The AfriCat Foundation focuses on ensuring a sustainable future for Namibia’ large carnivores, such as cheetahs and leopards, through their conservation efforts. Many of the rescued cheetahs at The AfriCat Foundation lack natural instincts and hunting experience because they were orphaned or removed from the wild at an early age and have become habituated while in captivity. However, the 20 000ha protected Okonjima Nature Reserve provides them and other carnivores the opportunity to hone their hunting skills and re-acclimatise during the rehabilitation process. This offers them a chance to return to the wild.
The rehabilitated cheetahs are fitted with radio collars, so their welfare and progress can be monitored by AfriCat’s conservationists and researchers. The leopards within Okonjima Nature Reserve form part of the AfriCat Leopard Density Project and are also fitted with radio collars to enable the researchers to gather valuable data. The leopards are all wild born within the nature reserve and have never been exposed to humans prior to being collared. Experienced and passionate guides spend hours in the bush closely observing and getting to know each animal. It has taken us over 20 years to form a bond, whereby man and beast can coexist in the same space with mutual respect and tolerance.
However, over the last century, over grazing and controlled natural fires as a result of commercial farming have damaged Namibia’s natural habitat. Many of the country’s open plains are becoming thorny thickets as a result. Okonjima is trying to reclaim and rehabilitate the grassland plains to their natural state, as part of the debushing efforts. The Blackthorn (Senegalia mellifera) and the Sicklebush (Dichrostachys cinerea) are encroaching on the nature reserve, which results in an imbalance in the grass to bush ratio and decreases biodiversity.