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The Green Life: Namibia's Harnas African Wildlife Rescue Saves Animals, Hosts People

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February 01, 2011

Namibia's Harnas African Wildlife Rescue Saves Animals, Hosts People

Wildlife Foundation It’s attracted such celebrities as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Lions and cheetahs roam the premises, often getting close enough to pet. But the goal of Namibia's Harnas Wildlife Foundation, one of the few wildlife orphanages to take in abused, injured, and captured creatures from around Africa, is simply to save animals.

Catherine Leon, a former volunteer and head of U.S. fundraising at Harnas African Wildlife Rescue said, "It’s truly a need-based organization. It started out as a small family endeavor because there were animals that were sick, dying, and being slaughtered. Their motto is, 'One animal at a time.'"

Started in 1978 by Nick and Marieta van der Merwe, the foundation has since expanded to a large refuge comprised of enclosures surrounded by vast amounts of land, where injured or traumatized animals are set free once they're ready. Some were rescued as cubs after their mothers were killed by hunters; others were deemed "problem animals" by farmers and removed so that they could go on living without being a hindrance.

Harnas typically has 30 to 40 volunteers at a time, most of them international travelers who do everything from cutting up meat for the big cats to diapering baby baboons. Some even sleep outside with the cheetahs at night. But Harnas remains a sanctuary rather than a permanent home. Once the animals are rehabilitated, they're set free in the surrounding area.

To boot, the farm, where the volunteers stay, leaves almost no carbon footprint: "There are no garbage trucks, no services, and limited electricity," Leon said. "The concept of recycling is that you make do with what you have, reuse it, and then reuse it again. There’s no excess."

--Shirley Mak

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