Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre

5th Feb, 2024

Photo credit: Francois Meyer

Written by, and photographs supplied by, Co-Owner and Director: Emma De Jager

We established Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre in 2017 with one goal: rescue, rehabilitation and release of South African wildlife.

At our centre in Tzaneen, we deal with an array on wildlife, from the dwarf mongoose to hippos and everything in-between, including a lot of birds and reptiles. These animals have been orphaned, injured, displaced, or confiscated from the illegal trade. Over the last five years, we’re proud to have successfully released hundreds of rehabilitated animals back into the wild.

Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre provides licensed care. Animals in rehabilitation stay with us anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on their individual needs. When they’re ready, they’re released on inspected and approved sites, chosen for their safety and capacity to meet species-specific needs for terrain and that have year-round water and food sources.

Someone special

There have been so many successful releases over the years, including caracal, jackal, mongoose, genets, bush babies, servals, birds of prey and pangolins.

But a few animals will always stay in our hearts.

Hugo and Hector – the first two hippos we ever worked with and released – taught us so much, and seeing them in the wild is the best feeling ever.

There’s Mars the aardvark, who had so much character and, again, taught us a lot about this secretive species, and two very special pangolins that were with us for 18 months each – Nonna and Wilma. Nonna was so sick and actually died on us three times; each time we managed to get her back, but we really didn’t know what her end goal was going to be. She’s now out in the wild with a tracker and is living her best life. We couldn’t be prouder. Each animal that’s come into the centre holds a place in our heart, but there’ll always be those hard cases that you win that you’ll never forget.

Protecting pangolins

Four years ago we took on the Temmincks Ground Pangolin, which is in dire need of help, mostly due to poaching (they’re the most poached mammal in the world). To date we’ve safely released 84 pangolins back into secure locations in the wild, some of which have gone on to have pups. In 2023, the number of pangolins needing our help tripled; this year will be no different.

All pangolins are housed off-site at a secure, undisclosed location for the protection of the animals and staff. They’re tagged and closely monitored.

A duty to help

All animals that come into the centre have been hurt by humans in some way, shape or form, whether it be the illegal wildlife and pet trade, snaring, being hit by cars or displaced. We believe that as humans we have the duty to get them back to where they belong.

Every wild creature matters – a belief we keep in mind at all times when treating and rehabilitating them. Our duty isn’t only to help them heal, but also to prepare them for an eventual return to the wild, which is where they belong.

Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre isn’t open to the public and human-animal interactions are kept to a minimum.

You can help!

We’re currently appealing for solar panels at the centre for our clinic, recovery rooms and pangolin rooms, as pangolins can’t control their body temperature. In addition, donations of funds are always needed.

For more information, contact Emma on 083 272 3220, email, visit or follow them on Facebook:

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