Harnas - Harnas Wildlife Foundation

Harnas is one of the few wildlife orphanages and welfare centres in Africa. From lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog to the smallest meerkat and baboon, more than 1000 wild animals have made Harnas their home.

The Van der Merwe family has been farming in the Gobabis district of Namibia for the past three generations. Harnas itself is situated close to the communal Herero farming land area and between other commercial farmers. For the past 30 years, this family has been involved in the care, rehabilitation and keeping of orphaned, neglected, abused and abandoned wild animals. On 19th January 2001, Nick Van der Merwe, beloved father and husband, died of a sudden illness.

His wife Marieta, the heart of Harnas, has since been intimately involved with the management and development of Harnas. Harnas started from an instinctive love for wild animals. Even the name Harnas, which was given to the farm many years before the family even lived there, proved prophetic. A Harnas was the protective armoured breast shield used by medieval knights.

Continuous publicity given to Harnas has however resulted in a huge escalation of animals brought here and the initial hobby has changed into a full-time occupation for nearly 100 people. In addition to this, there is the ever-increasing human-wildlife conflict. Namibia has a high unemployment rate and a very low income rate for most of the population. The survival of humans will always come first. When farmers have to protect their livestock against predators in the hopes of making a living, their choices are very limited. Conservation therefore suffers severely. A weak economy creates social problems for humans and subsequently affects their relationship with the wild animals.

The people of Harnas find it difficult to turn away requests to take animals, where the alternative would lead to their death. However, Harnas does not purchase animals, as this would certainly create a market.

At first, the family used their own income to carry the Harnas expenses. This resulted into the loss of not only their cattle farming but also most of their farmland [3800 hectare]. Due to a dramatic increase in both the number of rescued animals and the running costs of the wildlife foundation, the need for a wildlife trust fund was born. Hence, in 1997, the Harnas Wildlife Foundation Trust Fund was founded. Despite never having received any government funds or grants, the Van der Merwe family still managed to win international acclaim for their success in rescuing and caring for the Namibian wildlife.

In March 2000, this led to the registration of the Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Germany. The Harnas Wildlife Foundation Trust Fund is a non-profit organisation that obtains its funding from sponsors, donations and adoptions.

One of the biggest problems that seemed to increase as the numbers of animals continuously rise is the need for proper release sites. More and more it was evident that the original dream to save animal lives and where possible release them to be free in a safe environment became a problem. Intensive research in the Harnas lifeline area as well as proven results at identified release areas could only prove further that concentrating on creating a lifeline, especially for the semi wild and domesticated predators, is the safe way out. Space and high costing however remain major problems to achieve this objective.

News & Events:

16/03/2020 -


- To all our guests and volunteers who have made bookings and have fully or partially paid but are unable to come due to the imposed travel ban by governments, Harnas cannot be responsible to make any refunds as this is a case of force majeure. Harnas however will offer the possibility to reschedule your confirmed booking to a later date depending on the course and time od the pandemic and availability. Thank you for your understanding. Let us hope and pray that this pandemic will pass soon and we can get on as normal. ...

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