Some called him WAHU, others WAHOO. A ‘wahoo’ is actually known to be a fish – but this cat was given this unique name, to ‘imitate’ the motherly sound a female leopard makes when she calls her cubs . . . .
To be able to understand his name completely – YOU will just have to use your imagination and try (quietly and perhaps privately . . .) to make the sound that Wayne Hanssen, made from the day little Wahu arrived on Okonjima! He called him this way ‘to get his attention and to comfort him’. If you get it right – you will know WHY THIS SPECIAL LEOPARD WAS CALLED – WAHU!
As many AfriCat supporters know, WAHU was part of the Hanssen-Okonjima-AfriCat family since he was a week old.
A farmer contacted AfriCat to pick up a cheetah cub that he had just caught on his farm. AfriCat rushed to its rescue, only to find that it was actually a leopard cub. AfriCat begged the farmer to take the little cub back to the area he was found, for there was a good chance that its mother was moving her cubs to a new den and had only temporarily deserted her one cub – and would have later returned to collect it.
On that farm a local herdsman was walking through the bush looking for cattle, and unfortunately stumbled across this little creature and picked it up to take back home, obviously not realising how dangerous that move could have been, if the mother was close by. Also, like many others before him – naively did not realise that his action on that day – 20 years ago, would be the end of a ‘natural life’ for this little, wild creature . . .
So began Wahu’s journey as one of AfriCat’s first rescued carnivores!
Wahu’s eyes were still closed as he was just a few days old. Due to his young age he had to be hand-reared (by Lisa and Wayne Hanssen) which then obviously habituated him and he became unsuitable for release.
At first he spent all his cub-time in their home. As he grew stronger he was taken for long walks in the bush every day by at least one member of the Hanssen family – to try and force him, through trial and error, to hone in those leopard instincts that are strong and accurate. Later on he was given a 500ha enclosure that had natural prey living beside him, but he seemed lonely as he constantly longed for the attention of humans – instead of going wild and living off the available prey. After a few years he was moved to a 12-acre enclosure closer to AfriCat HQ and was then regularly seen by school groups and guests. Wahu was one of AfriCat’s greatest leopard ambassadors – his legacy will live on forever!
For some people, the tragedy of losing a ‘pet’ or a wild animal that has been part of your life for a certain period – occurs in the blink of an eye. One moment everything is fine, and the next your breath is knocked from your chest.
For others, losing an animal you have raised and cared for and loved for many years – occurs over an extended period of time, usually because there is the gradual worsening of an illness before having to make the dreaded decision to end his or her suffering.
But for everyone, there is grief. You are left to deal with a suddenly hollow place left in your heart. It’s a space that was once filled with barked greetings, or deep purrs, a head-rub or an intense look of recognition… now strangely parted from your life – forever.
We are not saying that losing your much-loved animal is the worst thing that can happen to a person. But that doesn’t make the loss insignificant.
Wahu had been battling with numerous health issues, especially those relating to his kidneys and the arthritis in his legs, which was making life really difficult for him at the age of 20.
After a thorough health check on him, the team together with the Hanssen family, collectively agreed to say good-bye.
All creatures, even those we love most, must die one day. Even we ourselves. That kind of consciousness is what sweeps over one – when you are in the presence of greatness and you know the time has come to say goodbye to a living species that was part of your journey for 20 years.
This was the feeling that swept over everyone that was present the day Dr Rodenwoldt and Dr Tordiffe put Wahu to sleep! The entire AfriCat clinic fell silent and there was a tear in everyone’s heart who witnessed Wahu fall into a deep sleep as his heart grew weaker and weaker and then stopped.
On behalf of Team AfriCat & Wahu, we would like to thank ALL OF YOU for your continuous support. We appreciate your help in aiding us to accomplish our mission which is – the long-term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores.
The conservation work at AfriCat is only made possible because of supporters like you!
AfriCat will continue to focus on Environmental Education & Carnivore Research and Community Support, helping as many of Namibia’s large carnivores as possible, by researching solutions for these precious carnivores to survive the harsh reality of their ever increasing challenges, mainly due to human encroachment on their natural habitat.
AfriCat will continue to work towards encouraging co-existence, and more tolerance. We are convinced now, more than ever, that the ‘conservation of wildlife’ will only be taken seriously when the youth of today understands the value of predator, prey and all living creatures and fights for their protection.
Roam the ‘happy hunting grounds’ dear friend. You have done us proud and you have been with us from the beginning of this story – called Okonjima.
Wayne, Donna, Tammy + Rosalea Hanssen, Luigi Bassi, Yolandi Roos & Tristan Boehme
TRIBUTES TO A LEGEND CONTINUED …
“Wahu… What a Cat! NO ONE will ever forget that”
“Thank you Wahu for all the amazing teaching you did. We at AfriCat’s Environmental Education Programme will ensure that your legacy remains active and your message continues!
“See how utterly amazing we leopards are, how incredibly adaptive…. Ensure you do all you can to conserve us and our habitat”
You are seriously missed.
Okonjima guide and AfriCat Environmental Educator +Teacher: Helen Newmarch and all at AfriCat E.E and all those privileged to have spent time in your presence.
“This is a cat that we are going to miss allot – BOTH Okonjima and AfriCat, because his was part of the history that helped create the OKONJIMA Story we live today. Many clients and children from across the globe have spent time in his presence – learning about leopards and observing their beauty, flexibility, grace and the gentle side so many are oblivious to – because they never take the time to admire one of the most intelligent species that roam this planet. RIP Wahoooooo!!”
Okonjima Guide: Gideon Lisara
“I started having a personal relationship with Wahoo in 2013 after falling in love with his story. Ever since my love towards him was extremely awaken. Wahoo you have left behind a legacy no one will forget. May your soul rest in peace.”
Okonjima Guide: Martin ‘MV’ Njekwa
“No wild animal taught me the emotion of nature more so than Wahoo.”
Okonjima Guide: Gert Van Wyk
Wahoo was the first leopard I saw on Okonjima and was a wonderful ambassador to his species. He was always eager to see the guests and responded with purrs and sounds whenever I was there with guests, as if greeting them. He was such a big part of Okonjima and he will be sorely missed.
Okonjima Guide and Manager; Richard Zaayman
“The Okonjima Family have had Wahu in their lives for over 19 years and ‘’in mine just a little over 4 years‘’. His majestic, proud appearance, his elegant jump up the tree, his facial expression and the indirect social affinity to the human species, was phenomenal.”
AfriCat Veterinarian: Dr Diethardt Rodenwoldt
NOTE: WE ENCOURAGE EVERYONE WHO HAS MET WAHU OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS – TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH US! If you have any images & stories you’d like to send to us to share please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org