He gave up a promising career, and sold everything he had to help animals in Africa.© Dean Schneider / Facebook © Dean Schneider / Facebook
Dean Schneider, from Zurich, Switzerland, fell in love with animals and wildlife at a very young age, and supporting various animal protection projects has always meant a lot to him. Following his passion for wildlife, he made a decision to give up his career as a financial planner and sold all his belongings to start his own project in South Africa.
Dean says that his family and friends did not support him at first, but once they realized how important it was for him, and how serious he was about it, they finally accepted his new way of life.
In South Africa Dean started a project called Hakuna Mipaka which, in Swahili, means “no limits.” Hakuna Mipaka is a large sanctuary that has become home for many abused animals: from captive bred animals, to wild rescues, to wild roaming animals. Many of them were rescued from private zoos where people who bred them kept the poor animals in dreadful conditions.
People often ask Dean why he doesn’t put some of these animals back into the wild, and his explanation is simple: captive bred animals can’t hunt, and they simply cannot survive without human help.
Poachers have put the whole species of African animals at risk.© Dean Schneider / Facebook
There are people in Africa who breed animals in captivity, often just using them for profit, keeping them in awful conditions, and not taking good care of them and unfortunately this is not the only danger African animals face today. Because of poachers we have already lost thousands of animals, some of which are on the verge of extinction.
“Poachers sell the claws and teeth of animals on the black market, for reasons ranging from superstition to traditional medicine. And these are sold on the local market and in Asia,” says Dean. “Lack of human education and a lack of understanding about animals are major problems. Although there is no scientific evidence, there is still a widespread belief that dandelion and animal claws can cure many ailments.”
So far Dean has rescued dozens of animals and has done a lot to educate people and raise their awareness.© dean.schneider / Instagram
The 400 hectares the sanctuary occupies are protected by 6 armed security guards who keep the poachers away, and those animals who were lucky enough to get into Hakuna Mipaka find themselves in heaven. Every animal that enters the sanctuary is examined by a vet and given the necessary treatments. Instead of living in cages, the animals enjoy spacious camps with trees, grass, and natural soil.
The animals that Dean and his team have rescued so far include a lion named Dexter, who was taken from the dreadful conditions of a lion breeder, and turned out to be the cutest cat, and a hyena named Chuckie who’s extremely friendly despite the scary reputation of hyenas. The sanctuary is also home for many other species like raccoons, monkeys, snakes, iguanas, and cheetahs, just to name a few.
Apart from saving animals and taking care of them, Dean is on a mission to educate people and make them aware of the dangers these lovely creatures face because of humans. He posts educational videos about wildlife on a regular basis to “bring animals into people’s hearts.”
“My mission is to reach as many people as possible and educate them about wildlife and the beauty of the animal kingdom. I believe in the power of knowledge, passion, and visual stories in order to change peoples’ perceptions and save the wildlife,” says Dean.
What do you think of Dean’s decision to leave everything behind and devote his life to helping animals in need?