Today I have to say goodbye… as Stavros said, ‘Goodbye to my friend’. You enriched many lives.
You arrived in 2014 and followed Heidi, the first sheep friend of Zeta, the rescued zebra. Zeta arrived at HESC (Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre) in 2010 as she was caught in a snare. Heidi was her first companion sheep and then Nungu joined Zeta and took over Heidi’s position.
Nungu and Zeta were extremely attached, with Nungu offering so much support and comfort as the zebra’s surrogate family. Granted, it was not always a smooth relationship. Once Zeta kicked Nungu, breaking her lower jaw, but Nungu was always loyal. Zeta was introduced to a new zebra friend – a hings (a male zebra), and Nungu’s duty in escorting Zeta and keeping her company came to an end.
Nungu stayed at HESC though, and from time to time, she would join a new rhino orphan or poaching victim, to provide much-needed company. Nungu was never very attracted to rhinos though, and always kept her distance. She retired officially in 2019.
Nungu and her orphan zebra friend, Zeta
As Khanyisa was spending more time in the bush and Lammie was lonely, and waiting for Khanyisa’s arrival at the gate ever so patiently, I decided to move Nungu to HERD, to join Lammie in 2021. Nungu spent her twilight years at HERD orphanage in the company of Lammie and for some time also joined Lammie and Khanyisa in the orphanage during the night. When Khanyisa graduated and left the orphanage to join Tokwe, Limpopo and the rest of the elephants at night in the homestead, Nungu and Lammie comforted each other. They browsed, walked, ate and slept together. They were companions and so content in each others company.
Last week, HESC received a baby rhino orphan, named Peter, and a new baby sheep, Pepper joined the little rhino. Pepper was very small and would “mê” (baaaa) a lot when people left her side. This was upsetting to Peter the rhino and wildlife vet, Dr Peter Rogers asked that a bigger and older sheep was brought in. Nungu would be perfect as she was calm and would make Pepper the sheep calmer around little Peter. Unfortunately Peter was not happy with the two sheep and attacked and stormed them while they were on the other side of the fence. Although Nungu was calm, she didn’t really have the energy to bond with Pepper.
When it started to rain and my son Xander escorted the sheep into the little house under the roof, to be protected from the rain, Nungu was unable to move or walk herself, and so he carried her. I had known for a long time that Nungu was at the end of her life, and her time was getting shorter by the day. It was still a difficult decision to let her go. She was part of our family at HERD, but she was tired. The rhino company would not be good for her.
Nungu had clearly come to the end of her journey – her journey as a friend, mom, and companion to the animals in our care. It was incredibly sad to say goodbye to Nungu this week, but we knew that the old gal was no longer strong and healthy. She had lost a lot of condition. Next to Lammie, we could especially see the difference. I had to make a call, for Nungu, I had to listen to her body. It had reached its limits.
Thank you, Nungu for being a friend and mom to those who had lost theirs. We will miss you and will cherish the moments you shared with all of us.
When we look up into the sky at night, your star will shine brightly.