Dingo Dinkelman, who gets millions of YouTube views for his extreme encounters with some of the planet’s deadliest creatures, plans to build a benchmark wildlife haven in Cato Ridge.
Dinkelman said the primary goal for the planned “Dingo’s Animal Kingdom” on a 20-hectare farm he located in 2019, will be to provide a space to care for some of the planet’s most endangered animals, as well as “creating a unique platform for people and animals to connect”.
Speaking to the Independent on Saturday, he said his love for wildlife came from his father, who had worked with the former Natal Parks Board.
“We spent every holiday out in nature and my dad was my biggest influence. When I was 4 years old, I was given the Pocket Guide to Snakes in South Africa and on page 48, I found the Gaboon viper and I fell in love with it,” he said.
Dinkelman is well-known for surviving a black mamba bite in 2003 which saw him rushed to the intensive care unit in a Pietermaritzburg hospital as he struggled to breathe.
“I had tubes all over my body, I was unconscious for a day,” he recalled, although he said his most exciting moment in the wild was getting caught between a large female elephant and lurking crocodiles and hippos on the edge of the Zambezi River in the Victoria Falls area.
“A big female just came out of the bush. I climbed a tree on the edge of the river and she was above me on the bank and I could see the crocodiles and hippos in the water. I was in the tree for about 10 minutes and we kept filming. The elephant came at us as I kept talking and my wife told me to shut up, so I did and the elephant moved away,” he said.
With regard to his plans to develop the Cato Ridge property, Dinkelman said he had been clearing alien vegetation, building fencing and creating firebreaks while waiting for the environmental impact assessment to be finalised.
“We are waiting for the rains to start in September/October when we are going to start planting trees and we are even bringing in mature six-metre trees,” he said, adding that the next stage involved planting more than 1 000 indigenous trees.
With a project of this size came considerable costs, so Dinkelman, who has worldwide support for his conservation work, started his 50/50 campaign where he aimed to raise $50 000 (R750 000) in 50 days.
Within 42 days, the $50 000 target was reached, with an international investor committing a further $200 000 on the basis that the 50/50 goal was achieved.
“This was really a show of incredible support from people around the world. From the US, the UK, and even residents from South Africa, people were willing to donate their hard-earned cash during a period which has been proven to be one of the toughest economic times in recent years.
“Reaching this goal was a huge celebratory moment for us, and we will honour these donations by creating a 5-star animal haven dedicated to the natural world,” said Dinkelman.
He said creating a connection between people and animals was the crucial link to drive conservation awareness and that the new animal haven would provide a place where animals can freely roam in a natural environment.
Planned as a multifunctional facility, there will be collaboration with other conservation organisations, as well as initiating breeding programmes for endangered species, as well as providing up-to-date training in conservation and research into protected species and being a base for demonstrations and school shows. Dinkelman said his team would also continue fun-draising projects which had already had an impact on wild rhinos, pangolins, lions, brown hyenas and various reptile species’ populations to date.
“The R750 000 donation is a huge milestone for the park, and we anticipate breaking ground in about a year or so, with Dingo’s Animal Kingdom set to open in about two years,” he said.
Any company or individual interested in getting involved in the project can email [email protected]
The Independent on Saturday