Leopard

Getting Wild in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

Zegrahm Contributor|June 1, 2015|Blog Post

Seeing a cheetah sprinting at full speed is a beautiful thing; and so is knowing that your actions helped make the scene possible.   

Sadly, though, Acinonyx jubatus—our planet’s fastest land animal—currently finds itself in a race for survival. The cheetah (which can accelerate from 0 to 64 mph in a mere three seconds) is now found in less than 25 percent of its historic African range and is considered one of the continent’s most threatened cats. 

Your visit to the Okonjima Nature Reserve—part of our 15-day overland Namibia tour—can help reverse this course, however, thanks to the vision of the AfriCat Foundation, which is committed to the long-term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores.

Based in the 55,000-acre reserve and supported in great part by visitor fees and donations, the non-profit foundation has rescued more than 1,000 cheetahs, lions, leopards, caracals, hyenas, and wild dogs since 1993. What’s more, the foundation has successfully rehabilitated and released 86 percent of these rescues back into the Namibian wilderness.

Wayne, Donna, and Rosalea Hanssen originally founded the AfriCat Foundation in 1991 after inheriting Okonjima Farm from their family. Since then, the three siblings have turned their eye from cattle farming to conservation while working with local communities to preserve and restore local habitat, support environmental stewardship, and promote a peaceful coexistence between Namibia’s farmers and its large carnivores.

Their work is critical—the country is home to more than 7,000 livestock and game farms; vast habitat loss coupled with conflicts between farmers and predators loom as serious threats to Namibia’s large carnivores. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists cheetahs and lions as “vulnerable,” leopards as “near threatened,” and wild dogs as “endangered.” 

Along with supporting AfriCat’s cause, your visit to the reserve provides opportunities to track Okonjima’s carnivores on foot or in game-viewing vehicles, see these creatures hone their hunting skills, and meet with AfriCat’s leaders to learn more about the foundation.

Located in the Omboroko Mountains, the Okonjima Nature Reserve also harbors 250-plus bird species—look for endemic Carp’s tit, Hartlaub’s francolin, and the Damara rockjumper. Nightlife at the preserve is equally intriguing; your stay includes accommodations at the luxe Okonjima Bush Camp plus opportunities to glimpse honey-badgers, South African porcupines, and solitary caracals from the reserve’s night-hides or during a nocturnal game drive. 

Beyond Okonjima, wild times continue at Etosha National Park, sanctuary to endangered black rhinos; the Ongava Game Reserve, bustling with some 340 bird species; Damaraland, dappled with desert-adapted elephants; and the stargazing haven of NamibRand Nature Reserve, Africa’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. 

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