Even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie love Namibia, and N/a’an ku sê in particular! This ridiculously good-looking celeb couple are the most famous loyal supporters of the N/a’an ku sê Foundation, a renowned non-profit organization protecting wildlife and helping local San Bushmen people in Namibia.
As for The Cheetah Whisperer, Marlice van Vuuren, she is the belle of the bushveld who founded N/a’an ku sê, along with her handsome husband Dr Rudie van Vuuren. The stars of N/a’an ku sê aside, the nature reserve, its wildlife and the San community are ultimately what attracts travellers and volunteers from across the globe.
Hollywood darlings, Brad and Angelina, are actively involved in supporting this award-winning organization that itself has been featured in a number of documentaries, movies and photographs. The most recent donation from Brangelina - a new seven-hectare cheetah enclosure for five of these big cats at the N/a'ankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, gifted in January 2015.
The Jolie-Pitt Stars & N/a’an ku sê
Angelina first encountered N/a’an ku sê (or Naankuse) when she met co-founder Marlice van Vuuren, while shooting Beyond Borders in 2003.
Fast forward to 2006, when the celebrity couple's first biological child, Shiloh, was born in Namibia and they formed the Jolie-Pitt Foundation in celebration of her birth.
In December 2010 the Jolie-Pitt family chose to spend Christmas at the eco-friendly N/a’an ku sê Lodge. In recognition of the important conservation role N/a’an ku sê plays in protecting local wildlife, habitat and people in Namibia the celebrity couple honoured their daughter, Shiloh, by donating US$2 million to long-term projects at N/a’an ku sê. Jolie explains their support on behalf of Shiloh, saying:
“We want her to be very involved and grow up with the understanding of her country of birth.”
The generous donation, made in Shiloh's name in 2011, has benefited the local San (bushmen) community and wildlife projects run by N/a’an ku sê. The funds have mainly been channeled into supporting the San people living in and around N/a’an ku sê Sanctuary and Lodge. The donation has also been used to fund the running costs of the Lifeline Clinic, which delivers free health care to locals, treating malnutrition, tuberculosis and HIV among other health problems. The rest of the US$2 million grant was designated to the conservation of carnivores (especially African Wild Dogs), and the creation of new community upliftment programs.
Outcomes of the Jolie-Pitt Foundation's grant include the five-hectare baboon enclosure, housing for locals working at N/a’an ku sê, protecting lions, leopards and cheetahs, and much-needed basic healthcare in local communities.
Speaking of N/a’an ku sê, Jolie says:
"We have known Rudie and Marlice for many years and continue to be impressed by their hard work and dedication to the people and conservation of the land and wildlife of Namibia."
The Jolie-Pitt Foundation continues to support Naankuse to date and the famous family of eight has returned to visit several times. According to N/a’an ku sê the celebs have been actively involved in their projects, feeding the resident wildlife and meeting the San community during their holidays in Namibia.
Marlice - the Cat Woman, aka The Cheetah Whisperer
This is no ordinary girl, she's a remarkable woman who has dedicated her life to wildlife conservation and the upliftment of San communities in Namibia.
Raised on a livestock farm that became a wildlife sanctuary when she was seven, Marlice grew up with wild animals and started working in films with animals by the age of 13. Having spent most of her life with the San people, the original inhabitants of Namibia, she speaks fluent Khoisan and is actively working to help preserve their ancient culture and overcome challenges that these marginalized people face today.
Here's an interview with Marlice about the work that she does at Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, by Boyd Matson of National Geographic.
This is the famous VW Golf Ad featuring Marlice and Lucky, the three-legged cheetah, at N/a’an ku sê:
In 2008, by the age of 32, Marlice starred in a documentary about her life, called "Marlice – A Vision for Africa" by director Philip Selkirk. This year Marlice and her husband Rudie, filmed a 13-part TV series for the Kyknet program “Groen”, travelling across Namibia to document conservation projects.
The N/a’an ku sê website shares their dream:
"Our vision is an Africa where humans and wildlife can live and thrive together. Our mission is to conserve the land, cultures and wildlife of Namibia and rescue species threatened by an ever-shrinking habitat."
N/a'ankuse is only 42 km's east of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. The lodge and wildlife sanctuary are set on 3200ha of rehabilitated wilderness, formerly used for farming. The name N/a'ankuse means "God will protect us" in the local Khoisan language.
Some of the N/a’an ku sê projects include:
- N/a'ankuse Wildlife Sanctuary - saves and rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife, hosting animals that cannot be released into the wild
- N/a’an ku sê Lifeline Clinic - provides local San with free primary healthcare and emergency medical assistance
- N/a'ankuse Carnivore Conservation Research Project - tracking cheetahs and leopards on farmlands and relocating them to conservation areas
- Clever Cubs Pre-School - educates children from the San community and helps place them at primary schools
- N/a'ankuse Lodge - offers luxury accommodation that funds the wildlife and social projects
The Naankuse Wildlife Centre was established to rescue and treat orphaned and injured wild animals in the area. Volunteers play a vital role in taking care of the animals at the wildlife centre, including African wild cats, baboons and meerkats, as well as helping out with maintenance and rescue and release operations. These paying volunteers also help to support Naankuse financially, by staying at the facility and paying to be involved. Beyond that Naankuse relies on donations, like those from Brangelina, and funds generated through the luxury lodge to cover the costs of its social and wildlife programs.
Although the ultimate aim is to relocate or release the rescued animals back into the wild, where they are monitored, some animals cannot be reintroduced and remain at the Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary. Here they are fostered and sheltered in special enclosures and receive proper care.
Even though N/a’an ku sê Lodge is a luxury safari destination we do offer tours that visit this special place:
- Budget Namibia Highlights Lodge Safari - visits N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary
- 7 Day Big Cats, Etosha & Desert Namibia Safari - spends a night at N/a’an ku sê Lodge
The highlight of a visit to N/a'ankuse is watching the carnivores being fed, a daily occurrence that gives people a chance to see the predators up close and get fantastic photographs. Visitors can also join nature walks and game drives to see the resident wildlife and birds.
Thinking of visiting? Peruse the TripAdvisor Reviews for N/a'an ku se Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary, awarded a Certificate of Excellence.
Or, if you just like what you see then visit the I love N/a’an ku sê Facebook Page of the non-profit organization.