SA founder of baboon sanctuary Rita Miljo dies

Authorities are investigating the fire which started just after 8pm and destroyed the centre's clinic, offices and a house on the property. Three baboons that lived with her also died in the fire.

Miljo (81) started working with baboons in 1980 after rescuing an abandoned female – Bobby, who died with her in the fire – in Angola, which she brought back to South Africa. It was illegal then to rescue or house the animals without a permit and she often appeared in court on charges of illegally transporting or harbouring baboons. She then started the Care centre in Limpopo in 1989, which now has about 400 orphaned and abandoned baboons under its care.

With her organisation, Miljo nursed orphaned and injured baboons back to health, then developed methods of reintroducing troops of baboons back into the wild. In 1994, the centre successfully released 10 hand-reared baboons back into the wild. A year later, 70% had survived and integrated back into the wild population.

She stepped down from running her organisation in recent years, but remained involved in all new cases brought to the sanctuary.

Miljo's first husband, Lothar Simon, and her 17-year-old daughter died in a plane crash in 1972. Her later marriage to Piet Miljo ended in divorce.

She is survived by her brother who lives in Botswana.

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