We are very excited to announce that the DAKTARI office has expanded! As the DAKTARI team continues to grow we needed a little more space to accommodate our office staff.
The DAKTARI office team is now comprised of an Outreach Manager, Outreach Assistant, Marketing Manager, Fundraising Manager, Office Assistant, Office Manager, Volunteer Coordinator and Animal Care Manager. In addition, of course, to DAKTARI's co-founders Ian and Michele! This doesn't include our unofficial office team: our four dogs Kenzo, Nikita, Mirabel and Gucci.
As DAKTARI grows it is great to have a brand new space making our office look and feel considerably bigger. We have knocked through the wall to the volunteer office creating a significantly more comfortable and spacious area with lots of natural light and fresh air. The image on the right shows a glimpse of the new space.
We look forward to achieving much success here thanks to our dynamic and hard-working team!
Last weekend DAKTARI took ten children on a field trip to Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center. The center is home to many of South Africa's abandoned, injured and poisoned wildlife. Some of the animals they have are unable to be released into the wild so act as animal ambassadors for their species. The children had a tour of the center and were able to see many animals for the first time including lions, leopards, hyenas and even a honey badger!
The children were so excited to see the lions there and couldn't believe the size of them. They had only ever seen them on TV before and thought they would be much smaller in real life. The children loved taking photos of the male lion and were fascinated by the strength of him.
The highlight of the trip was learning how to hold and feed vultures! Each of the children had the chance to hold a vulture on their arm and feed it food. This was a great experience for them even though the vulture was very heavy!
After the trip one of the students thanked DAKTARI for the trip. Magedline said "Thank you for the trip I had so much fun! Moholoholo was amazing, especially the lions!"
Thank you Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center for treating the children to his incredible educational experience.
A few times a year, when the children are writing exams, DAKTARI hosts a job-hunting program. Local unemployed youths stay at the DAKTARI camp for a week and learn valuable CV, job research and interview skills.
After their week here, DAKTARI runs follow up workshops in the village to support their job-hunting efforts and expand the students' skills sets. Last week, DAKTARI conducted a workshop in the Oaks Village that was attended by four students from the job-hunting program: Titus, Portia, Honest and Valencia. The volunteers helped them adjust their motivation letters and reviewed how they could improve their job research. This included how to make a good impression when introducing yourself to a future employer.
For two intense hours the students worked hard and have left the workshop with a renewed hope of finding a job. We are confident that these hardworking individuals will soon be employed.
DAKTARI is lucky enough to welcome Nodia Mametja, our new Animal Care Manager. Read a short interview with Nodia to find out more about him!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Nodia Mametja and I am from the Oaks Village.
Why is the environment important to you?
I feel like we are all connected to the environment and that is why it is so important to look after it. When I was younger I really enjoyed spending time in the environment. As I grew I started searching for different projects and opportunities that would allow me to work in the environment. I joined DAKTARI so I could gain more experience in this field.
Why did you decide to work at DAKTARI?
I decided to work at DAKTARI because I have a passion for working with animals. For me, being here is a dream come true.
What is your favourite animal at DAKTARI and why?
My favourite animal is Molly the bush pig. She is so friendly! I wish I could spend all day with her because she is so sweet.
What are you most looking forward to about working at DAKTARI?
I am looking forward to working with animals and the environment at the ground level. I would like to rehabilitate animals and release them back into the wild. All of the animals here seem happy but I think soon it will be time for some of them to go and live in the bush in the wild.
We are happy to have you join us Nodia and we can't wait to report on your great work in the coming months!
Exciting news at DAKTARI this week as we released six of our banded mongooses into the wild: Smurfie, Mongo, Sissi and her three babies.
Banded mongooses are native to Africa and are famed on their ability to kill snakes. Unlike many mongoose species, banded mongooses are highly social and live in troops of five to thirty animals. Smurfie, Sissi and Mongo were all brought to DAKTARI individually in 2015 and 2016. As the mongooses were unfamiliar with one another, we kept them in the same enclosure for over a year so they could bond and eventually form an established troop. Early this year, Sissi had three babies which meant three soon became six, an ideal number for a mongoose troop. We waited for the babies to grow and gain strength before eventually deciding on a release date.
The pack was released in an isolated part of DAKTARI's reserve, away from the camp. It was great to see them run to freedom and we hope they will do well in the wild! In the meantime we are left with Jackson, who was unable to be released as he continued to fight with the other mongooses and Rex and Tootie, who are still babies.
Click here to see the full footage of their release!
We are very happy to welcome Valerie, our new Giant Eagle Owl, to the DAKTARI family! Valerie was hit by a car and taken to a rehabilitation centre in the Phalaborwa region.
She had quite severe injuries and unfortunately this meant she had to have her wing amputated. Luckily Valerie was under the great care of Provet Wildlife Services so the operation went well. She stayed at the vet recovering for a week before eventually being transferred to DAKTARI.
She is now settled into her new enclosure with our other Giant Eagle Owl Coco, who is very happy to have a new friend!
Although she won’t be able to be released into the wild we are sure she will have a happy life at DAKTARI acting as an important animal ambassador to the children!
Maxi is a female bushbuck who was brought to DAKTARI in 2008 after suffering severe injuries caused by a dog attack. She was hand raised here and has gone on to raise several young of her own in the wild. A few months ago, we noticed Maxi was pregnant again and low and behold she has had another baby! Unlike her previous offspring, there is something very special about this baby: it's a cross between a bushbuck and a nyala, something very rare!
The bushbuck and nyala are both antelope species found in Southern Africa. Although the bushbuck is a close relative of the nyala, they have distinctively different appearances. Bushbuck are chestnut to dark-brown antelope with faint white lines and spots on their flanks. Unlike nyala, they do not have a white band between their eyes and instead have two white patches on their throat. The appearance of nyala greatly differs between males and females. Males are much bigger and have a slate-brown coat that is marked with white vertical stripes. Females are chestnut-coated with even more prominent white stripes on the flanks.
Maxi's baby, the nyabuck, is lighter in colour than her and has prominent white stripes on its body like a nyala. However, it has no white stripes between its eyes and instead has two white patches on its throat like a bushbuck. We look forward to reporting on the appearance and health of our nyabuck as it grows up!
Last week, DAKTARI visited Lepono High School to conduct a workshop on the importance and value of education. DAKTARI runs an outreach program in addition to an environmental education program and wildlife orphanage. DAKTARI's outreach program has four main parts: eco-clubs at two local secondary schools (Maahlamele and Rakgalokwana), community development, waste management and a job-hunting program.
Approximately one hundred eight and ninth graders were able to participate in the workshop. In small groups, the children spent seven minutes interviewing a DAKTARI volunteer about their job and previous education. Once the seven minutes were up, the groups swapped and the children were able to interview another volunteer. The children asked the volunteers what they do, what they studied at school and whether or not they went to university. By the end of the workshop the students had spoken to seven volunteers who were from different countries around the world. The volunteer's career and education backgrounds were all vastly different which was beneficial for the students as it highlighted that basic education is important no matter what job you want to do!
Online, DAKTARI's ideal balance of working with children and animals seemed too good to be true. I arrived expecting some sort of catch but soon learned that the website, as well as the rave reviews from past volunteers, are extremely accurate in depicting the curriculum and atmosphere DAKTARI has to offer. Unlike many programs, the volunteers aren't coddled - they are immediately embraced and given the utmost feeling of importance, as well as aptitude to complete their tasks. This sense of independence is, in my opinion, what gives DAKTARI the familial atmosphere that makes you forget that you are a volunteer. Although given a schedule of lessons, along with instructions, the way in which you're encouraged to be interpretive shows the way that DAKTARI understands how there is no 'right way' for something to be done. Although a running establishment for more than 11 years, this humility continues to be felt the minute Ian greets you at the airport.
I was very impressed in the ways which DAKTARI implemented little, seemingly casual lessons with nature to instill impactful environmental considerations with the kids. Even the 20-minute morning dog walks managed to teach the kids important lessons about countering wild snakes and how to walk a dog with a combination of firmness and gentleness. These little lessons, as well as countless others are the ones I had assumed that the kids already knew. They hadn't and this highlights the way in which DAKTARI's great relationships with the nearby communities allow a valuable understanding of what to include in their curriculum. This understanding is also seen in the environmental lessons, in which DAKTARI's understanding of the local rubbish practices allow them to turn a broad lesson about the environment into one that the kids can relate to.
One of my favorite parts about DAKTARI was how remote its location is. Coming from a big city, I expected to take a while to get used to the isolation and wild animals. This turned out to be the farthest thing from true- now back home, I realize how easily I took these things for granted. Small encounters, like Eeyore the donkey hanging out next to your chalet, or the squirrel coming up to you for a cuddle in the lapa are thing that I would give anything to experience one more time. And don't get me started on how much I miss cuddling with my meerkats.
A little review cannot do justice to explain the amazing four weeks I had at DAKTARI. Even explaining DAKTARI to my friends and family back at home proves futile. This is because the experience at DAKTARI cannot be justified in the curriculum or the types of animals that they have there. Instead, my time at DAKTARI is made up of countless moments with the kids, animals, and other volunteers that I will take with me for the rest of my life. It's made up of the moments in which Ian and Michele truly felt like my surrogate parents. It's made up of the way I weirdly enjoyed picking up spotted owl poop. All these little moments are why I definitely know that I will be back one day.
Recently DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage acquired a new member of the family - a six month old baby bush pig called Molly. Molly was found abandoned, wandering around alone behind a shop in Hoedspruit, our nearest town.
Since arriving at DAKTARI in May, Molly's confidence has grown everyday. She has quite the personality and loves walking around the camp, meeting all the other animals. She even tried to make friends with our cheetah Martin but I think he was more interested in eating her for dinner! As she's such a social animal we now take her on daily walks and give her a chance to stretch her legs and play around the camp!
Molly loves to play with our volunteers and tries her best to give everyone muddy kisses! Some of her favourite things to do include playing football and taking mud baths! Click here to see a video of Molly playing football!
This Nelson Mandela Day, DAKTARI joined forces with one of our nearby villages, the Oaks, to take part in a big clean. Nelson Mandela Day celebrates Mandela's life and encourages everyone to take positive action in a way that will bring about sustainable change. There is no rubbish collection service in the area so waste management is a sizeable problem. Over the last few months, DAKTARI has been supporting the Oaks in formulating a waste management plan. The first step in this process was a village litter clean-up!
Over fifty volunteers participated in the big clean including members of the Community Works Program and residents of the Oaks Village. The volunteers worked hard all morning collecting trash around the market place and along the side of the main road. By the end of the day, an impressive sixty-seven trash bags had been filled, commemorating Mandela's sixty-seven years of public service!
Plans are already underway to install bins in the village as the Oaks strives to be a positive example to other villages in the area!
Every Friday, before the children leave, a 'winner of the week' is chosen based on how helpful, kind and polite they have been during their stay at DAKTARI. They are given a tree to plant and are rewarded with a game drive.
Last weekend, the winners from the previous ten weeks went on their game drive to Balule Nature Reserve in Greater Kruger and were generously shown around by Tsakane Safari Co. On the game drive, they got to see numerous animals including a herd of nearly forty elephants! This was the first time they had ever seen these animals in the wild and were fascinated by the sheer size of them. They also saw giraffe, impala, kudu and zebra.
As they drove through the reserve, the field ranger explained how he tracks animals using the sights and sounds of the bush and why it is important to conserve wildlife. This built upon the knowledge they gained during their stay at DAKTARI.
At the end of the drive, the children were shown around a tented camp and got to talk to one of the game rangers about what it's like to live amongst lions and elephants! Thank you Tsakane for showing the children the magic of the bush and providing them with an unforgettable educational experience.
Eight years ago, Nathaniel came to DAKTARI as a child to take part in our environmental education program. Last week, we had the pleasure of welcoming him back as a volunteer! Nathaniel is currently in his third year of University in Johannesburg studying Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and plans to pursue a career in conservation.
“It’s quite funny that I came here again because coming here for the second time really shows that DAKTARI is a place where most of the students, if not all, would like to come back at a later stage in their life.”
When Nathaniel first came to DAKTARI in Grade 8, it was a completely new experience for him. He’d never interacted with animals before and found it fascinating to be part of a community that respects and cares for wildlife. His week at DAKTARI made him very curious about the environment and his passion for nature and wildlife started to grow. Nathaniel decided to return to DAKTARI as a volunteer because it was here that he was first inspired to care for nature. During his two weeks working as a volunteer, he has been involved in teaching the education program as well as tending to the animals in our wildlife orphanage.
“What I have enjoyed most in my two weeks at DAKTARI is the educational program because I love to teach about the environment and I can tell the children are happy to be here”
Thank you for giving your time back to DAKTARI Nathaniel, we have loved having you here and we look forward to hearing about your progress in the future!