The Wildlife Orphanage
Having a safe place to rehabilitate injured or orphaned animals has always been part of the vision of DAKTARI. It has also grown into an integral part of the education of the local children.
Most of the children that come to DAKTARI have never seen one of the Big 5 – Rhino, Lion, Leopard, Elephant, and Buffalo – or any of the local wildlife. Due to poaching and the killing of animals because they destroy crops, the wildlife has been relocated to private and national reserves for their protection. Entrance into these reserves is expensive so the local communities cannot enter.
|This is where DAKTARI comes in. We teach the children that their local wildlife should not be inherently feared or hated. We teach them that animals should be protected and respected. We teach them that the local wildlife creates jobs through tourism and animal care.
Our vision is to have a local community that is passionate about and protects the animals around them. This is only possible with the wildlife orphanage. Without seeing the animals, touching them, and caring for them, the children would not find their passion for animals and the environment. The members of our wildlife orphanage play the role of animal ambassador to protect the many other members of their species.
DAKTARI is home to dozens of animals that have no chance of being released into the wild – animals that have been permanently injured, like our raptor birds that cannot fly, or animals that have been hand raised and are too tame to survive in the wild, like our jackals. Other animals have a very low probability of survival in the wild and are kept to bolster the education program.
These animals are brought to DAKTARI by locals who find them or sent to us through our partnerships with Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, and local game reserves. They will live out their days at DAKTARI as animal ambassadors.
Although not a full rehabilitation centre, DAKTARI is home to several animals that are being raised or rehabilitated in order to be released. Most often, these animals come to us as abandoned babies. We raise them and then release them on our farm or on a nearby reserve. DAKTARI has successfully released three nyala, two porcupines, countless tree squirrels, a large-spotted genet, dozens of mongoose, several warthogs, and many others.
Animals as Ambassadors
What do animals do as ambassadors? Just seeing some of the animals in person and watching them is enough to spark interest and excitement for many of the children. However, the animals are important for more than just a quick tour.
The animals in the orphanage are integrated into the teaching program with the children. There are lessons about poaching, animal facts, and learning how to identify animals by their tracks. The children complete a scavenger hunt around the camp based on the different animals and facts about them.
Each morning and each afternoon, the children assist volunteers and staff in cleaning enclosures and feeding the animals. The children also interact with our more friendly residents during their free time.
By actively taking part in the animal care and by learning so much about animals during their stay, the children are inspired to protect the wildlife. It would be impossible to achieve our mission without the animals in our care.