AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre

How it all started

The headquarters of the AfriCat Foundation is based on Okonjima’s 22 000 ha private nature reserve , 50 kilometers south of Otjiwarongo in central Namibia, 24km off the B1. 

AfriCat was founded in the early 90’s and formally registered as a non-profit organisation in August 1993.  

AfriCat has since grown significantly and what started out primarily as a welfare organisation has over the years identified the need to include a focus on education and an ongoing collaboration with researchers, scientists and conservation authorities through constructive research of species-specific ecology and behavior and the development of conservation and effective management strategies.

Also working closely with the farming community allows for studies to be conducted that provide valuable information on large carnivores and their long-term conservation in Namibia.

For a more detailed report on our Rehabilitation program, please download the report by clicking the Button below.

Here at AfriCat, over the past 2 decades, the ‘Rescue and Release Programme’ developed as a result of our relationship with the farming community. The AfriCat ‘Carnivore Care Centre’, in turn, was a by-product of the ‘Rescue and Release Programme’.  

AfriCat HQ, provides a home, food and care for a small number of carnivores that currently cannot be released into the wild.

They were captured without their mothers, due to human wildlife conflict and farmers who saw them as a threat to their live-stock.  

Others have been in captivity elsewhere for extended periods of time or have been confiscated by the authorities for being held illegally or with improper care, making them unsuitable for release.

Their hunting skills however are instinctive, but due to captivity, they become habituated and therefore cannot be released back onto farmland. 

These individuals are going to live out their lives under the expert care of the AfriCat team. These animals will take over the role of being ‘Species Ambassadors’ for their wild counterparts.

Keeping large carnivores in captivity in Namibia requires a permit from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. One of the conditions of this permit is that a veterinary inspection is carried out once a year.  Researchers have been involved in a number of studies involving captive cheetahs at AfriCat’s Care Centre, as well as the cheetahs and leopards captured on farmland and released back into the wild.

The annual health examinations of the cheetahs at AfriCat give invited specialist veterinarians in the fields of dentistry, ophthalmology, gastro-enterology and reproduction the opportunity to conduct research on various aspects of animal health, particularly those relating to the health of large carnivores in captivity.

As well as providing expert information on the health of AfriCat’s animals, the examinations also allow for the comparison of results with similar studies being conducted on large carnivores in other captive facilities. Some of this information has also allowed vets to gain more insight into the health of large carnivores in the wild. 

Read up more about our Research Projects.

It is important to understand that ‘ethical animal welfare’ when managed correctly,  can support environmental education,  where children who are unfamiliar with wild animals are able to see these animals at close quarters, but with no direct human-animal contact, and learn to appreciate their beauty and value from a safe distance.  

The ‘ambassadors’ in captivity at AfriCat provide opportunities to increase awareness of their wild counterparts and their conservation priorities to the children visiting our Education Centres.   

Keeping ‘carnivore ambassadors’ in captivity for this reason alone is not AfriCat’s philosophy.

However, after 18 years of rehabilitating cheetahs into the Okonjima Nature Reserve we have come to the conclusion that cheetah rehabilitation can be a successful tool in conserving this big cat species, that cheetahs are able to adapt to different environments and are able to learn how to survive in the wild and become sustainable hunters.

Unfortunately, the increasing pressure of higher level carnivores like leopards and brown hyaenas in an enclosed ecosystem, makes the Okonjima Nature Reserve a more and more ‘unsuitable place’ in which cheetahs can thrive.

Conservation is complex: when wild animals compete with humans the solutions are not straight forward.

AfriCat started out with a mission statement to “keep wild cats wild”, hence ‘A free Cat’. Concentrating on adult and youth education, initiating wild cheetah research including the help of farmers, are all in keeping with that early statement.