Year 13 Christian Cacace has recently returned from the trip of a lifetime when he spent a month volunteering in Namibia on a wildlife sanctuary. Christian, who wants to become a vet, heard about the sanctuary and volunteer programme from a vet friend and decided this was something he wanted to do.
The Naankuse Sanctuary provides a lifeline to many of Africa’s in-need wildlife species, taking in a number of animals which have either become orphaned or injured as a result of the enduring human-animal conflict such as being killed by farmers as they predate upon livestock. The Sanctuary also helps to educate farmers on what they can do to protect livestock without needing to resort to killing the predators. The Sanctuary is a 500ha site that includes separate enclosures, enclosure being a loose word as the fences are often low enough for the animals to easily scale and the electric fencing is very low wattage given it runs on solar power. There is also a 7000ha reserve that neighbours the Sanctuary that is made available by a kind philanthropist who owns several reserves around the world.
As a volunteer, Christian helped the sanctuary to provide a safe refuge for its animals - feeding and nurturing animals who were wounded or distressed. He worked to support the Sanctuary in their primary aim of releasing as many animals as possible into the safe reserve areas. But while the project’s mantra is to ‘return the wild to the wild’, some of the animals at the sanctuary are either too injured or habituated to survive on their own, meaning they will spend the rest of their days at the sanctuary. With hundreds of animals unable to be released, it is important that they are given a positive quality of life, and Christian spent time at the Sanctuary actively getting involved with a range of activities designed to do just that.
Christian took cheetahs for walks around the reserve, side by side with the big cats. While this might seem like a dangerous activity with these large cats, Christian didn't feel afraid at all he says. Cheetahs rarely get re-released as they become habituated really quickly and will not survive in the wild once they have been in contact with humans. Indeed from the videos and photos they look to be fairly at ease with their human minders and vice versa.
Christian spoke of many amazing animals and some sad stories. One of a mongoose who was addicted to sugar as it had been fed lollies, coke and other treats by its carers before being bought to the Sanctuary. When a can of coke was opened somewhere the Mongoose would go berserk as was so keen to have some of the drink!
Spending time with leopards, hyena, lions, African wild dogs, cheetahs, baboons, meerkats, mongoose's, rhino, elephants and giraffes has cemented Christian's wish to study Vet and return to the Sanctuary as soon as he can. Thank you to Christian for sharing his stories, photos and videos of his time in Namibia!