There are a large number of endangered species living in Southern Africa and in Namibia specifically. Lions, Leopards, Elephant and Rhino are probably some of the better known examples of endangered species and it’s easy to see why there are such sustained conservation efforts when it comes to these animals, they are regal and epitomise just about everything that we imagine and love about the ‘Dark Continent’
But what about some of the less comely creatures out there, I mean we don’t all look like Elle McPherson…
For the past 14 years there has been a non-profit organisation called the Rare and Endangered Species Trust (REST) which has dedicated itself to the conservation of those less fortunate amongst the species, dubbed ‘The Forgotten Five’ ie. The Cape Griffon Vulture, African Wild Dog, Cape Pangolin, Damara Dik Dik and Spotted Rubber Frog (you mean those aren’t just bath toys?) and subsequent to this naming it’s become the forgotten 5+1 when the Dwarf Python was added to the list
When REST started it was with an eye specifically on the Cape Griffon Vultures – there is only one place in Namibia that they still roost but very soon Maria Diekmann (who founded REST) discovered that there was a greater need than she initially envisioned.
In 2010 REST found its permanent home on a small farm close to Okonjima, about 2 hours’ drive north of Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek. The emphasis here at REST is on interaction, visitors can see the hospital, lab and office areas and the visitor centre has been specifically designed with a ‘Touch and Feel’ experience in mind – so great for the kids.
There is a massive aviary which houses the raptors which cannot be released. This aviary encompasses parts of the natural cliffs, allowing for some fantastic photo opportunities. Once a week REST also hosts a VULTURE RESTAURANT and regular diners include Lapped faced Vultures, white-backed vultures, Cape Vultures, Tawny Eagles and Marabou Storks! There are literally hundreds of raptors that pop down for a meal
Not only does REST focus on the conservation of the Forgotten 5+1 , they are also involved in research , tagging and reintroduction projects on all six these species and in 2012 Pangolin research received a massive boost – REST managed to obtain a Pangolin that was for sale on the black market and before they released her to the wild she gave birth to a pup. This was the first time in history that a Pangolin birth had ever been witnessed, and these animals are notorious for not doing well in captivity.
In the immortal words of my boss’ then four year old daughter… Vultures are so cute, they eat blood!