Throughout the months of September and October, Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA) kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations by hosting events across South Africa with acclaimed storyteller, Michael Charton.
Charton’s story, Leave Some for the Honey Badger, detailed the lives of Dr Ian Player and Magqubu Ntobmela, who played a key role in establishing WFA 50 years ago, their dynamic partnership and their pioneering work to conserve the southern white rhino. The overarching message emanating from the story, don’t take more than your share.
Charton recalled how Player met Ntombela (an elder) when he joined the former Natal Parks Board as a ranger in the early 1950s in iMfolozi Game Reserve – one of the few remaining homes of the southern white rhino. Their friendship, defying social norms of the time, was to span 40 years and teach Player an enormous amount about indigenous knowledge and connection to nature.
One of the fables Ntombela used to tell Player concerned the unscrupulous man who followed a honey badger to a hive.
“Once the badger had removed the honeycomb, the man managed to dart in and steal it and run away. Later, he was sitting enjoying the honey — when the badger attacked him.”
“The message is, we humans have a habit of taking more than our share, but we do that at our peril. Everything is connected and we must play our part as a partner in nature.”
It was during one of Player and Ntombela’s wilderness trails in iMfolozi where the vision for WFA was born. Being moved by the transformative experience of a wilderness trail, a group of students convinced them to establish an organisation that would champion both the protection and creation of wilderness areas. An organisation was needed to create public awareness of the importance of wilderness and to advocate against ongoing threats to protected areas from issues such as de-proclamation and coal mining.
Since 1972 WFA has become a recognised African-based conservation organisation that protects and sustains landscapes through its agile and innovative approach to conservation, with the work receiving a Rolex Laureate award for enterprise in 2008. Its ethos being to integrate species, spaces and people to protect and sustain life on earth.
At the events across the country, attendees included WFA staff and those connected to WFA both directly and indirectly. Those present included: current and past Pride of Table Mountain Leaders spanning the last 25 years; Rachel Kolisi and her team from Kolisi Foundation; Members of Parliament of the Republic of South Africa; representatives from Wilderness Foundation Global; many of WFA’s longstanding partners and supporters; and current and past Youth Development Programme learners, all of which are testament to WFA’s sustainable impact over the last 50 years.
Whether it is landscape wilderness management, developing young leaders from disadvantaged communities, direct action anti-poaching, advocacy at a government level or the incubation of emerging non-profit organisations, Wilderness Foundation Africa focuses its sustainable fifty year experience on lasting impacts.