Inspiring the next generation’s love of wildlife
Since September 2022, the Foundation has been sending children from Hammanskraal, the informal housing community near the sanctuary, on a safari experience to see wild animals. One of our most recent trips was particularly memorable.
The game viewer was heard before it was seen, as its passengers were all singing a song they had written about lions! There was plenty of excitement all round, from the children, from the guide from our partnering lodge – Mongena Game Lodge – and from the teachers, who themselves had never been on a game drive before. Despite living on the very borders of a wildlife reserve, the community members from Hammanskraal don’t have the means to pay for a safari. Most of them go their whole lives only seeing the Big 5 animals on television, even though they live right next door to them. It’s inspiring to be able to offer them this experience. So off they went, full of anticipation in spotting their first animal. The first find was an impala. Although very common in the bush, they really are beautiful antelopes. Everyone listened quietly and attentively to the guide’s explanation of an impala and its place in the eco-system. After another 10-minute drive, one of the little boys’ mouth dropped open in shock at what he saw in front of him.
His face then turned into a huge smile. They had driven round a bend and met a big male elephant having breakfast on the side of the road! He was no more than 15 meters away from them, very calm and contented in the early morning sun. The children diligently remembered the guide’s instructions to keep their voices down and not to move around in the vehicle. This marked their first sighting of one of the Big 5 – and what a beautiful one it was. They went on to see at least 8 giraffe, warthog, kudu and a very large water monitor lizard.
With every sighting, the guide carefully explained about the animals and how every one of them helps contribute to the balance of nature. After the game drive they had lunch, and Mongena’s riverside restaurant was filled with excited squeals and smiles of children with bellies full of burgers. It can be easy to be blasé about seeing animals, for those that work with them daily, but for these children and teachers – it’s an experience they will never forget. If the experience inspires just one of these kids to work in conservation or help preserve these precious animals, then this project will have been a huge success. Our project coordinator Reward told us the other day, “The children are refusing to visit the local zoo, they said they only want to see animals in the wild!” On days like these, we feel grateful and inspired, and excited about what else we can achieve!
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