Animal pioneer dies with baboons

2012-07-30 00:00

A WORLD-RENOWNED expert on baboons, Rita Miljo, died next to the first baboon she saved and rehabilitated in 1980 in a fire at a rehabilitation centre near Phalaborwa, Limpopo, on Friday.

Bobby and two other baboons were with the German-born Miljo (81) in her flat above the clinic at the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (Care) when a fire started at about 8 pm.

Two other animals also died.

It is not clear what started the fire.

Karl Pierce, a director at the centre, said workers and volunteers had already left for their homes and no one else was injured.

All the workers were shocked by the news, he added.

A home, the clinic and Miljo’s flat were all destroyed.

The centre now has a shortage of medicines, food and milk to feed the 400 baboons housed there.

Based on her observations of baboon behaviour, Miljo pioneered new thinking around human behavioural patterns in the 1950s.

She established Care 23 years ago to help orphaned and injured wild animals, which at first were diverse small mammals — bushbabies, civets, warthogs, duikers, porcupines — and reptiles and birds, according to its website.

“As her centre grew, so Rita became known for her ability to nurture orphaned baboons,” says the website.

More and more of them were brought in.

Despite being a Cites Appendix II listed animal, baboons are offered little protection under South African law, says Care.

“Agricultural encroachment has resulted in reduced areas of habitat, and where crops are threatened the farmer has the right to remove the offending animals by any means,” says the site.

“She developed a method to integrate the animals into new troops that could be successfully released back into the wild.”

Miljo, who described the animals in her care as “nature’s unwanted little people”, ran her centre on public donations and without government or corporate help, according to the website.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be made.

The future of the centre hangs in the balance now that its pioneering founder is dead.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.