Did you know?
South Africa is one of the world’s ‘mega diverse’ countries because of its biological riches.
Giant bullfrogs, wild dogs, wattled cranes, oribi antelope, humpback dolphins, riverine rabbits, blue swallows, yellow-billed oxpeckers, honeybadgers, rhinos, grasslands, river systems ... if there’s a species or ecosystem in trouble, the odds are good that the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is involved in efforts to save it.
Founded in 1973, EWT has become a very well respected South African conservation organisation. Its initial work was on individual species that were critically endangered, vulnerable or threatened. Its logo, a red footprint, is that of one of the first animals it focused on – the cheetah.
Since then the Endangered Wildlife Trust has considerably expanded its work to helping protect the often vulnerable ecosystems in which these species live.
EWT’s mission is now biodiversity conservation.
The trust, based in Johannesburg, has also expanded its physical area of focus over the years, quite simply because ecosystems and animals don’t recognise human-made boundaries.
Most of its work is in southern Africa, but the EWT also works for endangered wild animals and ecosystems as far away as Kenya and Uganda, and collaborates with other projects in countries like Tanzania and Sudan.
At any given time, EWT is running between 80 and 90 projects, employing up to 85 people.
The trust has had several notable successes. Far fewer large birds like cranes and bustards are colliding with powerlines thanks to 'flappers' that EWT have helped place on problematic lines. Power utility company Eskom has also insulated exposed conductors to reduce bird electrocutions.
EWT was also one of the first bodies to set up community conservation projects – working with people where they live to address environmental problems specific to them, instead of only focusing on wild animals and protected areas.
The monitoring work they have done – on the flight patterns and ranges of vultures and secretary birds, for example – has resulted in a far greater understanding of the issues facing threatened animals.
Much of their work involves finding solutions where human activities clash with wildlife. For 10 years now, the Endangered Wildlife Trust has been working at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and, more recently, at King Shaka Airport outside Durban, to prevent birdstrikes.
Those involved keep a discreet distance, so you’ll probably never see them as you land or take off, but handlers with dogs (border collies and springer spaniels) keep birds away from runways.