A lone cheetah in the bush at The AfriCat Foundation at sunset.

The AfriCat Foundation

July 24, 2023

Founded in 1991, The AfriCat Foundation is a family-run, non-profit organisation in central Namibia. Their mandate is to assist with the long term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores: the beautiful leopard and the elusive brown hyena. All in an effort to produce informed, sustainable metapopulation management guidelines for these species at large.

Wildlife and the Namibian Farmers

The Hanssen family settled here in the 1970s,and during their farming years were exposed to extreme cattle loss as cheetahs and other predators took their livestock. Hunting, trapping and shooting these predators didn't alleviate the problem in any way, so, thinking, "if you can't beat 'em..." they switched to conserving these fine animals instead.

Enter AfriCat. AfriCat provides solutions to the clash between Namibia's farmers and predators through farmer assistance, education, research and welfare. Working closely with communal and commercial livestock farmers, they introduce diverse and effective farm management techniques to protect both livestock and large predators simultaneously.

It’s all about conservation of large carnivores in Namibia, a country which covers about 825,000 square kilometres and has a population of 2,7 million. Up until now, the low population density and vast open spaces have sustained a relatively healthy equilibrium between animal species, however this can no longer be left without intervention. And since “intervention is better than cure”, The AfriCat Foundation endeavours to do research in an effort to conserve the balance and promote the survival rates of large carnivores with a specific focus on leopards and brown hyenas.

Once a welfare organisation, The AfriCat Foundation now focuses more so on education and research of specific species ecology and behaviour and in turn the development of conservation and effective management strategies that could be applied outside of the Okonjima Private Nature Reserve.

AfriCat's Work

The youth education programme run by AfriCat creates a greater understanding of the importance of wildlife conservation, which is essential in the younger generations – this program to date has reached around 20,000 children. Ongoing research for the long term conservation of Namibia's predators in their natural habitat is done in close collaboration with the conservation authorities, scientists, researchers and farming communities.

AfriCat has always rehabilitated orphaned or injured animals at Okonjima until they could be released back into the wild. Over 1,000 predators have been saved since 1993, and 86% have been released back into the wild. These days the AfriCat Foundation is less focused on rehabilitation and more focused on research, so they prefer to partner with other organisations who are better equipped for rehabilitation and release projects specifically for cheetahs that are able to adapt to different environments.

Combining Tourism and Conservation

With tourism and conservation having such a good relationship in Africa, AfriCat have embraced tourism firstly for its conservation strategy, and secondly as a business model which is sustainable. You are therefore able to visit and stay on the family farm which is AfriCat's base.

Okonjima's 22,000 hectare private nature reserve, the home of The AfriCat Foundation, is surrounded by the Omboroko Mountains, 50km south of Otjiwarongo in central Namibia.

You can choose from a range of activities during your stay at Okonjima - leopards in the reserve are radio-tracked from AfriCat's game viewing vehicles as they roam freely and catch their own prey. There are at least 10 collared leopards on the reserve and many more without collars as well. Nocturnal wildlife such as porcupine, honey-badgers and caracal can be seen from a hide specifically designed for viewing these animals, and you'll get valuable insight into AfriCat's work at the Carnivore Care Centre. You can join a Bushman Trail which is easy walking and very informative, and you can learn how traditional weapons and tools were made, and how the San people survive in the unforgiving environment. There are also self-guided walking trails, cycling trails and sundowner drives.

Other wildlife at Okonjima includes pangolin (who can also be tracked – bookable direct on a 2 night stay), rhino, jackal, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, aardvark, genet, polecat, kudu, oryx, red hartebeest, gnu or blue wildebeest, eland, impala, giraffe, zebra, steenbok, duiker, warthog, baboon, rock hyrax, red rock rabbit, hare, ground squirrel, mongoose, and over 250 bird species.

A visit to The AfriCat Foundation will certainly give you a fascinating and unique insight into predator and big cat conservation in Namibia.

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