Animal lover Paul O’Grady travels to South Africa and Zambia to meet animals that have been orphaned in the wild in this new factual series.
“A young animal learns everything from its parents about how to survive in the world so if it loses its mum it’s got no chance, unless we step in.” Paul O’Grady
He encounters lions, cheetahs, hippos, elephants, baboons and rhinos amongst others who are being hand-reared by humans. 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 and of course makes some new friends along the way.
His first stop is SANCCOB on the South West tip of South Africa. The sanctuary looks after a variety of different seabirds including penguins, which Paul discovers are an endangered species in Africa. The number of penguins has fallen from 200,000 to 50,000 due to oil spills and humans intruding on their natural habitats. Without places like SANCCOB, it is estimated that penguins could be extinct in South Africa in 15 years.
Paul helps to feed the penguins and bonds with one called Stevie whose health hangs in the balance after it is discovered he could be blind. Workers at the centre first noticed something was wrong with Stevie as he was walking and swimming in circles. He was so disorientated he would bump into the other penguins who then pick on him. Paul stays with Stevie while a vet comes to check his eyes and work out how best to treat him. If he is found to be completely blind then he’ll never be able to be released back into the wild.
Next Paul visits the Lilayi Elephant Nursery where a very excited Paul meets a group of baby elephants whose parents have been killed by poachers. Paul helps take the elephants for a walk in the bush and falls head over heels for a six month old calf called Nkala. Nkala was found wandering through a Zambian village alone when he was just three months old and would not have survived if he’d not been brought to the nursery. Paul takes Nkala under his wing and helps to bottle feed him, wash him and put him to bed. He also meets two year old Suni who is still recovering after being attacked by the poachers who killed her parents.
From elephants to lion cubs, Paul travels to Kruger to an animal rehabilitation centre called Moholoholo. The centre has been run for the last 23 years by owner Brian, who has rehabilitated almost every type of African animal. He introduces Paul to eight-month-old lion cubs, brought to the centre at just a week old after being rejected by their mother. Rather than cuddly little animals, the cubs are now on their way to being full-grown. Paul bravely helps takes the lions for a walk by holding the tip of their tails.
After meeting the lion cubs, Paul says: “That was amazing, absolutely amazing. I mean to get the chance to walk with lions. I mean they are not scary at all you are aware that they are powerful beasts and that they could turn at any minute, you’ve got to constantly have your wits about you.”
“But they’re magnificent. Just to walk with them is, man, it’s very, very special it really is. And I’m not going to say my three famous words…oh go on I’ll say it I want one.”
Next Paul travels to Durban to CROW, the centre for rehabilitation of wildlife. Here they don’t just look after endangered species, they care for all kinds of animals who have been injured or orphaned in the wild from tortoises to baboons. Paul meets a very cute creature called Lily, a four-month-old blue dyker antelope and also a slightly less cute, grumpy porcupine called Mr Rattles.
Finally Paul travels back to SANCCOB where he helps release a group of rehabilitated penguins back into the wild.
Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans airs on ITV from Tuesday 14th January at 9pm for three weeks.