A Retired Cheetah Teaches Poor South African Youth

by DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage
Feb 20, 2009

Who says you can't learn anything from TV? And Hazards of Bush Living

A NOTE FROM GLOBAL GIVING: Please welcome Ian and Michele Merrifield. They are new project leaders here at GlobalGiving and over the past few weeks we have had the opportunity to get to know them and the great work they do for their organization Daktari Wildlife Orphanage & Bush School.

Periodically over the next two months we will be sending you snapshots about Ian and Michele’s life and work. We encourage your feedback about this new form of progress update so that we can provide you with the most interesting and relevant information possible about the projects and causes you support.

We thank you for your contributions and ask you to consider donating again to Ian and Michele and Daktari Wildlife Orphanage & Bush School. Feel free to tell your friends about this incredible project!

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Who says you can't learn anything from TV?

Ian and Michele Merrifield’s primary inspiration for their 1500 acre animal reserve and environmental school was the CBS TV program Daktari (Swahili for “doctor”), a show that aired briefly in the late 1960s about a fictional animal care center in East Africa. From their respective homes in France and South Africa, Michele and Ian remember “getting deeply emotionally attached to the different animals” on the show and aspired to one day open their own animal refuge centers.

Years later, Michele met Ian on a game reserve in Africa, and bonded over their love of bottle-feeding baby zebras injured by lions and aiding orphaned giraffes, elephants, lions, wildebeests, and warthogs. In 2002, they founded Daktari Bush School and Animal Orphanage.

Hazards of Bush Living

Ian and Michele Merrifield now operate a 1500 acre environmental education facility and animal refuge center in South Africa called Daktari. Their menagerie includes leopard, hyena, giraffe, zebra, kudu, impala, bushbuck, and wildebeest, with the occasional visit from their larger neighbors, the elephant and lion.

There are some animals, however, of which the Merrifields are not so fond. Mosquitoes, snakes, spiders, and scorpions are some of their bush “friends” who co-exist in the habitat, but are not exactly the kind of visitors Daktari hopes to attract. “It is fun but everyone must be vigilant,” says Michele.

Being out in the bush also means being distant from supplies crucial to the function the Merrifield’s program, whose facilities require constant maintenance and upgrading. Ian and Michele hope to expand the program to more children and improve the infrastructure of their center. Although currently without electricity, Ian and Michele say they hope to “reduce our carbon footprint by having better power sources, such as solar power for the office and refrigeration.”


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Organization Information

DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage

Location: Hoedspruit, Limpopo Province - South Africa
Website: http:/​/​www.daktaribushschool.org
Project Leader:
Michele Merrifield
Hoedspruit, Limpopo South Africa

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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