When the children arrive at the DAKTARI camp on Monday, they fill in a general survey that works as a level indicator. The questions are based on crucial points of their education that they may or may not have learned in school or in life as of yet. The questionnaire is used as a progression sheet as they are asked to fill out the same questions when they leave on Friday.
Through mapping the results of this survey, it has become evident that the progression the children are making throughout the week has decreased over the last three years (2015-2017). Although they are learning the same content as the previous years, the children possess more knowledge on these topics than when they arrive. This is particularly the case with their understanding of environmental awareness.
This demonstrates that after over 12 years of working in this area, the impact DAKTARI is having on the community is becoming increasingly visible. As more children come to DAKTARI, they spread their knowledge to their family and friends making them aware of certain environmental issues. DAKTARI has now reached over 4000 children and each child that attends becomes an important ambassador to spread their knowledge into the nearby villages.
DAKTARI also works in the community and the twice-weekly Eco Clubs the children attend at the local schools help them expand their knowledge after they have been to DAKTARI. Moreover, children that have never been to DAKTARI can also attend to learn about the environment. The DAKTARI team regularly meet with the teachers and headmasters of the local schools and the schools have reported significant improvements in the students who have attended DAKTARI. This includes increased concentration in the classroom, more confidence to speak up in class, an increase in politeness and self-esteem and a higher pass rate at the end of the year.
I volunteered at DAKTARI for three weeks and it was the most beautiful project of my young life. I had wanted to volunteer for a while but I was more interested in volunteering with animals rather than children. After three weeks at DAKTARI that completely changed and I was so happy to be able to spend so much time with such incredible children.
Every week eight children from a local school come to spend one week with us to follow a teaching program and do educational activities. From Monday to Friday you could see how much they had changed. On Monday we helped the children to fill out a questionnaire with questions on several topics that will be discussed during the week with them. Usually on Monday they cannot answer the questions correctly. The same questionnaire is given to them on Friday and it is a joy for all the volunteers to see there has been a big improvement. During one of my weeks, the child I helped went from 4 out of 16 right on Monday to 14 out of 16 right on Friday! It is really amazing to observe the impact one can have on them and to realize that their future is in your hands.
The best time of the week is Thursday night. We gather around a bonfire with the children and sing and dance all together. It is a beautiful moment to share with the volunteers and children.
In terms of the animals, it is just as wonderful. Each animal has its own story that has led it to DAKTARI. I loved being close to the animals, cleaning their enclosures, feeding them twice a day and cuddling the baby dassies!
I could talk about my experience at DAKTARI for hours so I will thank all the volunteers and staff who I share my time with - it was lovely to meet you all. Leaving was the hardest thing but as DAKTARI says so well "Goodbyes are not forever, goodbyes are not the end, they simply mean I'll miss you until we meet again!"
I'm already saving to go back!
DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage aims to provide environmental and life-skills education to local children and stimulate community development. The below text outlines how our project aims further the sustainable development agenda.
1. No Poverty:
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth:
3. Good Health and Well-Being:
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities:
4. Quality Education:
12. Responsible Consumption and Production:
5. Gender Equality:
13. Climate Action:
6. Clean Water and Sanitation:
15. Life on Land:
7. Affordable and Clean Energy:
17. Partnerships for the Goals:
To sum up I would like to say that my time at DAKTARI was awesome!
I had my first volunteer experience at Daktari in September 2017. I was staying for nine long weeks. Before my arrival I was quite anxious and nervous because I did not know if I would like the place or the people. My worries completely disappeared as I was taken care of as soon as I stepped off the plane and into the green van and the airport and drove to Daktari, which is a one hour drive away from Hoedspruit.
The welcome at Daktari was very warm and quelled my fear that these people will have no interest at making me feel at home. I was supported by the staff from the moment I arrived at Daktari until my departure in December. Never was anyone annoyed by any questions I asked and never did I feel like I was unwelcome or unwanted.
Every week we welcome a group of eight students to teach about the environment and every week was unique because every group of children had their own dynamics.
Every week we welcome a group of eight students to teach about the environment and every week was unique because every group of children had their own dynamics. Concerning the lessons, a big plus was that you do not have to teach every one of them. You can choose which classes you want to teach at the daily board meetings. Classes are usually taught by two volunteers, so you do not have to be afraid about having to do the classes alone without support.
Even though I felt like my experience was very positive, there were a few things I disliked. That would be the fact that you do not have much privacy or the opportunity to wander outside of the camp due to the wild animals on the reserve. However, you do have the chance on going on tours on the weekend to see some of the local sites so do not worry about not being able to leave the Daktari camp during your stay.
To sum up my experience, I would like to say that my time at Daktari was awesome! I had fun, great students and lovely baby animals to take care of. I do not regret spending nine weeks at Daktari and I would love to visit again.
This week we had a wonderful child stay with us called Akani. She is 13 years old and comes from Maahlamele School in the Oaks Village.
Akani was the only student in last weeks group to receive excellent feedback from the volunteers in all subjects during the week including English, Maths, Politeness & Respect and Animals & Nature. She was also a very talented storyteller and on her last night amazed the children, volunteers and staff by telling a beautiful story with so much courage and enthusiasm.
Some of the children in her group had misbehaved when she was here and refused to sleep on several occasions. Akani responded to this by writing a letter of apology to DAKTARI once she returned home. In her letter she said "I had a very beautiful wonderful and marvelous week at DAKTARI, I cant wait to grow up and make my own game reserve where I can put my animals and make a hotel so that when people come they can sleep there." Below is her full letter.
"Dear Daktari Bush School,
I know you are all fine so there's no need for me to greet you. First I want to tell you how much I love you all, I love you so much and I can't mention how I miss you.
I just want to say thank you for the love that you gave me, respect, kindness, patience cant' mention what you taught me and inspires me to do. I had a very beautiful and marvelous week at Daktari I can't wait to grow up and make my own game reserve where I can put my animals and make a hotel so that when people come they can sleep there.
I can feel you are surprised but don't worry I will come and donate at Daktari it will depend on how much money you want :)
I wish I could reverse days at Daktari so that I could come back and have a good behavior. I have realized my behavior was bad and I'm really sorry for other things I have done wrong (I wish I was God so that I could reverse days :) ) So I'm not and I will never reverse days. I promise that if I go to other reserves I will behave because I learn a lot from Daktari.
You know what Daktari volunteers keep up the good work, respect, kindness, love and know your worth to keep on QUEENING. I miss you guys I really really miss you.
From your loved one,
The last few weeks have been very busy at our camp as we have started to update some of our animal enclosures. Our animal team have been working hard to improve parts of the camp. They recently finished the rabbit enclosure and did an incredible job giving them a brand new home. The improvements included:
- Expanding the size of the enclosure
- Replacing the mesh roof with tiles
- Creating a place to store hay
- Building a house for them to shelter in
- Replacing the fencing and adding another door
They are now working on the dassie enclosure! Although it is still a work in progress, the improvements will include:
- New mesh on the front of the enclosure
- Stones surrounding the enclosure
- A place to store hay
- Integrating more natural aspects such as wood, water and hay
Once the dassie enclosure is complete there are plans to renovate the meerkat, mongoose and caracal enclosures. We hope to report many more improvements in the coming months!
Happy 2018! Here at DAKTARI we are very excited to start the New Year. Firstly, we want to say a big thank you to everyone who donated to our End of Year Giving campaign. We raised $8120, surpassing our goal of $5000 by $3120! This is a wonderful way to enter 2018 and we are grateful for your tremendous support.
We have been closed for four weeks over the holiday period, giving us time and space to refurbish parts of the camp. Thanks to the hard work of our staff, the entire camp has been painted and some of the animal enclosures have been updated. This was possible due to the generous paint donation we received from Powafix.
In addition to refurbishments, we have been very busy keeping our animals fed and comfortable and preparing for the year ahead. Over the holidays, we have welcomed a number of new arrivals to the camp including four new squirrels and a little chick named Chiquito.
This past weekend we welcomed our first volunteer of 2018, who is already a mum to a baby squirrel. It was found the day she arrived and requires round the clock care as it has yet to open its eyes.
We are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our new volunteers over the weekend and the start of our job-hunting students on Monday!
Today marks the last day of our teaching program before we close for the holidays!
It has been a very busy year for DAKTARI. We have welcomed over 342 children to our teaching program and 43 young adults into our Job Hunting Program!
We have also accomplished a lot in the Wildlife Orphanage. We successfully released 12 animals into the wild: 4 squirrels, 1 brown snake eagle, 3 jackals (unfortunately two returned) and 6 mongooses.
All of this could not be achieved without the help and support from our wonderful volunteers. We are pleased to say that this has been our busiest year yet with 131 volunteers dedicating their time and efforts to DAKTARI.
Although there have been some challenges we are so grateful for everything we were able to achieve this year and are very excited for the year ahead.
Thank you all for your continued encouragement, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
DAKTARI is lucky enough to welcome Marina, our new animal assistant! Marina is joining us from France where she previously worked as a zookeeper at Biotropica Zoo in Normandy. She is staying with us for six months and will help our Animal Manager Nodia with the care and welfare of DAKTARI's animals.
Marina has dreamed of coming to Africa since she was young and always wanted to do some volunteering. She is particularly excited to work at DAKTARI because there is a lot she feels she can change and improve. Additionally, she is looking forward to learning about new cultures and what it means to live in the bush!
She has had a busy first week which has involved de-worming the rabbits and collecting and settling in a new meerkat.
We are very excited to have you at DAKTARI Marina and we hope you have a great time here in the coming months!
A few weeks ago DAKTARI acquired two new mongooses. In September we released a troop of six banded mongooses back into the wild. They had been at DAKTARI for over a year, giving them time to bond and form an established troop.
We had two remaining mongooses at DAKTARI, Jackson and Tuti, and were aware that we would not be able to release them until they have established a troop. Banded mongooses are highly social animals and much of their survival in the wild relies on them working as a team.
A few weeks ago, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center brought two banded mongooses to DAKTARI. They are both around eight months old and we hope that in time they will get well acquainted with Jackson and Tuti so they can be released back into the wild together.
Guest Post & photograph by Wim van den Heever, a professional wildlife photographer based in South Africa and owner of Tusk Photo.
Whilst conservation is helping massively in every corner of the globe, there is still much to be done in order to protect the most fragile life forms. Every action you take towards helping any species, whether they're threatened or critically endangered, can work wonders in prolonging their existence.
Africa is home to many species that are facing extinction. Resources can at times be scarce which can exacerbate the problem for local people and wildlife creating problems such as deforestation. With our simple guide you can make a difference to the conservation of wildlife in Africa, some even from the comfort of you couch!
Below are a few ways you can make a difference and aid the conservation of wildlife:
- Community projects such as educating children about the environment can help decrease rates of poaching and inspire the local community to care for their natural heritage.
- Community conservancies are also a popular way to aid communities in wildlife management and protect livestock belonging to pastoralists.
- Joining forces with others and volunteering your time allows you to help out in projects both national and internationally. Non-profit organisations always need a helping hand in training, feeding and saving animals in danger.
2. Adoption and Rehabilitation
- Adopting an animal is another way of showing support for a wildlife conservation charity. By adopting an animal in Africa you are helping fund conservation projects, community collaboration and the monitoring of threats towards these animals.
- Volunteering at wildlife centers like DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage is another way to be involved in wildlife conservation and get hands on experience assisting with animal care.
3. Shop your Support
- Most online checkouts offer a donation page to a selected charity, an increasing number of which are wildlife related! They generally ask for a few extra pennies on top of your purchase to go towards a great cause.
- You can also support wildlife charities through signing up for your local supermarket card. In South Africa, you can link your Woolworths supermarket card to a scheme called MySchool and sign up for free to a charity of your choice including wildlife organisations like DAKTARI! It costs nothing to sign up and funds are given back to the charity on your behalf so it is a win-win for everyone!
4. Live and Buy Responsibly
- By purchasing cruelty-free products you can make a small difference in ending demand for wildlife trafficking for profitable enterprises
- If you eat meat, source locally to ensure you know what you're purchasing and that it hasn't funded the demise of an endangered animal.
Wim van den Heever is a professional wildlife photographer based in South Africa and owner of Tusk Photo, who has had an ever growing interest in image-making and nature since a young age. His work is internationally published in the likes of BBC Wildlife and National Geographic. His ranges of safari tours are designed to show the beauty of African landscapes at their finest.
Recently, Husqvarna, a Swedish world-renowned manufacturer of outdoor power products, donated a 61 chainsaw to DAKTARI. We plan to use the chainsaw for general maintenance of both the camp and reserve. This will keep DAKTARI's camp safe and functioning so we can continue to welcome new animals, volunteers and children to DAKTARI! Donations like these are so important in order to keep our camp up to date.
Additionally, Rudamans Hoedspruit has kindly offered to service the chainsaw free of charge! Thank you Husqvarna and Rudamans for this kind donation!
This week, the children from the eco-club took a trip to Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center.
Each week, as part of our outreach program, DAKTARI hosts eco-clubs at two local secondary schools: Maahlamele and Ragkolokwane. The eco-club is an after school activity that the children voluntary attend to learn more about the environment and conservation. Each eco-club is different but there is always a fun lesson or activity on a different environmental subject. The children help determine the curriculum and sometimes aid our Outreach Manager in teaching the classes.
After attending the club nearly every week, we were thrilled to be able to take these enthusiastic children on a field trip to Moholoholo. Moholoholo is a rehabilitation center that has lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and many other incredible animals. Often they are there because they cannot be released into the wild. The children got to have a tour of the center and learned about all of the different animals. This was an incredible experience for them because although they are very passionate about conservation and the environment, this was the first time they had the chance to see some of South Africa's most famed wildlife.
Thank you Moholoholo for an amazing day and a wonderful tour!