Mike Hardwich (1947 - ) was born in the Transvaal and was schooled in Johannesburg. In 1965 he attended university in Pietermaritzburg, and on getting his B.Sc (AGRIC) degree he moved back north to qualify as a vet from Onderstepoort. In 1974 he returned to Pietermaritzburg to run his own veterinary practice, and in 1984 he, and his family, relocated to their farm in the beautiful Tala Valley, and they have lived in KwaZulu-Natal ever since (besides a four year stint on the Isle of Man).
Mike is a dedicated vet who has worked with wild and domesticated animals for over thirty-nine years. He assists whenever the need arises and has an extraordinary rapport with all living things. He has been married to Judy for forty-two years and they have three married daughters and seven grandchildren.
He currently owns (and practises from) the Heritage Veterinary Clinic in Hillcrest.
As a country vet whose territory covers the rich valleys and farmland of KwaZulu-Natal, his clients range from cattle farmers to owners of domestic pets, from game ranchers to circuses. The demands on a vet are constant and often arrive at very inconvenient times. Called upon day and night, Mike brings to each case his skills, ingenuity and years of experience, and although he never loses sight of his aim of preserving and improving the lives of the animals he is called upon to treat, sometimes he is sorely challenged by their owners.
Mike’s enjoyable tales of the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a veterinarian are documented in his books The Lion and the Lamb – Memoirs of a Vet, and The Rhino and the Rat – Further Memoirs of a Vet (his second collection of stories).
Whether he is describing the difficult birth of a two-headed calf, discovering sheep scab on the Isle of Man, caring for Dorothy the elephant in her declining years, or helping Reggie the rat’s grieving owner accept his impending demise, Mike’s compassion and pragmatic humour never seem to flag. His books on being a vet (who always sleeps with one ear cocked) will leave you wanting more.
2013 – The Rhino and the Rat – Further Memoirs of a Vet: Tracey McDonald Publishers
2014 - The Tiger and the Tortoise - Final Memoirs of a Vet: Tracey McDonald Publishers
THE GRIM PLIGHT OF RHINO IN SOUTH AFRICA
On a game farm in the lush Zululand bush the welcome coolness of evening, together with the gradual fall in temperature, was something that was much appreciated after a day of stifling heat.
A rising full moon silhouetted the thorn trees in silvery light and the water in the nearby dam shimmered. The scratch post and the rhino midden were clearly visible. The area had been a hive of activity throughout the day, and had included a multitude of dungbeetles around the midden busily rolling the dung balls in which their larvae would develop. Now, as darkness descended, it was quiet and still. All that came from the well-trodden patch of barren earth was the strong smell of digested sweet grasses, the distinctive odour that emanates from the droppings of most herbivores. The scratch post had seen the passing of many years. It had grown from a tender sapling into a magnificent, dense hardwood tree which had stood for more than a hundred years before it had been broken off about a metre from its base, probably by an elephant in must. Following this, it had been polished smooth and shiny for the past six decades by the rhinoceroses that had relieved their itchy hides on it, scraped off parasites and massaged tired muscles. Altogether, it had witnessed the coming and going taking place around it for more than 160 years.
In the nearby Hluhluwe River valley, a Scops owl hooted mournfully. It was probably sitting in one of the beautiful fever trees that grew so profusely in the river bed. These trees, growing in low-lying swampy places, were so named because they were once associated with malaria and early pioneers were convinced that they were the cause of the ague.
Closer at hand, the fiery-necked nightjar called at regular intervals from high up in a leadwood tree: ‘wheh,’ ‘wheh,’ ‘whehwhehwheh’ – a call easy to recognise in the bushveld. Overhead flew a brace of whistling ducks which had no doubt spent the day sleeping and preening on the water’s edge of the dam. Now they were on their noisy way to feed – ‘mai-wi-wi’ followed by ‘sip-sip-sieu’ – a cry which also made them readily identifiable.
At just after eight o’clock on this evening in May 2011, all seemed peaceful and harmonious in the bush.
Suddenly a single shot pierced the tranquillity. It was followed by another two shots in rapid succession.
Mark, the owner of the game farm, and his companions, two policemen from the anti-poaching unit, had been standing patiently beneath some thorn trees for nearly three hours. The first shot had confirmed their target and had provoked the retaliatory fire. At this time of the evening there was still enough light to make out the poachers but in any event they all had night-sights on their weapons.
The rhino cow and her tiny calf had been making their leisurely way down to the dam about an hour earlier and they had lingered there after drinking to enjoy the cooling evening breeze. Normally, several other rhinos would join them later – this is something rhinos do; they meet up around watering holes in the late evenings – but tonight there would be no socialising. The loud bursts from the rifles had scared the others off and tonight they would remain well hidden in the vegetation.
The first shot had been fired by one of the poachers but, fortunately for the victim this time, it was slightly off course and, although it had penetrated the thick muscular tissue of the rhino cow’s neck, it was not a mortal wound. The second two bullets had been perfectly aimed and had come from a different direction: two poachers now lay dead on the ground. Both blasts had rung out from the rifles of the two policemen who were after the illegal hunters. Usually these skelms always seemed to be one step ahead of their pursuers, claiming one rhino after the other for the sake of their horn, but not tonight, not this time.
On this occasion the two, now dead, illegal hunters had been set up and they had received the harsh ‘kangaroo justice’ of the African bush.