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The Daktari Children Wildlife Club

Posted by Robin on Tue January 5, 2016 in Wamvenga Stories.

The Daktari children wildlife club members, with a group of 10 their members, visited us for a game drive. I found out on arrival that only 2 of the Daktari children wildlife club members had seen a lion in the wild... No one in our car has seen a “live” rhino but me! I am on Game drive in the Greater Makalali Conservancy. My game viewer is filled to the brim, not with foreigners from far-away continents but with teenagers from a local village called; “The Oaks”. They have started the Daktari children wildlife club at their village. The village is just 10 km away from the wildlife reserve and my passengers are all around 15-16 years old. Most of them recently joined their village’s newly founded Daktari children wildlife club and are very excited for this trip.

Expectations are high and everyone of them has its favorite animal and the lion is the most popular. I picked my passengers up 20 minutes ago at Makalali main gate and we are on our way in our open Landrover to the riverine area of the dry Makustwi river to get some shade. It’s a very hot winter’s today. It's 13:30 and the temperature must be around 35 degrees. The bush shows its winter colors; brown-yellow-grey and reds and the air vibrates with heat. A White-backed vulture soars over us scouting the land for carrion. There are sparse flashes of bright green from the Magic Guarri bushes which happily keep their leaves throughout winter as though they are not affected by the 4th month absence of rain. Where do I start with these youngsters? There are so many things I would like to show and teach them as we drive along but I must use my time wisely as this might be their only gamedrive in their life. This drive for the local kids is a dream come true for me.

The owners of Kristis Kamp, where I do most of my safari guiding, agreed to supply their vehicle for this drive and here I am driving the future generation of decision makers. In the previous years working as a nature guide in several private game reserves in the Lowveld I saw that the old connections between people and the land had almost disappeared. How do you care for a land and wildlife you have never seen? Apart from the employees of the various reserves and wildlife estates there is no access anymore for the majority of local people to experience the surrounding land, its beauty and its abundant wildlife.

There are good reasons for the owners to keep the land fenced but the result is that our reserve and its wild animals is as alien for a local youngster as for a foreigner visiting from another continent. Where do I start? I start with the simple facts for every animal we see, its name, how to recognize a male and a female, its food source and how it developed adaptations to fit into this harsh but magnificent environment. I hope that my enthusiasm rubs off! We stop at the tracks of an Elephant, then a Kudu and then a Leopard.

I explain carefully how to recognize it and the direction it is going. Grass-root work but so important to them! They soak up the information like sponges, ask me a million questions and cheer whenever they see another animal. What a delight to drive them around. I am convinced that through my drive I helped to bring out more passion, care and concern for the wildlife and the land we live in plus boost the member-ship of the Daktari children wildlife club majorly. To be continued!