Responsible tourism: Wildlife orphanage volunteering in South Africa
This project is truly unique in its aims, as it combines both wildlife conservation efforts and initiatives, to improve the lives of local schoolchildren who are very often underprivileged and let down by their current education. The orphanage itself is a rare refuge for animals who have been orphaned, mistreated or injured by humans in some way, including lions, cheetahs and many species of primates. Many are harmed by farmers, who view them as pests and threats to their livestock and crops, others are left alone as infants, following the poaching of their parents, and some are rendered disorientated and unable to survive in the wild following the destruction of their habitat through logging and deforestation. These animals find a safe home and constant protection at the orphanage, and are nursed back to health, and wherever possible, safely released back into their natural habitats to live in the wild once more.
It is one thing to care for the animals that are victims of human intervention, but the aim of this project is to alter this continuous cycle by inspiring the generation of local schoolchildren to invest value and respect in the animals they share their natural environment with. The weekly groups of children who visit the orphanage are from underprivileged backgrounds, and so are not always receiving the high standards of education they deserve, due to overcrowding and poor resources in their schools. The project helps these children to learn more effectively during their stay at the orphanage, providing them with the one-on-one attention that they are unable to receive at school. They are taught basic literacy and numeracy skills, as well as other invaluable social issues including AIDs awareness.
Most of all however, these children are inspired at the orphanage, through educative exercises and through interaction with the resident animals, about the importance of wildlife conservation in their own environment. The children leave the orphanage having learnt to view the native wildlife as an important part of their national heritage that is to be valued, respected and protected.