The AWARE Trust

I thought I would take the time and introduce the great organization I am volunteering at in ZimbabweAWARE is the only veterinary conservation trust in Zimbabwe run by veterinarians, focusing on the welfare of wildlife and conservation of wildlife habitats.  The Trust provides expert veterinary treatment and rehabilitation to sick or injured ownerless wild animals on a pro bono basis, especially where these animals have suffered at the hand of man. This may include preventative treatment of wild animals at risk from disease, or pre-emptive rehabilitation of wild animals threatened by humans. 
Dr Lisa Marabini and Dr Keith Dutlow with Chief Ranger
In the lead are two great people whom I've  had the pleasure to work with, Dr Keith Dutlow and Dr Lisa Marabini.  They started AWARE Trust in 2004, the trustees were looking for independent funding to perform an important disease surveillance project. 
euthanasing lionessMoyoKariba ele undergoing treatment
Keith is the Founder Trustee and Director of Operations, Keith was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He graduated from the University of Zimbabwe with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science in 1994 and became a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons by examination in 1996.

He has worked extensively in small animal and mixed practices in the UK, Australia and Zimbabwe. Dr Keith Dutlow's introduction
to wildlife work came through a job as an ostrich vet in Zimbabwe. In 2001, he took a record breaking 2026 ostriches by ship from Spain to Brazil. He has been working with other wildlife species, in particular lion, cheetah, elephant, rhino, buffalo, hyena and small felids since 2004.
picture of Keith cleaning a dog bite wound in cheetah
Lisa is the other Founder Trustee and Director of Operations, she was born in Harare, Zimbabwe. She graduated from the University of Zimbabwe with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science in 1998 and became a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons by examination in 1999. She has worked in small animal practices in Zimbabwe, Australia and the UKLisa has always been passionate about the conservation and welfare of wildlife. She obtained her private pilot’s license (PPL) for light aircraft in 1994 with a view to becoming a wildlife vet.
While I was there we had the privilege of working with Dr Erick Mutizhe and Dr Andy Garura, who are also wonderful vets that work for AWARE. I was there on an African Rhino Operation but they handles various projects.
Dr Andy Garura and Dr Erick Mutizhe
Dr Keith Dutlow removing horn and Dr Mutizhe monitoring vitals
Apart from seeing amazing scenery, animals and making new life long friends I was honored to take part in trying to help an animal that is in need of help. Help that we humans can offer. The hands on experience was incredible and Im hoping to take part next time this happens. If anything I hope that we have made a difference in the existence of the rhino. Here at Art Explorers, David Levy (VYLE), Thierry Doizon (barontieri), Kristy Tipton and myself (MANu)
Dr Lisa telling me. "Is that all the strength you got Manny?" :)
are all very passionate about what we do and how we can apply it to our other passions. The oceans, the forests our wildlife something that we all treasure and are thankful for everyday for who we are as people and as artists.
Baby Rhino being tagged and dehorned
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If you can donate, please do. If you have any questions send them my way. I hope you all are enjoying the African posts and promise more art exploring from digital brushes to tutorials! Feed your passions by going outside and creating!
Special thanks to Tracey and Chris Hugill, you guys are great! Team AWARE!! 


Of all the rhinos that we dehorned, Erick is a memorable one. Let me tell you why. The day had been very successful tracking and finding all of the rhinos in the area. The rangers ha located all but one. His name is Erick. We had spotted him the day before hanging out with another rhino but he was not going to hang around. After all of the ruckus with the chopper and us capturing his buddy he split.
The search party separated into four different groups, including the chopper. We all searched the area where we last saw him and rangers told us where he liked to hang out but to no avail. The deadline to find Erick loomed over our heads. We had to find him or he would remained horned and in danger of being poached. The chopper is only allowed flight times up to a certain time in the day and that was getting close and our final day in that area. We all split up into different teams to try and better our chances of finding him. As we drove around the lake coast we picked up fishing nets that would pose a dangerous threats to wildlife. A small task but one that should not be avoided.
We just about gave up when the radio call came in that the rangers had found him. The call soon came in from the chopper that Dr. Keith Dutlow had darted him. We got the location and the race was on. The whole time Erick had been right near our camp and we were not really looking there. Smart chap! We spotted him, grabbed the oxygen and equipment and were quickly on foot. On this particular capture I was close to Dr. Dutlow rope in hand. Waiting instructions to come help push the rhino on its side if needed to.  Erick was not going to go down easy. He walked around darted, fighting the sedative and not giving up. He then turned around and charged. The animal handler, Antone, ran. I ran as well, very fast! I turned to see where the rhino was and where I needed to run too, but the sedative was starting to kick in. I cannot remember if Erick was given a second dart. What I do remember is my brother running thru some bushes that no one normally would have ran thru and the speed at which he did.  He thought like I did, if the animal wrangler runs, you better run too!
Wildlife Vet marking for dehorning
Dehorning in process, vitals being looked and checked as ranger spray with water to keep cool

Erick finally sat down and the team went to work. Tagged, blood samples taken and the dehorning all went smooth. Dr Lisa Maribini told everyone to start backing away as Erick was about to be given the reversal. Erick stood up, turned to look at us and walked away.

As the AWARE team drove away, Erick wandered into the bush and disappeared. Everything had gone well. All the rhinos in the area were finished and the feeling of accomplishment felt great. The drive back was not far at all, actually showing how close he was to camp. 
Back at camp, we unloaded and were getting ready for dinner. The sunsets are breathtaking near the body of water we were at, so I grabbed my sketchbook and headed toward the stone pier. The amount of birds was going to be be perfect to watch and sketch. As I sat down to draw, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was Erick! He was walking to the edge of the water and munching on some grass. He grazed for about five minutes and slowly walked towards me. I was not going to take any chances so I climbed up on a stone structure to make sure I had some protection just in case. He continued to walk forward but wasn't interested in me, there was just good grass where I was. He came very close and stopped. I grabbed a ballpoint pen and marker and sketched him. It was as if he knew he was modeling. A beautiful specimen of a rhino stood there still while I drew. It was unreal! He would go down get some grass and hit the pose. After I did the quick drawing he slowly walked away. A white winged friend even landed on his rear as he was walking away. The experience was surreal but one I will never forget. He disappeared into the bush as the night moved in. I hope I see you again soon Erick and that you will be left alone to enjoy the grass and the rest of your life. 

Erick posing for me. Thanks for the visit big man.
Selfie with Erick before it was too close for comfort