As sustainable development and conservation of earth’s limited, but valuable resources become ever more urgent – SO IS THE SYNERGY BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND TOURISM BECOMING MORE APPARENT! The symbiotic relationship which exists between The AfriCat Foundation and the Okonjima Nature Reserve is imperative – without education, research and the mitigation of farmer-predator conflict throughout Namibia, the essential conservation of large carnivores would falter … and without the substantial financial support offered by our foreign visitors, who stay in the OKONJIMA lodges, neither would survive!
West of the Waterberg Plateau Park, vast plains are occasionally broken by remnants of ancient Sandstone outcrops, which once covered large areas of northern Namibia.
Nestled among the “Omboroko Mountains” lies OKONJIMA – a Herero name meaning “Place of the baboons”.
This is much more than just a lodge. OKONJIMA is also home to THE AFRICAT FOUNDATION.
AFRICAT became internationally renowned after featuring in an award-winning documentary filmed for the Discovery Channel in 1995 &1996.
Namibia is home to the world’s largest wild/free-ranging cheetah population; the majority of this country’s cheetahs and leopards can be found on approximately 7000 commercial farms. These large carnivores occasionally prey upon the livestock that roam unprotected in the bush. As a result, carnivores are often regarded as vermin by the livestock and game-farming community and are deliberately trapped and/or killed.
AFRICAT has had to take on a large number of captive cats / carnivores no longer wanted by other establishments. Among the carnivores being rescued, researched and rehabilitated by AFRICAT are cheetah, leopard, lion, caracal, wild dog and hyena.
OKONJIMA is a family-run business. Wayne, Donna and Rosalea Hanssen who co-own and live on the property, bought OKONJIMA from their parents, Val and Rose in 1993 turning, the then, cattle farm into a conservation project.
Today the Okonjima Nature Reserve – is still the ‘Home of The AfriCat Foundation’.
AfriCat’s main focus is – Conservation through Education, Researching Carnivores & Rehabilitating Captive Cheetah.
AFRICAT has saved more than a 1000 carnivores since 1993. 86% have been released back into the wild!
OKONJIMA is in a Malaria-Free area.
An increasing number of tourism lodges are holding cheetahs, leopards and other wild animals in captivity for entertainment purposes only. OKONJIMA supports the conservation of wild animals IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT.
The practice of catching cheetahs in the wild for captivity is causing a drain on the wild population. Revenue earned through showing these captive cheetahs at lodges rarely goes back into conservation practices. THE AFRICAT FOUNDATION has also had to take on a large number of unwanted cheetahs, when lodge owners or farmers decide that they are not worth keeping.
It is OKONJIMA’S long-term aim, to encourage viewing of large carnivores in the wild, rather than in a captive environment and ‘direct human-animal contact’ with these wild animals, is detrimental to this long-term approach.
Guests visiting OKONJIMA will still be visiting THE AFRICAT FOUNDATION and learning about large carnivores in the wild like cheetah, leopard and lion, but in a constructive manner.
What is man without the beast?
If all the beasts were gone,
Man would die from a great
Loneliness of spirit.
For whatever happens to the beast,
Happens to man,
All things are connected…
Chief Seattle’s letter to the President of the US 1854
The Hanssen Family arrived on Okonjima in 1970. VJ and Rose Hanssen were cattle farmers. VJ was born in Namibia and Rose in northern Rhodesia now Zambia. OKONJIMA was converted into a conservation area and the AFRICAT FOUNDATION was registered as a non-profit organisation in 1993
Sadly Rose passed away in Aug 1992, and VJ in July 2006.
A new vision has been created for the AfriCat Foundation and in order to implement this vision it was also deemed necessary to re-organise the AfriCat Board of Trustees. A larger, more broad-based Board would be better able to represent the various stakeholders of the Foundation, as well as provide differing skill sets and fresh perspectives to the Foundation.
At a meeting of the Board of Trustees on 9 April 2011, Wayne Hanssen, as proprietor of Okonjima and Dr. Mark Jago veterinarian for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism as well as to the AfriCat Foundation were carried over from the old Board and the following individuals added: