Animals are often housed in cheerless places. But there is another type of animal refuge: a paradise in Namibia, southern Africa, created by the Harnas Wildlife Foundation. Its residents are as varied as the countryside: lions, baboons, wild dogs, cheetahs, mongooses and antelopes.
Two-dozen wardens and rangers feed, protect and provide veterinary care and young people from all over the world offer to work as volunteers for a matter of weeks or months, while paying for their stay. They feed, monitor and study around 400 types of animals. They get in close contact with wild dogs and other predators; they walk with a gang of young baboons and with Goeters, the world’s oldest cheetah. They clean lion enclosures, try to catch a runaway caracal cat and follow scientists who track newly-released cheetahs in the Life Line, a vast fenced wilderness within the Wildlife Rescue Camp. For the volunteers and staff alike the stars are the infant animals. There is always a young cheetah, leopard, porcupine or wild dog to meet.
The core of the series is following the young volunteers’ relationship with wild animals; their stories of love, passion and hate; their adventures with creatures as small as a meerkat and as big as a lion. City slickers from London, New York and Frankfurt suddenly become foster parents to baby leopards. They get bitten by baboons and scared by ferocious wild dogs. But they are safe, protected by characters like Frikkie, the hard-boiled Namibian cowboy who gives the kids a hard time; by Hermann, the gentle giant who has spent most of his life in the bush; and by Schalk van der Merwe, former football pro and manager of Harnas who has an almost eerie ability to talk and walk with lions.
As the series develops we live through an exciting year in Namibia’s Kalahari in front of an incredibly beautiful natural backdrop, leaving powerful scenic impressions. We watch kittens becoming fully-grown predators. We are overwhelmed by giant thunderstorms in the rainy season; we see amazing creatures like giant bull frogs swimming in the flood pools; and we experience how the land quickly dries out and turns into a desert during the southern winter.
Young people from all over the world come and go, many start as pale, sceptical and timid characters, but leave happy, tired and tanned with experiences that will last them a lifetime. There are tears when they get attacked and bitten by nasty monkeys and there are tears also when they have to leave the Wildlife Rescue Camp. There is grief when one of the greatest animal characters, a cheetah, dies and there is joy when a cheetah baby is born on the same day.
A co-production of Cosmos Factory and EIKON Südwest in association with Terra Mater Factual Studios