Our story starts in 1978 when Marieta van der Merwe, matriarch of Harnas, rescued a vervet monkey from certain death. Marieta and her husband, Nick, lived on the farm Harnas in the east of Namibia. Marieta’s love for animals prompted her and Nick to turn the cattle farm into a wildlife rescue centre, and animals in need of help started finding their way to the caring arms of Marieta and her family.
Nick played an important role in nature conservation in Namibia, especially with regards to the legislation and regulations around large carnivores and the welfare of such animals in captivity. Nick’s vision was to conserve landscapes and build relationships with the communities in the area. Having grown up in the Gobabis area, Nick was loved by the surrounding communities and instrumental in setting up the Lifeline Clinic in Pos 3 Epukiro before his untimely death in 2001 from Congo fever. His legacy remains one of sacrifice for animals and people.
Together with her family, Marieta continued to run the operation of Harnas after Nick’s passing. Her two sons, Nico and Schalk, together with their sister Marlice, all assisted with this. Nico, the eldest of the siblings, passed away in 2006 while cycling the Desert Dash mountain bike race, but his legacy lives on. Each of the children and their families played a specific and unique role in the development of Harnas, and it is this family spirit that helped develop the ultimate vision of Harnas:
“To build on the legacy of the van der Merwe family, the pioneers of the protection of Namibia’s animals, to protect and preserve the wild animals of Namibia and the ancient San culture.”