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The community conservation liaisons and the contributors who enable them, are often over looked in this poaching crisis. However, these men and women who work in community conservation projects spend their days educating the communities surrounding conservation areas on the importance wildlife, especially rhino, and why they need our protection.

© Chris Kelly
© Chris Kelly

It is widely known that WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) and Wildlife ACT Fund work together on relocating and monitoring black rhinos in game reserves across northern KwaZulu-Natal. However, BRREP has also been an important supporter of Wildlife ACT Fund’s community conservation projects in KZN, donating over R280 000 since 2012. Currently BRREP is supporting the Somkhanda Community Conservation Project’s costs for fuel and for the food needed to run the Ubhejane Kids Bush Camp. We are extremely grateful for their support and hope to impact future generations with their contribution.

Recently the Tembe – Ndumo Community Conservation Project was awarded a US$25 000 grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. This will go towards establishing a Children’s Bush Camp at the Bekula Community Conservation Area adjacent to Tembe Elephant Park. This would be for select grade seven classes from the communities bordering the reserves where rhinos are protected.

With the help of these contributors Wildlife Act has been able to grow their community projects substantially, however without the team on the ground they wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of it.

In Somkhanda there is Community Conservation Liaison and Rhino Monitor Team Leader Zama Ncube, who has a background in conservation. There is also Community Conservation Manager Wishell Mabuya, who began in education. Both men are passionate about wildlife and work hard to educate the community on the value of conservation.

Community Conservation Liaison Zama Ncube at the Kid’s Bush Camp
Community Conservation Liaison Zama Ncube at the Kid’s Bush Camp © STROOP
Wishwell explains the importance of education
Wishwell explains the importance of education © STROOP

Community Conservation Liaisons Thokozan Mlambo and Sboniso Mazolo work in the KwaJobe and KwaNgwenya communities respectively. Thokozan worked as a guide and wildlife ambassador for many years before joining the Wildlife Act team. Now, in the KwaJobe community he takes in-school conservation classes and guides the grade 7 bush camps for children. Sboniso has been involved in conservation for many years. Even before joining the Wildlife ACT Team Sboniso had started a few of his own wildlife ambassador clubs. He teaches them about conservation and they discuss ways to encourage sustainability and reduce poaching in their neighbourhoods. Recently four of his club members were hired by nearby reserves.

Community Conservation Liaison Sboniso Mazolo on a kid’s game drive
Community Conservation Liaison Sboniso Mazolo on a kid’s game drive © STROOP
Community Conservation Liaison Thokozan Mlambo
Community Conservation Liaison Thokozan Mlambo © STROOP

Marumo Nene seems to be a part of every team at Wildlife ACT. She is a relief monitor who works with the various projects on a rotational basis and she is a Community Conservation Liaison for the communities that surround Hluhluwe. This project is largely in development phase but is progressing well.

Relief Monitor Community Conservation Liaison Marumo Nene
Relief Monitor Community Conservation Liaison Marumo Nene © STROOP

Lastly there is Thulani Thusi of the Tembe – Ndumo Community Conservation Project. Not only does Thulani teach in-school classes and bush camp classes but he has also earned the respect of the tribal elders in the area and often attends tribal meetings to act as a liaison between the parks and the communities.

Thulani Thusi teaching a conservation class.
Thulani Thusi teaching a conservation class. © STROOP

These men and women ensure the continuing education of the communities that surround conservation areas. They inspire and share their passion with the young and old so that they too can be involved in the conservation of South Africa’s wildlife.

If the surrounding communities are not included in the fight against rhino poaching, then we have already lost the war.

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