When I was little you could often find me in front of the TV watching whatever animal documentary I could find that day. I’ve always been fascinated by animals and especially the animals living in the savannah. It’s been a dream to go to Africa and experience that. A dream I never thought would come true until I saw a facebook friend posting a picture of her and a cheetah. I asked her where she’d been and she said N/a’an ku sê and in that moment I just knew I had to go there. So I did and it’s been life changing.
“I’ve been working with lions, cheetahs, leopards, vervet monkeys, meerkats, and baboons”
N/a’an ku sê is a wildlife sanctuary with the vision that humans and wildlife can thrive together. They take in animals in need, even if it is just for rehabilitation or if the animal needs a home for the rest of its life. The goal is always to release the animals back into the wild (where they belong) but if that’s not possible they’ll give the animal a good home at the farm.
I’ve been at N/a’an ku sê twice as a volunteer and I’ve been working with lions, cheetahs, leopards, vervet monkeys, caracals, vultures, meerkats, African wild dogs, and my personal favorite – baboons and so much more. You do everything from feeding the animals, helping if they get sick, baboon walks, cleaning the enclosures, spending time with the animals, animal enrichment, project work doing game counts and other research.
N/a’an ku sê takes in a lot of orphaned baby baboons who needs a surrogate mother during the night. You bottle feed them, put a nappy on and take them with you to bed. There’s no feeling in the world that can compare to that, feeling their tiny little arms around your stomach and their hands holding on to you.
“There’s no place else where I can feel that my life has that big of a meaning”
I can honestly say that there’s no place else where I can feel that my life has that big of a meaning. A nice quote to explain this is, ”To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” When I’m at home in Sweden I exist, at N/a’an ku sê I live. That place makes me so happy and the animals are just amazing. I woke up excited every morning, wondering what the day would bring and I was never disappointed. Sometimes working with animals is a lot of work, but at the end of the day it’s always worth it and you get so much back from the animals.
My favorite memory is the day we went to pick up Chrissy, a baboon, to bring her back to the farm. When Chrissy was only a couple of weeks old her mother was shot by a man on his property. He didn’t like baboons and how they always ruined stuff on his property. He didn’t see Chrissy until after the mother was dead and when he found her his wife convinced him that they had to take care of Chrissy, which they did. Chrissy and this man ended up loving each other and she grew up in their house.
When she was around six months she accidentally escaped and ended up with a man who wouldn’t give her back to the couple if they didn’t have a permit who said they were allowed to have a baboon. Since they didn’t have that they called N/a’an ku sê to make sure Chrissy would go to a good place. We picked her up from the man who had her and brought her back to the couple so that they could say good bye before we took her. It was really sad to see them say good bye because you could really see how much they loved her and how much she loved them, but she’d been treated like a human baby and it was time for her to live a real baboon life with other baboons.
“I’d never trade that experience for anything.”
My job was to take care of her in the car and during her first day at the farm, which was an indescribable experience. Even though it felt sad taking her away from the people that she loved, I knew it was the best thing for her. As soon as we drove away from the couple she started to trust me more and more and in that car, on the way back to the farm, we created a big bond to one another.
In the first few days, I was the only one she’d come to and even when she started trusting other people we still had something special. She’d always come running to the fence calling on me when I walked past the enclosure and every time I’d walk in she was in my arms within a second. To experience this special and unique relationship and to see her grow from a baby to a proper baboon was amazing. I’d never trade that experience for anything.
If you want to help animals, the easiest way is to do volunteer work. Try to figure out what kind of animals you want to work with and in what part of the world. After that Google is your best friend. See what programs you can find, read about them, email them your questions and try to find out what other volunteers have written about the place. That way you can make sure you’re going to a good place that always have the animals’ best interest at heart.
Written by Camilla Forsell
If you’d like to volunteer at N/a’an Ku se, visit their website!