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Conservation Through Education !

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The land, the drama, the splendour – all of it comes together in the northwest of Namibia known today as the Kunene region. It has to be one of the most poignant places remaining on the planet, combining both wide open planes and vast towering mountains on which life at its most real, its most raw, plays out the truth of what is and what has to be. For the most fortunate of us it is possible, on rare occasions, to witness the majesty of one of the most elegant of creatures as she careers at dramatic speeds across this semi-desert , harsh land in pursuit of life. For here, in the most unlikely of places, the cheetah exists right at the very limit of her evolutionary-adapted range.

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Namibia is home to the world’s largest remaining population of free-living cheetah, as they stretch from the dry Kunene in the north west to the equally dry south of the country, while at the same time taking in the more fertile central regions of the country. It is here in the vast and varied lands of Namibia that the AfriCat Foundation has found a home and a purpose. And, just as the cheetah has adapted to meet the demands of living in such diverse ecosystems, so too has the Foundation adapted and evolved to meet the needs of the predators she serves.

Today, the work of The AfriCat Foundation includes programmes ranging from Environmental Education to the Communal Carnivore Conservation programme, and from the Namibian Wild Dog Project to the Hobatere Lion Project.

 

These are all crucial activities which aim to address much needed areas of conservation in the communities of Namibia. However, it is not possible for the Foundation to tackle these projects without the essential and highly-valued support of the Foundation’s partners. Over the years financial assistance has been provided from many quarters, but one of the most loyal and longest-standing partners, has been the TUSK Trust

TUSK was one of the AfriCat’s earliest supporters, whose assistance has included providing finance for an array of the Foundation’s projects including co-sponsoring the first electrified perimeter fence, which kick started the Cheetah Rehabilitation Project in 1999/2000. TUSK was the first group outside of Okonjima that believed in the Foundation’s vision that an 'orphaned' cheetah might be able to learn how to hunt through trial and error, and then with support and time hone the necessary skills to ultimately become independent. This programme began with an original 4500 hectares, an area which has subsequently been extended to around 20,000 hectares (200km²).  Cheetah Rehabilitation Programme.

 

TUSK'S next project with AfriCat involved the purchase and operation of a Maule fixed-wing aircraft to track, relocated and rehabilitated collared carnivores, as well as to support the Rescue & Release project through the collection of carnivores from locations greater than 200 kms away.

Over the years, TUSK has also been instrumental in the donation of a number of very significant pieces of equipment to the Foundation, including a pressure pump for the cleaning of facilities and carnivore crates, a quad-bike to transport staff and researchers, and a dart gun for veterinary purposes as well as to support the rescue, translocation and release work. See: Sponsors - Tusk

 

In 2012, TUSK once again reached into her pockets to provide a salary for a teacher for AfriCat’s Environmental Education Centre and their support for this project has continued in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

This Centre is proving to be an enormous success exposing young people from all walks of life to some of the major environmental and conservation challenges facing their generation, as well as suggesting some innovative and truly problem-solving solutions.

The next few years ahead for AfriCat are going to be exciting ones. With the recent combining of the AfriCat work in the north of Namibia with that of the centrally-based Okonjima Nature Reserve, on- the- ground field community conservation is being combined with research into predator health, large carnivores as game ranch animals for both land management and tourism purposes, and species specific projects such as the Mangetti Wild Dog programme.

Dynamic relationships with, amongst others, the University and Zoological Gardens of Pretoria are providing sound scientific footings for the organisations future research direction. A full time in-house veterinary surgeon has recently joined AfriCat’s staff , and he will be providing both animal care to the resident carnivore population as well as taking a lead in both field and clinic based projects. 

Additionally, AfriCat’s excellent Environmental Education programme is set to expand so that it can increase the number of learners who pass through her doors.

The challenges to predator conservation in Africa are large indeed, for as human populations continue to grow the land left over for wildlife shrinks almost daily. Namibia is not immune from this phenomenon and the conflict between humans and wildlife requires continuous managing. The country is being highly creative in attempting, wherever possible, to give wildlife a value, and to ensure that the rural Namibian who bears the cost of predators taking his livestock will, at the same time, reap some of the benefits through tourism and the like.

The work of the AfriCat Foundation naturally requires considerable funds, something which is not easy to find in today’s cash-strapped world. However, the Foundation and the world – class tourism destination known as Okonjima are joined as one at the hip. This truly remarkable model benefits both parties, providing a strong backbone for both which is able to flex its muscles in a symbiotic and exponential fashion. Notwithstanding this, the Foundation’s other partners are crucial to AfriCat’s success.

 

TUSK is the main sponsor of AfriCat’s Environmental Education Programme. Their funds pay the salary of the EE Educators and the running costs of this project.
http://www.tusk.org/africat

TUSK WE THANK YOU!

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Brief summary of the project for which the TUSK grant was allocated: 2014/2015

"There is no Relevant Education without Environmental Education." Fortunately more and more people are realizing the absolute necessity of Environmental Education and our programme is becoming better known and more sought after. Consequently we are reaching more young people and teachers which in essence is the main goal of the project. Naturally this programme cannot run effectively without passionate leadership. This position is currently held by Mrs Helen Newmarch, who is a qualified eductor, experienced and totally committed to the critical need of "Conservation Through Education". 

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1. Brief Project Update
a) Achievements
The interest in, and the popularity of, our programme has grown considerably in 2014, especially at the more influential schools which, as we feel, is an important and significant direction.

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Table 1:

DATE SCHOOL NUMBER SCHOLARS / TEACHERS REGION
04 - 06 February 2014 Mondesa Youth Opportunities 12/3 Erongo
07 - 08 February 2014 Perivoli Okonjima Country School 26/3 Otjozondjupa 
13 - 17 March 2014 Kamanjab Combined & Otjokovare Combined 30/6 Kunene
20 - 24 March 2014 Namib High Conservation Club 20/4 Erongo
04 - 07 April 2014 Karundu Primary School 22/2 Otjozondjupa
28 April - 03 May 2014 Uukule Secondary School 65/5 Oshikoto
05 - 09 May 2014 Perivoli Trust School Teachers  00/11 Namibia
08 - 12 May 2014 Namibia 'Voortrekkers'/ Scouts 45/7 Otjozondjupa 
19 - 24 May 2014 Private Schule Swakopmund 17/4 Erongo
29 May - 02 June 2014 Namib High Conservation Club 20/4 Erongo
15 - 19 July 2014 Hampton School, UK 24/6 United Kingdom
22 - 25 July 2014 Hampton School, UK 24/6 United Kingdom
25 - 28 July 2014 Spes Bona Primary School 22/1 Otjozondjupa
15 - 18 August 2014 Berg Aukas Primary School 30/5 Otjozondjupa
17 - 21 August 2014 Omungwelume Primary School 30/4 Ohangwena 
02 - 04 September 2014 Private Schule, Otjiwarongo  15/3 Otjozondjupa
04 - 07 September 2014 Namib High Conservation Club 12/2 Erongo
17 - 19 September 2014 St. Paul’s College Primary School 22/3 Khomas
24 - 26 September 2014 St. Paul’s College Primary School 22/3 Khomas 
01 - 03 October 2014 Dagbreek Special School 15/3 Khomas
17 - 19 October 2014 Mondesa Youth Opportunities 20/2 Erongo
23 - 26 October 2014 Swakopmund Primary School 23/3 Erongo 
31 October - 02 November 2014 TalithaKumi Christian Academy 14/2 Erongo
21 - 23 November 2014 PerivoliOkonjima Country School 20/5 Otjozondjupa
01 -05 December 2014 Primary Return Camp 14/1  
08 -12 December 2014 Secondary Return Camp 12/2  

TOTAL: 650 – 700 scholars, students and teacher visit AfriCat per year

 

Table 1 indicates the attendance for 2014. Consequently we have decided to not build a bigger Environmental Education Centre for now. We will still emphasize "quality over quantity" as we feel that in the end we have more committed students than if we tried to push through large numbers as then it becomes more of an entertainment, than an education. Besides this, we do not have the facilities for large numbers.

We are very pleased and excited to report that The Pupkewitz Foundation has finally donated a new Nissan pick-up to our Environmental Education Programme. It should be in use within the next few weeks.

 

b) Challenges

i) Staff: Our junior staffing arrangements have proven very successful and much more sustainable. The Peace Corp initiative did not materialize, so we are now trying to source a second full time teacher/ Environmental Educator. Once we have achieved this then, with a staff of 5 ( 2 teachers, 2 assistants and a 'chef|camp-organiser') we will be functioning effectively and sustainably.

 

ii) Transport: We are still trying to source a quad bike for use by the assistants. Currently they have to share with Okonjima staff and this is a real challenge at times. This is an ongoing exercise. However we might have a fundraiser peeping in at the end of the tunnel, so fingers crossed!

The other challenge is to fit our activities around those of Okonjima Lodge during peak season when the Lodge is full most of the time. We did manage this fairly successfully by using a time schedule which meant that we used the game viewing vehicles when the guests had returned from their trails. Furthermore Okonjima Lodge does provide us with their large adapted game viewing bus if available. The children love "Matata" as it is fondly known (in honour of the first lion we rescued 19 years ago).

 

iii) Accommodation: We still require suitable accommodation for our second teacher. This we hope to build at the Centre as funds become available.

 

As explained in our grant application we will be hosting more secondary schools this year. We have started negotiations with the Faculty of Education of the University of Namibia to include at least one week of Environmental Education in each semester.

 

The AfriCat Foundation Environmental Education Programme:
Co-sponsored by Okonjima and the TUSK TRUST

NEW! Introducing, the 2015 Monday to Friday AfriCat Environmental Education Programme:

AfriCat Environmental Education Programme 2015
NB: This is a sample programme. All times and content are subject to change. Our programme has to be highly flexible to accommodate a large number of variables: e.g. the arrival and departure times of groups, the age and ability of the participants; the action in the Okonjima Nature Reserve (ONR) as well as the daily tourism requirements of both the AfriCat Foundation and Okonjima Lodge.

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DAY 1:
Groups are requested to try and arrive by 12 noon at the latest. The earlier you arrive, the more fun we can have!

15:00: Team Allocation and Team-signature and Introduction of Role Plays

15:45: The transfer of Energy – "Our biggest challenge?
[The students are given 2 boxes and they have to use the contents to illustrate how energy is transferred in a natural ecosystem. After this we guide them to arrive at the "bottom line" of all the challenges facing our planet today.]

16:15: Tea Time

16:30: Why the Carnivores? Introducing Namibia’s six Large Carnivores.

17:00: Nature-walk to riverbed for 'Team-Building' related activities

18:45: Back at the AfriCat Environmental Education Centre (AEEC) and Shower-time

19:30: Sunset and Dinner and Clean up

20:30: Campfire Games

21:00: Lights Out, Silence and well-deserved Sleep

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DAY 2 (BIODIVERSITY):

6:00: Morning Tea and Coffee

6:20: Sunrise Walk

7:00: Breakfast (PACK TEA and SWIMMING COSTUMES!)

8:00: Depart for AfriCat Headquarters up in the Okonjima Valley.

8:30 – 9:30: Environmental Education Wall: "What is it telling us? 
[At the AfriCat Information Centre we have an 'artistic representation' of all the main concepts that are part of our programme. Every part has a message: either an ecological one or a life skill one. eg: The 'spider web' representing our environment with the characteristics of a spider’s web, being the same as our environment.]

9:30: AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre – visit our carnivore ambassadors - Viewing 3 of the 6 Large Carnivores

10:45: Tea Time

11:00: Wonderful Wahu. – A special trip to see our most popular AfriCat Ambassador

12:00: Swimming Time

13:00: Lunch and Tuck-Shop-Time

Quiet Time!

14:30: Tour of the AfriCat Information Centre

16:00: Tea Time

16:15: Okonjima Nature Reserve Game Drive and Sundowners at view point

20:00: Dinner and Clean-up and Campfire Presentation

21:00: Lights Out

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DAY 3 (LIFE SKILLS):

6:30: Departure for ONR & the 'popular' Dawn-drive to meet the Sunrise!
Activity change over.

8:00: Breakfast in Riverbed and Wildlife Survival Games

9:00: 'Giving Back'
['Giving' is a very important part of our lives. Here we combine that principle with our Land Rehabilitation Programme, the essential 'hands on' activity and the national bush encroachment challenge.]

11:00: Land Recovery & Rehabilitation Discussion READ MORE: Sponsor a research project in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

12:00: Swimming

13:00: Lunch and Tuck-Shop-Time

Quiet Time!

14:30: Solitude

15:00 - 17:00: 'Namibian Waterfall' and Games
[This depends on numerous variables, but here we explore the unusual landscape of a real Namibian Waterfall in the "Poort/Valley" region of the Okonjima Game Reserve. Once we reach the riverbed of the Omboroko River we encourage the scholars to become one with our wildlife by playing 'animal-inspired' games like The 'Thirsty Oryx' or 'The Leopard Stalk']

17:00: Drive back to AEEC

18:00: Shower Time

19:00: Dinner and Clean up

20:00: Night Walk

21:00: Lights Out

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Day 4 (SUSTAINABILITY):

6:15: Polar Bear or Sunrise Walk
['Polar Bear' entails getting themselves up and swimming at 6am . . . whatever the weather! This is an exercise in self discipline.]

7:00: Breakfast

8:00: Guided Bushman Trail.
[We use this trail to show that the way the Bushmen lived was the ultimate in sustainable living. Experience a day in the life of a Bushman. It constitutes an easy walking trail and is highly informative. Guests get to learn about the art of making traditional artefacts and how the San adapt and survive in an unforgiving wilderness environment. Participation is welcomed!]

10:30: Tea Time and setting-up the Solar Cooker (weather permitting)

11:00: Using the skills that we learnt from the San People Solar cooking / Tree planting / The three R’s - Recycle, Re-use, Reduce

12:00: Swimming

13:00: Lunch and Tuck Shop

Quiet Time!

14:00: Departure to Plains Camp for a Curio-shop visit and some 'retail therapy'

15:00: Departure from Plains Camp to ONR – Hyena | Cheetah walk

17:30: Shower and Team-Time to prepare for Quiz and Plays

18:30: Bush Quiz

19:30: Dinner and Clean up

20:30: Presentation of Role Plays

21:30: Pack-up and Lights Out

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Day 5:

This programme is very variable as it depends on time of departure

6:15: Polar Bear and up the 'Leopard Loop Sunrise' and then the big 'Clean up'

7:30: Breakfast and final clean up

8:30: Final Session – Bush Quiz and Presentation

9:00: Depart for Home ♥

NB: Group is welcome to depart later (prior request), but this seems to be the preferred time.

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AFRICAT ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION – CO-SPONSORED BY TUSK & OKONJIMA:

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