Why big wildlife needs our help.
While Rhinos might have grabbed most of the headlines in recent years, the truth is that many large animal species face the threat of extinction. Even just among mammals, the IUCN estimates that half the globe's 5 491 known species are declining in population and a fifth are clearly at risk of disappearing forever with no less than 1 131 mammals across the globe classified as endangered, threatened, or vulnerable.
In South Africa, lions, wild dogs and elephants are still endangered and need our help more than ever. In May this year, South Africa moved towards ending captive lion keeping and hunting, but this species is still threatened by habitat loss and rampant poaching. And while rhinos may have benefited from the strict lockdowns at the start of COVID-19, poaching numbers have shot up again this year.
The pandemic’s attendant lockdowns and travel bans have also had a profoundly negative impact on the finances of South Africa’s national parks. Without tourist money to buffer their coffers, many parks are facing massive financial shortfalls, which in turn affects their ability to conserve wildlife.
This only makes the work done by organisations like MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet that much more important. The loyalty programme, which was established in 1997, currently supports 267 animal welfare related organisations across the country and helps to raise millions for domestic and wild animals through their MyPlanet programme, one of them being the WWF.
The NGO –which takes an ecosystem-based approach to looking after creatures big and small, including humans and our place in nature –has several initiatives in place when it comes to protecting wildlife in South Africa.
WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP), for instance, moves critically endangered black rhinos to new areas where they can breed and thrive. Since 2003, this flagship project has established 13 new populations and moved 270 black rhinos, leading to the birth of over 100 calves across project sites. BRREP has in fact been so successful that now some of the offspring of the original rhinos are being moved to new sites to carry on the work of building their numbers.
To achieve this, WWF works with private and community landholders as well as state conservation agencies to identify large blocks of land on which to establish new black rhino populations. As a result, many landowners have consolidated smaller pieces of habitat into more ecologically viable blocks and other critically endangered species which need large areas of land, such as wild dog, vultures and cheetah, also benefit. In November 2019, BRREP undertook its first cross-border translocation when a group of black rhinos was moved from South Africa to Malawi’s Liwonde National Park.
The organisation has also worked to help expand the breeding range of a special group of Cape mountain zebras around Gamkaberg Nature Reserve in the Western Cape. In 2014, WWF South Africa acquired 845 hectares of land to expand the reserve, doubling the Succulent Karoo habitat favoured by the remaining Cape mountain zebras of this area. These efforts were further advanced with the more recent acquisition of Zebraskop (some 4500 ha of important zebra habitat) which is owned by WWF but managed by CapeNature.
Another initiative has seen the WWF partner with wine farms in the Cape Winelands to protect the leopards, porcupines, genets, Cape foxes, and aardwolf that live in the region. These so-called WWF Conservation Champion wine farms set aside natural veld on their farms to help wildlife thrive and are also environmental leaders in their field that work hard to conserve water, use renewable energy and use regenerative farming practices which are good for people and nature.
The WWF is also working to end the illegal wildlife trade through its Kheta programme, which works to reduce the impact of illegal wildlife trade on both rhino and elephant populations as well as the people who live in affected areas in the Mozambican and South African landscape of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA). Additionally, it’s promoting ethical whale and dolphin watching by funding a sustainable marine tourism project in the Plettenberg Bay area, carried out by Nature’s Valley Trust and Nelson Mandela University. One of the outcomes of this project is a guide on the topic of legal and ethical behaviour around marine mammals for boat-based tourism.
None of these projects would be possible without the funding from ordinary members of the public which the WWF depends on.
“The health and resilience of our natural ecosystems is tied to the sustainability of the human race – animals and humans are deeply connected and when we take care of our natural assets and heritage we take care of ourselves,” says Pieter Twine, General Manager of MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet.
You can show your support by joining MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet and select WWF as your beneficiary. Every time you shop at one of their retail partners, including Woolworths, Engen, Loot.co.za, Builders and more, the partners will give a portion of your spend to WWF, or a school or cause of your choice -- at no additional cost to you.
“We really appreciate the efforts that MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet makes in both creating awareness around critical environmental and social issues in South Africa and supporting WWF’s work,” says Justin Smith, head of Business Development at WWF South Africa. “The fantastic support of this community helps WWF to continue its work to expand South Africa’s land and marine protected area networks and secure our unique biodiversity assets and the habitats of many of our charismatic species.”
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