Mimi - Naankuse Wildlife Conservation Sanctuary

Mimi 2018


I arrived at Windhoek airport at around 10.30 am, where I was picked up by the official Naankuse van. Arriving at the sanctuary at about 12noon, I met Corné, the volunteer manager, who gave us a tour of the farm. The farm is about half a square mile, and contained the dining area, some of the rooms, various animal cages (such as mongooses, rock hyraxes, cheetahs, duiker, tortoises, baboons, vervet monkeys and several others) and the main food prep area and generally the place of action! Corné explained how everything is recycled, and that the electricity is all solar (including for the boiler, meaning hot water only came through in the afternoon). On my first day I took a leisurely stroll through the cages, as the other volunteers were still busying themselves with morning activities, but I was too excited to simply sit in my room or unpack. At 2.30pm, I was given my first proper assignment - afternoon animal feed! I was also given my group, which was baboon. This was perfect for the first day, as I met all the animals around the farm which I had previously been looking upon dotingly. Each animal had a special diet, and one very old cheetah called Kiki (who lives in an enclosure on her own behind the farm) got her food specially prepared, as she doesn’t enjoy the skin on her meat. The coordinator leading the feed explained that Kiki got more or less whatever she wanted due to her age.

We finished on bottle feeding the baby baboons, which was a pleasure. I fed Alfie - one of three who still required a milk diet. After this, there was a dinner of potato and meat, and then straight to bed. I met my roommates - two Flemish girls who seemed to keep themselves to themselves. They were very nice, and informed me they were hoping to see the Rhinos present on the reserve as they would leave in the next few days and they hadn’t yet seen them.

The next morning I had farm induction with Corné. He taught us the history of the sanctuary and its founders, Rudie and Marlice. He explained the beliefs of the farm and their heavy recycling policy. Food and water were not to be wasted- it was drought season.

In the afternoon I was meant to not have any activities but I was far too anxious to get involved, so I jumped into a different group who happened to be doing enrichment. Enrichment was different every day but on this occasion we were making fruit ice lollies for the baboons, as it was hot during the day, and it was fun to watch them crunch the ice. The humans and baboons seemed to enjoy it equally.

That night I also happened to be thrown into night watch (hence the afternoon off) which involves staying on a platform above the lion enclosure for the night to watch for suspicious activity on the farm. Luckily our night was uneventful, except for a lot of roaring.

We were collected the next morning at 7.30am and I raced off to do an extra activity (one I had signed up for as I was meant to have the morning off). This was the caracal walk. I was with two lodge (hotel) guests who had paid to walk Misty, a friendly and docile adult female caracal. You’re not allowed to touch the carnivores, but Misty rubbed up against our legs on occasion. After the lodge guests left, I assisted Moses- the coordinator who ran the walk- in putting Misty back in her enclosure.
I was then dropped back at the farm where I relaxed for the rest of the day until dinner- this was a Saturday, and there were less activities in the afternoon, which was a blessing as I had so far been very busy!

There were no duties on Sunday, so I walked around camp.

On Monday, I tagged along with a group to walk the baboons. It was good fun, although baboons are rascals- one snapped my necklace and dropped it in the bush, and unfortunately I didn’t find it. In the afternoon I was deep cleaning the enclosures, where we changed meerkat bedding and cleaned the sheep pen.

On Tuesday I did research on the reserve. This consisted of a game count and tracking down two collared cheetahs living in the area - Arrow and Kitty. In the afternoon I was starting to come down with something so I missed the rest of research, but was looked after very nicely by my new roommate, Kayleigh.

The next day I felt a lot better and was put into project work. This is work around the farm in general, and we were kept very busy. We moved an entire giraffe leg (weighing around a ton) from the freezer to the food prep area to thaw, and then we worked in the food garden to deweed and remove dead foliage. It was exhausting, as we had to uproot entire areas of turf. That afternoon was one of my favorites as we took two cheetahs on a walk. It was like a game of hide and seek with two deadly predators- the cheetahs had a go at a Kudu but didn’t catch it.

The next day was one of my favourites. I was doing FIT (fingerprint analysis techniques) in the morning, however on the way to do so we drove past the lion enclosure and stopped to see the lions - arguably my favourite animal, alongside wild dogs. We did FIT with old lady, a cheetah, but when she wasn’t cooperative we moved to the enclosure of ‘The Seven’ a group of orphaned cheetahs who all lived together. They performed the FIT perfectly and we put their paw prints in the database.

After this we cleaned the camp of eland manure, as a herd had moved through overnight, then worked on cleaning the sheep enclosure. Enrichment was done with two of the cheetahs after lunch, Ebony and Ivory. This involved filling papier-mâché gloves with feathers and blood and stringing them from a tree.

The next day I was on baboon walk again, with Mina, the matriarch of the group and also a brand new mother, thanks to a wild baboon which had found its way into their enclosure. After lunch we were involved with deep cleaning with two warthogs- Spekkie and Daisy. We refreshed their waterhole and fed the two.

On Saturday I requested to do the carnivore feed, which was accepted and so we saw the lions, cheetahs, wild dogs and Malaika the caracal. We also fed the large group of baboons- far too old to be taken for walks as they had developed their canines. On afternoon feed I fed the rock hyraxes and headed to bed pretty early.

Sunday was a pretty empty day, as I had not been placed on any feeding activity.
For the remainder of my stay I chose to do pure research, on the reserve. This involved tracking wild dogs, cheetahs, and doing game counts, as well as sorting and setting up camera traps. I thoroughly enjoyed these last few days, and intend to go back next year to be a research intern. I was very upset upon leaving, having made lifelong friends and thoroughly experiencing life in the Namibian desert. I definitely plan to go back as it was an experience I will never forget.

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