In the Field


In the Field: DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage

Why DAKTARI offers a unique opportunity to inspire and teach the next generation about the importance of the natural world

Erica Spykerman
Office Manager

Hoedspruit, South Africa

What conservation challenges does the project seek to address?

The Mission of DAKTARI is to educate and inspire local children to value their environment and stimulate community development.

Through the combination of the bush school and the wildlife orphanage, DAKTARI has developed an immersive educational experience for local children to learn about the wildlife around them, the environment, anti-poaching, and a wide variety of other issues, right in the middle of the bush. Our work extends into their communities through Eco Clubs at the secondary schools, job hunting for the youth, and community development projects.

How long have you been running and what are your greatest achievements?

We have been going for more than 13 years now, and have a very structured set-up, making sure our volunteers are safe and looked after from the moment they arrive in South Africa to the moment they leave!

Even our volunteers miss their connecting flight, we have friends and contacts that can look after them.

Some of our achievements over the past few years:

  • For the Job Hunting program we have welcomed 97 students to camp and so far 24 of them have successfully found jobs. 13 have started their studies so gain more knowledge and skills.
  • We have hosted 7 extra workshops for the Job Hunting students so far.
  • We have welcomed more than 4000 children to camp since 2006.
  • The Eco Clubs are growing each year, on an average we welcome around 27 children to the Maahlamela Eco Club and around 35 children to the Rakgolokwana Eco Club each week.
  • We have released or successfully re-located some animals, for example: crocodiles, mongooses, dassies, meerkats, birds of prey, jackals, caracal, civets, antelopes, etc.

What are the challenges presented by the location / environment / wildlife on the project?

We face many challenges in our area, such as poaching, poor education and pollution.

South Africa’s large underprivileged population results in overcrowding of schools, where individual classes sometimes exceed 60 children per class. This results in many children not even being able to understand the basics of education.

Most children throughout the world live in villages, towns, or cities where the indigenous wildlife has for many years been eliminated. Although the wildlife is their heritage, many do not ever have the means or opportunity to even see a giraffe.

Human encroachment has drastically reduced the amount of suitable habitat for wild animals. Many baby animals are hand-raised by caring people, but when the animals reach maturity they usually come to a bad end. These animals either become dangerous, having lost their natural fear of humans, or get killed by coming too close to unfriendly humans.

There are very few safe habitats left for these animals. DAKTARI puts these two things together and uses these orphaned animals to educate children about their environment.

DAKTARI is an NGO and it’s always a challenge to find the right funds or materials in order to do different projects at camp.

How do we survive?

  • Volunteer Projects (short term volunteer stay)
  • Donations through people who believe in our cause
  • Sponsor an animal project
  • Sponsorship from corporate companies

What should a conservationist expect of daily project life?

  • You meet at 7:00 in the morning for tea/coffee.
  • From 7:10 you do a quick bush walk with the children and the dogs and at 7:30 you have breakfast.
  • Afterwards you feed the animals and clean their camps.
  • Lessons start from 9:00 till 12:30.
  • Then you have lunch and everyone is off till 14:00, when the lessons start again and will go on until 16:30.
  • You will feed the animals again between 16:30 and 17:00 then afterwards you will be discussing social issues with the children.
  • Dinner is served at 18:30 and is followed by an educational game before the children go to bed at 20:30.
  • You will have a group meeting every evening to discuss the tasks of everyone and the progress of the children.

As a volunteer, you will be working 5 days a week from 7am in the morning until dinnertime or till the children go to bed.

In your spare time, there are a number of activities such as the swimming pool, walks, games, reading or just relaxing within the stunning surroundings. You will have time off on Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday and will be able to take this opportunity to visit the surroundings. A trip to town is organised every Saturday and you will enjoy meeting up with the local community.

What experience or skills do you offer conservationists that they won’t get elsewhere?

  1. Because you'll be working with both children and animals, you'll get a unique opportunity to inspire and teach the next generation about the importance of the natural world.
  2. You will learn how to build and strengthen local communities, whose success is essential to the long-term survival of the wildlife in the region.

Do you have any exciting plans for the next 12 months?

Yes we do! Here are some of the plans we have for this year

  • Extending the wild dog enclosure (to make it easier to clean and feed)
  • Rebuilding and renovate the baby antelope enclosure
  • Renovate the mice and rat enclosure
  • Extend the office area
  • Build new rooms for the long term volunteers
  • Find a sponsor so we can re-do our mini golf area
  • Arrange a clean-up day in the Community for Mandela day on the 18th July

What are you looking forward to about working with Conservation Guide?

We are definitely looking forward to welcoming more English speaking volunteers to the site.

We also love the look of the website and all the features that are available.

Conservation Guide has the potential to grow quickly and reach more people, and we look forward to walking the same path!

One final piece of advice for a conservationist considering your project:

This is South Africa and we work on what most people call “African time”, please be open minded and patient when choosing a project.

DAKTARI's project is now available to book on Conservation Guide.

Check it out and book on DAKTARI's project page.

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