Africa Wildlife Rehab trip. Pics and movies inside!

This was originally meant as an e-mail to my friends/family, but figure their may be of some interest here too.

This is the web addy for my picture collection if you want to get to the meat of it, but there is some supplemental stuff further down if you are interested. Please no TLDR’s and don’t quote the entire huge post. Thanks! <— Pictures here!


I found Harnas online when I was interested in some animal volunteer work abroad, but many of the European volunteers discovered Harnas through their mini-episodes that played on Animal Planet UK. When I came back I looked them up on YouTube and found many great clips that represent a good part of my trip. For those who are interested…

Here are the Animal Planet mini-episodes:

What you see in these videos is Harnas itself.

The woman who shows up first is Jo, she is the wife of Schalk and does a lot of the administrative work at Harnas. The second woman is Marietta, she and her husband started Harnas when they were younger and developed it to what it is today. The old man is Frikke who handles most of the animals and the volunteer program itself. He’s the one who put Zion in the headlock. The 1st young guy is no longer at Harnas, suffers from depression. The 2nd young guy is Schalk, he is Marietta’s son and is a ex-rugby champion. He does a lot of the heavy lifting at Harnas.

Describes the Volunteer project. I figure a lot of the Europeans saw this.

Lost as a baby. She’s the one who bit a small chunk out of my big toe.

Schalk, Zion, and Trust. 2 brothers. Zion is the one who jumped me.

Shows all the different animals at Harnas.

Gumbi our only brown hyena. Looks like a miniature werewolf. He was raised as a pet by a Dutch family, but he got too big and played rough so they gave him to Harnas. It’s sad seeing Gumbi, because he always looks depressed. He loves humans, but plays too hard and can break bones etc. They tried to release him, but he came back. They put a female hyena with him and he killed her. They are still trying to figure out what to do with him.

The rest of the videos are from volunteers. Many cool straight from the “trenches” kind of deal:

Feeding Hemingway, the father of the two lion brothers. He developed cancer and had a huge tumor on his mouth. He died a bit before I came. Lions are funny, because they get pissed off after you feed them. They think you will take the meat you just gave them. Also lions “growls” sound nothing like you would think they do. Really sound like deep belches and burps.

Wild dogs on the feeding tour. Absolutely insane. They will try and dig under the fence to get to you and through themselves repeatedly into the electric fence to get to the meat. Their chattering also sounds like high-pitched bats or birds. Gets confusing when they surround you.

More wild dogs during feeding time. Think raptors from Jurassic Park.

Yet more wild dogs.

Inside the wild cheetah enclosure during the feeding tour. They are lazy in that video. Cheetahs don’t sound like what you expect either. They either meow just like house cats or do a high-pitched “I’m hungry” bark.

More cheetah feeding.

I heart Mongooses. They “rolling R” sound is how we call them to feed. There are 80ish of them in the tribe that lives in the farm. Only one or two are tame enough to pick up. I found the second one and named her. She liked to sleep in my shirt. Le sigh.

More mongooses.

Feeding the wild baboons on the feeding tour. Millypop is basically a mix of all the leftovers from dinner. Mostly oatmeal and veggies with some fruit and bone as well. Have to throw while meatwagon is moving. Sucks to keep balance.

Playing with the 5 baby baboons. Same ones that they had when I went there, but a little bit bigger.

Jealous baby baboons.

Feeding Sher-Khan, one of our more wild lions. Frikke knows how to sweet talk the lions.

Every evening and most of the night all the lions would roar. Male and female. It’s their way of saying “This is my area, don’t come into my area.” It’s awesome. Again sounds like very deep belching, not like a roar you would imagine.

Caracals being caracals.

Hooters! Looks shabby in this video, doesn’t look like that in real life. Cheetahs never look at you directly, they are always looking past you to see what’s going on around them. He’s a 24 yr old male. Cheetahs usually don’t live past 20. He’s starred in a couple of movies. He’s so tame he can walk around the whole farm without anyone worrying about him. Cheetah purrs are incredibly deep, and their tongues are so rough they can lick your skin off.

Picture slide shows.

Bush people celebrating. No they aren’t like this during the day. There is a tribe that lives and works on the reservation. Most don’t get paid, which annoyed a lot of the volunteers. But I figure they have a place to live, they get a constant source of food and clean water, the family allows the women to work too and allow them a voice (women don’t have many rights here), the family also built a church and a school. All the bush kids go to school every day. Teachers live at the farm. Considering Namibia has like a 40% unemployment rate, I think that’s a pretty good deal.

During the day they look just like anyone else, but they would switch to their ceremonial clothing for celebrations and sing/dance for us. It was awesome.

The family members themselves you see every day. Marietta and her husband started the farm many years ago. They were already members of wealthy Dutch families who owned farmland in Namibia. They love animals and started collecting mistreated and abused animals, orphans, animals that were kept as pets etc etc. The costs were incredible and they started selling their farmland and cattle until they basically had nothing left. So they started the farm and started collecting donations, etc etc, taking volunteers etc etc. They raise a lot of money doing films and photo shoots. Harnas is also one of the stops on the touristy side of Namibia. Wealthy Dutch/German families stop and stay for the day. We take them on the wild feeding tour and the farm feeding tour so they can see the animals.

The husband died several years ago from some sort of African tick fever. Their son Schalk and his wife Jo live on the farm with their 2 young children. Marietta’s second son died in a small plane crash on the farm a few years back as well. His wife, Marie, also lives on the farm with her children. You see and work besides them every day which is awesome. They really care for their animals

Many of my pictures are of the tame animals that live on the farm itself. But most of the animals in Harnas are wild and live in large enclosures on the outside of the farm (but still within the reservation.) These animals are usually taken in for being sick/injured/etc and are intended to be released at some point.

There are usually 40ish volunteers at any given point. Most of them European, primarily British and German. Mostly women. There were never more than 6 boys at one time. Most people stay for 2/3/4 weeks. But some stay for 2 months, 3 months, one guy stayed for 6 months. Mostly people in their low to mid 20’s, but there were some 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.

Germans are great, but very German. The Swiss and Dutch are awesome and I would recommend them to anybody. Danish as well….anyone Northern European really. A few French, some Scots, and Canadians. 2 or 3 Americans. Half of the Brits were obnoxious, drunk, but still awesome. The other half were just obnoxious and drunk. You spend all your time with the same people and really bond with pretty much everyone. I guess the kind of people who go all the way to Africa to save animals have similar personality types. I just spent four weeks out there, but I really miss some of my friends.

The documentation makes a point that you are there to work, not to be a tourist or pet/play with animals. Many of the volunteers and I went to Harnas prepared to work hard and not see that animals that much. But to our surprise you pretty much get to roll around with cheetahs on day one. Much, much more hands on time with the animals that I expected. Definately a lot of hard work caring for all of them, but it hardly seemed like work when you are doing something you really care about I suppose.

I loved every minute of it. I didn’t want to leave, and I would go back in a heartbeat.

I want this guy to be mine: