The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has released its 2018/19 integrated report. In her opening message, EWT CEO, Yolan Friedmann reflects on what she refers to as “the year of the home”:
“House hunting can be tricky. It can be both exciting and stressful at the same time, by trying to fill a long list of seemingly impossible requirements with a limited budget, and a finite range of options in the market.
For nearly a decade, the EWT has been dreaming, planning and deliberating around our “forever home.” A permanent base from which we would thrive and develop. A location from which we can never be removed and a place that wouldn’t just house our staff, but would nurture young minds, stimulate creative thinking, catalyse great achievements, welcome friends and colleagues, embrace new partnerships, and provide a refuge for creatures great and small.
Soon, we realised that we were not looking for a home, but creating a VISION. As with most of that which the EWT does, it is a big, audacious, bold, and fiery vision, and one that holds much more than just the promise of housing our staff. The 2018/19 year was the year that this vison came to life!
The EWT’s Conservation Campus in Midrand had been in the planning stages for some time, and in 2018/19 the foundations were laid for the realisation of this vision, a dream that we began to touch and feel. Our seemingly impossible list of criteria for our forever home was met, and more, with the acquisition of a magnificent 15 acre park with a protected wetland system running through it, right in the middle of Gauteng’s development zone. With easy access to public transport, major highways, and both Pretoria and Johannesburg CBDs, our Conservation Campus provides an opportunity to connect with our stakeholders and partners with ease, in a park-like setting, whilst reducing our carbon footprint as well as that of our staff and visitors.
The EWT’s new Conservation Campus will conserve much more than just our future: it is home to a variety of urbandwelling wildlife both big and small. From chameleons and Giant Bullfrogs, to Sparrow Hawks, Black Shouldered Kites, Spotted Eagle Owls and genets, our new home provides safe haven from increasing pressures. The EWT’s vision encompasses restoring the wetland and indigenous fauna unique to the property and, in time, offering the residents of South Africa’s largest city, the chance to experience and interact with the conservation work of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, first-hand and in their back yard.
The EWT was founded on, and built by, the passion and energy of people, and it is people that will continue our legacy. The new campus will therefore be investing in growing people through our Biodiversity Economy Hub to support the dreams of environmental entrepreneurs as they build a better, more sustainable future for our country.
We will nurture, grow and develop the innovative spirit of a new generation of conservationists who will continue to drive conservation impact, EWT-style. We will embrace new partners, and offer our resources to those that share our vision of a world that values and sustains the diversity of all life. We will build a strong and thriving conservation community to sustain the treasures of South Africa’s wildlife heritage for generations to come.
The Conservation Campus is a long-term project but 2018/19 saw the EWT take ownership of the property, embark on the planning processes, and embrace new partnerships. Whilst the EWT has other conservation-based landholdings, becoming a first-time homeowner has been both a scary big step as well as one of the most exciting moves we have ever undertaken. No giant leap forward can happen without a support crew and our dream has become a reality entirely due to the sharing of our vision by the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust and Rand Merchant Bank. Long-time firm supporters of the conservation champions in South Africa, these friends of the EWT have believed in us, supported us and made this legacy project a reality, for not only the EWT, but the future of conservation in this country. If 2018/19 was anything, it was a year of realising the value of having a dream and the power of partnerships to make that happen.
Whilst all of this was going on, the EWT’s tireless work to save species and habitats, and benefit people, continued unabated with remarkable results. The range of highly threatened species such as Wild Dogs and Cheetah was expanded by no less than 180,000 ha and 162,700 ha, respectively. We doubled the size of our conservation landholdings in the Soutpansberg Mountains and are well on our way to declaring more than 20,000 ha of critical biodiversity in the mountain under conservation stewardship. This is on top of our initiation of negotiations for the increased protection of 93,835 ha of important habitats, including montane grasslands, coastal wetlands and swamp forests in other parts of Africa. Despite Gauteng being the most developed province in South Africa, we made enormous strides in protecting what remains of its unique biodiversity by declaring 10,635 ha in the province under biodiversity stewardship. Importantly, eight of the priority species in the EWT Strategy – Blue Crane, Grey Crowned Crane, Wattled Crane, Border Barb, Eastern Cape Rocky, Marico Barb, Cheetah and African Wild Dog – have achieved stable or increasing populations in five countries in East and southern Africa. In a world where good news seems increasingly hard to come by, the EWT remains a beacon of hope for our planet and the creatures that call Africa their
A home must be a sanctuary, a safe place and a refuge. For thousands of wildlife species, their homes remain under increasing threat as this planet continues to suffer the ravages of human greed and destruction. And so the EWT celebrates when we discover new range for the Critically Endangered Riverine Rabbit and witness the reversal in the decline of cranes across KwaZulu-Natal. When a spare surviving leopard or Wild Dog gives birth in the wild, and a pangolin is rescued from the illicit wildlife trade to return to the wild; it inspires us to keep going and to do more. You make this happen with the unwavering support that you give us, and to all who donate money to us, no matter how little or generous the sum may be, you share in all these moments with us.
We look forward to welcoming you all to our new home and to another year of protecting forever, together.”