Saving South Africa’s wildlife

In 1973 Clive Walker, James Clarke and Neville Anderson established the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), dedicated to conserving endangered species and restoring the delicate balance in southern Africa’s ecosystems.

The organisation has, since then, played a major role in conserving many of Africa’s unique species.

EWT 4Droughts, floods, poachers and predators make survival for Africa’s wild animals a difficult affair and a growing human population encroaching on their habitats is driving many species to near extinction“We as human beings rely heavily on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems and without them we jeopardise our own wellbeing,” says Nomonde Mxhalisa, communications manager for the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

“People around the world can no longer ignore the fact that the environment in which we live underpins every single human need.”

The EWT has worked to bring issues of conservation to the fore in terms of issues in the way of social and economic development.

THE THREAT

Droughts, floods, poachers and predators make survival for Africa’s wild animals a difficult affair and a growing human population encroaching on their habitats is driving many species to near extinction.

The quagga, which used to be a subspecies of the plains zebra or common zebra, once roamed the African landscape in large numbers. But the animal was hunted to extinction in the 1880s, when the last quagga died at the Amsterdam Zoo.

Other indigenous African species such as the African wild dog and the black and white rhinoceros face the same fate. To preserve these animals, the EWT has created a number of programmes targeting threats such as poaching, deforestation, disease, traditional migration route interference, and mitigating the impact that human involvement is having on their habitats.

EWT RiverineRabbitJuvenileThe Riverine Rabbit or Vleihaas is South Africa’s second most endangered animal after the De Winton’s Golden Mole. Pictured above is a juvenile Riverine Rabbit. (image: Endangered Wildlife Trust)

PROJECTS

Most animals are suited to very limited environments; humans however can adapt environments to suit their needs, and with a growing human population needing food and other resources, natural areas are getting smaller and smaller. Animals that lose their habitats often can’t survive this encroachment and can eventually go extinct. Recognising that humans and animals need to share environments the EWT works on programmes to teach communities, like farmers, how to run their farms without driving the animals out.

The Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Programme, involving the Livestock Guarding Dog Project aims to reduce this kind of human/animal conflict.

“We often deal with a great deal of human/wildlife conflict particularly when it comes to our work with carnivores,” Mxhalisa explains.

“We have solved these issues however by introducing mitigation measures such as the livestock guarding dogs that we encourage farmers to use to ward against their livestock being eaten by various carnivores.”

EWT 2The Livestock Guarding Dog Project encourages farmers to use guard dogs to drive predators away, instead of shooting the animals or poisoning them (images: Endangered Wildlife Trust)Livestock farmers need to protect their domestic animals; but these animals are easy prey for carnivores such as lions, leopards, hyenas, wildcats and the now endangered African wild dog and cheetah. The programme encourages farmers to use guard dogs to drive predators away, instead of shooting the animals or poisoning them.

The Livestock Guarding Dog Project has, since it was taken over by the EWT in 2008, helped farmers reduce their annual losses from an average of R3.4-million, to about R150 000.

“. . . The work we do is literally bringing amazing creatures back from the brink of extinction and that means we’ve bought more time for all people to enjoy these species and to continue to reap the benefits of living in ecosystems that are healthy and thriving,” says Mxhalisa.

“Many of the EWT’s staff live and breathe care for the environment.

“Many of us are idealists who want to make a difference, to leave a real and positive mark on the world. We believe the work is important and the results and successes we have keep us pushing forward.”

Another project, the African Crane Conservation Programme, in partnership with the International Crane Foundation, helps to ensure the sustainability of wetland, grassland and Karoo ecosystems that crane species such as the Blue Crane, South Africa’s national bird, depend on.

PLAY YOUR PART

“You can make a difference to the environment simply by not littering, not wasting water or electricity, disposing of rubbish and oil correctly and spreading the word that you are forever linked to your environment and without it we will suffer,” says Mxhalisa.

The EWT also regularly holds talks “about biodiversity and conservation at the Country Club Johannesburg and events that commemorate the various wildlife and biodiversity days that take place during the year”.

Along with individual action, the EWT needs funds to manage and run its programmes; it accepts corporate sponsorships and private donations. Corporate sponsors can contact Debbie Thiart on debbiet@ewt.org.za or call her on +27 (0) 11 372 3600.

For more information on the organisation’s programmes and lectures, or how to donate, visit its website or call +27 (0) 11 372 3600/1/2/3.