Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary - How It All Began - Interview With The Founders

Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary - How It All Began - Interview With The Founders

Posted by Connor Whelan on 26th Jan 2016

As one of our most popular projects, we felt that we should bring you a little bit more information about the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary. We were lucky enough to have a visit from the sanctuary owners Rudi and Marlice and we got to ask them a few questions! It is safe to say that the pair are two of the most interesting people to have graced our office (sorry to the regulars who are in here all the time, mainly you Nikita,) and to start things off we asked them about the origin story of the sanctuary. Rudi took over the story telling from here on in, so sit back and enjoy!

Rudi: It was like a puzzle, it started with a clinic in 2003. It was August and we were at her mum's (his wife Marlice) place in the East of Namibia. A bushman brought a baby to the door of the house and Marlice called for me to come and see this child and we saw that he was very sick and severely malnourished. I looked in the health passport of the baby and this child was seen twice; once by a Cuban doctor and once by a Herrera nurse and the Cuban doctor had noted that the child was suffering from an insect bite. However it was clear to see that this child was suffering from malnourishment and not an insect bite.

We called the ambulance but as it was a public holiday the ambulance simply did not come so we took the child to the hospital. As we walked in I remember seeing three nurses sitting there and we asked them to help. They just sat there and just looked at us. We took it upon ourselves to find the theatre and resuscitate the child.

Unfortunately, the child died.

It was there and then we decided that we wanted to start a clinic for the bushman in that area. There was a building, and a very nice building at that which was set up by a company who went bankrupt and had left all of the equipment needed for a clinic in it. It was placed in a bankrupt trust and they wanted €20,000 for it so we started fundraising. That year we went to the Rugby World Cup (Rudi played for the Namibia national team so they didn’t just go as fans!) and we put an advert in a newspaper asking that for every point Namibia scored during the tournament, people could donate to this project. Next thing we knew, a Dutch businessman saw the article, came to Namibia and said “well I want to support this project.” We took him up there to see the clinic and he gave us the €20,000 there and then. With his help we bought the place and once a month we headed up there to put on a health clinic for the bushman.

Bushman Clinic

One year later the same businessman came back and told us we had done a good job and asked how he could help us now. Our response was that we needed a salary for a nurse. This was going to cost €15,000 and he gave us the money for that too meaning we now had a nurse on site!

A year later he came again when we were just beginning to look at setting up our own wildlife sanctuary and we proposed to him that if he bought the lodge we were looking at to become a home for our sanctuary, we would buy the land and register it as a charity. Without much persuasion he parted with another €350,000 and we bought the lodge, registered it as a charity and then we started the sanctuary. The aim was to bring the people who lived in the area around the clinic to the sanctuary so that they could work. As this started to take off we realised that we would need a school as now we suddenly had all of the local bushman on site with their children, so this was added to the agenda and the Clever Cubs School was born.

Clever Cubs School

What we soon came to realise was that you can’t just take animals from people. If a farmer phones you and says they have a Cheetah in a capture cage you can’t take it and put it into captivity. That isn’t a solution. So we started looking at the drivers of human-wildlife conflict. We wanted to work at that level, where the animal comes into contact with humans. That’s where the research started. We began to look at research sites, got investors to buy land for us and eventually that is how the research and project sites began.

I’m sure you call all agree that that story was quite amazing. If it has inspired you to help out at the sanctuary then you can do that right here. Volunteers are always needed so why not take part in a different type of holiday. Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow, as Rudi and Marlice explain what 2016 has in store for volunteers at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary!


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