By ALBERT MASAKA
ZIMBABWEAN animal conservationist Baye Pigors, consistently lied about who had killed a baboon at a ranch in Shangani in 2013, attracted fame and donations from animal lovers across the globe who were touched by a cause based on incorrect information about how the dead primate’s baby Umfazi came to be under her care, and found Free to Be Wild sanctuary in Matabeleland province, year-long, investigations by Zim Community News reveal.
Pigors, who was awarded the Unsung Conservation Hero’s Award by Africa Geographic in 2016, has given conflicting accounts on how she came to take care of Umfazi while seeking donations.
An eyewitness on that fateful day rubbished all the stories that Pigors told the world on the fate of the baboon she actually shot dead herself and how she came to take care of its baby Umfazi.
Efforts to get a comment from her on the latest developments were fruitless as she did not respond to written questions sent to her via SMS and Whatsapp and did not pick up our calls to her.
In a video posted on YouTube by Nikela Wildlfe on June 27 2018 Pigors falsely pointed a finger at the farm owner of a private game reserve in Zimbabwe, for shooting dead Umfazi’s mother and gave her the baby.
“The farm owner shot a couple of baboons which is very common in Zimbabwe to eradicate them and stop this problem of crop theft and one of them had a baby baboon and I was the only woman on the safari and he phoned me and he said look have shot the female baboon and its got a baby.
“I don’t know what to do with it, I don’t have the heart to kill the baby could you look after her and make a plan and send her off somewhere and that’s how basically I started.
She added that how Free to be Wild sanctuary came into being.
In another post on Free to be Wild Facebook page updated on 20 August 2015, Baye writes that Umfazi was the true founder of Free to be Wild and claims she was the one who rescued the baby baboon.
“2 years ago today. I pulled Umfazi from her moms lifeless body, she was covered in blood and at that time I was nnot sure who’s. She clutched her mum so tight screaming as I tried to get her off, my heart broke, I couldnt help but cry.” part of the post read with an touching story promising Umfazi that she would make sure she takes her back into the wild leading to the formation of Free to be wild.
In her latest version on Free to Be Wild blog the story again changes as she admits that she first shot and wounded the baboon before an unnamed hunter she was with shot again the same baboon and retrieved the body, and a tiny baby clinging to the dead primate.
“I remember he took the baby off her body and brought her to me. The little baboon was screaming and terrified and at that moment I realised what I had done.’ she said and later in the same post she partially confesses to having “taken the life of a baboon so recklessly without giving it a second thought”
However, the hunter who was has rubbished the Baye’s “coming clean” story as “nonsense”.
“I did not shoot Umfazi’ mother, I never pulled the trigger, always hated killing animals.”
“I was in the proximity when Umfazi’s mother was shot the incident took place on the concession I had the 10 year lease for, in Shangani.
“I can understand why she wrote that, basically trying to cover up certain things, and again trying to put herself in a ‘better’ light. What exactly happened is not what was written.
As for her growing up with her “yard full of animals”, also false the hunter said.
Baye’s posts on her website on social media, contain heart-breaking images of orphaned animals, urging animal lovers to donate money to help.
The non profit making organisation Free to be Wild has also instructed its donors to channel funds for the sanctuary to a foreign bank account belonging to Gregg Tully.
According to its website it was in the process of registering the organisation in the United States and the United Kingdom in order to “accept donations safely and securely” in due time.”
“Life in Zimbabwe is always changing and ever challenging. Our banking system is sadly not stable at the moment and were fear losing valuable US$ donations at a moments’ notice.
“In the mean time our board member Gregg Tully, has generously offered to receive donations and volunteer payments on our behalf through his Paypal account.”
According to his Linked In profile, Tully is a strategy consultant for NGOs specializing in diversifying fundraising and internationalising organisations leveraging on his experiences to build capacity of animal organisations worldwide as a consultant.