Namibia: Windhoek's Animal Haven in Search of Help

IN Windhoek's Kleine Kuppe suburb, animal lovers will find a true haven.

Haven Zoological Park is situated in Rietfontein Street and is a suburban petting zoo, which has withstood the test of time.

From flooding and heavy rains to years of serious drought, swine flu, bird flu, foot-and-mouth disease, a global financial crisis, and currently, the Covid-19 pandemic, Haven Zoological Park still stands.

Windhoeker Martin Weiss has sustained and run the zoo from his own pocket for the past 15 years, with some help from his family.

The industrious farmer has over the years sacrificed a lot to ensure that the capital's residents have a place where their children can pet animals, learn about them and enjoy the outdoors while playing.

Weiss does everything he can to make sure the park's animals are well taken care of.

"It's about passion," he says.

"Even though it's very costly at times, and I worry how I will continue to keep the gates open, I keep going," he says.

In recent years the cost of running the zoo has escalated severely due to the harsh droughts the country experienced.

This has forced Weiss to transfer many of the park's animals to his farm some 250 km outside Windhoek.

If he didn't love what he does, he would have quit the park a long time ago, he says.

Haven Zoological Park has been a landmark of the capital, with many Windhoek schools visiting the facility for excursions and out-of-the-classroom learning.

Weiss says the park has been recommended as a safe place for broken families to conduct child visitations, and therapists often recommend that traumatised patients visit the park.

Connecting with animals is soothing and healing, he says.

The facility is currently somewhat dilapidated due to limited resources.

Weiss says any help or donations would be appreciated.

"Because at the end of the day, it's the kids who benefit the most from this," Weiss says.

A number of donors have helped to feed the animals, ranging from llamas, goats, dwarf ponies, horses, sheep, goats, and other farm animals, as well as monkeys.

Replacing some of the animals, however, is costly and sometimes involves importing them and securing permits and vaccinations.

The park also features a coffee shop, which is open for birthday parties and events, while adhering to Covid-19 health regulations.

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