2019 has been an exciting year of immersing young adventurers from UK schools and colleges into conservation projects in Africa. Students were given the opportunity to experience and be hands-on with the day to day running of much-needed sanctuaries and reserves working for the betterment our wildlife. These sanctuaries exist because of human-wildlife conflict or injury and animals at these sanctuaries are either released back into the wild once rehabilitated or permanently homed should they not be able to thrive in the wild on their own.
Reaseheath College’s Animal Management group chose to travel to Worldwide Experience’s Conserving Wildlife in Namibia project which is based near Windhoek. This has been Reaseheath Colleges third year in a row travelling to the Conserving Namibian Wildlife project where they have had the rare and exciting opportunity to actively participate in the conservation, rehabilitation and research of African wildlife in Namibia. The Sanctuary currently provides a safe refuge for orphaned, injured or problem wildlife including a number of lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, caracals, warthogs, antelope and baboons as well as a host of birds, smaller African mammals and farmyard animals.
The first week at the sanctuary site was spent doing game census, food preparation for the animals, enclosure cleaning and feeding of the various animals! Fun conservation activities included; camera trapping, GPS tracking and telemetry (students are taught how to use the telemetry system to track down a collar which is hidden on the reserve and they have to work as a team to use the clicking sounds from the telemetry to locate the collar). One of the most memorable activities no doubt is the baboon walk, a troop of the young baboons are taken out on the reserve by the students to roam freely and play for a few hours amidst their peers under the watchful eyes of their carers.
The second week was spent at the carnivore research site, Neuras Estate, which is also famous for its vineyard as it’s nourished by the springs that run under the desert in the area. In the local Koi koi language, Neuras means “place of abandoned water”, and owes its early existence as a farm to the presence of several crystal-clear cold-water springs. In 1998, Allan and Sylvia Walkden Davis bought the farm with winemaking aspirations. Shiraz, Merlot, and Petit Verdot vines were planted on the property and their first wines were produced in 2001. Neuras has since become known as “the driest vineyard in the world”, not because of the grapes but due to its semi-desert location and low annual rainfall.
The foundation is now managing Neuras and continues to monitor large carnivores in the area, as well as to capitalize on the potential to support conservation through wine production. Reaseheath College helped the Neuras team record wildlife information from game counts, wildlife cameras, site exploration, and large carnivore GPS data that will contribute to the long-term management of the estate.
Worldwide Experience included a fun off-site excursion for the group to the Sossusvlei, which literally translates to “dead-end marsh” and is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and well-known attraction for tourists. The dunes at Sossusvlei reach up to 400m and this has become a challenge for the volunteers to see who can reach the top of the dune in the shortest time and have the most fun by descending the dune by any means possibly!
The Reaseheath group were also treated to camp-outs on the reserve to experience an African night under the stars. Under the watchful eye of their coordinators, they were able to share their stories and adventures in Namibia with the group.
We have no doubt that these group experiences have a long lasting impact on our travellers as they take their experiences and stories back home and share their stories with their communities with the hopes of spreading the word of conserving wildlife for many generations to come.
Worldwide Experience are able to offer bespoke itineraries that are not limited to this project.
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By Claire Paton