Careers in Conservation – Bringing conservation to life through storytelling

Kedibone Chauchau, the EWT’s Communications and Marketing Department

My name is Kedibone Jacqueline Chauchau. I am the last of five kids, born and bred in the West of Johannesburg. My mom owned an Early Childhood Development Centre that she operated from our garage at home. My dad started as an educator in rural Limpopo, about 5 km from the Kruger National Park’s Punda Maria gate and later became a truck driver at Spoornet (now known as Transet). They are both retired now and living in Malamulele, Saselamani.

I grew up in a bilingual household with a Pedi mom and a Tsonga dad. We have conversations in both languages, sometimes using them in a single sentence. Outside my household was a community speaking Tswana, Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa, and Venda, and I absorbed all of them, developing a passion for languages and now fluent in seven.

However, while I can speak in many tongues, I was a very quiet child in school, adopted by a group of extroverts, and surrounded by loud, outgoing friends who love the spotlight – I still am.

I first realised that I was terrible with numbers in high school, so when I finished my matric, I explored career paths aligned with my strengths and passion for writing and creativity. It took a while. I studied graphic design for a year at Damelin, then transferred to the Vaal University of Technology the following year. Though it was a good fit, it didn’t feel quite right. So, I took a gap year and applied for the BA (Media Studies) Degree at the University of Limpopo.

I started my career at an ad agency three months after completing my qualification. Having majored in several things, I had the opportunity to explore and enhance my skills without limitations before becoming a conservationist, which I hadn’t dreamed was even possible with my qualifications. But a while later, I stumbled upon a job advert for a communications position with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). I applied because I want my work (and life) to make a difference by effectively communicating the important conservation work of the EWT. None of the work conservationists do matters if it remains within their circles. I want to use my curiosity and the will to make sense of everything to tell complex conservation stories and show what people are doing to conserve our planet.

Conservation storytelling is most powerful when combining words and powerful visuals of our remarkable wildlife and ecosystems. I hope to build on my communication knowledge and experience by mastering the art of visual storytelling for conservation. Studies have shown that our brains retain and transmit much more information — and process it more quickly — when delivered visually. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Visuals are important because people remember only 20% of what they read and 10% of what they hear. However, people remember about 80% of what they see and do. It’s one thing to tell people why Wild Dogs are also known as Painted Wolves and another to show them the vivid coat of a Wild Dog.

Another reason visual storytelling is important is that it breaks down complex ideas. Seeing something instead of reading about it enables the audience to connect to or relate to that thing or person on a deeper level and become invested in it. Visual storytelling conveys emotions and realities more effectively and inspires people to support and participate in conservation initiatives.

Too often, we work to benefit ourselves and show little interest in working to ensure the future of the planet and others. I urge the youth to explore a fulfilling career avenue that will secure our collective future.