A Love Story That Inspired DAKTARI
Ian and Michèle Merrifield officially opened DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage in 2006, but it was a long road to make that happen! They first met while Ian was a Game Ranger at Tshukudu Game Lodge and Michèle was a volunteer there. While hand-raising injured zebras, wildebeest, and warthogs, Ian and Michèle fell in love.
Michèle had long dreamed about living in Africa and caring for the wildlife. When she met Ian, she was able to realize that dream. After getting married, they left Tshukudu and opened a restaurant in Hoedspruit to start raising capital for their wildlife orphanage. During this time, Ian and Michèle helped raise a local boy named Thabo. Thabo had almost no knowledge or understanding of the environment or the native wildlife. Therefore, Ian and Michèle began using animals in their care to teach him. Thabo’s knowledge of conservation was typical of children in Limpopo. This realization helped ignite the idea of adding a bush school to the wildlife orphanage.
Michèle says, “When we were younger, there was a TV program called Daktari. It was about a family in Africa who looked after and raised many different types of orphaned wild animals. As kids, we loved it and remembered getting deeply emotionally attached to the different animals.” Sounds familiar, right? Michèle and Ian adopted the name, and DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage was born.