Historically, the relationship between humans and Africa’s large carnivores has been strained. Livestock farmers often lose their valuable cattle to lions and leopards. Village life is disrupted by cats and other creatures on the prowl. And land developers clear grassland, one of the cat’s hunting grounds, leaving them to hunt elsewhere. Indeed, there are many issues to address in communities throughout Namibia in improving the relationship between humans and large carnivores.

The AfriCat Foundation was founded in 1991 to address some of these issues.

The organization’s story started on Okonjima Farm when it was raising cattle of its own. Early in the farm’s existence, around 1970, the Hanssen family felt helpless as they lost 20-30 newly born calves each year to leopards. Even as the Hanssens hunted and killed the cats, their losses continued. Clearly, they needed another strategy and so they created birthing pens and calf pens centered around waterholes. Their strategy worked: they decreased their losses to just 3 or 4 per year.

Soon, other farmers turned to the Hanssens for guidance. How, they wanted to know, can they set up their own pens to protect their livestock? And then there was the unexpected quandary of how to get rid of the large cats that they had caught in traps and were holding captive on their farms.

With this second question, it became clear to the Hanssens that if livestock could be protected, then locals would have no need to hunt and kill cats that, like them, were just trying to survive in a harsh environment. With that realization, the Hanssens took in the captive cats and nursed them back to health. As word spread, more locals brought cats for treatment. In some cases, orphaned cubs were delivered to the Hanssens’s door, creating new challenges of teaching them to fend for themselves before re-releasing them on their own.

By 1991, the Hanssens formalized their mission to conserve and protect large carnivores and created the AfriCat Foundation, a dynamic organization on the border of Etosha National Park. Today, the AfriCat Foundation helps resolve human-wildlife conflict by teaching local livestock management and protection, supports environmental education among local youth, reclaims lost grasslands wherever possible, and provides support to communities, including helping villagers build a kraal (a pen for cattle). You will learn about the Hanssens’ efforts firsthand during a visit to their worthwhile organization.

See the AfriCat Foundation at work during our Namibia, Naturally itinerary.

Posted by Gate 1 Travel

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