MEET THE FAMILY
For generations, the Hanssen Family had been avid cattle farmers until the need for solutions to increasing livestock losses and post-independence interest in Namibia as a tourist destination, changed the face of Okonjima, as well as that of Carnivore Conservation.
Our dream is to turn our 55 000acre (200km²) private, Nature Reserve on Okonjima – that was once denuded farmland, back to it’s natural state, last seen 200 years ago. This dream must be sustainable and a benefit to local communities for it to survive the tide of change in Africa. This ongoing project headed by the Hanssen Family has nearly removed all internal fences and the management of water resources, hides, the removal of undesirable bush encroachment and new bush roads is ongoing.
Wayne leads the Okonjima team in a tourism venture that offers our clients ‘authenticity’ and ‘luxury’. Their funds are used for ‘conservation’, ‘environmental education’ and our ‘social responsibility’.
• His Passion is grassland science.
• His Dream is to turn Okonjima’s 55 000acres of Nature Reserve into what it once looked like, before man destroyed it due to a lack of understanding the fragile nature of our environment.
• His Wish is for the next generation that hold the future of this land in their hands, to learn from our mistakes and to ‘BE the change they wish to see’ in this beautiful country, Namibia!
Donne Lee Hanssen
Has brought her skills to bear in the re-organisation of AfriCat, particularly in raising the Foundation’s profile and bringing it closer to Okonjima’s guests and the general public. She is responsible for the new image which the Foundation now represents since 2010. Donna is also involved in the day to day management of the Foundation, which includes the welfare of the ambassador carnivores, the research projects and the environmental education programme
AfriCat Project Coordinator
Responsible for maintaining the Board records of the Foundation. Karen has worked for and with the UN since 1990.
Susanna Lewis de Amable
Susanna Lewis de Amable hails from England with a degree in Biological Sciences from Lancaster University, graduating in 2012. She started her career as an Ecological Consultant in the UK, working with protected species doing field surveys and creating mitigation plans. But by then she had already got a taste for the exotic, having spent a month after graduating in the jungles of Peru with an NGO doing wildlife monitoring. It was there she met her future husband and the reason she returned in 2013, this time for 4 months volunteering for a Macaw research project while he was a local guide.
In 2015 she abandoned her fledging career to join him in South America and together they worked in the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil and the cold southern Patagonia of Chile, her husband as a guide, and Susanna as a puma tracker and as resident biologist collecting data on jaguars seen by the guests, maintaining a long-term monitoring data base of the jaguars, mapping territories, and registering behaviour, as well as giving lectures to visitors on the local wildlife.
During her second season in the Pantanal, 2018, she decided to investigate the local giant river otters that resided in the area – they are the world’s largest species of otter which live socially in family groups on lakes and rivers but due to the historic fur trade were dramatically reduced in their populations and are considered endangered. Now they face other threats including conflict with humans, particularly fishermen over resources, and rumour was that a local fisherman had killed a family, but no one knew enough about the local families to know for sure. Like leopards and jaguars, giant otters can be individually identified from unique markings on their throats, so she set about identifying the local families, the individuals of each family, piecing together family histories and mapping family territories.
During this time, her husband, Naun Amable Silva, had been the guide for AfriCat’s Karen Codling and Wayne Hanssen both in the Pantanal to see jaguars, and in Chile to see Pumas. In 2019 Naun and Susanna were invited to visit and stay at Okonjima Nature Reserve and did so for 3 months. Naun, an amateur photographer, with his big lens and a passion for birds and felines went about the reserve taking photos of the wildlife. Susanna also spent her time learning about the ongoing research on the reserve by the AfriCat Foundation.
She took what she learned, particularly about the useful application that was helping the AfriCat researchers in their work in the field, and applied it back home to her work with both jaguars and giant otters in Brazil. It helped her immensely in her work by allowing guides and guests to help contribute to the data collection as citizen scientists. As we all know due to COVID 19, the world has changed, and while she wasn’t able to return to Pantanal to continue her work there, a local research group took up the work and are also using the same app! Although unable to get to the Pantanal, they were able to get back to Namibia when restrictions allowed and escape into the Okonjima bush for another 3 months. While there she began to look at the data still being collected by the guides on the reserve, but which was no longer being used with no researchers being able to remain with AfriCat through the pandemic and has continued to do so after returning home to the jungle of Peru.
While in Peru she is working as an independent biologist with the local giant river otters, trying to implement the same citizen science project as in Brazil. The COVID 19 pandemic has forced many locals to resort to alternative forms of income, including fishing, and there is a worrying trend of shrinking otter families and even disappearance of resident families from their lakes with rumours of otters being caught in the fishing nets and drowning.
In mid 2021 AfriCat decided to offer Susanna the opportunity to continue her work with the leopard data, but as an official part time researcher, working long distance and crunching numbers! She is still transitioning, collecting data from various sources and the previous researchers, and is looking forward to what interesting things can be learnt about the leopards and other wildlife of the Okonjima Nature Reserve from all the valuable data collected even throughout the pandemic. Continuing the good work of the past researchers and perhaps onto new and interesting areas of investigation.
MEET OUR VETERINARIANS
Dr Diethard Rodenwoldt
I am used to working within a team, and I aim to part-time assist The AfriCat Foundation during 2015/2016. Since August 2015 it has been my responsibility for some of the health and welfare of AfriCat’s longer term residents as well as several of the carnivores in the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
During 2015/2016, I will link-up, be part of and contribute positively to the working activities of an already respected proven functional unit which is Team AfriCat. Together, we would like to achieve the ultimate for wild cats, canines and herbivores in terms of conservation, education, veterinary care and research.
We also plan to contribute not only to the establishment of basic farming principles for a mutual, beneficial co-existence between carnivores and cattle ranching, but simultaneously improve the ecology of the fauna and flora of the Okonjima Nature Reserve over time. I am excited and look forward to a new era of exciting challenges.”
Dr Rodenwoldt, together with other veterinaries working with AfriCat, will also be involved with the workings of The Foundation from both a veterinary and a conservation perspective as well as several of the research projects which have been undertaken, helping to guide its work into the most challenging areas of conserving Africa’s large predators in the face of ever-growing competition for the planet’s limited resources.
Dr Mark Jago
Board Member & Veterinarian
Born and bred in the UK and having trained as a veterinary surgeon at Cambridge University, Mark followed his dream and in 1987 started working with wildlife in the National Parks of Tanzania. In 1993 he moved to Namibia with his wife, Laura, and their two children, Isla and Torran and for the next 14 years worked in a mixed rural veterinary practice. During this time Mark became closely involved with The AfriCat Foundation and its work with large carnivores.
Over the years he has been responsible for much of the health and welfare of AfriCat’s longer term residents as well as several of the research projects which have been undertaken. Today Mark works for the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism as their wildlife vet in all of the country’s National parks. Mark and the family remain closely involved with the workings of The Foundation from both a veterinary and a conservation perspective, helping to guide its work into the most challenging areas of conserving Africa’s large predators in the face of ever-growing competition for the planet’s limited resources
Dr Adrian Tordiffe
Veterinarian & Lecturer at University of Pretoria
Adrian grew up on a farm in Free State Province of South Africa where he developed his love for African wildlife. He graduated with a veterinary degree from the University of Pretoria in 1997 and then spent the next 8 years in small animal private practice in the United Kingdom. In 2005 he returned to South Africa with his wife Ashleigh and three (now four) children, to persue his real passion, namely African wildlife research.
In 2006 he completed a Masters degree in African Mammalogy at the Mammal Research Institute of the University of Pretoria, which he obtained cum laude. He started working at the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG)in 2007 as a clinical veterinarian, but his focus soon changed in line with his research interests. Dr Adrian Tordiffe currently holds a full-time research position at the NZG and is enrolled for a PhD in Biochemistry at the North West University in Potchefstroom. His aim is to establish baseline metabolic profiles for captive and free-ranging cheetahs in order to investigate the unusual medical conditions that these animals develop in captivity. He currently also has a dual appointment as an extra-ordinary lecturer at the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Onderstepoort. His broader research interests are on the non-infectious and nutritional diseases of wildlife, particularly those caused by anthropogenic habitat transformation.
Dr Tordiffe also has a keen interest in wildife anaesthesia and physiology and has been called apon to assist with the anaesthesia of a wide range of mammals, large and small. Adrian has been involved with the AfriCat Foundation for the last two years where he has been maily responsible for the anaesthesia and medical management of the animals undergoing various dental treatments
Dr Gerhard Steenkamp
Veterinary Dentist & Maxillofacial Surgery Referrals. Dr Steenkamp has been involved in taking care of The AfriCat Foundation cheetahs’ dental health since 2002. During this period he has been able to monitor AfriCat carnivore interventions as well as how these animals progress.
Dr Gerhard Steenkamp is a tooth-specialist, practicing in South Africa (Pretoria and at the university of Pretoria)
CURRICULUM VITAE FOR GERHARDUS STEENKAMP
Place of birth: Polokwane, South Africa
Department: Companion Animal Clinical Studies
Position: Senior Lecturer
Zoology/Botany, University of Pretoria 1988
BVSc Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria 1994
MSc Zoology, University of Pretoria 2008 Cum Lau
OUR AFRICAT TEAM
As AfriCat’s office administrator, Selma assists the accounts department with all incoming donations and payments and is responsible for all communication between AfriCat and our donors, AfriCat staff issues, as well as overseeing the Carnivore Care & Information Centre and its daily running.
Selma also assists Okonjima in the reservation department and welcomes all donors who visit Okonjima to experience firsthand the work AfriCat is involved with in the 20 000ha Nature Reserve.
AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre Assistant
Andries Garab is a 28 year old young man, who hails from the beautiful town of Otjiwarongo, in central Namibia. Although I was born and bred in a town, my heart was always after working and living in the bush and doing farm work and that is how I found Okonjima and AfriCat. I was thrilled to start working for AfriCat last year in October. I enjoy my duties of feeding the cats and making sure their health is excellent and their camps are clean and up to standard. I have grown to love the concept of conservation and I am very happy to say that I am lucky to be part of the team that is making a significant impact for these carnivores in the long-run.