A few months ago DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage applied for the Kudu award, which is an initiative to celebrate the successes and contributions of individuals and groups in conservation management in South Africa. The awards are presented by the South African National Parks as a way of rewarding excellence in conservation by external stakeholders. It is also sponsored by Total SA and FNB.
After the first announcement of DAKTARI being recognized as one of the finalists, our co-founders Michele and Ian Merrifield travelled to Johannesburg to attend the Kudu Awards ceremony. Knowing that the other shortlisted projects in the “Non profit making Institution” category were much bigger than ours, we were already extremely proud of being part of such an esteemed group of organisations.
Imagine our surprise when Ian Merrifield was called on stage to be the winner of the award!!! Everyone at DAKTARI was extremely proud of this achievement and grateful to SANParks for recognizing our conservation efforts.
The DAKTARI team is more than ever ready to honour this award!
Thank you to all of you who helped us to go that far through your support. We are all winners!
We said goodbye to our two jackals Minnie and JP on Wednesday.
The nice people from Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre contacted us to tell us they have a big enclosure available for them and of course we couldn’t say no. They came to pick them up Wednesday afternoon and transported them safely to their brand new home.
They are now already happily exploring their big enclosure and getting used to the new environment.
Even though we will certainly miss them, we were happy to send them off to their new home, where they will be able to enjoy more space.
Over the last month, our animal team and volunteers worked hard to renovate a part of our meerkat enclosure.
We dug out the old sand, put in some pipes for them to play in, brought fresh sand from the nearby river bed and decorated the enclosure with logs, plants, and wooden platforms.
Gasper and Tikki were extremely pleased with our work and they are now happily exploring their renovated home.
On October, DAKTARI and the Anti-Poaching Unit of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) went to three local high schools (Maahlamele, Rakgolokwana and Leoma) to discuss the terrible crime of poaching and to do an anti-poaching demonstration..
|Approximately 900 students were present to meet Simon, Corlet and their Belgian Shepherd. Simon first explained what poaching is to the students. He then discussed the importance of the Anti-Poaching Unit, their responsibilities and how they use dogs to track and hunt down poachers.|
After a period of questions and answers, it was time to show the students how these well trained dogs do their job. Corlet put on a padded suit and the dog was ordered to run after her and stop her from fleeing. The students were very excited to see the dog in action! We all hope that this impressive performance will prevent students from entering or participating in this cruel, unlawful practice.
At Rakgolokwana High School, Carol from the Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit was there as well. She introduced the students to the mission of the Black Mambas and invited the female students to join her group after graduation.
Finally, they also have an elephant coloring program and we have asked the 7th grade students of the Diphuti Primary School along with DAKTARI’S Eco Clubs to participate. This program consists of presenting facts about elephants and the terrible poaching of these incredible animals. The children will then color in the drawing of an elephant and write a message about what they have learned. The best, colourful drawing and powerful message will win a prize and the picture will be featured at different places. On the 18th of October DAKTARI and HESC choose 4 winners and give them prizes. Then, they reminded the children that poaching is a terrible crime and it was their responsibility to join in the fight against it.
Below an extract of the dog in action
“Hello. My name is Joshua Hopkins or David as some people called me by my middle name for the first week or so. I am from Scotland and I stayed at DAKTARI for a total of 10 weeks. I really wanted to spend my summer doing something productive and rewarding and as I loved working with children and animals, it seemed that DAKTARI was the best place for me. This was definitely not wrong!
My first couple of weeks consisted of teaching the children. There was a large variety of classes which I could volunteer to do. At the start of the day, we went on a dog walk around the camp which helped the children learn about how to care for your dog as dogs in South Africa tend not to be pets but rather guard dogs and so on. We then moved onto ‘Morning Stabling’ which got the children actively working with the animals either cleaning the enclosures or feeding them. The children got to work with a range of animals such as Dassies, Mongooses and even a Caracal. After this we move straight onto the classes. The main lessons at DAKTARI were environmental as the aim of DAKTARI is to save the environment through education. However, there were also social talks such as safe sex and substance abuse which allowed the children to be more open with the volunteers. These talks always led to interesting discussions although it can really show the true reality of the situation within the country which can be quite scary.
However, for the majority of my time I worked as part of the animal care team to look after the welfare of all the animals. This consisted of big cleans of major enclosures such as the Cheetah, Wild Dog and Crocodile.
My favourite activity at DAKTARI was when we done enclosure improvement on the Mongooses. It was great fun. However, very hard work. At first, we had to dig up most of the ground and remove all the rocks in the enclosure. This was extreme manual labour and we needed lots of breaks throughout. Although, once the hard work was completed we were able to have a lot more fun as we were able to use our creative natures to find ways at improving the enclosures. We used many items such as logs, branches and even old car tyres. Once we had thought about our creative ideas we were able to start putting them into action. It is an amazing feeling you get when you see your finished work and it looked brilliant so we were all proud!
My favourite animal at DAKTARI had to be the Mongooses. They were such intelligent and fun animals. It was great to watch them crack open the eggs during animal kitchen. It really did show how impressive these animals are. They can also be very cute and cuddly; however, they were vicious too but what would you expect from animals who are used to taking on snakes in the wild. My favourite mongoose was definitely had to be Banjo. Every time I was in with him, he wanted to play and he was extremely fun to play with too!
I couldn’t exactly say I had one best memory as I enjoyed so much of my time here. It was just so great to meet lots new people. I have found very good friends and even my new girlfriend from my time here at DAKTARI and I will definitely be visiting them all in the near future.
When I first came here, I didn’t realise how the vast number of excursions available. Through my time here, I visited Kruger National Park, Blyde River Canyon, Cheetah Walk and Reptile Park. I would say my favourite excursion had to be Blyde River Canyon. This was because it was just such a spectacular sight to see a canyon so full of life was incredible. This excursion allowed me to do the bungee jump in Graskop which was great; however, it did give me a very weird feeling in my stomach!
Overall, DAKTARI was a very fulfilling experience and it has created so many memories for me that I will never forget. I would say to anyone thinking of coming to DAKTARI, YOU MUST DO IT! This organisation really stands out compared to others as you have the opportunity to work with children and animals. This means if you aren’t too fond of working with the children, you can always work with the animal care team which I can guarantee its great fun and full of a lot of laughs. I have to admit many volunteers came for 1 week or 2 weeks. This is a very bad amount of time to come for. It just isn’t long enough. To feel like you have really lived the experience I would say at least 4 weeks. This is because it takes about a week to come out of your shell and that is the case for most volunteers. I started off very shy on my first week because I wasn’t used to so many different nationalities. However, I am now very comfortable and I don’t seem to shut up at times!
I really do believe that DAKTARI has a very positive impact on the community. It helps children understand the importance of the environment and the animals in the surrounding neighbourhoods. It has also helped many volunteers understanding too because when I first came here I didn’t know the difference between poaching and hunting but thanks to DAKTARI, I now do. DAKTARI has been such a welcoming and amazing organisation to volunteer with. I would like to say a massive thank you to all they done for me over my time here!
To finish off my review, I have been asked if I enjoyed living in the Bush. My answer? Of course, who doesn’t love waking in the morning to be surrounded by some many different animals? You can literally see a new animal each day. It is incredible. It may be very dangerous because there may be a leopard nearby but that can also give you a bit of a thrill. To round up, I would definitely live in the Bush!
"My name is Léna, I am 20 years old, I come from France and I stayed 3 weeks at DAKTARI.
I always wanted to do volunteering and I decided in November 2017 that it would be this year ! So I did a huge amount of research on the internet about volunteering, others volunteer’s experiences, organisations all around the world... DAKTARI was the perfect one because it mixes children and animals : all of which I love. So I booked everything and I arrived in August for 3 weeks of volunteering at DAKTARI.
My stay in DAKTARI was one of the best experiences in my life. These 3 weeks were amazing. I met fabulous people, I have seen and taken care of many animals, I have taught many things on many topics to children...
Also you can do lots of excursions and Daktari books everything, you just have to tell them which excursion you want to do and they take care of it for you. So I have done a horseback riding safari (amazing!), I have spent two days in the Kruger Park and I have walked in the Blyde River canyon.
Life in DAKTARI is very special. It’s like a big family. The days are never the same. You learn more and more about South Africa, about animals and about these incredible children each new day. Everything is so interesting and exciting. Indeed, it’s never boring, each day is different : each new day you have different lessons to teach, you do different animal stabling, you play a different game with the children ...
I think it’s something you have to do in your life and that will change you for ever.
Thanks for everything Daktari, these three weeks were absolutely unbelievable."
|We are happy to welcome Pat and Tjasa in our Team!|
Pat is our new Outreach Manager. She is 57 years old and is coming from USA where she was a retired magazine publisher. She is staying with us for at least one year and will manage the Eco Clubs and the Job Hunting program.
After living in Eastern Africa 27 years ago, Pat always wanted to return here. Her passions for animals and children made DAKTARI a natural fit. She is thrilled to be here to work with both.
Tjasa is our new Fundraising Manager. She is 31 years old and is coming from Slovenia where she worked as an advertising copywriter. She is staying with us for six month and will help with the fundraising and sponsorship tasks.
Tjasa has some volunteer experience last year in turtle rescue and teaching english to kids. She never came to South Africa and this volunteering was the perfect match between children and animals.
We are very excited to have Pat and Tjasa in the DAKTARI Team and we hope they have a great time here in the coming months!
"My name is Marine, I am 18 years old, I come from France and I stayed one month in DAKTARI.
I had to do a civic internship for my school, I decided to take this opportunity to realise something special and go abroad. I was already really involved in the children cause around the world with the NGO UNICEF and also in the environmental cause in my all-day life. Then I found DAKTARI, which works at the same time for both. I didn’t hesitate long and decided to go to South Africa to discover the culture by helping the children and save the environment.
Every morning, I woke up at 6.30 am with the sunlight and the animal’s barks. Then I joined all the children and the volunteers to do the dog walk around the camp. It was a good way to wake up properly and talk with the children. After that, we were split into small groups in order to clean up the animal’s enclosures and to feed them. It’s called the Stabling. Then, morning lessons are done by two or three volunteers. Every week, I used to do the environment one because I found it really interesting, even if it was a little bit complicated to teach. When we had a little break, I used to love playing with the kids at some games I invented. Some volunteers enjoyed joining us and we had a wonderful time, laughing and playing. There were also lot of lessons during the afternoon. It was about animal tracks, anti-poaching, making South Africa a better place etc.… Then, every child went to the shower duty. In the evening, we had social talks. It was about respect, alcohol and drugs addiction, sex and HIV. It was a calm time, when children could ask questions and discuss with the volunteers in small groups.
My favorite part at DAKTARI was the bonfire. Every Thursday evening, we used to light up a fire outside of the camp and dancing around singing traditional songs and playing games. I loved to dance with the children because they taught me the steps and it was a really joyful moment. My favorite lesson to teach was Make South Africa a better place. I liked it because I could see what children learned during the week and how they could imagine their world after that. For some of them, DAKTARI made a real change and opened lot of future perspectives. The Dassies were my favorite animal without any hesitation. When I had some break time, I spend some time in their enclosure to cuddle them and ply with them.
At DAKTARI, I have learned a lot thanks to the lessons and the activities I had to teach. All the environments problems appeared clearer to myself while I taught to the kids. I also learned of the South African culture and that’s the best memory I have. I learned some Sepedi words, some dance steps and how people there lived.
My very best memory happened on the last day of my stay. It was a Friday, and with some of the volunteers we went to a village to clean the school. All the children who were in DAKTARI during the week came to help us. Other children and people from the village came and we accomplished a huge work! They were happy to do it with us and I enjoyed doing it. It was a beautiful day and all the children wanted to play, dance and took pictures with us. I felt like I was a real part of this world. I met Pretty’s daughter, which was the cutest little girl I ever met, and I played with her for ages. At the end of the day, two boys of the village danced for us, it was incredible! I couldn’t stop smiling.
I have also been on few excursions to the Kruger Park, which I really enjoyed. But the best one I have been to is the Homestay. I went to the Oaks Village during 1 day and a half to live like the inhabitants. I learned how to cook pap, a traditional meal. I sold some fish on the market place at 5 o’clock in the morning, I walked in the village to meet people, I dressed with traditional clothes, I played with the kids and I have been blessed by a priest in a church. It was intense and at the end I was really tired. But it was a such different way of life than what I used to know, that I realized how lucky I was, and that I wanted to work for humanity. I came back to DAKTARI with stars in the eyes because I met wonderful people and I lived strong experiences.
In the end, this is an experience I will never forget. These people I met and these days I lived were amazing and I dreamt so many times that I was still there. The Bush is full of nature and animals, I felt really good in this atmosphere. Waking up with the sunlight and working with a pure air made me feel calm and unstressed. But if I could, I would have stayed at least six months. One month is too short, you don’t have the time to see the impact of what you have accomplished.
At DAKTARI, we all are like a big family. And we work together either for the children, either for the animals and the environment. I think that the impact of what DAKTARI does in South Africa will appear on the long run. The children will remember the rules and the advices we gave them. The day before I left, a girl told me that, since she has been in DAKTARI, she told everyone to put the rubbish in the dustbin. I felt really proud of her and I realized that I made a real impact I could also be proud of."
Below an overview of Marine's adventure
"My name is Maya, I am a 19-year-old French girl and I decided to volunteer at Daktari for three weeks. I decided to come here by myself to improve my English but also because I wanted to discover South Africa. I started thinking about volunteering a few years ago, but I never had a precise idea of what I wanted to do, so when I discovered the organisation on Lea Camilleri’s channel, I signed up immediately."
"My name is Emmelien, I’m 19 years old and I’m from Belgium. I also volunteered at Daktari for three weeks. I’m studying medicine but because I’m not able to do anything medical yet, I decided to try and help others in a different way. Daktari became the project I chose because of the combination of working with children and animals."
"We arrived at DAKTARI on the same day from two different places of the world, strangers to each other and now, we are the closest friends. When other volunteers told us that Daktari is a place where you become real friends in a very quick time, we didn’t believe them (we are not the most sociable people). But Daktari isn’t just a place where you do your volunteering, it really is a family. Every time someone is leaving, the goodbyes are painful but the memories are amazing.
The kids arrive on Monday. Most of them are really shy at first but you will see that they open up during the week. One of the good things about Daktari is that it is not just about knowledge. Indeed, we want them to learn about the environment, poaching, and the animals, but we also encourage the improvement on politeness, respect and having fun. The way we teach is a lot different than we are used to but we have different forms of teaching like socials talks, going in the bush… You’ll see that sometimes you will be the one learning
We also had the opportunity to get out of the reserve and see a part of South Africa. Indeed, there are many activities that you can do during your stay in order to discover other beautiful places. During our first week, we went on a Homestay in the Oaks village, where we lived for 24 hours. It was a beautiful way to experience the South African way of life. But we also did a lot of other excursions. We went to see the elephants and cheetah, spend two days in the Kruger Park and walked in the Blyde Canyon River. Once in a lifetime experience!
We talked about it a lot and we agreed that this adventure has really changed our life in so many ways. We now know how lucky we are to be given so many chances in life that other people may not have, depending on where they were born. We discovered ourselves here and grew more confident. Thank you Daktari! Thank you Ian and Michele, staff and other volunteers for letting us be a part of this family. We love you all."
"Hello ! We are Ophélie and Julie. We are 23 years old and come from Belgium. We stayed at DAKTARI for three weeks.
We wanted to volunteer abroad and were looking for a project that was meaningful to us. As future childhood psychologists, we wanted to work with children. Taking care of animals and the environment were other topics that interested us. DAKTARI was the perfect combination. Indeed, it combines different projects and ideals: protecting the environment, the animals, help educating the children, discover a new culture…
So every morning we start with a dog walk. There are four dogs at DAKTARI that we must take care of. All of the children and the volunteers have to participate. After a delicious breakfast (by the way, we enjoyed the peanut butter very much), we do the morning stabling, which means we clean the enclosures and feed the animals. The rest of the day is dedicated to the lessons. We get to talk about different topics, e.g. environment, tracks, animal knowledge, … Each night, there is a different activity to do with the children. For example, we watched the Lion King on Wednesdays. Every activity is also an occasion to learn something. We really enjoyed the stabling because, among other things, we got to see how to feed different animals, including the cheetah, which is very impressive. The meerkats were definitely our favourite the meerkats! They’re very cuddly and friendly. The bonfire was also a fun part! Concerning the lesson, our favourite one was "Making South Africa a better place". This lesson is interesting because we go over all of the subjects that were discussed during the week. The children can therefore understand the link between they have learned.
During our stay we have been on different excursions. Ophélie, will always remember the walk in the Blyde River Canyon. The nature is extremely beautiful. I am endlessly amazed by the African sceneries because they are full of surprises. And Julie, enjoyed the Kruger Park, which is one of the biggest national reserves in the world. DAKTARI is very close to this park. Therefore it is an opportunity that one cannot miss. I got to see stunning animals that I have always dreamed to encounter.
The most important thing that we have learned is how to take care of the animals. If we had to choose our least favourite part it will be waiting for dinner time because the food was so delicious! Our most striking memory is the afternoon we spent at a village collecting rubbish. Many volunteers and children helped out to clean a school. It was amazing to see everyone coming together and working for the same cause. In the end, we also got to share games and dances with the children. If you think about volunteering, come. Do not hesitate! Three weeks is an interesting length in general. You have the time to get used to the place, do excursions, enjoy the way of living at DAKTARI and say goodbye. If this kind of trip is linked to your future job, you could still do a long term volunteering and get to practice. We can also realize the reality of the life in South Africa and effectively contribute to making it a better place to stay in. We like living the bush life, first because it is a rare opportunity. Secondly we can reconsider our place on this planet. We are all part of the circle of life. We really enjoyed changing our point of view."
This month, we renovated the adult mongooses enclosure by adding more logs and plants. They arranged the enclosure so that it looks more like their natural habitat. Old tyres from the cars were also recycled to make tunnels and provide the mongooses something to climb on.
We are adding fresh branches to the enclosure every week to make the enclosure look green, and give the mongooses extra things to play with – hopefully they will find some bugs!
Alix comes from Belgium, she is 18 years old and stayed 2 weeks at Daktari.
“I was looking for an organisation that would allowed me to work with animals. DAKTARI was the only one that allowed me to feed them, clean their enclosures…And I loved taking care of them. Martin, the cheetah is the most impressive animal in the camp, but I enjoyed spending time with the meerkats the most.
DAKTARI offers a better interaction with both animals and the village than other organizations. Usually they offer you either a children program or an animal program, but not both. That’s why I choose to come here.
Teaching the children was really nice. You do the dog walk with them before breakfast. Then we have morning stabling where they learn how to take care of wildlife. The rest of the morning is dedicated to the lessons. You have a break between 12.30 and 2pm. The lessons continue until 4.30pm which is the time of the afternoon stabling. At 6.30pm it is dinner time and after we have an activity with the children. During the day, you can help with animals at any time, as long as you don’t have a lesson. I really enjoyed the social talk about the safe sex, it was really interesting.
That’s why DAKTARI’s project is important because you can sensitize the children, the future of the country, to the importance of taking care of their animals and their environment. It is with project like this that you can make a real difference on the long term.
During my volunteer experience, I went to the Blyde River Canyon. It was super impressive and really beautiful, I highly recommend it. If I had to choose my best memory, I would say that is when we went to the Oaks village for the Mandela day. We cleaned the village for 67 minutes, then we ate a delicious meal. At the end of the lunch, we went to the school and children surprised us with a song. We played with them for an hour and a half and we talked a lot. That was a special day for them and we had the possibility to share it with them.
What I learnt the most is the way of living of the South Africans. Children taught us their games, you can share your vision of life with them and talk about the differences… And I liked living in the bush, it is such a different way of living. You can experiment something different, even though DAKTARI has more comfort that the houses in the villages around us.
So, to conclude, I would say COME, do not hesitate!”
We are happy to welcome Marie, our new Marketing Manager!
Marie is 24 years old and coming from France where she worked in communication and events. She is staying with us for 7 months and will manage communication and marketing tasks.
Marie thought about volunteering for a while but didn't find the right moment. So, she took a break and came to DAKTARI to have a volunteering experience related to her studies.
We are very excited to have Marie in the DAKTARI Team and we hope she has a great time here in the coming months!