A WORD FROM THE CEO
Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO
We are living through history, and the only thing one can be certain of right now is that change will continue to define our lives for the foreseeable future. It is safe to say that the world will never be as we knew it to be just a few months ago.
In itself, this may not be a bad thing and we have a unique opportunity to rewrite the story of humankind’s modern colonisation of Planet Earth, and to redefine what it means to live in harmony with each other and sustainably with Mother Nature, going forward.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust is in full support of the measures taken to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 by our national leadership, despite the significant socio-economic impacts of the lockdown on all South Africans. We too, are not untouched by the pandemic and the economic crisis that has taken hold and threatens to grow in the oncoming months. But we are also determined to be part of developing solutions and to play a big role in rebuilding our economy and reshaping our society.
Conservation and wildlife protection are deemed essential services under the current lockdown regulations, which has allowed the EWT to continue undertaking critical conservation work in the interests of saving some of our most threatened species. Under stringent social distancing and hygienic practices, our staff have used essential work permits to:
- save an entire pack of ten Endangered Wild Dogs from near certain persecution in the Waterberg and relocate to them their new home in the Lapalala Wilderness;
- rescue an injured juvenile Black Sparrowhawk from possible persecution due to repeated chicken killing;
- rescue a Blue Crane entangled in bailing twine on a farm in the Overberg;
- rescue an injured Tawny Eagle and a Cape Vulture;
- screen cargo at our airports through our K9 teams, for wildlife contraband; and
- conduct an investigation on an Eskom transmission line that was responsible for killing several Pelicans.
The EWT’s continued fight to save our wildlife does not just benefit those species. We are working tirelessly to support our rural communities whose livelihoods have been suspended, through the provision of skills development and training resources, online capacity building courses, water provision and even food parcel delivery. Many of our staff members are contributing, in their personal capacity, to food provision for the most vulnerable, and the spirit of Ubuntu runs deep in our culture.
Despite our committed actions in the present, our vision is firmly on the future and we are clear in our purpose. We understand the challenges felt by the tourism industry and the threats posed to the sector by a world under continued lockdown. We know that this won’t end overnight. But we also know this:
Africa with her extraordinary wildlife diversity, vast wilderness, open landscapes, spirit of adventure and unique cultural heritage can present endless opportunities for the emergence of a thriving low touch tourism economy. Wildlife and ecotourism lends itself better than any other form of tourism to low density, social distancing oriented activities and high value experiences, which are rewarding to both the tourist and the communities and conservation areas they support.
We know that tourism can potentially absorb the most unskilled people in South Africa, a large number of entrepreneurs, a high percentage of women and those of a lower mean age than many other sectors. We also recognise the importance of this sector to the upliftment of rural communities and to the continued conservation of our most threatened species. We know that tourism brings much needed funding to maintain the integrity of our protected area network and above all, we recognise the simple truth that tourists largely come to Africa to see and experience wildlife.
What is our role in a COVID world?
The EWT’s work ensures that we retain our broad diversity of wild species and wild places for tourists to visit; that we have functioning ecosystems on which rural people can depend and thrive; that we continue to train rural farmers to be resilient and self-sufficient; that the illicit wildlife trade is brought under better control; and that our country emerges from this crisis as a stronger leader in global conservation in a world that has begun to finally understand the impact of undervaluing and under protecting wildlife.
If you would like to support this critical work, please visit https://www.ewt.org.za/campaigns/ewt-donations/
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