Snowy just melts hearts

2016-03-01 06:00
Visitor Dominique plays with Snowy, who seems to have regained some degree of trust in humankind. PHOTO: Desirée Rorke

Visitor Dominique plays with Snowy, who seems to have regained some degree of trust in humankind. PHOTO: Desirée Rorke

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The first time she laid eyes on him, Alana Witberg’s heart was ripped from her chest.

“He had the saddest eyes I had ever seen on any animal,” she says about Snowy, the little Arctic fox that was rescued by the NSPCA from a petting zoo in Johannesburg last year and relocated to Butterfly World Tropical Gardens outside Cape Town.

Alana is the curator at the park.

“When asked by the NSPCA if we could accommodate him we said yes in a heartbeat.

“He was in a terrible condition – overweight with overgrown nails and rotten teeth. It was clear that he had a tough life,” she says.

The four-year-old male is a victim of the illegal exotic pet trade in South Africa, and is believed to be one of 16 Arctic foxes recorded in South Africa.

Since he arrived in October last year, the team at Butterfly World had gone the extra mile to ensure that the remaining years of Snowy’s life – another three to eight years – will be as comfortable as possible.

“Arctic foxes originate from the arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and are adapted to living in very cold environments.

“The hottest summer days they experience in the ice tundras are 17° degrees, while they are quite comfortable at -50° degrees during the long winters,” she says.

Now lives with female Cape foxIt is unimaginable to comprehend how Snowy survived the hot African conditions at the cramped petting zoo, where he was kept for years.

“He was skittish and trusted nobody, and very, very unhappy.”

He was immediately set up in a temperature controlled environment at Butterfly World and Alana spent countless hours with him to gain his trust.

“In fact, we have cleared and refurnished a two-bedroom flat with a bathroom all for Snowy’s use. Since it is very stressful for him in the heat, he is kept indoors to remain cool,” she says.

Here he especially loves lying on the cold bathroom tiles and was joined by Leila, a playful female Cape fox.

“He was very lonely and we brought Leila in for companionship. Although she seems to rule the roost with her dominant personality, the pair get on very well, and Snowy happily submits,” says Alana and adds that Snowy will soon be getting the “snip”.

With People’s Post’s visit last week the irony was not lost on us – an Arctic fox finding solace and contentment in a tropical park.

When Alana took him out of his cool enclosure for one of two daily strolls, it was clear that much had changed for this adorable little creature. He was in tip-top condition, playful and curious with lively and inquisitive little eyes.

“He loves his strolls and needs the exercise, but can’t stay outside in this climate for too long. He starts panting very quickly if it is too warm.”

AmbassadorSnowy is now an ambassador at the park in their attempt to bring about awareness regarding the exotic animals pet trade.

“We hope that his story will make people think twice before keeping an exotic pet.”

If you would like to meet Snowy you can go along to the park during his daily walks.

On Saturdays and Sundays this is between 10:00 and 11:00 and again at 15:00 and 16:00, depending on the temperature.

“He will be walked on his harness by an animal handler who is available to answer any questions and assist with a photo opportunity.”

V Call Butterfly World on 021 875 5628 for more information.

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