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Civil society organisations welcome new Parliamentary report that calls for a ban on captive lion breeding

The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and the Endangered Wildlife Trust(EWT) have come out strongly in favour of a new Parliamentary report that calls for a ban on captive lion breeding in the country. Entitled Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting and Bone Trade in South Africa, the new report finds:


  1. Captive lion breeding holds no conservation value;
  2. There is no evidence to support the flawed, minority-held, argument that the captive-bred lion industry is “a well-regulated, manageable industry that contributes way more positively to South Africa than negatively”;
  3. The South African government should rethink its policy stance on the captive lion breeding industry, which runs the risk of making the country an “international pariah”;
  4. The increase in the lion bone export quote from 800 in 2017 to 1500 in 2018 is “highly problematic”;
  5. There are ethical, welfare* and brand concerns relating to the captive lion breeding and hunting industries;
  6. The use of lion parts in commercial trade is one of the major emerging threats to wild lions and could facilitate illegal trade;
  7. It is concerning that the current export quotas were not based on scientific evidence and that the 2017 quota was not been adequately managed, resulting in more than 800 skeletons being exported.


The 24-page report – adopted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs (PCEA) during a special meeting on 8 November – followed a PCEA colloquium held on 21 and 22 August 2018. It was, reportedly, the longest and best-attended Parliamentary colloquium held in recent years. During the special meeting last week, the PCEA resolved that:


  1. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) should urgently initiate a legislative and policy review of the captive lion breeding industry with a view to putting an end to this practice, and the Minister of Environmental Affairs should report quarterly to the PECA on progress in this regard.
  2. DEA should conduct an audit of captive lion and cheetah breeding facilities to assess legislative compliance.
  3. DEA and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) should present a clear programme and timeframes to deal with welfare* and health issues relating to captive-bred lions.


“We hope that this is the beginning of a just and equitable system for the management of captive lions and other wild animals bred for commercial use in South Africa, and we look forward to participating in the policy and legislative review of the industry,” said CER attorney, Aadila Agjee.


EWT CEO, Yolan Friedman, concluded: “We welcome the PCEA’s resolutions and commend the Honourable Chair and Members for their close consideration of this important issue, and the hard work that went into the colloquium and its outcome. The EWT has actively fought against the torrid industry of captive lion breeding, shooting, and bone trade for over a decade. We welcome this report that acknowledges the widely held stance by most South Africans, and all lion biologists and experts, that this industry is nothing but a blight on the conservation pedigree that South Africa should otherwise be able to claim.”


*See the CER and EWT report Fair Game for a comprehensive set of recommendations on improving the legal and practical regulation of the well-being of wild animals. This report was funded by the Lewis Foundation.





Annette Gibbs

Communications Manager

Centre for Environmental Rights

082 467 1295


Yolan Friedmann


Endangered Wildlife Trust

011 372 3600


Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

011 372 3600

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Youth tackle hot topics on World Rhino Day

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) recognises the critical role that young people have to play in conservation, as the guardians of our future. With this in mind, the EWT will be running its annual speech and poster contest for schools on World Rhino Day, 22 September 2018. South Africa’s rhinos are in crisis and the EWT believes that the youth can play a key role in helping to save them. This annual event, made possible by the MyPlanet Rhino Fund, invites Grade 10 learners from schools in areas that are high risk for poaching activities to prepare speeches and posters on a topic relevant to the rhino crisis. Now in its fourth year, the contest was initially held in Mpumalanga in 2015 and has subsequently taken place in the Waterberg region in Limpopo each year.

This year, participants have three options to choose from:

 Preparing a speech on the topic: “You are chosen to attend the 2019 CITES Conference of the Parties. You have been requested to give a speech to the CITES member countries on the value of rhino to you as a South African youth. What will you tell them? In your speech please tell us why rhinos are important to you and explain what CITES is and why you feel the international community should help South Africa save them from poaching.”
 Preparing a speech on the topic: “The Endangered Wildlife Trust Wildlife in Trade Programme has a project called ‘Kopanang’, meaning come together. This project aims to bring communities and nature reserves together – how would you achieve this goal? In your speech please set out the importance of wildlife, why wildlife crimes must be stopped, and what activities you will do or would like to do to help under this project.”
 Designing a poster on the topic: “What rhinos mean to you/why you love rhinos.” Twenty schools from the area are participating. Mashudu Makhokha, Director of Lapalala Wilderness School where the contest is hosted, says: “The contest has a huge impact on the participants, as it deals with the perception amongst local communities that biodiversity does not deliver tangible socio-economic benefits, particularly to the poor. It is through this competition that communities see social upliftment and empowerment of the younger generation to attain critical thinking skills and get involved in solving real issues like rhino poaching. The incentives are greatly appreciated by all participants since our province is one of the poorest provinces in the country, often with limited resources for teaching and learning. These opportunities close the gap of lack of proper uniforms, lack of study aid and lack of access to technological equipment.”

While the contest offers valuable prizes in the form of laptops for the winning speakers, enhancing their educational opportunities, the real prize is the engagement around these critical conservation topics. The participants go on to become ambassadors for rhinos in their local communities, speaking out against poaching, and acting as eyes and ears on the ground. The EWT has a long track record of tackling rhino poaching, and first established a targeted Rhino Conservation Project in 2010. The EWT has taken a multi-faceted approach with multiple interventions along the rhino poaching chain. These approaches include the provision of detection and antipoaching dogs to key locations, such as airports and reserves; community engagement and awareness raising; patrol optimisation technology to improve detection and enforcement; capacity building through training for law enforcement officials, rangers, and other stakeholders; and policy engagement.

About the Endangered Wildlife Trust The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision of 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
Contacts Ashleigh Dore Wildlife in Trade Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust Tel: +27 87 021 0398

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Position Statement on Single-use Plastic

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) mission is to conserve threatened species and ecosystems in southern Africa to the benefit of all people. This statement advocates the EWT’s view on single-use plastic, with specific reference to the imprudent, large scale consumption of this material. Specifically developed for its durability, water resistance, flexibility, versatility and convenience, plastic has become an indispensable resource for modern human living. Plastic packaging is used extensively across a variety of markets, from food to clothing to electronics. Single-use plastic is created for only one use, its useful lifespan is commonly short, more often than not it is never reused, and it is either difficult or impossible to recycle. The degree of biological degradation exhibited by conventional plastics like these is fairly negligible over time1 , thus these products linger almost indefinitely as waste in landfills, or end up as terrestrial, riverine or marine pollution; contrasting significantly with their short functional lifespans. These products include soft plastics such as drinking straws, plastic packaging, plastic utensils, plastic bags, product bags and disposable cups.

The rapidly increasing consumption of single-use plastic is a substantial long-term global concern, both environmentally and economically. Non-renewable petroleum-based chemicals, such as oil, gas and coal are the base chemicals used to make plastic. Thus, the production of plastic is energy and resource intensive, which contributes to global climate change2 . Not only is plastic waste unsightly, this pollution also represents an environmental hazard, frequently leading to injury or death of wildlife, and has cascading negative impacts to ecosystems and humans alike. Terrestrial plastic litter has the potential to leach harmful contaminants into the soil and subsequently into agricultural crops, with potentially negative consequences to human health3 . Discarded plastic ending up as marine waste entangles marine animals, contaminates marine environments, and is often accidentally consumed by marine species, which can lead to asphyxiation, starvation and death4,5 .

There are at least seven important types of plastic in South Africa, and only a small number of these plastic types can be recycled adequately (Appendix 1). Generally, only certain types of plastics with a recycle logo and identification number are recycled in South Africa. Efficient recycling also depends on whether the area in question offers recycling services. Furthermore, even though certain plastics are recyclable, with the exceptions of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and low density polyethylene (LDPE), there is very little demand within South Africa for recyclable plastic. Importantly, plastic items cannot be recycled back into their original form; they can only be converted into lower grade plastics, which thereafter are not easily recycled. The threats associated with two of the most commonly used single use plastic products are discussed below:

Plastic shopping bags
In South Africa, thin plastic bags were banned in 2003, and a tax on thicker plastic bags (of at least 30 microns) was enforced in order to reduce their consumption6 . The ban aimed to halve the use of plastic bags from 8-billion units per year, though recent research suggests that the current tax on plastic bags in South Africa is too small to effect consumer behaviour significantly7 . The lightweight properties of most plastic bags distributed by supermarkets and food outlets allows them to displace easily from landfill sites and garbage bins. This litter can be transported extensively – by wind or water – and causes multiple ecological problems. Issues include environmental degradation, wildlife entrapment, and damage to infrastructure. The blockage of storm water drains is especially a problem within South Africa’s townships. Drain blockage and stagnant surface water can attract rodents and help the spread of water-borne diseases 8 . Marine and riverine species are particularly susceptible to the threats associated with plastic bags, which together with plastic fragments, are frequently misidentified as food resources (e.g. they are mistaken for squid), and consumed accidentally. This hinders digestion of natural food resources, leading to gut-blockage, asphyxiation, starvation, strandings and death of marine mammals and turtles9,10

These solid, tiny plastic particles (typically < 1 mm in size) are used extensively in personal care and household cleaning products, such as toothpastes, exfoliating face and body scrubs, and washing powders. Microbeads have replaced traditional biodegradable exfoliating products, such as salt granules and ground nut shells. These plastic beads are washed down the drain and eventually make their way into rivers, lakes and, ultimately, the ocean. These tiny particles have the potential to adsorb persistent organic pollutants, and become incorporated into the food chain, as microplastics are consumed by various marine and riverine species11 . The ingestion of microplastics can demonstrably affect an organism’s reproductive success, feeding, growth and movement, as these particles can be taken up into body tissues and fluids12–14 . There is currently no legal requirement in South Africa for manufacturers to clearly identify products containing microbeads on their packaging. This makes it both difficult and time-consuming for consumers to make informed choices regarding products containing microbeads.

How can we reduce our consumption of single-use plastics?
The EWT advocates making the following small lifestyle changes which, when implemented routinely on a large-scale social basis, could significantly reduce South Africa’s single-use plastic consumption and the associated environmental threats of plastic waste and pollution:
a) Choose recyclable packaging: By buying products contained in recyclable packaging, you will send a powerful message to product manufacturers to distribute and package their products in an environmentally-friendly manner.
b) Buy in bulk: Buying products in bulk reduces the consumption of plastic packaging and also saves you money. You can easily decant products – including both food and household products – into smaller reusable containers at home.
c) Reduce consumption: Always avoid purchasing unnecessary single-use plastic products, and when necessary, replace them with environmentally-friendlier alternatives. For example, always make sure to take reusable shopping bags with you when shopping and never pay for single-use plastic carrier bags. See Appendix 2 for more examples of common single-use plastic products and possible substitutes you can use.
d) Reuse: When alternative products are unavailable, inconvenient or expensive, plastic products (designed for single-use) can be reused a number of times if washed out after use. These include plastic bags, bottles, cutlery, etc.
e) Choose wisely: Select products packaged using non-plastic materials – for example glass jars and bottles, paper bags, cardboard boxes. Avoid frozen foods, or fruits and vegetables which have been peeled, chopped and packaged, when fresh unpackaged produce is available. Although, you might perceive these products as more convenient and time-saving, they are generally more expensive and packaged using non-recyclable plastic. Choose biodegradable plastic products when available, for example biodegradable garbage bags.
f) Regenerate: Up-/down-cycle plastic products into something else, for example flower pots.
g) Bring your own container: Often restaurants have no problem serving take-away foods into your own personal containers as it saves them money on packaging. Additionally, if you take re-useable containers to food markets suppliers will often package your produce for you in the containers you bring.
h) Make your own: Products, such as juices, smoothies and even cleaning products, can be made at home, rather than bought, thus lowering the consumption of non-reusable or non-recyclable plastic bottles. Not only is this a healthier option, as you avoid excess sugar in drinks and harmful ingredients in cleaning products, but it is also cheaper. See for more information.
i) Package cautiously: Think carefully about how you package your lunches – use re-useable containers as much as possible to limit the usage of cling wrap, plastic bags, etc.
j) Be aware: Find out which plastics can and cannot be recycled and what types of plastics your local recycling drop-off facility will accept.
k) Buy refills: The lids of plastic spray bottles and products with squeezable lids are unlikely to be recycled as they are made from a combination of plastics and other materials such as a metal spring. By buying the product’s refill option, you can reuse your spray and squeezable bottles and save some money too.
l) Read ingredient labels: Avoid body and face scrubs, shower gels, toothpastes, sunscreens, washing powders etc. containing microbeads (look for polyethylene, polypropylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyethylene terephthalate, or polystyrene in the list of ingredients). As an alternative to shower gels packaged in plastic bottles or tubes, rather choose soap bars packaged in wax paper or cardboard boxes.

How can we make it easy for ourselves?
a) Always keep reusable shopping bags in your car or handbag. Use sticky notes or smartphone apps, such as reminders or calendars, to remind you to take your shopping bags into the store with you. b) Be aware of the products you are using and always ask yourself whether your purchase is a necessary use of single-use plastic.
c) Spread awareness in your community and with family members of the dangers associated with single use plastic and advocate the possible alternatives.
d) Get involved in “green” schemes offered by retail outlets. These often include loyalty benefits as a bonus.

How can retailers and businesses assist in the reduction of single-use plastic consumption?
a) Erect notices at the entrance of supermarkets asking whether your customers have remembered to bring in their shopping bags from the car.
b) Offer discounts, rewards or “green points” to customers who bring their own re-useable bags or coffee cups.
c) Always ask first whether the customer has brought their own shopping bags before first offering them the option of purchasing reusable shopping bags. Single-use plastic bags should only be offered only as a last resort. Similarly, ask your customers whether they require a plastic straw or lid, instead of providing one as the default option.
d) Do not provide single-use products to customers that are going to “eat in” at restaurants or fast food outlets.
e) Ensure that re-useable shopping bags are conveniently available for sale at the checkout point in a supermarket.
f) Label products accordingly to assist consumers in the identification of recyclable products and packaging, as well as products that do not contain microbeads.

In conclusion, the EWT does not support the use of single-use plastic products, and instead encourages an active and committed attitude to recycling, and a thoughtful and conservative approach to the use of single use plastic materials. Policies and regulations should be established and enforced to ensure that products are adequately labeled in order for consumers to make informed, environmentally-friendly choices regarding plastic products. Producers, consumers, retailers and governments are all responsible for the products and resources in use and circulation, and we all need to work together to ensure a reduction in the consumption and pollution associated with single-use plastic.

For more information please contact:
Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert: Head of Conservation
Tel +27 11 372 3600

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Department of Environmental Affairs Increase Captive Lion Bone Export Quota to 1,500

In 2017, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) announced an annual export quota of 800 skeletons (with or without the skull) for the international trade in lion bones. This has now been increased to 1,500 skeletons, effective from 7 June 2018.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and partner organisations raised several concerns regarding the quota published in 2017 in our Technical Response to the DEA’s Proposed Captive Lion Bone Export Quota.We note with concern that many of these have yet to be addressed and further:

  • There is still no evidence to show that the regulated trade in lion bones will not drive demand for wild lion projects, or evidence to show that it will alleviate pressure on wild lion populations.
  • Field observations indicate that wild lions in southern Africa, specifically Mozambique, have been under increasing threat for their parts. The Greater Limpopo Carnivore Programme has recorded an escalation in the number of wild lions poached on the Mozambican side of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, with a marked increase since 2015. They report that 26% of the lion population in this park has been lost due to poaching for their body parts.
  • In the year immediately preceding the quota (June 2016 to May 2017), 13 captive bred lions in South Africa were poached for their body parts. The EWT notes with concern that during the first year of the quota (June 2017 to May 2018) there were 12 poaching incidents, resulting in 31 lions being killed. These preliminary figures suggest that the poaching of captive lions in South Africa has more than doubled since the quota was established.
  • The mandate to regulate welfare of captive carnivores remains confused as both the DEA and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries maintain that the welfare mandate is not their responsibility. We continue to have serious concerns about the welfare of captive lions. For instance, in May 2018, over 70 lions awaiting slaughter at an abattoir on the Wag-‘n-Bietjie farm in the Free State were exposed to conditions that resulted in a case of animal cruelty being opened with the South African Police Service by the Bloemfontein Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This case is still under investigation. Unacceptable welfare conditions include lions being held in small crates and being held without food or water. This case clearly illustrates an absence of proper monitoring and compliance with the law by participants in this trade. It is clear that South Africa is unable to ensure the adequate welfare and husbandry of lions bred for their bones.
  • At the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congresses held in Honolulu, Hawaii, in September 2016, a formal motion was passed to stop the canned hunting and non-conservation based captive breeding of lion and other predators. The international position is clearly against the captive breeding of wild animals for their parts.
  • Finally, we are concerned for the reputational damage to Brand South Africa and the negative impact that lion bone farming and the related captive lion industry is having on South Africa’s world-class conservation reputation.

The EWT is not aware of any formal public participation process or consultation prior to the decision to increase the annual lion bone export quota, and we have no further information on how or why this decision was made.

The EWT supports the sustainable use of natural resources when it directly contributes to species and habitat conservation efforts, and where communities meaningfully and directly benefit. We do not believe that farming lions for their parts is sustainable use but rather economic exploitation to benefit a select few.

The EWT calls for more transparency in decision making and calls on DEA to review this decision after full consultation and public participation has been undertaken. The EWT further calls for the welfare concerns surrounding captive carnivores to be addressed before any further decisions around the lion bone trade are taken.

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Help the EWT to win a share of R1 million!

This Endangered Species Day, please show your support for the work we do to bring wildlife and habitats back from the brink! Visit and vote for us to win a share of R1 million. For every vote received, MySchool will donate R5 on your behalf. Voting opens at 12:00 on 18 May 2018 and runs until 18 June 2018, so please share and encourage your friends and family to vote too!

Registered MySchoolMyVillageMyPlanet cardholders get one vote each. No card? New supporters can sign up instantly online or in the app. No card setup fees will be charged for any new cards issued during this campaign.
Protecting forever, together.


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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

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Putting our money where our mouth is! Announcing the first EWT owned and managed nature reserve

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Africa’s conservation leader, is proud to announce the transfer of the Medike Nature Reserve in Limpopo, into the EWT’s name, as its first ever land purchase. Medike comprises some 1,400 ha of priority and unique mountain habitat in the Soutpansberg Mountains, and was bought through the generosity of the Roberts Family Trust in Australia. This is the first step in a long-term project to realise the dream of establishing the Soutpansberg Protected Area (SPA), which will ultimately span in excess of 23,000 ha and will connect the existing Happy Rest Nature Reserve in the east and Luvhondo Private Nature Reserve in the west.

This special place is South Africa’s most northern mountain range, and is home to thousands of species of insects, plants, birds and mammals, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. The EWT has identified this region as being in urgent need of protection due to the high number of threatened species, its extraordinary variety of important and unique habitat types, its crucial role in water production, and its value as a centre of cultural heritage for many communities. Despite the significance of the region, the Soutpansberg Mountains currently receive little conservation support, with less than one percent of the area being formally conserved in nature reserves.

By embarking on this journey to protect the area, and purchasing this special tract of land in the western Soutpansberg’s Sand River Gorge, the EWT is about to change all that. Medike Nature Reserve will serve as the catalyst for an ambitious project that will bring in neighbouring properties into the larger Soutpansberg Protected Area, which will safeguard the future of hundreds of threatened species and support the development of sustainable livelihoods in the western Soutpansberg Mountains. “In essence, we will work with existing landowners and local communities to make this one large protected area with the aim of saving species and habitats, providing critical ecosystem services, such as clean water, and developing climate change resilience,” says Oldrich van Schalkwyk, the EWT SPA Manager.

Environmental threats in the area include illegal killing of wildlife, such as Leopards, for the local bush meat and skin industry, and pangolins, for export trade; illegal and unsustainable harvesting of medicinal plants, as well as the uncontrolled collection of firewood; ongoing illegal sand mining in the Sand River; and illegal clearing of indigenous forest, among others. Many of these threats stem from a lack of socio-economic development in the area, and the EWT’s far-reaching vision for this region will result not only in the conservation of its unique biodiversity and the sustained integrity of its water resources, but in sustainable livelihood options for the local communities too. Much of the work will revolve around addressing human-wildlife conflict, and supporting the local communities to farm in an environmentally friendly manner. The EWT will also promote the establishment of a long-lasting conservation-based green economy, linked to innovative local micro-enterprises.

The Roberts family fell in love with this magical mountain when they visited it 2014 and their generosity has allowed the EWT to secure the Medike Nature Reserve and catalyse a bigger conservation vision for the area. The proposed SPA will result in protected area expansion, water security, socio-economic development, ‘green’ job creation and threatened species conservation in the western Soutpansberg. This vision has subsequently leveraged further support from major donors including Rainforest Trust and the Nedbank Green Trust, allowing this dream to approach reality.

Said Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO: “The purchase of Medike signals a new era for the EWT, as we embark on one of the most exciting projects in our history: that of a private landowner and conservator, as well as driver of community stewardship and socio-economic development as a both neighbour and a supporting partner. We remain forever grateful to our investors in conservation, the Roberts Family Trust, as well as Rainforest Trust and the Nedbank Green Trust, for taking this vision forward. We also thank Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr for their enormous support in all the work of the EWT.”

The SPA will act as a demonstration project for the expansion of this work throughout the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve and other Man and Biosphere Reserves across the country and continent. We welcome contributions and partnerships from other NGOs and corporates to grow this dream and to establish this unique area as a conservation icon.