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River’s Community Service Work in Namibia at Na’an ku sè Sanctuary

This past spring my family and I travelled to Africa. Part of our trip included volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia called Na’an ku sè. This is the place that I chose to do my grade 8 Community service project. At Na’an ku sè we helped to monitor and track large carnivores and other animals. The sanctuary cares for animals and has a school and healthcare center as part of their programme. They always need money and supplies. They even have a wish list page for supplies that they need. I wanted to bring money to donate and supplies that are in great need. Some of the things that they need are old laptops, binoculars and first aid supplies. I asked our IPS community to help me with my project and set a goal of $100 in donations.

River, Pam & Doug and the other volunteers at Na’an ku sè Sanctuary

Thanks to everyone who donated.We were able to raise about $300 which was spent on buying SD memory cards, batteries, and we also took along memory sticks and a laptop. All of these are needed for their research that they do. The SD cards and batteries are used for their camera traps, to learn more about the animals in their area. The memory sticks are used for storage of those images taken by the camera trap. The laptop was given to the researchers.

Na’an ku sè has 4 sanctuaries where they run volunteer work programs. They also have a lodge and campground at three of their sites. Reportedly, 75 percent of their revenue comes from the volunteer program as volunteers pay for room and board while they are volunteering. At the sanctuaries, they have animals that are kept in large enclosures because they can no longer return to the wild. For example, the Na’an ku sè sanctuary near Windhoek has lions, leopards, baboons, cheetahs, painted dogs, and caracals which can no longer return to the wild for various reasons.  Some of the animals are injured, are too accustomed to humans, or become too aggressive with livestock.

The sanctuary we stayed at was called Kanaan and was based in the southern Namib desert. The volunteering was led by one young man, Karl, who leads the volunteer program and research for this particular site. His interest area is hyenas, so we learned a fair bit about them. Days started at 6:30 am, just before sunrise, and went to 10 pm most nights. We also had time to interact with the camp manager and staff lead – both joined us in some activities.

They mixed the activities up to flip between educational sessions (where we would be taught about the animals, environment), research tasks (game counts, checking camera ‘traps’, microscopic scat studies, fence removal or improvement), fun group activities (sunrise or sundown trips, one sleep out, sandboarding), or basic daily chores (feed cheetahs, horses, goat and mongooses). Lunch break time involved a swim in a cold pool with a playful black lab.

The local animals in the area are oryx (gemsbok), springbok, ostrich, jackels, hyena (not seen), bat-eared fox (rare – 3), duiker (rare – 1), cheetah (not seen), ardwolf (rare – 1), and birds.

The desert itself is unbelievably beautiful – more so because it got the first rains in 9 years about 2 weeks before we arrived. The desert plains were alive with fresh green growth, which stood out against the sand and rock orange, red, yellow, black and grey. The terrain ranges from the eastern edge of the Namib sand dune desert, to dry plains and sand valleys nested around mountain ‘ranges’ (more isolated mountain clusters). The stars are spectacular at night as the sky is completely dark. I learned more about photography there and tried new camera techniques.

We found that the Na’ an ku sè program was pretty solid and they are doing good work trying to preserve and protect the land and animals around them. The research that was done by the volunteers was long and tiring sorting through endless camera trap photos but it is for a good cause.

Once again thank you to everyone who donated, it was an amazing experience.

River Hooper