Horrific blaze kills conservationist and three baboons at
South African animal rescue centre
Rita Miljo, 81, dies after fire rips
through Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education in the bush of Limpopo
By Daily Mail Reporter
28 July 2012
Tragic: The fire at
the animal rescue centre killed conservationist Rita Miljo as well as three
An horrific blaze has destroyed a baboon rescue centre killing a
renowned conservationist as well as three animals.
Rita Miljo, who
reintroduced packs of baboons into the wilds of South Africa, died in the fire
which destroyed much of the headquarters of the sanctuary she built, an official
Karl Pierce, a director with the sanctuary said the 81-year-old
died in the small apartment she kept above the clinic of the Centre for Animal
Rehabilitation and Education in the bush of Limpopo province.
in the fire were three baboons including Bobby, the first chacma baboon she
rescued and nursed back to health in 1980 after spiriting her away from a
national park without a permit, Mr Pierce said.
The fire broke out around
8pm yesterday after volunteers and workers left the centre for the evening, he
Noone else was injured in the blaze, which consumed the clinic,
offices and a house on the property, about 250 miles north east of
Johannesburg.The cause of the fire is under investigation.
no longer ran day-to-day operations of the centre, which caresfor more than 400
baboons, she remained a constant presence and a figurehead for the organisation
she founded in 1989.
'Everybody's still in shock about this,' Mr Pierce
Born in Germany in 1931, Ms Miljo arrived in South Africa in the
1950s. In a 2008 article about her in the Washington Post Magazine, she said
helping baboons taught her 'why people behave the way they do'.
'Chimpanzees can be deceitful, just like humans, whereas baboons haven't learned
that yet,' she said. 'So what you learn from the baboons is the truth about
Rita Miljo was renowned for helping to reintroduced packs of baboons into
the wilds of South Africa
Chimpanzees have already learned to find
beautiful little excuses for their behaviour.'
In South Africa, baboons
have a troublesome reputation.
In Cape Town, they are known for raiding
cars and frightening tourists. Baboons are a protected species under South
African legislation but their aggressive pursuits of food have led to conflicts
Ms Miljo nursed orphaned and injured baboons back to
health, then pioneered ways of reintroducing whole troops of cared-for baboons
back into the wild, her centre said.
In 1994, the centre released 10
hand-reared baboons back into the wild.
Rita Miljo nursed orphaned and injured baboons back to health, then
pioneered ways of reintroducing whole troops of cared-for baboons back into the
A year later, seven had survived and integrated back into the wild
population, the centre said, a success as many thought the cared-for baboons
would not be able to adjust.
Ms Miljo is survived by a brother who lives
in Botswana, Mr Pierce said. Her first husband, Lothar Simon, and her
17-year-old daughter died in 1972 in a plane crash.
tragedies in her own life, she remained focused on her work to help sick and
When asked in 2008 where the body of one of the baboons
she sheltered would be buried, she offered a quick answer: 'I remember where
each one is and that's where I'm going to be buried too.'