Published : 29 Dec, 2018

In honor of two very special animals I write this last blog for 2018.

For those following Facebook you will have read Joe’s story.

Joe, a massive, elderly male baboon who allowed two humans into his private space. Joe was part of the Hippo Haven wild troop and of them all he had the nicest character. He was the largest and would often be seen with a huge entourage of young juveniles under his protection. He was like the adored grandfather; his special friend was Yogi the baboon whose life we saved. See earlier blog, Yogi was carrying a poachers’ snare tightly wound around his stomach, which would have killed him, had we not managed to remove it.

On the 18th September Joe came in to the home area obviously unwell. Swollen genitals and a stooped back, a slow walk with hunched body posture. I put him on a course of antibiotics. For a week this seemed to help. His genitals returned to normal, but he was still so sore. He stopped roosting in trees, instead sensibly using our open gazebo to rest his head up on the wall. There I would surround him with chairs to protect him from predators at night. He ate from my hand and became so accustomed to hand feeding that he allowed me to sit with him while feeding. Thanks to Rowena Spacey, a lovely UK lady, we could buy him extra expensive fruit, vegetables and biscuits in Chiredzi, the nearest town, 2 hour drive from home.

We thought we were winning but it was not to be. In October he climbed a tall tree by the house and could not get down, his body was just too stiff. I managed, after spending the entire day sitting below the tree holding oranges, to eventually coax him down but it was obvious his tree climbing days were coming to an end. He would then lie down a lot under our bushes and so I feared for his life at night. With predators such as lion, leopard, hyena and wild dogs in our immediate area, Joe was too vulnerable.

On 17th October I managed to get him to follow me into one of our open-plan garages. Here he would be safe, but I could open the gate and let his family in to interact with him during the day, as by now he could hardly walk. He then stopped walking altogether so we would clean him under his bottom. A wild baboon who could so easily have hurt me badly allowing me to clean his bottom like a baby, and continue to feed and give him water by hand.

For a while he seemed relatively content but we knew he had a wound under his bottom, which was not improving with him sitting on it. A bed sore was developing. I put him on another course of antibiotic and on November 4th he walked again around the garage. He was extremely stooped but for the next 12 days he could shuffle around, but he was not fit enough to be let out into the wild. I did not have to clean him during that period as he moved his body around the garage.

Then we discovered he had caught lice and he was simply covered in them. Jean-Roger was in South Africa at the time, so I contacted him and he brought back a bottle of Ivomec. This did the trick, killing all the lice. He also produced very clean stools so it must have helped to kill off internal parasites as well.

Yet he was still stiff and then his legs suddenly lost all feeling. He had movement in his arms but nothing in his legs. We began a course of massage treatment, massaging his legs every day using turmeric paste as an anti-inflamatory. He accepted two humans rubbing his legs, this incredible baboon, as he knew we were trying so hard to save him. During all of these weeks Joe would not give up: he would lip smack at the female baboons, call them in his very deep voice, and generally be alert and look around at all times.


Then at the end of November I felt he was not having much quality of life, and a colleague in the north of the Conservancy, Jessica, came down with the idea of darting him, so that then Jean-Roger would have been able to shoot him. This was abhorrent to both of us, as our love for Joe made it very hard for Jean-Roger to consider shooting him, and I knew it would scar Jean for many years to come.   Jess like us could see that Joe still wanted to try, and he was still eating and drinking. Also it was not a good day for darting as too many obstacles presented themselves and we all decided that fate was telling us not to help him move on.

Then two days later he stopped eating and on the night of December 2nd I felt Joe had had enough. He was showing me in many ways that he was tired and not at all at peace. I asked him to leave us so that Jean-Roger would be spared having to use a gun. There are no vets in our area so it was always pointing to Jean having to do this.

The following morning December 3rd I awoke at and knew he was no longer with us; I felt it deep inside of me. Jean-Roger checked him at 6a.m and came back to wake me up: I told him Joe had gone before he told me. Joe’s last gift was to leave us and not make Jean do the unthinkable.

Joe touched so many peoples’ lives on Facebook, many who perhaps did not realize that a baboon, like any animal, is a sentient being, with the same sensitivities we possess, if not in some ways superior to our own way of being.

They, for a while, stepped into the life of an amazing example of what a male baboon is like and looked into Joe’s eyes and saw what a baboon really is.

We shall never forget Joe and we thank him for teaching us so much more about baboons.

I thank everyone who helped with Joe. Rowena Spacey UK, Dr Kevin Lenahan vet extraordinaire, Claire Powers vet of the same mold both of the UK, Lynette Johnson in South Africa, a lady who has lived her life for baboons, Care South Africa for all their advice, Romi Sloan for her Reiki treatments of Joe and myself. Shalini Bosbyshell USA animal communicator, Oephebia UK animal healer and communicator, Jessica Watermeyer and her colleague Amy. Plus everyone on Facebook who cared about Joe.

Love to all Karen and the hippos xxx


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  1. Pat Marston

    So sorry Keren – should have said Jean-Roger in my last comment. So sad to learn of Joe’s passing – what an awful ending to 2018 you have both had. I trust that 2019 will hold more positive & happier events at Turgwe. My love & my thoughts -….. Pat

  2. Teresa D'Amico

    I came to truly love baboons during the times I spent at Hippo Haven, Joe among them. What a gift. Thank you, Karen and Jean-Roger for being two of the rarer humans on the planet.

  3. Janet Redbond

    I am so sorry for the loss of the two precious animals. How heart-breaking for you. I sincerely hope 2019 brings much better times for you. You are doing wonderful work. Love and hugs from Australia.

  4. Ingrid

    I read. I cried. For you, dearest Joe. For you, Karen whom I don’t know. For every wild baboon who has so much to give and from whom so much is most of the time taken.

    May you, Karen, fly on eagles’wings for all you’ve done for him on his last journey.

    Fly high, dearest Joe, fly free.

    • karen paolillo

      Thank you for commenting Ingrid Joe is as you say now free from pain and he is with many of his friends who have passed before him. I miss him every day but one day will meet up with him again. Sending love to you Karen and the hippos

  5. Lynette Johnson

    Reading about Joe’s last journey brought back so many emotions to the fore again. Joe left indelible memories behind and once again, showed me that baboons understand and do communicate with those who choose to open their minds and enter their world. I miss seeing his beautiful face and your amazing interactions with him on your page, Karen, but know he’s at peace now and will watch over you and Jean-Roger till you meet again. With much love and respect … Lynette

    • karen paolillo

      thank you Lynette you had a big hand in helping us to try to save him and we thank you for your help from South Africa. I have the one photo of him in the bush very close to the camera in our home and I can see him there every day. Love and hugs Karen and the hippos xx


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