Na’an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary – A Magical Place by Mel Doyle

I have never ventured far from Scotland, so a solo trip to Namibia to volunteer at the Na’an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary seemed very daunting, but also extremely exciting! I mean, how often do you get the opportunity to look after and conserve the African wildlife?! I have always been passionate about animals and animal welfare, but this journey took my passions to a whole different level.

Until jetting off to Africa, I have spent my entire life in a city where people care a lot about what they own and little about what we share – earth and life on earth. We take things for granted on a daily basis, things like electricity, a nice warm bed or even just having our own space. At Na’an ku se I had a shared tent and a single camping bed, which actually was more than acceptable for human needs. It was liberating to realise how many of the “mod cons” I do not need to survive. I had to constantly stop and remind myself that the daily activities and tasks I was undertaking at the sanctuary were beyond anything I had ever done before and certainly only dreamed of. The most incredible experiences I had were a result of trust (possibly insanity!) between humans and animals.

The Na’an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary was established to rescue, rehabilitate and treat orphaned and injured animals. My most memorable moments from Na’an ku se were the carnivore feeds and enclosure cleaning, research and the juvenile baboon walk.

Enclosure cleaning for the carnivores consisted of cleaning the waterholes and picking up animal waste, removing uneaten food to prevent bacteria spread. Since showing pictures to friends of the cheetahs, wild dogs, lions etc I have been asked countless times “Aren’t you worried that they could attack?” In all honesty, it can be frustrating to try and understand the misunderstandings among general public after spending time with these magnificent creatures, the detrimental consequences of these over simplified and mistaken associations on conservation endeavours, and the amount of time and effort needed to make a difference through education and exposure. So, now I get to share what I have learned during my time away and educate others! But alas, I can confirm that, having entered these carnivore enclosures, I still have all four limbs attached and in one piece!

Research was very interesting. Poachers, and believe it or not, farmers are a real threat to the African wildlife and a large amount of time is taken to provide conflict farmers with the knowledge to preserve these animals, but also the necessary information on how to protect their own livestock. We were able to check some camera traps, which allows the sanctuary to see which animals are living in the area and how often they appear, keeping an eye out on the population and recording the data.

The juvenile baboon walk was incredible. There was no “us” and there was no “them.” They wanted us as much as we wanted them. Walking in the desert with three or four baboons hanging off you was just magical, even when you got the odd nip on the arm! They love to be swung around and thrown into the waterholes, but they also have a desire to lie with you (or on you!) and cuddle into your chest. Shrinky was by far my favourite baboon ( I obviously have to bring her into this blog!) and she completely stole my heart. Brain damaged and partially blind, her determination and willingness to survive and live as normal a life as she can in her troop was admirable, and she will forever be in my memories.

Na’an ku se as a whole has changed me a as a person and is a journey I will forever cherish and I cannot wait to return. The love and the desire to preserve and conserve the African wildlife against extinction and poachers from the co-ordinators and volunteers really does go above and beyond the call of duty. I have never met such wonderful people, with such big hearts. The comfort and the well-being of the animals always come first. We don’t need the luxury “mod cons” that we think we need. We simply just need love and trust, like animals give to us.