Sunday, January 10, 2016

Two Different Countries. Two Different Approaches to Wildlife.

AHHHHHHHHHHHH I love it here at Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia. It's sooo huge and there are so many animals here.

The contrast between the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre and Harnas Wildlife Foundation is pretty dramatic. For one thing, Malawi and Namibia are very very different from each other. Malawi was extremely hot and very humid. On some days, the humidity was 100% which is probably why my hearing aid failed.

Namibia is even hotter, but it's very dry. In Malawi, the work was more difficult because it rained so much. Namibia has much less annual rainfall. I haven't seen a storm since I got here and I might not see any rain at all. Malawi was very muddy and there centipedes and cockroaches all over the place. Namibia is sandy and there are lots of dung beetles and biting bugs.

When I got to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre in Malawi, I thought it was good-sized, but you could walk around the entire place in half a day. They had a strict hands-off policy for the animals. We prepared food and then made sure it was available in the enclosures, but some animals weren't even supposed to be seen by humans. Most of our time went to the orphaned vervet or baboon babies.

The Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Steinhausen, Namibia is much much bigger, and the philosophy about animals is different. I was blown away and speechless from the sheer size of the sanctuary here. Also there are sooo many animals roaming freely on the farm and living in harmony with each other. Here's a partial list of what I've seen so far: tortoises, peacocks, ducks, impala, duiker, kudu, eland, sheep, banded mongoose, bat eared foxes, porcupine, turkeys, geese, pumba, warthog, owl, dogs, cats, roosters.

Along the edges of the farm, there are large enclosures for some of the animals that can't roam freely--baby baboons, teenage baboons, hound puppies, vervet monkeys, cheetahs, leopards, crocodiles, meerkats, macaws, african treys, chickens, and baby tortoises (I counted 72 babies!!!). Outside of the farm, there are several other even larger enclosures containing more lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, baboons, vervet monkeys, caracals, ostriches.

Some of the animals living in the enclosure can't be released because they have injuries or disabilities. In other cares, the animals are endangered. If they were in the wild, they might be hunted or poached, so the Foundation decided that the safest place for them was in the huge enclosures where they roam freely without being in danger of being kidnaped or shot. They will be fed and protected for the rest of their lives.

Even in the area around the volunteer village at Harnas, there are many grazing animals roaming freely, such as impalas, springbucks, wildebeest, horses, donkeys, and more. The volunteer living situation is also quite different here. In Malawi, we stayed in a small building with several bunk beds. We all slept in the same room, right next to the orphaned monkeys enclosure and clinic. There were only two showers and a toilet to share among the volunteers, and water was always scarce.

In Namibia, there's a volunteer village in the middle of the sanctuary. There are several cabins with 4 beds in each cabin. Showers and toilets are outside in the center of the volunteer village. Water is a problem here too. Shower time is very limited, otherwise there wouldn't be enough water for everyone.

The wildlife centers in Malawi and Namibia are very different, but they have the same goals. First, they are trying to save animals that are orphaned, injured, or confiscated from illegal owners. Second, they provide sanctuary for animals that cannot survive on their own or are in great danger of becoming extinct. For me, it's been really interesting to see the different ways that different organizations in different countries accomplish the same purpose.

When I was planning this trip, I thought a lot about whether I should spend all my time on one project. In some ways that would have been easier--no travel in between placements and less time spent trying to get to know new people and new routines. In the end, I decided to work in three different rehabilitation centers, and now I'm really glad I made that choice. It's not always easy, but I love having new experiences--new places, new animals, new people, new ideas!!!

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