In October, a little tree squirrel fell out of her nest on a chilly and windy day in South Africa.
When the squirrel, now known as Dingetjie, fell into Simone Serfontein’s yard, she was visiting a friend. Dingetjie screamed and cried for her mother, but she never saw her again.
“We honestly didn’t believe this small creature would make it,” Serfontein told The Dodo, “but we needed to try and save this kid.”
Serfontein had no idea that when she chose to take Dingetjie home to help her, she was embarking on a lengthy journey.
Serfontein was only trying to make sure Dingetjie would make it through the night at the moment. “Her body temperature was quite chilly when we took her up, and she was obviously very terrified,” Serfontein added. “Her eyes had remained closed… She finally stopped screaming because we kept her warm.”
Serfontein and her partner Christof had to pick up a lot of information in a short period of time. “I had to do a lot of study since I didn’t know anything about parenting a newborn squirrel,” Serfontein said. She had to wake up numerous times throughout the night to feed Dingetjie. “I had no idea parenting a squirrel could be so difficult.”
Serfontein had other obligations that she couldn’t just leave because she’d taken in a young squirrel, so she carried Dingetjie along with her. “For the first three months, she accompanied me to work every day,” Serfontein recalled. “I used to feed her first thing in the morning, then get dressed, and she’d crawl into my scarf, shirt, or anyplace warm near to my body, and we’d go to work.”
Serfontein realized she only had so much time with Dingetjie – the squirrel was still a wild animal, and it would be cruel to keep her imprisoned in a house indefinitely.
“We always knew the day would come when we’d have to let her go,” Serfontein added.
Serfontein felt it was time to return her to the wild after a few months.
Serfontein is located in one of the world’s most remote areas.
“We reside in South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park, and everything is wild around us,” Serfontein explained. “She needs to be prepared since there are many hazardous creatures surrounding us that she may run into.”
Dingetjie was taken into the yard and placed on the grass to see what she would do. “The next thing she knew, she was in a tree, and her natural instincts kicked in,” Serfontein added. “It was both incredible and heartbreaking.” Serfontein felt it was better for Dingetjie to be wild, no matter how difficult it was to say goodbye.
And it appeared as if the narrative had come to an end there.
It wasn’t the case.
Dingetjie was delighted to return for a visit. She returned once more. And once more.
“For the first few months, every day was a little difficult saying goodbye; I always felt this may be the last time I saw her,” Serfontein said. “But then she’d be there every day when I got home, either waiting or seeing me going home from a tree or whatever, and she’d jump inside to say hello a few minutes later.”
“It turned out that she never really disappeared; she always, always, always returned,” Serfontein remarked. “Eventually, while working, we began to leave the window open for her throughout the day so she could come and go as she pleased.”
Serfontein regularly wakes up to discover Dingetjie curled up next her in bed, despite the fact that Dingetjie knows how to construct her nests in trees. She explained, “She understands this house is a secure and comfortable place.”
This had become a typical practice by the time Dingetjie was just 6 months old. Dingetjie looked to grown very chubby around the edges, despite the fact that she was a growing squirrel.
Serfontein stated, “We discovered she was gaining a lot of weight.” “We knew she had made a few squirrel pals, but we also assumed she wasn’t sexually active yet. We later found out she was expecting a child.”
Dingetjie made the decision to spend the most of her pregnancy at home. She used toilet paper to make a nest in a drawer. The couple returned after supper one night and discovered that something tragic had occurred.
Serfontein remembered, “She was neither on the bed or elsewhere to be located.” “We assumed she had fled, but she may have opted to be wild after all because she was pregnant. That, however, was not the case.”