Press Release from All Hearts Foundation SA
This letter is a formal and public statement by myself, Lexi Austen, regarding the pack of Canadian Timber Wolves All Hearts Foundation (AHF) has been fundraising for. AHF is committed to transparency and honesty.
There have been many questions and rumours surrounding the situation, such as who owned them before, where did they come from, how they ended up where they are, etc. I hope this statement will transparently provide our supporters with the facts.
The wolves previously belonged to the Fernandes family, who fell into financial difficulties which led them to be liquidated. Many of their animals lives were placed in jeopardy. Assistance was offered by myself and my husband Ronnie as we were close supporters and friends of the family at the time.
Resultant from the liquidation the animals previously in the care of the Fernandes family needed to be relocated as part of the liquidation proceedings and this included the wolves. I was to assist with the relocation of the wolves and other animals from Limpopo to a location secured by myself for the family in Krugersdorp for all of the animals being relocated. The relocation was to be very challenging and would be very stressful for the animals. The wolves were to be moved last due to the heat and pre-existing knowledge that we had that the wolves did not respond well to darting and any travel. Only 2 of the 14 wolves were ultimately darted.
The Fernandes family and members of the team were already at the location in Krugersdorp assigned to build and secure the temporary enclosures for all of the animals. I called several times during the day to find out how the wolves enclosure was progressing and ultimately it became apparent that the enclosure had not been built at all. As a result the wolves could not be moved to this location, this despite more team members having left Limpopo before the wolves departure to try and assist with securing the enclosure for the wolves.
This mismanagement ultimately resulted in the transporter offering to house the wolves on his farm in the Free State on a temporary basis for a monthly housing fee of R12 000.00, which the Fernandes family agreed to. This agreement was made on the basis that it would be temporary until the enclosure for the wolves in Krugersdorp had been completed. The arrangement was confirmed to me by the Fernandes family who advised me to just bring the expensive animals to Krugersdorp and send the wolves to the transporters farm as it would only be for one month.
The exhausting journey of 6-8 hours resulted in the transportation arriving in Krugersdorp just after 01h00. The truck was welcomed by a crew of people which further stressed out the animals. Many of the animals had to remain on the truck as enclosures were incomplete and completed only the day after transit. The wolves were not relocated to Krugersdorp as originally envisaged and ultimately the wolves were sent to the transporters farm in the Free State.
Sadly from the wolf pack the Alpha female and one of the juveniles died during loading.
Several more of the family’s animals died during the next few days in Krugersdorp, their deaths blamed on the vet. The facts are that one had died over night in the truck, another had died due to stress and one was poisoned which was confirmed by autopsy.
The wolves now located in the Free State were of a great concern to me as I had personally bonded with the pack and I was aware that month end was fast approaching and the transporter was due to be paid for the housing costs. No arrangements had also been communicated to me regarding relocating the wolves to Krugersdorp as originally envisaged. The Fernandes family did not address my concerns and advised me that the vet had overcharged for the relocation and there were no funds. As the weeks and then months passed the relationship between the family and I went sour for personal reasons and ultimately I left the relationship feeling used and betrayed for various reasons. Despite this I have never disparaged the family and simply focused on my own causes.
After leaving I was still a contact person for the family and was constantly phoned regarding money owed by the family to various individuals, one of these individuals being the transporter of the wolves. Nearly a year after the relocation of the wolves, they still remained in the Free State with the transporter receiving no payment for housing and feeding at all. The transporter also advised me that no members of the Fernandes family had visited the wolves for nearly a year.
I was ultimately told that he was going to sell the wolves to recoup the costs of housing and feeding them. I immediately contacted Justin Fernandes who advised that they did not have the funds to fetch the wolves and that the transporter must sell them. I offered to assist with raising funds to try and save the wolves but the Fernandes family told me directly that they did not want the wolves and declined all tenders of my assistance in raising funds. Ultimately Maxine Fernandes provided the transporter with a letter of ownership pertaining to the wolves to enable him to sell the wolves to a third party in order to recoup his housing costs.
The Fernandes family completely relinquished ownership to the wolves.
It was at this point that I stepped in and started my organization All Hearts Foundation to raise funds myself to try and save the wolves who had been abandoned. I did not want them to be sold to a third party and end up in a location where they could be harmed.
I met with the transporter and ultimately he agreed that AHF could purchase the wolves at an agreed amount of R50 000.00. He would keep the wolves on his property until AHF had raised the funds and arranged an alternative location for them to reside, which was originally envisaged.
I have repeatedly had AHF’s attempts to save the wolves disparaged by the family and the defamatory rumours and comments that circulate on social media are damaging to AHF and ultimately the animals AHF assists. Some of the rumours have resulted in one donation being withdrawn and threats being received by AHF of a law suit which directly referenced the Fernandes family’s involvement in disparaging AHF’s attempts to save the wolves.
In a perfect world the people who profess to love animals would do all they could to look after and care for animals. If they cannot do so they should support others in their attempts to care and save animals.
AHF strives to save the wolf pack and whilst I have ignored the negative comments and publicity that my foundation has been subjected to, I feel that the situation deserves transparency. This statement is factual in nature and discloses the fact that the wolves were not stolen, the Fernandes family relinquished ownership of the wolves after they were abandoned for nearly over a year. The wolves were to be sold to a third party to offset housing costs owed by the Fernandes family.
AHF has managed to raise two thirds of the funds due and payable to the transporter for the wolves and the transporter confirmed last year in writing that the organization now owns the wolves. The balance is being paid off as AHF raises funds and we also raise funds for food delivered to the wolves. I also visit the wolves regularly and am actively involved in their care.
I met with the transporter last Saturday again and now regard him as a friend. The transporter Pieter works closely with government and conservation and houses many confiscated animals on his farm. Whilst he has been patient thus far with the situation as he has received partial payment towards the wolves housing and feeding costs the wolves are occupying a section of his camp that he needs to open that section. Pieter has now agreed with AHF that a permanent enclosure can be built on his farm and the wolves housed there on a permanent basis. The agreement with AHF is that the organization must pay for the enclosure to be built at a cost of R22 000.00 and food is to be provided on a monthly basis. There is to be no housing costs other than the enclosure and food which results in a safe forever home for the wolves. As well as no stress for the wolves to be relocated as mentioned they don’t cope well with that.
The wolves eat 25kgs of food per day so AHF is going all out to market the cause and strive to raise the funds required for the enclosure and permanently provide for food.
If anyone can assist (with fencing or a contact for food) please get in touch.
I would like to thank each and every one single person for their time and to let them all know my foundation is a voice for the voiceless. This is our motto, this is what we do!