The sisterhood of the travelling menagerie
A battered bakkie chugs along the seemingly nondescript road. In the back, you’ll find almost anything from a wood owl and a tortoise to lizards and snakes. Fiona and Naomi Radford are at the helm. The twin sisters began accumulating their strange assortment of animals years ago. While working at the Durban Natural Science Museum, the Radfords would teach children about the lives and environments of different species. Their presentations sparked so much enthusiasm that kids began bringing the duo all types of creatures that they’d find on the streets. In the 35 years since, the Radfords have had over 100 animals in their care.
Their growing pack forms The Menagerie – a public benefit organisation in KwaZulu-Natal that houses wild and domestic rescues. The sisters handle each one like experts. “Loving animals came as a second nature to us,” Fiona says. Education is the core of their work. The Radfords travel to underprivileged communities and schools, and exhibit at birthday parties. Through supervised interactive lessons, they teach children how to approach and protect the creatures they come across.
While domestic animals have high adoption rates, wilder species can’t be rehomed. They remain under the watchful eyes of the Radfords. True to their name, The Menagerie is an unexpected collective of creatures and care. Even when they’re at capacity or struggling to fund their endeavour, the Radfords continue to spread awareness on the proper treatment of all species. “The more we learn, the more we love them,” Fiona says.