Her travels started in 1997 at the University of Georgia where she was placed on a study that could help save the elephants at Kruger National Park in Africa. “What?!” you say. “How could that be?”
Elephant overpopulation is a problem. These majestic animals were eating so much food in this 7,523 square mile park that it was feared other animals would starve with a possibility of becoming extinct. So, in 1967, elephant culling started. This went on until 1995, after 14,500 elephants were killed.
Animals helping animals
Researchers performed a study at UGA to develop an injectable immunocontraceptive vaccine. The vaccine would cause the immune system to produce antibodies that would prevent pregnancy without the side effects of hormonal contraceptives. It was reversible too so the cows, aka female elephants, could get pregnant again.
I’ve worked in animal research since 1986, and it is very rewarding to see the study’s end result from the animals that were in our care. Today free-roaming elephants at Kruger National Park and elsewhere have access to an immunocontraceptive vaccine that is safe and reversible thanks in part to the UGA study.
During their stay at UGA, the cats were housed in a large room with their bedroom enclosures left open in the daytime. The technicians were encouraged to play with them. Which I did. A lot. The cats were placed up for adoption after the study, as most cats and dogs are that are on certain studies.
I knew I was going to bring one of these wonderful felines home. A male cat with 18 pounds of pure muscle named Baby already owned me at home. I needed to select the right friend for Baby. One of the animal care technicians said one little female cat was friends with everyone, and this is the one I should take home. The kitty was barely 6 pounds. Baby and the new kitty, Maggie May, became best friends for life. Technicians know their charges!
Maggie May was fearless – or as smart as catnip, you choose! She explored the entire house. I lived in an A-frame house with a long beam running from the loft to the far wall and about 15 feet in the air. On her first day home, much to my horror, she wanted to see what was on the other side of the beam. Like a tight rope walker, there went Maggie May. I am glad to say she returned, and it was no harm, no falling.
During a different challenge of heights, Maggie was lounging on the dining room table – yes, our pets own the house. She rolled over, but she was on the edge where there was nothing but air. On the way down, her canine hit the chair. The chair didn’t break but her tooth did. It didn’t seem to affect her at all. To the dishonor of her species, she did not land on all fours. After I saw she was fine, I must admit, it was one of the most comical things to see a cat so ungraceful.
One of Maggie May’s loving qualities was, shall I say, a tad annoying. She was my lap warmer during waking hours – great on cold days. And she was my head warmer during sleep time. It sounds like it would be cozy, but I had to sleep with my head under the covers to avoid baldness from over grooming. Lick, lick. Purr, purr.
After retiring from being the elephant saving superhero, Maggie May’s work wasn’t quite done. With her unconditional love and all her purring, she helped both of her humans lower their blood pressure. Thank you, Maggie May!
After her adoption, she led a very peaceful life, which was well deserved. Most of her days were spent snuggling with her people and her best friend, Baby. She was in perfect health until the end when she fearlessly tight rope walked over the rainbow bridge after an amazing 18 years.
Bless the animals that can help save all of us, animals included.
E P I L O G U E
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Sandy Hively is an animal technician at Scripps Research. She provided the adorable photos for this FBR Real Pet Stories™ post.