Tag Archives: Girl

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.

An update on Rosy

Rosy the male Crowned Eagle with cataracts was taken out of his shed three weeks ago. The measurements taken by Dr Tony Walia and Dr Nonee Magre at the Kikuyu Eye hospital were circulated by email and we received the great news that Ingeborg Fromberg, the head of Acrivet ([email protected]) had a few suitable lenses and other vital equipment which she wished to donate to us. It only needed a suitable box number and physical address to send it to. As I live in the sticks, the chances of having a postman driving out to my house carrying a parcel were pretty slim. Dr Nonee Magre offered the Kenya Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (KSPCA) as a suitable address.

Nonee phoned me back this morning (27th Aug) saying that there had been a bit of a delay with regard to being able to do the surgery at Kikuyu Eye Hospital. Dr Walia reassured me that the matter would resolve itself in a positive way. The centenary celebration of the hospital are coming up soon, and the operation on an eagle is mostly recognized as a wonderful PR opportunity, but a few things needed to be done in order to placate a few.

Unfortunately it looks like the operation date may have to be pushed a few more weeks!! I do not have a few more weeks. Rosy, as always, seems to contrive to destroy my plans. The last few months have been tough enough making the resolve to leave, releasing birds, and giving some away. Rosy, the pillar of my life, is unquestionably my nemesis too. He is my brother. I love him. He will win, he always does. It is a typical love / hate relationship.

Girl (Photo by Dave Richards)

We are looking for another place to do the operation while we wait for the supplies to arrive. There is a more brutal approach to cataract operation involving a large incision of the cornea, and a manual extraction of the lens. Without the pin-hole type surgical equipment of today, this is how cataract surgery was done in the past. I even understood that the ancient Egyptians did something of the sort. But this would be a pity given that we do have the specialized equipment here.

Naturally, I could not help but wonder if the CITES regulations that successfully hindered his temporary export to South Africa for the operation could not at this late hour be reversed. But sadly there is no point in even trying, given that I still have not had a response from either South Africa or Kenya. Many have said it would take many months to get the permission, and the chances were slim.

I wrote a letter to my Mum the other day regarding Rosy and I deleted a cheesy comment that he was a part of my left arm. My Mum would scoff at that, as much as I do. It was not what I wanted to say. I dislike a spiritual approach regarding animals. No mystical gaze into the horizon to view my spiritual totem, and to seek their guidance etc. No there is no rainbow warrior insight, no heighten perception, for living with one eagle throughout my life.

When I went into Rosy and Girl’s shed to get him, he was a beast. Snatching and ripping at me and lifting three grown men off their feet in a single bench press of his legs. Biting and yelling at us while we put jesses back on him. I dreaded this moment for weeks and he did not disappoint us. We were pouring sweat and mid way through it I thought of my Dad, who passed away last year and how this would greatly amuse him. As a measure of his respect for Rosy, I noted in his old filing cabinet a file named “Rosy”. There was none of any other bird, animal or even of his children! He had written a script around Rosy, and a boy (me), and Rosy was one heck of a tough customer. Even now I reckon my Dad would have nothing but admiration for Rosy, as he sits outside on the lawn on his perch looking immaculate and proud. When Girl calls from her shed, Rosy calls back. The call is “This is my land”. Just as a lion’s roar. He owns with Girl a territory here and defended it for 16 years. I recorded him a few days ago and if I could figure it out I think I could share his call on this blog. Perhaps later.

What I meant to say to my Mum was that Rosy and I are back to our old relationship. I knelt down to pick him up talking to him the other day. He talked back. It is a very un-eagle like series of notes, but they portray worry, curiosity, concern, confidence and even gratitude. He cannot see a thing, not flinching even if I move my hand quickly to within an inch of his eyes. So when he steps gentle up onto the glove, he has to know it is there. He has to know it is me, for he hates others. The moment he is back on my arm he is happy. For fun I might work him into a pretend fury by growling at him and saying “Rosy is dozy and sometimes very dim!” The reaction I had from him 30 years ago has not changed one iota. Wham! He slams the glove. With evil passion he pummels the length of the glove making me wince in pain. Why I do it I do not know. But if ever I need a reminder of just how strong he is I do this (only with the 3 leather layers plus tyre reinforced glove). With his face an inch from mine he tends to bump his bill on my cheek or nose. He always did, and he does so now. We walk off, he perfectly balanced, my arm held in the same way that decades have taught us. I move, turn and place him back on his perch in a completely non-thinking manner and he like a dance partner follows my lead. You would not know he was blind. To say we are “one” is taking it far too far. But I should bet that few people have had relationships this close and this long….with anything, human or otherwise. Yes there is a sympathy, a prediction down to the finest movement of what the other thinks. It would be mad not to imagine that this is so.

Magu in the sun

In an hour I shall be putting Vero’s, the Verreaux’s Eagle on a plane flown by Tobi Dunn, to be delivered to Martin Wheeler at Tassia Lodge in Ill Ngwesi, Samburu District. I have never met Martin. I knew of him a few years ago when I met his teacher the late Ron Hartley. Ron was the leader of Zimbabwean raptor work and certainly the greatest falconer Africa ever produced. Ron said Martin was a wild one, but a good falconer. I am trusting you Ron.

Right now my heart is down and I am desperately worried that I am doing the right thing by leaving next month. But I have to remind myself that I have no choice. Life depends upon work and income. This has come to an end and what I am doing, as much as it destroys me to do it, must be done for the birds.