy and Girl:

Those of you who remember Rosy and his cataract eye operations may be curious to know how he is getting on. The truth was that for months after his operations and prolonged treatment he was a shadow of his former self, usually sitting idle in his corner half blind and unable to interact with Girl, his mate of some 25 years. He could not easily find his food or build a nest and he just spent his day loafing with glazed eyes. Every now and then he’d crash into the shed wall and our hearts would sink. I had little hope and therefore no reason to write about him when in so pathetic a state. While it has been incredible that he could see a bit and look after himself we’ve all been disappointed that it was not a miraculous total recovery. But sometimes he’d surprise us all by being seen high up on a perch looking cocky. How did he get there?

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Girl inspects Rosy's DIY skills.

 For the last year and more I usually spend 2 to 3 days in one place before heading off to another destination in my camper car. It (then) hadn’t resulted, as I had hoped, in employment or a place to live. But I think I am doing a number of worthy things and being productive nevertheless. But when I am utterly fed up with everything and in despair, I end up going to see Rosy and Girl now happily housed at Sarah Higgins’s sanctuary at Naivasha. I feel good and among family when I see them. When I visited in October 2010 Rosy and Girl, were showing distinct signs of breeding.  They would sometimes sit side by side. Rosy would try to get the food to the nest, or Girl would take a sprig of green leaves in her bill and look confused. In mid December, while asleep in my car roof top tent behind their shed I was awoken by Girl calling at night. That was always a sure sign when we were all together in Athi that she was thinking of breeding. It was a low monotone call, somewhat sad and foreboding. I went down to see them in their pen in the morning and saw Rosy at one end low down on his usual perch and Girl up in the old nest. Nothing had changed.

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Rosy and Girl on nest

By mid October 2010 I was helping Masumi Gudka to do a Fish Eagle/pesticide project. We were all staying at Sarah Higgin’s place where she also has a research facility. I heard Rosy and Girl make a “mating” call! By the time I rushed down to their shed I saw nothing other than Rosy and Girl on the nest looking innocent. But Rosy was on the nest….a rare feat for him. Over the next few weeks Mwanzia and I with the help of Sarah’s workshop fundis put together a King Sized eagle bed, built for having large and strapping eaglets. A massive iron structure some 2.2m across was set, with some danger to life and limb, on top of their old nest. Not only is the centre nest tree flimsy, but Rosy and Girl could of course drop you with one single blow. We then added a few extra poles to assist Rosy in getting to the nest. Within minutes after we departed Rosy was in there busying himself with nest renovations. By late November he was totally at home nest building and rearranging. I suspected that they had mated, but I was not sure. Still almost blind, his determination is so admirable that it just makes all of us stand back and shake our heads with wonder. He is incredibly clever at using what senses he has at doing what he was always good at. He used to be an exceptional nest builder and father who used to take on incubation, brooding and feeding chores with rare dedication. During the beginning of his current nest duty he would charge threateningly down the perch to collect fresh green branches we placed for him. He would return to the nest to place it with artistic flourish in the bowl, and I smiled a lot for no very good reason. I haven’t smiled in this paternal stupid way since they last had a chick in late 2005. Rosy and Girl look to be back in business, and with them I feel as though things never changed. It would be better than just “good” if they did breed. It would defy all that stood in the way. Much did, and I still harbour simmering anger at those that did harm and ruin so good a thing. But this great news would surely delight all those that helped by gave funds when Rosy needed two cataract operations. Those that contributed and those that did the surgery and cared for him would all finally feel it worth their while. Rosy and I owe so many people, especially Sarah Higgin’s. Above all, everyone can rest assured that the operation was no failure and Rosy and Girl are back together.

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Eagle foreplay. NB: Closed 3rd eyelid.

(At this point I had hoped to close one blog entry so as to build suspense for the next. But caution ruled and I did not post it. Part 2 of the story follows)

In January 2011 they were both busy making the nest. It was impossible now to enter without Rosy or Girl attacking. When the mating call was being made I would rush down and just miss it. Sarah too would dash to see what was happening. Only Mwanzia witnessed them mating, but something was not exactly right. When I finally did see them mate I was confused to see Girl on top of Rosy! It is a very rare thing for eagles to do. Physiologically the mechanics of the whole process just don’t work in this position.  I assumed Girl was frustrated with Rosy’s ineptitude at this tricky task. It takes a lot of caution (those feet could kill the female), and balance to mate. But every time Rosy looked near to mating (lots of nibbling and foreplay etc), Girl would back off. Rosy is smaller than Girl and I worried that this odd mating position could end in serious injury. Girl’s feet are massive. However on one occasion in late January I rushed to the peep hole to see Rosy dismounting. What happened I was unable to tell.

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The nest and eggs. The metal nest rim can just be seen.

On the 2nd Feb 2011 I came in exhausted from a long drive to look into their shed and see only Rosy. Alarmed I swung open the door and entered, only to have Girl rise like a massive demon from the nest and glower with gaping mouth and open wings. She was on an egg! Rosy stood statuesque and in solemn pose a few feet away. His demeanour may look calm and composed, but he was anything but. Had I stepped one more foot into the shed he would have flung himself at me and Girl would have certainly followed. I raced off to tell Sarah. When I returned to Naivasha a week later Girl was on two eggs!

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An egg! Girl attacked so photo poor!

Eagles, unlike people have two birthdays. There is cause for celebration when the egg is laid, and there is yet another celebration when it hatches. In a way, the nail chewing period stretches the entire incubation period for nearly two months. If one or more eggs hatch, Sarah, Mwanzia and I would be thrown into disarray. Good food will be the top priority, and not easy to find.

Of course this is something of a record. Rosy is the only eagle in the world with 2 artificial lenses. He is the only one with such a disability to breed. That both are in the mid thirties is also a feat of sorts. And in Africa captive breeding eagles of any sort is extremely rare. On top of all that, not much was going for them when Sarah stepped in and helped us all out when we had to separate and go our different ways. One thing is for sure, I have felt an inexorable pull towards them and failed hopelessly in the attempt to rid myself of the birds and get a “real job”. I can’t, and should they have a chick I see it as inevitable that I slide back into doing what I always enjoyed. Breeding eagles and releasing their young is about the only thing that has made sense to me in a conservation world utterly bogged down in semantics, strategic plans, funding proposals, jargon and futile inaction. Rare is it to break through and actually work with wildlife make it grow, nurture it and set it free.

(Here I end the second blog entry……read on if you wish to know what happened!)

Rosy’s News

Guest post by Sarah Higgins, who’s taking care of Rosy and Girl and many others. More to come!

There has not been an update on Rosy for a while as there was nothing new to report. Rosy’s sight still leaves a lot to be desired. Dr. Dan came to see him and measured his eyes in January and was able to report that the lenses are nearly perfect and that if everything were OK he should be able to see normally. But, and this is the big ‘but,’ although the fibrin has receded from his right eye he still can’t really see anything out of that eye. He can distinguish light and dark and some movement but will still try to fly through the wall if disturbed. It is assumed that there must have been some damage to the retina in that eye. The left eye was, at that time, filled yet again with the dreaded fibrin and there was discussion as to whether to operate for a third time. We all eventually agreed that we would not rush into this and would wait and see what happens.

rosy july 2009
Rosy in July, 2009

Girl at Navaisha, july 2009
Rosy’s Girl

Six months later it appears that the fibrin is beginning to recede. There is still a fair amount of it but it is definitely less and just perhaps Rosy can see a little round the outside of it. I’m excited about this and am now full of hope again, although I realise that whatever happens it will not happen instantly. Please keep sending your good thoughts to Rosy, he needs all the help he can get.

Rosy’s eye check up

Rosy the Crowned Eagle has not been improving as well as we hoped after two cataract operations. Dr. Dan Gradin, the ophthalmologist who did the operations, was going to be in Naivasha and he and Sarah Higgins had arranged a meeting on Saturday, January 24. Laila and I were able to meet them.

The last time I met Dan he was first in a floppy surgeon’s overalls, with mask and surgeon’s cap. After the surgery he morphed into a regular sort and took off on his heavy motorbike. On this occasion he was wearing a Scout Master’s uniform as he was in the middle of taking a number of children out camping.

We gathered up Rosy from his shed. Girl, his wife, was very distraught and hung from the roof. They both hate these examinations but it must be done.

The right eye, which looks the worst because of its torn pupil does see something. But it does not allow Rosy to see his perch properly or to fly up and sit with Girl. Last week we saw him take off from his perch and fly straight into a solid wall! The wall was fully lit, and surrounding it were deep shadows. If you squinted and pretended you were near blind you could understand that to him it might seem like open sky.

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Rosy’s right eye

Dan had a look at this eye and tested its refraction by bouncing light from a special gadget off the back of the retina. He was able to measure the eye’s focus, and although he said it was slightly too long-sighted he was pleased with the result. The smoky fibrin goo that had obscured the lens had receded allowing a completely clear path. But it does seem that although the lens is clear the inability of the eye to see clearly stems from a damaged retina. This eye on two occasions had suffered from glaucoma, and on the first occasion it was very severe and we wondered at the time if the retina would be permanently damaged.

The left eye, with its neat round pupil was obscured by a fibrin coat. The pupil itself acts as a matrix close enough to allow the fibrin to cling to it and bridge the gap.

Dan had the tough job of telling us that he felt the chances of improving Rosy’s sight was very slim. About as much chance as finding oil off the Kenya coast.

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Dan examining Rosy’s eyes

We released Rosy and he turned on us threateningly. He has guts!

Rosy may or may not undergo another operation. Dan first needs to communicate with some of his colleagues. What we do not want is to stress Rosy unnecessarily. If another operation will not improve his eyes then it makes no sense to try. The left eye might have a good retina. There are tests that can be done using a machine that measures retina function, but such a thing is not available in Kenya. If we knew the retina was OK then surgery to clear the lens would be advisable. It may be necessary to take Rosy to South Africa, or bring the necessary machines and technicians to Kenya.

Rosy remains enormously strong. He functions semi-normally in his huge shed. Girl is capable of breeding or even being released. Rosy cannot breed in this condition. We have discussed the idea of giving Girl her chance at a better life. But I am certain that if Girl goes out of Rosy’s life, he’ll have nothing to live for. Eagles mate for life, and although they will find a new partner if one dies, Rosy is likely to be confused and without much to do. We still have not given up hope.

If you love Rosy and Girl, Digg this story!

Up and Down Week for Rosy and His Team

From Sarah Higgins

This has been a week of ups and downs. Rosy had an operation on both of his eyes on Saturday the 11th and now we are back to putting drops in his eyes four times a day. He was a very much quieter bird for the first few days after the operation, which was hardly surprising, but there were definite signs that now he really can see something. Prior to the operation he was always ‘scanning’ or ‘reading’ (as I am told it is called) which indicated that he could see nothing, but that has stopped altogether since this latest op. Now he points his beak or left eye right at you when you talk to him. I don’t think that he can see too much yet, but part of that is because of the milky steroids that were injected into his eye.

On the 15th he started calling again and called four times that day and was answered twice by Girl who was perched on the branch within her ‘palace’ that overlooks where Rosy spends his days. BUT the same day that Rosy started calling I could see the dreaded fibrin again, poking its way through Rosy’s newly opened right pupil. My heart dropped down to my boots and I sent of a picture of the eye to Doctor Dan. He too was disappointed but not despondent.

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Rosy on October 15

The next day when I went to see Rosy I had my camera slung round my neck. I approached him from the left and as I bent forward to greet him the camera swung forward towards him and he nearly jumped out of his feathers. There is absolutely no doubt that he saw something coming at him although he probably couldn’t make out what it was. Despite this, when I looked into his left eye this too was showing signs of the fibrin beginning to fill up behind the pupil, although not nearly as severely as was happening in the right eye. Yet another photo was sent to Doctor Dan who again was not despondent and assured me that the steroids that he injected into the eye should eventually clear everything up. He said that Rosy’s eyes were reacting exactly like a human baby’s eyes do and that things really should start to look better soon.

Because the news was basically depressing I was reluctant to write up my Rosy Report. But today it looks as if the fibrin is beginning to retreat from his right eye and so things are definitely looking rosier. The big boy still chats to me in his silly little un-eagle-like voice when I spend time with him but that same voice is also regularly raised to its full volume as he claims his territory and makes absolutely sure that no one is going to trespass on HIS patch or try to steal his Girl.

rosy october 18
Rosy on October 18

Please keep sending your good thoughts to Rosy as I am sure that it all helps in the healing process and we do so want him to be able to see again and be able to go back to his lonely Girl.

Return from Naivasha: Rosy, Eagle Sightings

Rosy stepped out of the kennel and onto the glove with a vigour he has not shown for months. I walked him about and reassured him in soft tones that all was well. For the last few months during his complete blindness, he had been mellow and calm. He also “read” – a term used when a hooded (blindfolded) raptor scans his head back and forth as if reading a book. This habit is a sure sign that he was blind. Now he stood with his head still and looking hard. Today he was nervous. This is great news, and I was hopelessly emotional for only a short while till Mwanzia came walking down the path.

Rosy two days post-op
Picture of Rosy this morning

After breakfast, we thanked Sarah and Mike for being such great hosts, for us and the eagles. We got to Nairobi and dropped in to see Dr. Munir Virani, a colleague now heading the African programme for the Peregrine Fund. We then went together to Ngong Forest to view the Crowned Eagle nest where Virani and a photographer friend hope to build a hide. The nest is remarkably exposed, easy to access, and very close to high human density. We discussed various options to minimise the level of disturbance on this apparently tolerant pair. We also talked of the enormous development projects regarding the rural electrification of Africa and the apparent loss of environmental issues in the haste to get this mandate completed. Just what can be done to insure human development and not compromise wildlife and raptors in particular is an enormous challenge.

Approaching home from Nairobi, we turned off into Portland cement ranch. Immediately there were the large herds of wildlife and we aimed for the Martial Eagle nest. This is an odd site as we saw the adult male and female, large chick on nest as well as a 3-year-old sub-adult that was completely tolerated at the nest.

Driving on, we encountered an over-wintering near-adult Steppe Eagle, and three Tawny Eagles as well as a half dozen White backed Vultures roosting in a few yellow fever trees. It was an opportunity to compare these two similar eagles.

tawny eagle at portland cement
Tawny Eagle

steppe eagle at portland cement
Steppe Eagle

Finally arriving home near sunset, Tim flew in and landed on my back as I ducked down to avoid him. Laila then fed him in the evening light. Poor Tim, he still thinks we are family. Thankfully, he is not stupid and I am sure he would not do this with strangers. I hoped he would leave of his own accord, but as he persists in coming home, another solution may need to be found. We could, for example, release him along with the Bearded Vulture near the Tanzanian border in a beautiful mountainous location.

Rosy Recovers After His Operation

Rosy stepped out of his dog kennel and onto the glove this morning still groggy from yesterday’s operation. He was a little different from usual in that he was more active in moving his head and scanning the world through open, if bleary, eyes. The eyes themselves were opaque, but that was to be expected given the recent operation and the injections of milky white anti-inflammatory drugs.

Rosy getting his eye drops
Rosy getting his eye drops

He sat on his perch in the early morning sunlight, while I put various eye-drops into each eye. It seemed as though he flickered an eyelid before I touched him. I asked Mwanzia if he could look after him while Laila and I walked to view the lake shore and the incredibly tame herds of zebra and waterbuck. Pied Kingfishers and Great Cormorants offered superb photographic opportunities. The pair of resident Fish Eagles often sit on a flimsy dead tobacco plant overlooking the water and this morning, the male was there allowing us to approach within 50 meters.

We returned for a late breakfast with Sarah and Mike on their verandah accompanied by a menagerie of wild weavers, doves, babblers and finches that busied themselves establishing the pecking order of the day. The ancient pet African Grey Parrot added some pertinent comments to the conversation that could have only meant it understood the gist of what we were saying. I felt a disturbing awareness that I might have been more careful in what I said, lest I offend the bird! I am not a great parrot fan, maybe because I have an uneasy feeling that they know very much more that what you think. Besides, the worst bite I ever had was from a parrot.

After breakfast, we “coped” one of Sarah’s Marsh Owls, who had a slightly overgrown bill. “Coping” simply means trimming the bill or talons of hawks, eagles, falcons and owls. It entails the use of a sharp knife and a file. The idea is to remove the overgrown part and return it to normal shape. The Keratin part of the bill and talons has no nerves or blood supply so it is a painless task. But the owl was very indignant.

Sarah and marsh owl
Sarah and one of her Marsh Owls

We planned to visit friends Tommie and Annie at Carnelley’s Camp for lunch and then go to Hell’s Gate National Park. But the meal there was so good that we overstayed. Annie took showed us the newly fledged chick of a Fish Eagle, born in a massive tree in their garden. She is looking after one of the ugliest of all things, a baby Hadada Ibis, knocked from its nest at night. Despite its grotesque gargoyle shapelessness it was, of course, adorable.

At Hell’s Gate, we were unable to meet the Warden and the acting deputy. I had worked for some years in Hell’s Gate with students studying Augur Buzzards and Egyptian Vultures, and latterly releasing Bearded Vultures (Lammergeyers). I always had a great affection for Hell’s Gate and its towering cliffs. It is our hope that we can also do a census in the park and its nearby environs in order to continue to promote raptor conservation and awareness.

We returned to check on Rosy. He had not eaten much during the day, but this was not unexpected. He was much more jumpy than he had been since May 2008. As my hand approached his face to put the eye-drops in, he threatened it! I turned my head upside-down and he threatened that, too! Laila stood up and he followed her with his head. He definitely has more vision than at any period in the last five months. We can only pray that this improvement continues, especially as Girl sits confused and lonely in her grand breeding pen. I retired Rosy early to bed where he bounced about with something of his old belligerent manner.

Rosy’s Second Eye Operation

Laila and I drove to Naivasha to stay with Sarah and Mike Higgins on Friday night where I was able to reunite with Rosy and Girl for the first time in weeks. I was shocked at the condition of his eye, but Rosy was in good spirits and was particularly talkative. The iris of the right eye had, within the last few days, burst forward to coat the inner side of the cornea. Sarah had earlier sent Dr. Dan Gradin a photo of this eye by e-mail. Dan viewed this as an emergency requiring immediate surgery. I went to the shed to see Girl, and half hoped that she would be pleased to see me. But she was not and made it clear by launching herself around the shed in mad abandon. We did manage to exchange a few words after she recognized me.

Early next morning, after taking pictures of wildebeest, zebra and waterbuck at the lake shore, I took Rosy out for a short walk to enjoy the warmth of the sun. He leaned his body against me as we had done for so many years and seemed happy. But he was totally blind.

view of animals from Girl’s shed
View of animals from Girl’s shed

We were able to convene at Dr. Barry Cockar’s clinic on Saturday at 10 a.m. After taking pictures in the morning light by the lake shore, we all had breakfast and then drove to Dr. Cockar’s, with Sarah following close behind. We arrived late but safe.

We met Dr. Barry Cockar, Dr. Nonee Magre and Dr. Dan Gradin and soon anaesthetized Rosy and proceeded with the operation to relieve the glaucoma. Pressure was immediately reduced by puncturing the iris. Within a minute, the iris collapsed and returned to near normal shape. Dan removed a coat of fibrin from the acrylic lens but in the process he had to remove some of the iris. He joked that should he be photographed, we would have to use his “good side.” The iris shape may look odd but it is of little consequence to good vision.

Dr. Gradin looking down the scope
Dr. Dan Gradin looking down the scope

Rosy’s support group
Rosy’s support group

The other eye needed similar treatment. The lens was coated with an amazingly tough layer but the process was very much shorter than the previous operation. Both eyes were injected with steroids and anti-inflammatory agents that are slow release and would inhibit the fibrin growth.

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Drs. Nonee Magre and Barry Cockar preparing injections

During the operation, Rosy awoke and leapt about scattering people and equipment. This relieved the tension as there were times when it was difficult to hear his heart beat or breathing.

Like last time, we retired for a great lunch at the Cockar’s house. It was great to stand back and watch Rosy’s support team gather together on a veranda. We all had his interest at heart. Rosy was handed around and held like a baby as he recovered from the anaesthesia.

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Rosy and Barry

We drove back with Rosy recovering on Laila’s lap. That night he spent standing up in his dog kennel. He did react to light, and the prognosis is good that he will see again. How well is not known.

Rosy and Laila on way home
Rosy recovering on journey back

Crowned Eagle Faces Another Eye Operation

We are in Naivasha as Rosy the Crowned Eagle is set to undergo emergency surgery on his eyes tomorrow. We get online as often as we can and when Simon checked his inbox yesterday, e-mails were flying around between all concerned parties about a sudden change in Rosy’s right eye. It seems he has glaucoma which, if left, could be disastrous.

Rosy’s eye pre-op

We were up before the sun this morning to drive Jim, a friend and fellow wildlife enthusiast who teaches baseball here in Kenya every year, to the airport. We took advantage while we were in Nairobi to pick up the Range Rover, our expedition vehicle. It has been kitted out with a huge water tank and a tent that opens out on top of it. It was amazing to see this car that is effectively home for the coming year. It is not yet finished as it still needs to be kitted out with fuel and gas tanks but it looks and feels good already.

While we were at Bali’s garage, picking up the car, Simon was madly on the phone and it was soon established that Rosy would undergo surgery tomorrow. Sarah Higgins and her husband Mike kindly invited us to stay with them in Naivasha tonight so that we could be there first thing to bring Rosy back to the vet clinic. On arrival, Simon had a nice reunion with Rosy who seems to be in good spirits despite what must be a very painful condition. Girl is living in a large, well-designed shed that she seems pleased with.

A special treat for the evening was being able to photograph a pair of resident wild African Fish Eagles. Sarah has not only taken on Rosy and Girl but is also caring for an unreleasable Fish Eagle and a pair of Augur Buzzards. The good news is that the Augur Buzzards are on eggs which, if successful, should hatch within the coming days. We are keeping our fingers crossed. They have not yet bred successfully and if this is to be the year, Simon and I will return to release the young back to the wild.

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The future of Rosy’s eyes

On the 25th Sept 2008, I woke up early and started the process of packing Rosy and Girl’s stuff into the car. At 8am, Mwanzia, Jonathan and I walked into the shed to catch Girl. She leapt from perch to perch frightened. Only 3 days previously she had escaped through the roof, bored and unhappy at being alone without Rosy. Luckily we were all outside at the time and we were able to drive after her. Weak with so little stamina from being cooped up in a small shed she was not fit enough to fly away. The small shed is twice the size of most exercise sheds in rehab centres, but still far too small to allow much muscle tone. Once she was trained and relatively tame and very fit. But these days she is wild. Now you have to catch her and that can be dangerous.

When she landed on the ground, we cornered her and threw a blanket over her head. I then injected her with Rompun, a very strong sedative. In 2 minutes we expected her to calm down and doze off. Half an hour later she was as vigorous as ever, and in a bad mood. I then entered alone and repeated the process. Another half hour past and I could not believe she was that strong. She weighs nearly twice as much as Rosy at some 12lbs. Finally, now late to get on the road, I used another drug on her and she went to sleep. Quickly I got Rosy in the far back, Mwanzia and Girl in the back seat and tore off for a tough 4.5 hour drive to Naivasha, dodging truculent traffic police waving us down on the road, and endless potholes. Three quarters of the way there, Girl woke up enough to throw Mwanzia around the back of the car. One foot in his chest and it would be all over for him, but her feet were like a puppies, incapable of gripping anything.

At Sarah Higgin’s house at Naivasha, we arrived frayed and exhausted. Rosy had behaved very well, although in thick traffic passing Matatus with loud ‘music’ blaring out, he did get nervous and try to struggle free. Blind but strong he sat it out patiently.

Immediately Sarah, Mike and I with a small entourage took the eagles down to the shed. Just finished and looking very fine under the shade of large yellow fever trees. We took the opportunity to get pictures of Sarah holding Girl, still a bit dozy from the drugs. We released her in familiar surroundings. The shed looked just like the old breeding shed in which she had been calm enough to raise families. Only the view outside was different. Not that much different, it has a sweeping view of wildebeest and giraffe too.
In 10 minutes I explained to Sarah the drugs, and the order in which they should be used. There really isn’t a strict order of use. You have some to lower the eye pressure, some to keep infection away and another to expand the pupil, one to inhibit protein. It started to rain, and I did not have headlights for the car, so I was on my way back in a very short time. I was, as can be imagined, very confused. This was the first time I had ever left Rosy or Girl in someone else’s care. Arriving home at dark with no headlights, I had 12 hrs to pack before leaving for UK and Ireland. I would be back in just over one week, and was grateful that I had these as a distraction.

Meanwhile the question remains as to whether or not Rosy will ever see. I have over the last few weeks accepted that he might not, and I haven’t considered putting him down. I sought confirmation in this from others as would most in my position. It is a weak thing to do. A few I had talked to did not understand why I would bother suggesting that he be kept alive when blind. I remembered an old colleague of mine who had a blind Red tailed Hawk, which he would show people and educate kids and appear on TV. He went on to do great things, and the hawk led some sort of valued life too. Mwanzia and Jonathan referred to Rosy and Samson. He is blind yet terribly powerful. When I last saw him in a shed with Sarah and others standing before him. He stood on one leg, preened and stared about him. Had he been sighted one or more of us would have been immediately hospitalized. But he had won over everyone there. Mwanzia has stayed on to be his minder. In that group the question of putting him down would not arise. Rosy was as alert and independent as most pets, and certainly better able to defend himself than almost all.

Sarah sent some pictures of the eyes to Dan Gradin and I read his comment back, thousands of miles away in a little upstairs room in my sister’s house in Canterbury. It was a very unfamiliar environment for me, and Rosy did not seem far away at all. Dan’s response was that he was surprised that Rosy could not see a thing despite the current condition of the eyes. Perhaps there was more damage; perhaps the retina was damaged too. I like to doubt this as I saw he had a good pupil reflex before and just after surgery. But he will have to be checked soon for this.

If Rosy requires it, additional surgery to remove the fibrin coat is possible. I am sure everyone agrees. If as it may turn out he needs a fresh new lens in each eye, then this too could be considered. At no point has he shown any sign of depression. If we have the technology to make him see, then we should try everything possible to make this happen. But I am now not his keeper and these options depend very much on just how long it will take for him to recover.
Laila and I hope to see Rosy and Girl as soon as we get back. Sarah and Mike have been incredibly hospitable, realizing the problem, and coming to the rescue of us all.