Animal lover Paul O’Grady travels to South Africa, Zambia and Namibia to meet wild animals that have been orphaned.
He encounters lions, cheetahs, elephants, baboons and rhinos amongst others who are being hand-raised by people. Most of the animals he meets have ended up as orphans because of humans. Either their parents have been killed by poachers, or their natural habitat has been destroyed or encroached upon. Paul gets hands-on helping to care for and rehabilitate the animals.
In episode one of three, Paul’s first stop is Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, managed by Brian Jones. They are raising an 8 month old orphaned rhinoceros called Olive, whose mother was killed by poachers. Olive is being cared for by volunteer Rachel. She and Brian show Paul how to win Olive over by giving her a good belly scratch, and then they take her for her daily walk to the mud bath – where Paul gets covered in mud and is amazed watching Olive run at speeds of up to 30 mph. It’s fun – but Paul is reminded of the very serious problem Africa has with rhino poaching – a thousand rhinos a year are killed for their horns. Looking at Olive he says ‘you might not be seeing that in ten years time’.
Paul continues his travels, arriving in Namibia. At a wildlife sanctuary called Na’ankuse he meets the owner Marlice, who introduces him to some of the baby bush animals, including a 10 month old Aardvark called Parkie – the strangest creature Paul has ever seen. Marlice and Paul take Parkie to the reserve to teach him how to hunt for termites. He also meets Shrinky, a baby baboon who staff member Colette is caring for 24/7. Shrinky arrived in a terrible state – full of wounds and scars – and Colette thinks she might be brain damaged and have a serious problem with her sight. A vet check reveals that her condition is improving, so she’s allowed to start bonding with the other baboon babies. There’s tension as Paul watches to see how the other baboons will react to her.
In this first episode Paul also visits Sondela Wildlife Centre in South Africa and meets a lion cub called Nala, who was being raised as a pet until she got too big to handle. Paul shows his bravery as he takes on her sharp teeth and claws to play with her, because she’s alone in her enclosure and needs regular company. Paul is then tasked with making her daily desert – blood ice lollies which keep her cool on hot days. He has to take fresh blood from a dead antelope – not something he particularly enjoys.
Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans starts on Tuesday 20th January 2015 at 9pm, on ITV for three weeks.