Kelbe Photography

Harnas

We crossed over to Namibia at Buitepos and headed towards Windhoek aiming for the town of Gobabis. Jane and Alan have good friends from Teza who have cattle and a game ranch there and they kindly offered to host us for a few days


The game farm was a magical place with beautiful scenery and many animals, eland, rhino ,giraffe, zebra in addition to the usual suspects. It was a wonderful break with running hot water and we almost became clean again under their generous hospitality!


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Close to Gobabis is a wildlife sanctuary called Harnas which has gained some fame locally and internationally for rescuing the big cats. The sponsor of the sanctuary now is Angeline Jolie and many of the cats are named for her and her children, weird but there you go. Particularly unsettling was that some of the cats died so there are graves marked with her children's names.

I have a sort of love hate relationship with these facilities. I think the work they do is important and it is great to be up close with the animals but big cats in cages, even big enclosures, just seems wrong. Still the story and success of the sanctuary is heart warming. It started as a hobby for the people farming there and they took in injured animals or animals preying on cattle and stock before they were shot. Soon there were so many that they neglected their farm and the cost of keeping them became too high and they were almost bankrupted. They came to the idea of developing the sanctuary as a business, offering internships to foreign youngsters to come and work with the cats and opening it to visitors. By this they attracted foreign donations and support and eventually attracted the Pitt -Jolie clan with the result that they received a big donation to sort out fencing and upgrade the pens. Now the whole farm is given over to the sanctuary with different sized pens used as staging posts for animals who can be rehabilitated back to the wild. Many unfortunately can't be set free and they represent the permanent residents. Every day, twice a day, the animals are fed donkey meat and the guests get taken in a safari vehicle around the pens while various nubile foreign girls (paying interns) throw donkey bits. We had 2 Swedish girls on our truck, one of whom was a vegetarian. I am not sure how that works, digging into plastic buckets of donkey entrails!

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They have a range of residents from big to small. The tour is informative and starts with the guide whistling until a curiosity ( yes that is a real collective noun for mongooses,) of striped mongooses come bounding in from all corners. They get little donkey bits but have to fight the ducks and geese for them. An odd dietary choice for fowl I would have thought. We called them vampire geese. In the gardens are many birds , tortoises and a tame warthog and there are pens for meerkat as well. Then it's onto the truck to see the caracal, lion, cheetah, leopard and wild dog. Photography can be challenging behind fences and the fencing is substantial for a reason. Some years ago a German tourist strapped a backpack of meat on and climbed in with the lions to commit suicide. Weird and a bit thoughtless to those left behind to pick up the pieces. Imagine being eaten by Brad Pitt ! We drove into the cheetah enclosure and 25 cheetah came running from all over creating something of a bunfight. Cheetah are especially under threat in Namibia as they are bad stock thieves. They are nomadic and wander and move across farms sometimes in big groups. Although they are protected most farmers have no compunction to shoot them and bury them quietly and there is a study underway at the moment to count the population in Namibia more accurately. Most feel that the results will be unexpectedly, and perhaps shockingly, lower than expected.



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