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Wednesday, 18 February 2015 11:31

We've got an article in TravelMagSA!!

Thank you Ingrid and TravelMagSA for their lovely article in their magazine! TravelMagSA is a digital diversion of Lifestyle and Leisure Travel Magazine. You can visit their website at: www.topbiz.co.za 

article DAKTARI in travelmagsa

"A meerkat that inevitably started to bite. A mongoose that turned out to be not such a great pet. A Verraux Eagle whose wing had to be amputated because it flew into a pow- er line. A blind donkey found aimlessly wandering around Phalaborwa. The list goes on. All the animals at DAKTARI have a story to tell, their fates sealed by human ignorance and relentless en- croachment, and then altered by human kindness. Some will live out their days in captivity but many of DAKTARI’s animals have been rehabilitated and returned to the wild. All the animals, whether they stay or are prepared to be released, are part of a unique educational system that helps teach rural children about the importance of respect and kindness to animals and the conservation of our planet. Small successes perhaps on the scale of the damage being done by people to our planet, but at DAKTARI I became convinced that without these small successes we would all be lost, if not doomed. DAKTARI inspired me to feel hope, and what is more important than hope? (read more...)

 The mission of DAKTARI is to educate and inspire underprivileged children to care for their environment through the medium of a wildlife orphanage. The concept of DAKTARI was registered in 2002 and after selling everything they owned to pursue their lifelong dream, Ian and Michèle Merrifield opened the doors of DAKTARI on a private property just outside of Hoedspruit in January 2006. Surrounded by Big Five reserves, rural villages and three big towns, they were perfectly situated, but the process of convincing rural schools to send their children and international volunteers to pay to come and work took time and patience, and for many years they struggled to make ends meet. Now, nine years later, they have a team of one full-time employed South African, four dedicated long-term volunteers and several short-term volunteers. Together they take care of the animals and the children as well as the running and marketing of the project.

The long-term volunteers are required to stay for a minimum of twelve months and their living expenses are covered. Their re- sponsibilities include marketing, fund-raising, coordinating the volunteers and managing DAKTARI’s Outreach Program. Short- term volunteers pay for food and board and stay for a minimum of one week, which is the length of stay for the children as well. All the volunteers work with the children from Monday to Friday and over the weekends they rest, prepare for the new group to arrive and take care of the animals.

Every Monday morning a group of eight children (grade 8, age 13-16 in rural communities) are collected from one of the local schools with whom DAKTARI has established a relationship. At rural schools the children are taught in sparsely furnished class- rooms with sometimes 50 + students, leaving little room for per- sonal attention and guidance. At DAKTARI they aim to give each child one-on-one tutoring, one volunteer for each child, enhanc- ing trust, understanding and accountability. The parents of the children pay a symbolic fee of R20 per child towards the housing, meals and education they will receive for a period of five days.

Most of the children have only ever seen domestic livestock, cats, dogs and donkeys, and so you can imagine their surprise upon being introduced to animals such as a meerkat, a Giant Eagle Owl or a Rock Hyrax. Simultaneously, their relationship with the ani- mals in their villages hardly ever has an emotional aspect, this so interestingly reflected in the word ‘nyama’, the word that means both ‘meat’ and ‘animal’ in all Nguni languages. So when they come to DAKTARI and are taught that all animals deserve our kindness and respect, you can only imagine their confusion.

Throughout the five days they spend at DAKTARI they learn to care for the animals, to clean their cages and feed them. Every morning they walk the dogs and in the afternoon they go for a swim in the pool. They are taken on a Big Five game drive and given extra classes in English, maths, environmental job opportu- nities, life skills and important social issues like drugs, alcohol and safe sex. Through work and play they are given the opportunity to improve, discover, learn and become passionate about wildlife and its conservation, which is ultimately their heritage.

To bring rural children and orphaned or injured animals together is a brilliant concept. It is a WIN-WIN situation that will hopefully invoke more passion and compassion for animals both wild and domesticated, and create more awareness of their role in their conservation.

DAKTARI is a non-profit organisation and although its dedicat- ed people will never become rich, when you walk through their gates their great sense of passion and love for the animals and the children envelopes you. And next to hope, there is nothing more important than love!"

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