Lilongwe Wildlife Centre - Pretzel's Story

Lilongwe Wildlife Centre - Pretzel's Story

Posted by Georgia Wilson on 17th Sep 2020

As Malawi’s only accredited wildlife sanctuary, the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is an active and bustling sanctuary working tirelessly for the protection of the country’s wildlife and their environment. The sanctuary is no stranger to rescue missions of animals that have fallen victim to habitat destruction or more commonly, the devastating illegal wildlife trade. This year alone, the sanctuary has rescued 11 primates which were either confiscated from people’s homes or were found for sale on roadsides. Of the 11 and most shocking of all is the story of Pretzel.



Affectionally named by the sanctuary team, Pretzel had been found chained in a village and upon rescue, her physical deformities were immediately apparent. The team estimated her to be around a year and a half in age based on her behavioural traits, though this is unclear as her body and limb size are far too small for a baboon of this age, this may be noticeable in the short video above. It was obvious to the team that Pretzel’s development had been severely stunted by the conditions she had been subjected to. 

Pretzel's Medical After Rescue

After medical tests were conducted back at the centre, the team discovered Pretzel was suffering from rickets, most likely caused by a poor diet in captivity. It was also clear that she was malnourished and presumably had been since birth. The x-ray above showed poor bone density caused by a severe calcium deficiency, fortunately, this was an issue that the team could help with and immediately added oral calcium and children’s multivitamins to her diet. Sadly, the bends in some of her bones will remain a life-long problem and will affect how well she is able to move her joints.

Pretzel at Meal Time

Even though she had an unfortunate start to life, Pretzel established herself to the team quickly as a bright and bouncy character. Heart-warmingly, Pretzel took to her surroundings very well and made a point to the staff of how much she loves meal times! Due to her fragile condition, the team knew that the rehabilitation process would need to be taken at a much slower pace, though given that baboons are highly social animals they were keen to introduce her to a suitable friend!

After further tests had shown improvements in her bone density and they were confident she was psychically strong enough, they introduced Pretzel to Mwayi. Mwayi, another yellow baboon also rescued from the illegal pet trade is estimated to be around 5 years old. Due to her calm temperament, they were sure she’d get a great fit for Pretzel - and they were right! Soon after they had introduced themselves, they began grooming each other and the team opened the separating gate door - they have been inseparable since!



Mwayi’s gentle nature sees her regularly grooming and cuddling Pretzel, and it’s more often than not Pretzel who instigates their play sessions. Due to both of their circumstances, they sadly will not be able to be released back into the wild, instead, they will be cared for and given the most natural life possible at the safe haven the sanctuary provides. The goal is to create a new troop with Pretzel and Mwayi and other young baboons that would benefit from a calmer troop environment, helping those rescued to regain and improve social developments they may have a missed in illegal captivity. For now though, Mwayi and Pretzel's friendship is blossoming and warms the hearts of everyone who sees them, further highlighting the importance of the incredible work undertaken by the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre


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