Garth Carpenter is a retired game warden but a passionate herpetologist and wildlife warrior in South Africa. He has been interested in this field all his life & started collecting reptiles & snakes from the age of 10 years.
He was only 19 years old when he applied for a game warden post in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia), appointed & dropped in the middle of 800sq. kilometers of bush with 4 game guards & was told: “Make a game reserve of this”. So the Kalulushi Game Reserve was born & remains today.
In the 8 years he was there he was game warden, conservation officer, teacher, educator & rescuer. In this bygone era there were man eater problems & crop raiders & so he was forced to track & shoot the following: 76 rogue buffalo, 10 rogue elephants, 27 man eating lions, 9 man eating leopards, 20 man eating crocodiles, 10 problem hippos (usually crop raiders that were attacking the villagers when confronted). Where possible he captured & relocated others. His records of letters & commendations bear testimony to this.
During this time he was part of “Operation Noah” when the Kariba dam was created & worked with Rupert Fothergill but from the Zambian side of the dam. But his passion for the animals & reptiles has remained. In 1961 he joined the then Natal Parks Board at Hluhluwe Game Reserve as their game management & control officer Because of his passion for wildlife & his compassion for the injured & orphaned wildlife at one stage he had the largest private collection of small mammals in South Africa. Most of these animals & reptiles were released into private conservation areas.
He was well known for the little orphaned & injured creatures that he cared for & kept at the house & released where possible. He was also an advisor & active participant of the pioneers in the Rhino capture & release programme in the Umfolosi &Hluhluwe Game reserves with Dr. Ian Player. Garth has always been interested in education of children & the public &his “Snake Park” at the local annual Royal Agricultural Show is well known. (The proceeds of this display go straight back to the wildlife they care for).
Garth is on call 24/7 for wildlife, birds & reptiles and the local Fire department, Police and hospitals have The Sanctuary’s contact numbers. He is often called to the hospitals to identify snake & snake bite wounds to ensure the correct treatment is given to the victim.
He assisted Dr. Phillip Cohen (one of the local surgeons) in creating his Power point presentation on Snakes & Envenomation to train the hospital personnel in identifying & treating victims of snake bite.
Garth is also an honorary officer for KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife which entails doing voluntary callouts for them as well. One of Garth’s call outs to track & capture poachers (remember he works alone) led him to an area in the bush where he found the poachers has already killed, skinned & removed a female grey duiker. He could hear a faint mewing sound of an animal. He traced it to the new born baby of the duiker that the poachers had impaled on a fence post but he was unable to save the baby.
One of the current tenants of The Sanctuary is another young grey duiker who was caught in a bush fire. When she came to us she was about 6 days old (she still had her drying umbilical cord on her). She was suffering from singed fur, burned ears, nose, legs & tail. She had inhalation burns from inhaling the hot air & smoke. The vet gave us inject able antibiotics for her but held out little hope. (Their vet does not charge consultation fees but any medicines &treatments are paid for).
Against all odds she pulled through. Her nose has peeled twice but has healed & re-pigmented. The tops of her ears were like potato crisps but the ears healed & the dried tops fell off. Her other burn wounds have healed, her fur re-generated & she has 2 short radar discs for ears but they function well. (She has been called Singey).
On another occasion a week old baby duiker brought in had a fractured & dislocated hip & an injured front leg. He underwent a hip replacement & the vet said he would only walk on the leg in 1-2 weeks. Within 3 days he was up & about, healed well & was released into a private game reserve when he was 18 months old. (He was named Bobby.) He has since paired up with a wild female & they have been seen around having produced their own young.
Garth and his wife Carol, who is also his lifelong partner in this venture and all others, rented a small piece of ground outside of Pietermaritzburg, after losing everything to an unscrupulous businessperson.The current place is too small to accommodate all of the un-releasable creatures that are used for breeding & release & education. These creatures are kept 13Kms away at an animal petting farm, which is Garth’s and Carol’s residence also.
Currently in their care at The Sanctuary are inter alia the following: Hadida Ibis, Egyptian geese, spur wing geese, spotted eagle owls, barn owls, white faced owls , wood owls, white faced whistling ducks, black ducks, yellow billed teal, caracal, crocodiles, various species of tortoises & terrapins, various aviaries of doves, pigeons, ring necks, pheasants, various guinea fowls, monitors, meerkat, rock hyrax, Cockatiels and about 400 snakes.
Garth makes all his own cages & aviaries & does all his own repair work. Garth & Carol only have 2 fulltime employees & one part time fellow to help clean cages & feed the animals.
Feeds are collected and prepared every evening for the following day.
Carol is a qualified nursing sister & works full time in an industrial clinic as well as help Garth with all the infants & injured brought in & she does most of the bottle feeding and medical treatments – their combined income goes into the wildlife. Unfortunately due to the rising costs in rent, fuel, staff wages, feed etc & Garth’s small pension The Sanctuary is finding it increasingly difficult to sustain their essential rehabilitation and education centre.
With the increased unemployment & the increased poaching they are constantly inundated with injured & orphaned animals & birds. Two rescue vehicles are utilised daily at the expense of Carol and Garth.
Fundraising events are held regularly, such as Garth’s “Campfire Tales of Africa” where he talks about different events in his career & Carol attends to all the catering singlehandedly.
Despite sending over 50 letters sent locally, nationally & internationally requesting assistance in some form the only response they had was from a local feed supplier who is able to donate some feed for the animals.
Garth spends 4 days a week running around collecting different feed for the various animals & birds as well as running the centre and rescuing injured animals. Garth’s dream has always been to have a conservancy where they can ultimately have a self-contained rescue centre that can hold the injured & orphaned & that they can release them onto the property.
Guides can then be trained to take visitors on “mini safaris” to see the animals & birds.
Having a place like this would then allow The Sanctuary to employ more staff to help care for the animals & relieve the pressures felt because of their passion & beliefs. A normal day at The Sanctuary starts at 0500 & ends about 2300.