Here’s a heartwarming story about how our community has come to the aid of an ailing leopard named Zorro. As you may know, leopards are considered ‘near threatened’ in Southern Africa due to decreasing numbers, as a result of the encroachment and destruction of natural habitat by biped creatures with phones, supermarkets and an insatiable desire to build malls – in other words, us.
Here’s the story as it unfolded, as told by Catherine Nyquist, founder and managing director of Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary:
“Panthera Africa is a true sanctuary that focuses solely on animal welfare and does not breed, trade or offer any public interaction.
Tuesday last week, Zorro, our beautiful leopard boy, was vasectomised as Zorro lives with Pardus, a female leopard. Unfortunately there were great complications a couple of days after the surgery, and after following our gut instinct, we took action Monday morning and knew that Zorro needed immediate vet care from the specialist Dr Peter Caldwell. We knew that Zorro would not survive a 17 hour drive, so the only option was an airplane.
Everyone we knew was contacted and through Rob Erasmus from Enviro Wildfire Services (who has acted as AfrikaBurn’s fire safety officer for the past 2 years), we finally found our solution when we got in contact with Captain Tom Goldschmidt from AfrikaBurn (who is the event’s Airspace and airstrip volunteer manager).
The critical situation was explained and he humbly told us that this would be a very costly situation, and with tears in my eyes and a lump in my voice, I explained that we will make it happen for our Zorro! Less than 20 minutes later, Tom called back with a solution to fly him via Streamline Air Charter, but it was going to be R90 000! I nearly fell to the floor, but knew that our saving account could just about handle it, but Zorro is worth all the money in the world.
During the next hour Zorro fell even worse, and his breathing got very heavy and Lizaene and I were scared that this was it! I ran as fast as I could back to the house, and called Tom and Christian from Streamline Air Charter, and said we need to push, and just go for it! Christian asked me how the leopard was doing, and I could get barely get a word out, and all I said was “He needs help now! He is barely breathing…”
Within the next three hours, Lizaene, Zorro and I arrived at the airport and was on our way to Pretoria. Waiting for us when we arrived was Christian, and the vets, and we rushed to the clinic and immediately they started on him. They did body scans, x-rays and blood tests, and after two dreadful hours, Doctor Peter told us that his condition is critical and too unstable to operate. They had to wait ’til the next morning for his condition to improve. At 8 o’clock we were back at the clinic and were told that Zorro was stable and ready for surgery, however it was going to be a long and complicated surgery and his chances were 50/50.
The next three hours seemed like forever, and we finally got the call just before 1pm, and could come to see the last part of the surgery. Zorro, miraculously, made it through the three hour operation, and his vitals were stable, but his condition was still critical. Dr Peter needed to open up his tummy to do an infection control, as well as operate on his bladder and reconstruct his ureter. The damages were severe, but he was positive as the greatest concern of bacterial infection was not the case, and rather a clinical situation. Zorro is still in the critical stage, and for the next three days we still need to hope and pray that he will pull through.
Yesterday he stood up, had some water and walked outside, and his vitals are stable, so the signs are positive! Now it is just to take it day by day, and still pray for a speedy recovery and to have him back with us within the next 10 days!”
As of today (December 3rd), the costs of this entire operation have come to well over R100 000, but thanks to the generosity of private donors, some R23 500 has been raised to cover some of the expenses. However, if you’re able to assist those involved to cover some of their costs incurred, that would be truly appreciated.
UPDATE: It’s with really heavy hearts that we’ve got news that Zorro died on 5th December, due to kidney failure. Those who put up the money to try and save him by flying him to Wonderboom in Pretoria are heartbroken, and out of pocket.
Donations can be made to:
Name: Panthera Africa
Account #: 62459961142
Branch code: 250655
Huge thanks and congratulations to Tom, and massive thanks to those in the aviation industry who’ve agreed to drop their rates by 25% in the interest of saving a leopard’s life.