Conservationist, baboons die in fire

2012-07-28 16:26

Johannesburg - SA conservationist, Rita Miljo, known for her work with orphaned baboons, has died in a fire which also gutted much of the headquarters of the sanctuary she helped found.  She 81.

The director of the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation & Education, Karl Pierce, said on Saturday that Miljo died in the apartment she lived in above the sanctuary's clinic.

He said the first baboon she rescued, named Bobby, and two others died with her in the fire that broke out on Friday night at the centre.

Pierce said the fire consumed the clinic, offices and a house on the property. 

The fire broke out around 20:00 on Friday, after volunteers and workers had left the centre for the evening, Pierce said.

No one else was injured in the fire, which remains under investigation.

Miljo officially established CARE in Phalaborwa in 1989 as a facility to assist all orphaned and injured wildlife brought to her by concerned members of the public.

As her centre grew, so Rita became known for her ability to nurture orphaned baboons.

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

While Miljo no longer ran day-to-day operations of the center, which cares for more than 400 baboons, she remained a constant presence and a figurehead for the organisation.

"Everybody's still in shock about this," Pierce said.

Born in Germany in 1931, Miljo came to South Africa in the 1950s. In a 2008 article about her in The Washington Post Magazine, Miljo said helping baboons taught her "why people behave the way they do".

"Chimpanzees can be deceitful, just like humans, whereas baboons haven't learned that yet," she said at the time.

"So what you learn from the baboons is the truth about yourself.

Chimpanzees have already learned to find beautiful little excuses for their behaviour."

  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-07-28 16:32

    What a shame- RIP good lady

  • shirley.steenkamp - 2012-07-28 16:36

    How sad! She did so much good for animals and will be missed! Condolences to her family.

  • lieveke - 2012-07-28 16:36

    A tragedy! Rest in Peace Rita Miljo.

  • isabel.ashe.7 - 2012-07-28 16:38


  • adrienne.bateceruti - 2012-07-28 16:54

    Such a sad story....wonderful person who had so much compassion for animals. RIP Rita Miljo.

  • judith.taylor.56 - 2012-07-28 17:21

    A tragedy - condolences to all those who knew her

  • sarel.koen - 2012-07-28 17:43

    Die Koen gesin treur.....

  • phae.rayden - 2012-07-28 17:44

    What a horrible thing to happen and a tragic loss. Hope there is someone to carry this important work forward. Condolences to family and friends.

  • thomas.obrian.92 - 2012-07-28 17:50

    What idiotic morons have indicated a thumbs down to the messages of condolences for this wonderful woman?

      keith.staniford - 2012-07-28 19:00

      I can't imagine what sick morons give this story the thumbs down Thomas, they are a disgrace to mankind.

      delish7564 - 2012-07-28 19:00

      The kind of morons who have no compassion or humanity :(

      lorna.m.eaton - 2012-07-28 19:04

      Stupid kids probably. Or someone with time on their hands, evil in their hearts and absolutely nothing in their heads!

  • samantha.5243 - 2012-07-28 18:05

    A great loss- let's hope her wonderful work is carried on - RIP :(

  • delish7564 - 2012-07-28 19:02

    Wonder if this was an accident or.................. R.I.P. I admire anybody who dedicates their life to animals...condolences to her family and all those who knew her!

  • sandy.langenstrass - 2012-07-28 19:26

    Such a good lady....we thank you for your contribution to the animal world.

  • hiddy.sonday - 2012-07-28 21:30


  • Lacrimose - 2012-07-28 21:39

    Eish! Again the older generation reminding us what can be done. What it means to care, to be involved. How can we help? If we can restore a guy's dream of owning a motorbike, surely we can help CARE too?

  • Cindy Mendes - 2012-07-28 22:18

    So sad:-(

  • fdalana - 2012-07-28 23:11

    may her soul rest in peace.

  • RiD123 - 2012-07-29 12:36

    "She 81" Who sub-edits this???

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