The Rare and Endangered Species Trust is an organisation that operates in Central-Northern Namibia near the town of Outjo. REST was founded in 2000 by Maria Diekmann and has since gone from strength to strength. Originally Maria envisaged REST as playing a supporting role in the effort to conserve endangered species such as the Cape griffon vulture. As time went by, however, it became clear that REST would be better suited to playing a leading role in conservating several different endangered species from around Namibia.
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The Founder and Director, Maria Diekmann began REST in the year 2000. As their family farm was very near the cliffs of the last breeding Cape Griffons, Maria at first envisioned her role is saving them as a supportive one – helping to raise funds or organize data.
Then one day Art and Pris stayed in her small guesthouse on the farm and discussions led to the plight of the remaining vultures on the Waterberg Plateau cliffs. At the time Maria had no idea that Art had actually been very involved in saving another of the worlds endangered vultures – the California condor in the United States. He encouraged her to play a leading role in Namibia’s conservation and work hard to bring together experts around the world for support. This she did and REST soon became recognized worldwide for its vulture captures, taking of samples, fitting of satellite trackers, analysis of data and successful releases.
When a birthing pangolin came along a few years later, REST was established enough that Maria could devote 3 ½ months to living with the Mom and pup and monitoring and recording the birth and raising of the pup. This had never been done before in recorded history and while extremely difficult, was the experience of a lifetime. Roxy the mother pangolin trusted Maria to such an extent that within a week of the birth she brought the baby pup to Maria and he climbed on to her. Thus began a love affair with pangolins.
REST chose the “Forgotten 5” species in an effort to focus on animals that do not often get the attention needed by general media unless extra effort is made. They represent biodiversity, which REST feels is key to good conservation.
REST offers 2 tours of the centre daily. Activities vary as one of REST’s key beliefs is that if an animal comes in that can and should be released into the wild, every effort will be made to do so.
Therefore a visitor during one month may meet a baby kudu with a broken leg or help give milk to a baby warthog, but 6 months later, that animal will no longer be at the centre.
At present, it is believed that they are the only centre in the world open to the public where baby Cape pangolins have been raised successfully and monitored until prepared for full release. They believe strongly that for individual best practice and science, all pangolins are walked 3-5 hours a day regardless of weather or holidays and they forage naturally for their own food. This is how they would live in the wild. They wake on their own schedules, forage wherever they want to go that day, are exposed to other species and their own and investigate burrows and often take naps in the wild. Essentially they live like a wild pangolin. The only difference being that they are secure and safe while sleeping during the day. It is of vital importance to us that visitors realize we are not a zoo.
REST was featured in the below BBC’s documentary. The response has been amazing and you can catch up on episodes below.