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GLAM Chat: Marlice Van Vuuren

Wild Animal Orphans, currently airing on Animal Planet, gives a glimpse into the life Marlice van Vuuren – a conservationist who has devoted her life to rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals. GLAMOUR chatted to her about her furry friends, the human members of her family, and the high and lows of living the wild life.

When did you know that you wanted to spend your life helping animals?

I grew up on a wildlife sanctuary. As long as I can remember it was part of me, of how I am and I cannot imagine myself without animals because this is who I am, my passion and my calling in life.

Something that I read by Steve Jobs really inspired me and sums it up – “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of others’ thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out our inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition they somehow already know what you want to become.”

How do you spend an average day?

A typical day at N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary would be spending time with my family, my two boys Zacheo (6), Nicklai (1) and my husband, Rudie. I have the privilege of taking my boys with me for work and get them to live a dream childhood. We spend time with the animals (take baboons for walks, cheetahs for a run and caracals for a hunt). I get a lot of calls from farmers asking us to pick up carnivores that have been preying on their livestock, I also try to talk to farmers about their problems with carnivores and help to them to make a plan or understand the problem and how to deal with the issues, in the hope of mitigating the animal and human conflict. We also do a lot of tracking with the san trackers to get a better understanding of the carnivore population in the area, and how to be able to help the farmers with more information on the home ranges, pray density and carnivore population in an area. Every day I also spend time interacting with my staff and volunteers and help with lots of work to keep everything running. Spreading our message wherever I can is also really important.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Wow! How will I be able to put it all in one sentence? ‘All of it’ would be the right answer. My family time – human and animal.

How do you deal with the more difficult moments?

I tell myself to remember the difference we’ve made – all the staff, volunteers, supporters and everyone who has been involved, and how much we have all invested in the project. I have to remember every little step, every animal that goes back to the wild, every San child that gets to go to school and that makes it all worth while when dealing with the more difficult moments.

Also, we just bought a winery to support the conservation aspects and the Neuras Red helps!

Do you have favorites out of the animals you care for?

I have special bonds with all the animals I raised personally, like the African wild dogs. They are so rare in Africa and we have to make sure that they will be in Namibia for many years to come. I love their personalities. They are so positive and energetic!

What have been the advantages for your kids of growing up on the sanctuary?

I would hope that they will take our work forward, that they learn about conservation and the world we live in. That they will respect nature and animals and love what God as given us to look after and do it as good as they can.

How would you sum up the show Wild Animal Orphans in five words or less?

Passion, love, conservation, emotional, laughter.

What motivated you to do the show?

It’s a great way to show people that they can come and get involved in the wonderful work that we do in a really hands on fashion and make a real difference to conservation, to get the message out that anybody can make a big difference even on a small scale. To bring my conservation message to everybody and to have people understand the wonderful San people and how incredible their skills are. I hope that people will be able to find a message of hope, love and a future of meaning in their lives by watching wild animal orphans.

What’s one message that you want all of the show’s viewers to take away?

You must find what you love to do, because only when you find what you love to do you can do it with passion never give up in searching for it. Everything else is secondary and like with all matters of the heart this might take time.

What can GLAMOUR readers do to help endangered wildlife?

People can come and volunteer and see the work we do for themselves. They can also help by making donations or adopting an animal or sponsoring a child, please visit our website at for more details.

Glamour International