Celebrating World Fish Migration Day

JP le Roux, Aquatic Conservationist, Source to Sea Programme


World Fish Migration Day (WFMD) is a one-day global celebration to create awareness around the importance of open rivers and migratory fish and in 2018 it was celebrated on 21 April, with the theme of Connecting fish, rivers and people.


This day is significant because many fish need to migrate to reproduce, feed and complete their life cycles. Migratory fish make up a crucial link in the food chain and play an important role in healthy and productive river systems. They are also an important source of food and livelihoods for many people. Unfortunately, many migratory fish species face threats such as dams, weirs and sluices, which disrupt the natural flow of rivers and prevent their migration.


The EWT’s Source to Sea Programme took part in a special event in Groot Marico to mark this day, organised by Iggdrasil Scientific Services. The event was focused on barriers to fish migration, both natural and manmade. They travelled around Marico looking at barriers that limit the movement of the endemic Marico Barb as well as the impact of Largemouth Bass on indigenous fish communities. They found that in some cases the barriers limit the dispersal of invasive fish, which in turn limits their effect on the endemic fish population. One of the biggest threats to the Marico Barb was identified as the introduction of invasive fish in the upper part of the catchment, which will need an education and outreach programme to be mitigated.


Thanks to Elizabeth Wakeman Henderson Charitable Foundation for their support of this work.

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Changing perspectives

Jiba Magwaza, Junior Field Officer, Threatened Amphibian Programme


Winter is almost upon us, and it is time for our frogs to hibernate. While most amphibians hibernate during this season, some of our amazing frogs are still calling and active in field. The Striped Stream Frog and the Common River Frog are two species of frogs that remain active all year round and can be heard calling throughout the cooler months. These two special frogs are much more tolerant of the cold and can breed in all seasons. The EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP) has also continued to work on exciting projects into autumn. We have been engaging local schools in Isipingo, Durban, to gauge knowledge on wetland habitats and overcome fears about frogs.


The work is the result of a project that we have recently started thanks to funding from Tiger Brands to promote sustainable livelihoods in the area through wetland-friendly vegetable gardens, and the development of Small-to-Medium-to-Micro Enterprises (SMMEs). During April, we engaged with 450 learners from Thamela Primary and Igagasi High School with our “Frogs in the Classroom” approach. During our primary school engagement, the grade 5 classes were asked to draw a picture of a wetland and all animals and plants that they think occur in or use wetlands. We then visited the primary school to educate learners about the function and importance of wetlands. We also showed them a live Guttural Toad and used it to talk about a frog’s life cycle and their importance as bio-indicators. On our third visit, we asked the learners to draw a new picture of a wetland to gauge whether their understanding of wetlands had increased in response to our environmental education lessons.

Our high school engagement was a little different. During the first visit, we asked learners to complete a survey, comprised of about twenty questions, to understand attitudes to and knowledge about frogs and wetlands. In our second visit, we educated them about the importance and functions of wetlands and frogs as part of biodiversity. In our third visit, we asked learners to complete the attitude survey again to gauge whether any change in their attitude towards the environment had taken place in response to our engagement. We are currently in the process of analysing the data and hope we do get results showing a positive attitude towards the environment. We are also developing environmental programmes and enviro-clubs for these schools, and aim to work with them throughout the year.

Thank you to Tiger Brands for making this work possible.

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The newest member of the Wild Dog metapopulation family

Cole du Plessis, KZN Regional Co-ordinator, Carnivore Conservation Programmecoled@ewt.org.za

Maremani Nature Reserve, which lies at the northern tip of Limpopo and borders Zimbabwe, has recently become the latest reserve to join the Wild Dog Metapopulation, offering safe space to the most Endangered carnivore in South Africa. The reserve has plentiful game and 40,000 hectares of safe space where the Wild Dogs can thrive in an area made up of tropical savannah.


Although Maremani Nature Reserve has only just received their first pack of Wild Dogs, they had already been supporting a group of four male Wild Dogs that had been threatened with persecution in northern KwaZulu-Natal and had nowhere else to go. Rieker Botha, manager of Maremani Nature Reserve, was kind enough to convert his elephant boma into a Wild Dog boma and offer these four important males refuge.

However, a single group of males is not sustainable and our goal was to form a new pack. This required what all male Wild Dogs are looking for – females. For a new pack to form, we engaged with one of our partner organisations, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZN Wildlife), which donated four females from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) to assist in starting a new Wild Dog pack.


The four females were darted by a joint team made up of the EWT, EKZN Wildlife and Wildlife ACT. We worked together to fit tracking collars onto the Wild Dogs and take necessary biological samples before loading them into crates and taking them to Mkuze airstrip, where The Bateleurs were ready and waiting to fly them up to Limpopo.

The joint operation first required the males to get ready for their new females. Grant Beverley (EWT), Dr. Shaun Beverley (Limpopo Wildlife Vet) and Dr Zoe Glyphis (Saving the Survivors) had started immobilising the male Wild Dogs in the Maremani boma so that they could bond them with the female Wild Dogs on arrival. The bonding process (physically rubbing the female and males together while still sedated) was effective and the following morning, all the Wild Dogs were together and moving as a new pack in the boma. They will spend the next few weeks in the boma, which will allow the bond between them to grow stronger before being released.

The key to Wild Dog population growth is to expand their range/safe space and introduce founder individuals to catalyse population growth. We extend our thanks to EKZN Wildlife for another Wild Dog donation to the national Wild Dog Metapopulation, and to Rieker Botha and Maremani Nature Reserve for your efforts in Wild Dog conservation.


We also thank WildlifeACT for logistical support in KZN, Saving the Survivors and Limpopo Wildlife Vets for support at Maremani, The Bateleurs for flying the females to Maremani, and donors that made this work possible, namely Richard Bosman, Land Rover Centurion, Painted Wolf Wines, Peter Orsmond, James Williams, Luke Roberts, Anny Pinto, Biance Wernecke and Lee Mitchell.

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Tackling the problem of snaring

Oldrich van Schalkwyk, Manager, Soutpansberg Protected Areaoldrichvs@ewt.org.za

The EWT’s is committed to protecting wildlife, while at the same time assisting neighbouring communities in minimising livestock losses in the Soutpansberg Protected Area (SPA). We therefore recently , volunteered the services of the Medike Nature Reserve’s anti-poaching unit to sweep the neighbouring Ndouvhada Communal land for snares. After meticulously covering about 50 hectares outside the reserve’s southern boundary, the SPA rangers removed 56 active snares. Unfortunately, they also found the lost breeding bull of a community cattle farmer, killed by a poacher’s snares, as well as a snared Vervet Monkey. Fortunately, no snares were found during patrols on Medike Nature Reserve during this period.


The team is also assisting the Primate and Predator Project (PPP) from Durham University, UK, based on Luvhondo Private Nature Reserve, to try and capture a snared female Leopard, whose territory stretches over the neighbouring farms of Ottoshoek and Ottosdal. The snare was most likely picked up on Ottosdal, where a number of snaring cases has been reported by PPP researchers. Four bomas were set up, each with a foot-loop capture system, as this is a more humane way of capturing large predators than the use of box traps. Currently the traps are kept closed until the snared female is sighted via scout cameras at the bomas. This is to avoid capturing non-target animals. This proved to be a good strategy as a male Leopard went into one of the bomas three times on the first night!

Known as Tokoloshe, the snared Leopard is a five-year-old territorial female on the only commercial farm, Ottosdal, on top of the far western Soutpansberg. She was last photographed on 9 May 2018, this time in a remote, almost inaccessible, area of Ottoshoek (east of Ottosdal). She was still wearing the snare but it seemed to have loosened a bit, giving us hope that there is still time to save her. We have placed more trail cameras around the area where she was seen last and if seen again here, will place capture bomas in this remote area. We are also working to get some hounds that can tree her for darting, as an alternative to the bomas. We continue to persevere in hope that she can still be helped. Once caught, the snare will be removed and the Leopard will be given the necessary medical attention to best ensure her survival.


This work is made possible by Rainforest Trust, who is funding the SPA’s anti-poaching unit, and the Roberts family in Australia, who donated the funds to purchase the EWT’s first protected area in the Soutpansberg, from where the SPA team currently operates.

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Protecting the last free-roaming Wild Dogs in South Africa

Derek van der Merwe, Limpopo Regional Co-ordinator, Carnivore Conservation Programme


The Waterberg is the last remaining area in South Africa that still has free-roaming Wild Dogs. This means that they were not reintroduced and did not escape from any fenced reserves, but rather, they occur naturally outside of fenced reserves. In other words, these are the only Wild Dogs with no boundaries enforced upon them. With the increase in the price of game animals over the last decade, conflict between carnivores and farmers over the killing of game is a reality in the Waterberg region. There have been some cases where Endangered species such as Wild Dogs have been directly persecuted through the use of poisons, and organised hunts, and some have even been deliberately run over on our roads. In an effort to safeguard this last free-roaming pack,  the EWT’s Carnivore Conservation Programme was recently able to collar two of the dogs near Melkrivier in the Waterberg.


A satellite collar as well as a VHF collar was put on two adult males so that we can follow their movements and inform landowners of their whereabouts. This is to ensure total transparency within the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve with the aim of increasing community support and collaboration for the protection of this pack. The pack will be monitored and for the first time an ecotourism model will be put in place to allow tourists to view the Wild Dogs. The innovative aspect of this work is that the funds generated from this model will be paid to landowners who protect the Wild Dogs on their properties. We are confident that this approach will incentivise landowners to value the presence of the Wild Dogs in the region, while simultaneously affording the pack protection. In this way, the Wild Dogs will fund their existence in the region.


The small, free-roaming pack of Wild Dogs in the Waterberg is made up of 11 animals and is genetically distinct from all other populations in South Africa. Therefore, it is a conservation priority to preserve these last free-roaming genes in South Africa. The EWT thanks all community members and landowners involved in our efforts to protect Wild Dogs and offer them a chance to flourish. It is very encouraging that many landowners’ attitudes are changing to the benefit of Endangered species conservation and that they are aware of the legislation that protects these animals.

We would also like to thank the donors to this project that have heard the urgent call for funding of collars, helicopters and emergency response. These include Group Partners, IQ Business, Mark Matheson, Duncan Parker and the Elizabeth Wakeman Henderson Foundation.

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11 May 2018


Dr Edna Molewa
Minister of Environmental Affairs
Department of Environmental Affairs
Environment House
Cnr. Steve Biko & Soutpansberg Road
South Africa


It is with grave concern that the undersigned organisations, note that yet another person has been seriously injured by a captive carnivore in South Africa. The incident, which took place at Thabazimbi Predator Park in Limpopo at the end of April 2018, is not an isolated incident. Records show that at least 37 similar incidents have occurred since 1996 affecting no less than 40 victims. This figure reflects only those incidents that have been reported in the media and hence there could be more.

We respectfully and urgently request that you take the following information into consideration:

Of the 37 known incidents:

  • Forty victims were involved with 28 being injured and 12 killed;
  • Fourteen (38%) of the incidents involved captive Cheetahs;
  • Twenty two (60%) incidents involved captive Lions;
  • One incident involved a captive tiger;
  • 92% of the fatalities were due to Lions and 46% of all Lion attacks were fatal;
  • These incidents involved 13 adult women, 18 adult men, and nine children, showing that no gender or age group is exempt;
  • These incidents are geographically widespread as follows: Limpopo – nine; Eastern Cape – eight, Gauteng – six; North West Province – four; KwaZulu-Natal – four, Western Cape – two, and one unknown.
  • These incidents occurred in a variety of ways, with the most common attacks occurring while people were inside the camps with the carnivores (24 incidents). Four incidents involved people being attacked through a fence. On three occasions, the animals had escaped, while on another three occasions victims were inside or on a vehicle. Another three incidents involved the victim trespassing, attack by released captive Cheetahs and one unknown circumstance.

Members of the conservation sector have been expressing concern about the captive facilities where these interactions take place for more than 10 years because:

  • They have no conservation value;
  • There are no adequate safety regulations in place to protect tourists and facility staff;
  • Welfare standards are often compromised or not regulated or monitored, and are further complicated by unclear mandates on welfare between the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries;
  • Links to shooting (‘canned hunting’) of captive Lions and the bone trade are negatively impacting on South Africa’s conservation image.

There are clearly significant risks posed by the interactions between humans and captive carnivores, and it is worrying that despite this, the sector remains ineffectively regulated. There are no regulations governing which carnivores may be kept in captivity, or why; by whom and for what purpose; under which conditions and with what activities related to them. As a result, it is highly probable that the incidences of injury or death as a result of interactions with captive carnivores will continue.

With at least 28 injured people and 12 fatalities, the time has clearly come for legislation to be put in place to end all public interactions with carnivores in South Africa. There is no justifiable rationale for the public to be interacting with carnivores in captivity, risking people’s lives.

We further call on the South African government to institute strict regulations for the management of all carnivores held in captivity that ensure that only qualified, experienced people have access to these animals and that no risks are posed to either human or animal life by unrestricted, unregulated access by all people.

Should the South African government continue to turn a blind eye to this issue, more people will be injured or killed. It is clear that the current system is flawed and a failure to react rapidly to protect people would be negligent.



Endangered Wildlife Trust
CEO, Ms Yolan Friedmann, yolanf@ewt.org.za
Senior Trade Officer, Dr Kelly Marnewick, kellym@ewt.org.za

Blood Lions
Producer, Ms Pippa Hankinson, hancobb@iafrica.com

National Association of Conservancies, Stewardship of SA
Chairman, Mr John Wesson, jjwesson674@gmail.com

Senior Director, Lion & Cheetah Programs, Dr Paul Funston, pfunston@panthera.org

Wild Trust
CEO, Dr Andrew Venter, andrewv@wildtrust.co.za

Director, Mr Mark Gerrard, mark@wildlifeact.com

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Wild Dogs return to Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, after decades of absence


With only around 6,600 Wild Dogs left in Africa, this incredible animal is one of the continent’s most at-risk carnivores, and is listed by the IUCN as Endangered. Urgent action is required to save them, and a key conservation strategy is the reintroduction of packs into viable habitats where they once occurred. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, and Gorongosa National Park are thrilled to announce one of the most exciting Wild Dog reintroductions yet, as part of their efforts to save this highly threatened species. Wild Dogs will soon roam free in Gorongosa for the first time in decades. This historic transboundary event will take place on 16 April 2018.

In a move to reverse the trends of Wild Dog populations in southern Africa, a partnership has been established between the EWT and Gorongosa National Park in order to secure the reintroduction of the park’s first pack of Wild Dogs. This is a landmark occasion, as Wild Dogs have never been reintroduced to any park, protected area, game reserve or other space in Mozambique.

Wild Dogs have disappeared from much of their former range in Mozambique, and Gorongosa lost all of their Wild Dogs as a result of the 1977–1992 civil war. However, Gorongosa is today Mozambique’s flagship natural area and lies at the heart of the work being undertaken by the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation to bring back to life a vast and diverse natural ecosystem over a 25-year period.  Wildlife is now thriving in the park, with numbers of species and animals having made a strong comeback. With the abundance of herbivores, the natural next step is the return of large carnivores.

Wild Dogs from South Africa’s EWT-managed metapopulation will form the founder pack for this recovery project. The metapopulation, comprising the various individual populations of Wild Dogs within a selection of managed national parks and reserves, currently numbers 250 individuals in 28 packs. This population has increased over the last 20 years and has ensured the increase in Wild Dog range in South Africa by 25% and numbers by 100%, thus allowing the translocation of a founder pack into neighbouring Mozambique.

Male Wild Dogs from uMkhuze Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) that naturally dispersed from their pack in late 2016, and free-roaming female Wild Dogs from the region are earmarked for this reintroduction. The EWT, along with local partners Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), the KZN state veterinary department, WildlifeACT, Maremani Game Reserve, LEDET, and the Bateleurs, have caught the two unrelated groups of Wild Dogs and brought them together to bond in a boma at Phongola Nature Reserve in KZN in South Africa. Once the Wild Dogs have been sedated prior to departure, the pack will be fitted with GPS collars and VHF collars to allow for close monitoring once released. All individuals will also be vaccinated against canine distemper and rabies before leaving for Mozambique, as infectious diseases are a big threat to Wild Dogs. This new pack will be flown from the Phongola boma to Gorongosa by the Bateleurs, to ensure a quick and stress-free journey. The EWT and Bateleurs have previously transported 29 Wild Dogs with 100% success and safety rate.

The bonded pack will be held in the newly constructed boma in Gorongosa for six to eight weeks before being released. This is to allow the males and females to become accustomed to one another and become habituated to the area, all the while being monitored by the Gorongosa project’s carnivore conservation team. The EWT will work closely with the Gorongosa team to train a new generation of Mozambican vets and ecologists in Wild Dog recovery and management.

Gorongosa National Park has been described as one of the most diverse parks on Earth, covering a vast expanse of 400,000 hectares. In recent years, the Gorongosa Project, with the support of Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), has ensured the protection of a recovering population of Lions in this system, successfully reduced key threats, and seen the park become recognised as one of National Geographic’s ‘Last Wild Places.’ It is fitting that, by returning Wild Dogs to Gorongosa, one of the most threatened mammals in southern Africa is about to take a bold step towards restoring their native range in the region.

This work is made possible by EWT funders, Richard Bosman and Land Rover Centurion, and Gorongosa Project funders, Gorongosa National Park, the Oak Foundation, and ZooBoise.
About the Gorongosa Project
Gorongosa National Park (GNP) in Mozambique is one of Africa’s greatest wildlife restoration stories. In 2008, a 20-year Public-Private Partnership was established for the joint management of GNP between the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation (Gorongosa Project), a US non-profit organization. In 2016, the Government of Mozambique approved the extension for another 25 years of joint management.

By adopting a 21st Century conservation model of balancing the needs of wildlife and people, we are protecting and saving this beautiful wilderness, returning it to its rightful place as one of Africa’s greatest parks.

For more general information, visit http://www.gorongosa.org

About the Endangered Wildlife Trust
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. From the smallest frog, to the majestic rhino; from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands; from our shorelines to winding rivers: the EWT is working with you, to protect our world.

The EWT’s team of field-based specialists is spread across southern and East Africa, where committed conservation action is needed the most. Working with our partners, including businesses and governments, the EWT is at the forefront of conducting applied research, supporting community conservation and livelihoods, training and building capacity, addressing human wildlife conflict, monitoring threatened species and establishing safe spaces for wildlife range expansion.

A beacon of hope for Africa’s wildlife, landscapes and communities, the EWT is protecting forever, together. Find out more at www.ewt.org.za


David Marneweck
Manager: Carnivore Conservation Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
Email: DavidM@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Marketing and Communications Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
Email: BelindaG@ewt.org.za

Paola Bouley
Associate Director: Carnivore Conservation
Gorongosa National Park
Tel: +258 87 855 4935

Vasco Galante
Director of Communications
Gorongosa National Park
Tel: +258 82 2970010
Email: vasco@gorongosa.net

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Millstream – supporting crane conservation on the Highveld for 27 years


Millstream Farm is a premier trout fly-fishing resort on the Mpumalanga Highveld near the well-known tourism destination of Dullstroom. Its scenic beauty is enhanced by an abundance of bird life, wild flowers and game. These can be enjoyed on nature walks or from horseback with staff who are passionate about nature conservation and the plight of threatened species in the area. This includes all three of South Africa’s crane species which call the Steenkampsberg home.

Cranes have a magical ability to instil awe in humans and have been doing so for centuries. Around the world their spectacular dances and haunting calls have made them important symbols: of joy and the celebration of life to the Greeks and Romans, of happiness and eternal youth across Asia, longevity in Japan, and of royalty in South Africa. It is an ironic commentary on modern civilisation that all 15 crane species are threatened, including our iconic national bird, the Blue Crane. To save our cranes we need to save their wetland and grassland habitats.

Towards this cause, Millstream initiated the foundation of the Highlands Crane Group in 1991. It was registered as a project under the EWT and the first field worker started work in the area in mid-1994. In 1995, several people dedicated to crane conservation formed the South African Crane Working Group under the EWT banner, including the Highlands Crane Group as part of the larger national programme.

In the 1990s, cranes and their habitat were under threat from certain farming practices, in particular the use of poisons, and the impact of wetlands being turned into dams for the burgeoning trout-fishing industry. Interacting with local farmers to build awareness of the plight of the cranes created a heightened sensitisation to their conservation. This lead to actions such as better poison use and the marking of power lines to improve their visibility to birds in order to avoid collisions and associated mortalities. This ensured that the Steenkampsberg continued to be a provincial stronghold for all three our crane species.

During the past decade the threat of large-scale habitat loss due to mining put years of conservation success in the area at risk.  Through the good long-term relationships built with local land owners, the EWT, in partnership with Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) and BirdLife South Africa, worked together to declare the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment (GLPE) in 2017. This area is situated between Belfast and Dullstroom and includes the beautiful Lakenvlei wetland complex. The Protected Environment status allows the current land-uses – mainly livestock farming and tourism – to continue hand-in-hand with sustainable conservation practices while limiting the possibility of mining in the area. It is hoped that the GLPE will be expanded in the future to include a larger area, including Millstream Farm.

Millstream has funded crane conservation efforts on the Steenkampsberg from the inception of the project through to the present – an incredible commitment. They also have a pair of captive Grey Crowned Cranes, which is a highlight with visitors and supports crane conservation awareness. This year we are excited to work more closely with them by assisting the Millstream conservation officer with a new environmental awareness outreach project to township schools in Dullstroom and with the establishment of a vegetable garden for workers living on the farm. Much has been achieved over the past 27 years, may we continue to together conserve the Highland cranes and their habitat.

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Rhino Revolution: Searching for new solutions

The rhino does not belong to us. It belongs to no one. All that we own is the responsibility of ensuring that it persists and that future books on the rhino are written about its expanded range and not its declining future.

– Yolan Friedmann (Endangered Wildlife Trust)


Please join the EWT and Jacana Media for a fascinating evening as we launch an incredible new book, written by EWT founder, Clive Walker, and his son Anton. This not-to-be-missed event will see Clive in conversation with Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO, about this wonderful book, and his adventures in conservation.

While the belief continues to persist that the enemy lies elsewhere, in Southeast Asia, how is South Africa going to sustain the cost of securing rhino? The Walkers believe that the problem actually lies in South Africa’s own backyard. This book discusses corruption and the criminal justice system, the need for more community engagement and the costs of protection. It also looks at how far we have come since the rhino wars in the 1980s and the rhino trade debate.

We have to shift from the negative to an element of the positive. People are tired of seeing dead and dying rhino. There is some optimism due to the excellent work being undertaken by the state and the private sector at many levels in security, tourism, community involvement and environmental education, as well as NGO support.

Rhino Revolution testifies to the many people doing just that. The rhino war in South Africa has entered its 10th year, and last year saw 662 rhino killed in Kruger alone – and over 1,000 in total for South Africa. Clive and Anton Walker, authors of the bestselling Rhino Keepers (2012), have once again come up with a fresh, new look at the ongoing rhino crisis. With magnificent photographs and afterwords by John Hanks and Yolan Friedmann.

Copies of the book will be on sale on the evening, and Clive will be available to sign books after the talk.


Clive Walker entered the battle for the rhino with the founding of the Endangered Wildlife Trust in 1973. He co-founded the Rhino and Elephant Foundation and the African Rhino Owners Association, and served on the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group for close on 14 years. He served as a member of the South African Parks Board from 2000 to 2006.

Anton Walker, Clive’s son, grew up largely at Lapalala Wilderness, the reserve that was to become an important rhino sanctuary and a world-class environmental school in the bush. Anton joined the permanent staff of the reserve in 1996 and was the general manager of the 45 000-hectare sanctuary until October 2017. He has since taken up the position of director and curator of the Waterberg Living Museum in the Waterberg of Limpopo. His knowledge of both species of rhino is extensive in all areas of management, capture, monitoring, field operations and aerial surveys. His special interest lies in the fossil record of the rhino.


Yolan Friedmann

The upsurge of rhino poaching across all range states since 2007 has become something of a modern conservation crisis on a number of levels. Naturally, for the rhino and for the long-term survival of this icon of the African wilderness, the loss of over 25% of the combined population of black and white rhino in just a decade signals a serious crisis and places a question mark on their ability to survive. But in many ways, the crisis runs deeper than that. Just as conservationists sprang into action when the trends in rhino poaching appeared to be changing at alarming rates, so began a rapid shift and, in many cases, a rapidly expanding divide in the landscape of conservation action, ideologies, interventions, perspectives, opinions, special interests and priority setting. Over the past decade, the rhino crisis has catapulted governments, civil society, wildlife owners, NGOs, biologists and politicians into a series of confrontations with one another and, I would suggest, with ourselves, with less than favourable or constructive outcomes.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has been actively working for the conservation of endangered species since its establishment by Clive Walker, Neville Anderson and James Clarke in 1973. For over 44 years, we have been at the forefront of addressing the threats to the conservation of the African wildlife that is heritage and home to us all. The role of the EWT as mediator, initiator and convenor has taught the Trust to understand and navigate its way around ‘human nature’ in order to arrive at a positive outcome. In recent times, the fate of the rhino, and a host of other species that are being equally decimated by rampant illegal trade and escalating greed, has suggested that ‘human nature’ will be the final test of all humanity – and not just the obstacle around which some of us must work.

Clive and Anton Walker have described in great detail and with extensive evidence the numerous tenets to the complexity of today’s ‘rhino crisis’. It is clear that the crisis faced by the rhino today cannot be solved with the solutions of yesterday. The 21st century presents criminal networks with high-tech weaponry that kills in larger numbers, sophisticated forms of communication, efficient transport systems to move product quickly, and more effective ways of corrupting people into networks. It has presented consumers with changing uses for wildlife products and new markets to promote the access to, and use of, wildlife as symbols of increasing wealth. With millions of disenfranchised communities living around, and often within, the parks that are supposed to protect our wildlife, poaching kingpins have no shortage of desperate human beings willing to do their killing and thus kick-start a chain of wildlife trafficking that spans continents and societies. It is into this murky underworld of not only the criminal actions, but also of the underlying human nature that drives them, that the rhino and their wildlife counterparts, such as lions, tigers, bears, elephants and pangolins, have found that their future has now plunged.

Confronting this murky underbelly of humanity forms just one aspect of the modern conservation crisis. On the opposite end of the scale, where the ‘good guys’ are found working on solutions, exists another crisis for humanity. One that is characterised by divisive ideologies, aggressive infighting, ego wars and conflicting agendas. The trouble with the issues faced by those working on this end of the scale is that there exists little to no common objective and no unified force. Instead, our conflicting ideologies, objectives and ambitions serve to divide us and divert attention away from the real enemy, which is in itself a lot more unified and cohesive in its intentions.

No clearer example of this exists in the debate around whether or not the legal trade in rhino horn is the panacea to the rhino poaching crisis. Pitting the individuals and entities that do not believe that a legal trade in rhino horn is currently the solution to this highly complex situation, against those who do or those who stand to benefit from the trade in rhino horn, against each other under the premise that the former group is ‘anti-sustainable use’ or an ‘ill-informed animal rights group’ has become one of the greatest stumbling blocks, I believe, to finding solutions to ensure that free living rhino survive. The argument has devolved to low levels with those who express a concern for legalising the trade within the context of rampant corruption, highly organised trading networks and insufficient protection for free living rhino, being accused of working alongside poachers to drive the rhino to extinction and pocketing ‘millions’ of dollars in funding to drive fancy cars. Despite this rhetoric, no evidence has yet been presented of any NGO that has allegedly benefitted from or been incentivised to drive rhino to extinction, and I have yet to hear of anyone from the NGO sector who has been alleged to be involved in any rhino poaching or illegal trade activities.

To the contrary, many NGOs have stepped in to fill the void created by radically slashed budgets in our provincial and national reserves, and have provided basic items such as: gloves and razor blades for tissue sampling; diesel and fuel to support more regular patrols; food, uniforms and radios to assist rangers in their day-to-day field work; high-tech support in the form of training and deploying sniffer and tracking dogs; and the provision of microchips, satellite phones, drones and handheld devices for improved data collection. The EWT alone has trained nearly 2 000 members of the police, SARS and the various provincial conservation and law enforcement agencies on various aspects of wildlife crime, environmental law and trafficking methodologies. Enormous amounts of funding have been spent on supporting the communities, who live on the borders of our parks, to become more resilient to the appeal of poaching as an income generator by the provision of alternative livelihoods, education and training, job creation and skills development.

In the years following South Africa’s transition to a democratic government, shifting government priorities saw provincial conservation budgets being slashed, posts in conservation departments being left vacant or frozen and poor to no attention being paid to adequately training and resourcing those at the frontline of conservation. Political interference and union intervention in the running of some of the provincial agencies resulted in key skills being lost and insufficient knowledge remaining in those in leadership positions of how to deal with the impending crisis of wildlife poaching and trafficking. As a result, many provincial reserves were slowly eroded with fences being cut, roads not maintained, irregular patrols being carried out, poor to little implementation of management plans, and a focus on the ‘bums in beds’ component of the reserve instead of its contribution to biodiversity and endangered species conservation.

Essentially, South Africa was caught with its pants down when the rhino poaching crisis hit our shores: we had poorly managed, poorly resourced and poorly governed conservation departments and reserves; and, as a result, we failed to act swiftly, appropriately and with vigour. It is against this backdrop that the NGO movement, the private sector and civil society in general, had to step up and play a significant role in ramping up our defence against the onslaught of wildlife crime. Private wildlife owners, NGOs, corporate South Africa and civilians have all stepped up and become critical players in the race to save the rhino. For the most part, this has been done with enormous amounts of goodwill, collaboration and a desire to ensure that South African wildlife persists in a free and wild state. We are all partners in this struggle and we are all important. The divisive nature of the discourse in some sectors can therefore only suggest that not everyone envisages the same outcome for our wildlife and that the development of a collective vision is perhaps the first priority.

Further evidence of an urgent need for a new collective vision for wildlife in South Africa is the push by a small private-sector community, and some in government, towards the intensive farming and mass production of wildlife for body parts and with no demonstrable conservation benefit whatsoever. This, they counter, is simply an extension of the concept of ‘sustainable use’ which is being redefined as ‘use that never ends’, as opposed to a more valid interpretation of this term, which is to use natural resources in such a way that they contribute to the sustained ecological functioning of the ecosystem in which they are found. With no strict conditions set for the utilisation of wildlife resources, which would for example ensure that they are utilised only in such a way that they contribute to the ecological integrity and functioning of viable ecosystems, it is all too simple to equate them to cattle or sheep, feedlot them for mass production and sell off their body parts under the premise that this is sustainable use. I would argue that this is not what was envisioned in the Convention on Biological Diversity and in the South African Constitution.

The argument for mass producing wildlife resources in intensive breeding operations has been justified by some as a means to supply Asian markets, control prices and regulate trade flows, protect wild sources, displace demand and in some cases, even ‘flood’ markets to drive down demand. As none of these theories have been proven to stem the illicit flows of contraband, they are not sound enough reasons to enter into an age of ‘wildlife production’ with its own set of highly unfavourable consequences. For one, it is well documented that a trade in captive-bred wildlife parts does not displace the market for wild bred and caught counterparts – it often just creates a new market. For another, the flows of legally acquired wildlife products present severe challenges for already besieged law-enforcement authorities and a confused public, as product availability is all too often assumed to imply product legality, and checks and balances are not robust enough to prevent this confusion for the man on the street. Furthermore, in a highly corrupt society, and a world where organised-crime forces are not likely to simply drop a product due to the fact that there may now be a legal supply available, one cannot assume that traders, suppliers and consumers of the ‘real, wild thing’ will now simply stop their use.

An additional threat is the significant risk and damage to South Africa’s reputation as a place of wild beauty, the ‘wild’ African experience and a tourism sector that has been built on stories of ground-breaking national park establishment, global conservation success and a sense of place. The advent of canned lion hunting has been a stain on South Africa’s aspirations to present itself as a destination that offers a ‘true’ wildlife experience to a wider diversity of tourists or big-game hunters, than the small handful that seek to kill a captive lion for the joy of seeing it die.

All that the mass production of farmed wildlife products has demonstrated is that a parallel industry is created for those who desire to consume, shoot or trade in wildlife products. This cannot be what the drafters of the term ‘sustainable utilisation’ meant when they recognised that humanity’s ability to derive a benefit from a resource would ensure its ecological survival. This is why, in recent times, the EWT has embarked on an effort to promote the use of the term ‘sustainable conservation’ in order to remind us that utilisation must support the continued conservation of that resource and not simply its continued use. It is our hope that if we return to the ideology that utilisation of our natural resources should benefit the greater good and the conservation of those ecosystems and habitats that support us all, we may again become unified in our outlook on humanity and our own pathway towards survival.

But herein lies the challenge. How do we achieve a unified conservation voice out of a set of ideologies and commercial objectives that differ so vastly and are in fact often at odds with one another? How do we begin to engage in dialogue that is constructive in its outcome and less divisive in its impact? These may be philosophical questions that fall outside the scope of conservationists and biologists, but for them the solutions are critical. We cannot afford to argue, attack, insult, manoeuvre, plot and scheme under the guise of having a common conservation objective, which is arguably not the case at worst and confusing at best, when the enemy is quite clear on its distinct objective, and is far more organised and efficient in its way of achieving it.

We are living in a world in which rampant crime, greed, the rights of the individual to wealth, health, consumption, ownership and power by far outweigh the rights of others, present or future, to equity, sustainability and, in some cases, to life. The proliferation of wildlife crime in recent decades extends to far more than rhino and elephant – it includes species such as cycads for the collector, reptiles for the pet trade, and a variety of species of animal and plants for medical and consumptive use that is far too extensive to list here. This is not new. What has however changed in recent years and is driving this pattern to crisis levels and tipping points for many species is the following: the integration of these commodities into transnational crime networks as highly tradeable products; the increase in consumer buying power; escalating corruption locally and globally; greater consumer access through social media and the ‘dark web’; declining and inadequate support for conservation agencies; and the premise that the conservation of wild things in wild places is no longer a government priority. Underpinning this all is the mass commodification of wildlife for short-term gain and hence, I would suggest, this can never be the solution.

The rhino has been an icon of African wildlife for centuries and, in recent decades, it has become the icon of African conservation. I would now like to suggest that we escalate the rhino to the status of an icon for the future of humanity, as we face the truth about ourselves as a species that is able and willing to surrogate millennia of evolutionary biology and the aspirations of every wild and free species for the gains of artificial wealth, dubious health benefits, market control, power and ego. The fate of the rhino will become the fate of every other species that man determines has a value for consumers, traders, owners, buyers, thrill chasers and trophy seekers.

The rhino does not belong to us. It belongs to no one. All that we own is the responsibility of ensuring that it persists and that future books on the rhino are written about its expanded range and not its declining future.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Presented by Clive Walker, in conversation with Yolan Friedmann

RSVP: 6 April 2018

Please note: Dinner reservations need to be booked and paid for in advance by the RSVP deadline.

18:00 for 18:30 (please note the slightly earlier start than usual, to allow for book signings)
Dinner to be served at 20:30
Dress Code – Smart Casual {no shorts, t-shirts or slops}
Country Club Johannesburg, Auckland Park
1 Napier Road, Auckland Park

CCJ Members RSVP to Cathy Robertson on 011 710 6421 or cathyr@ccj.co.za
Charges will be made to your Club Account
CCJ Members – Talk only R80 pp ~or~ Talk + Dinner R265 pp

RSVP to joelt@ewt.org.za or 011 372 3600 – Extension: 112
EWT Members:  Talk Only R80 pp ~or~ Talk + Dinner R265 pp
Non-Members:  Talk Only R105 pp ~or~ Talk + Dinner R290 pp
DINNER – R185 pp

In order to confirm your booking, please email proof of payment to joelt@ewt.org.za or
fax 011 608 4682

Payments may be made to the following account:
Endangered Wildlife Trust
First National Bank, Rosebank
Acc. No. 50371564219
Branch Code. 25 33 05
REF: Name + EWT Talk

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Going green for frogs!

Dr Jeanne Tarrant, Manager, Threatened Amphibian Programme


This year saw the fourth consecutive ‘Leap Day for Frogs’ taking place. This national awareness campaign aims to point the spotlight, or headlamp, at frogs and highlight their plight of being the most threatened animals on Earth, but also celebrate the amazing diversity of these interesting creatures. The campaign is coordinated by the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme, with the aim of getting as many schools, organisations and individuals across the country doing something to recognise frogs and their importance. See here for more details. This year, participants were encouraged to “Go Green for Frogs” by dressing in green at school or work. Overall, we had 5,000 participants, across five provinces, from 25 different organisations/schools/companies or individuals. Events ranged from school groups dressing in green, to presentations, to the creations of entire ‘frogging forums’! Part of the celebrations included a competition, and the lucky winners were:

FRogville photo

  1. Ithuba Wild Coast Community College Primary School – most participants, and winners of a talk from our frog lady, Dr Jeanne Tarrant.
  2. Hannah Zunckel – the best photograph submitted with our origami frog, Freddy, and winner of a headlamp.
  3. Sharlene Van Der Slikke from KZN Coastal Frogging Forum – best individual effort, and winner of a Trappers hamper.

The EWT Threatened Amphibian Programme was involved in six events, including our regular joint venture with Kloof Conservancy. On Saturday, 24 February, 220 people gathered at Tanglewood Private Nature Reserve in Kloof, to take part in Leap Day for Frogs, 2018. The Tanglewood event was organised in collaboration with Kloof Conservancy as part of Leap Day for Frogs and as part of the Conservancy’s Back-to-Nature events.  The afternoon started with various activity tables for children to learn about frog biology, including the life-cycle, breeding (children got to play with ‘frog eggs’ and blow foam nests), experience live frogs and snakes, as part of the food chain, as well as learn about how frogs are sensitive to pollution and other threats. Everyone enjoyed picnicking around the dam, followed by a short talk by Dr Jeanne Tarrant, and then a walk through the forest and around some of the dams to search for frogs by torch light. Once again, lots of fun was had by all, and it is super to see so many of the public supporting such events.

Thanks and appreciation go to Caryl Combrink and her family for once again allowing us to use their wonderful venue – a truly amazing gem of grassland and forest habitat tucked away behind the industrial setting of Pinetown. The EWT would especially like to thank Paolo Candotti and his team at Kloof Conservancy for partnering with us for the fifth year running and for donating all proceeds from the event to the EWT Threatened Amphibian Programme. Struik Nature is thanked for once again donating generous prizes of Apps of both the Complete Guide to Southern African Frogs and the children’s Young Explorer Frog App to lucky draw winners.

We would like to thank all of our participants this year, including SAAMBR, SAEON, Wilderness Safaris and the many schools that took part and made donations to the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme.


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