The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats. From the smallest frog to the majestic rhino, from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands, from our shorelines to winding rivers, the EWT is working to protect our world.
The EWT’s team of field-based specialists 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.
Established in 1973, the EWT is dedicated to conserving threatened species and ecosystems in east and southern Africa to the benefit of all people. It initiates research and conservation action programmes, implements projects which mitigate threats facing species diversity, and supports sustainable natural resource management.
The EWT communicates the principles of sustainable living through awareness programmes to the broadest possible constituency for the benefit of the region. It has developed a unique operational structure through which its mission and objectives are achieved – meeting its conservation goals through the work of specialist, thematic programmes, designed to maximise effectiveness in the field and enhance the development of skills and capacity. These programmes form the backbone of the organisation and are essentially self-managed projects harnessing the talent and enthusiasm of a dynamic network of individuals who specialise in an area of conservation importance and have developed unique expertise in response to the challenges they face.
The EWT’s programmes comprise multiple stakeholders and harness their diverse but relevant expertise to address environmental priorities. Stakeholders include national and provincial government, other NGOs, landowners, local communities, farm workers, conservancies, academic institutions, and industry.
The EWT also acts as a public watchdog, often taking government and industry to task for decision-making which does not meet sustainability criteria. Its programmes include the African Crane Conservation Programme, Birds of Prey Programme, Carnivore Conservation Programme, Drylands Conservation Programme, National Biodiversity and Business Network, Source to Sea Programme, Threatened Amphibian Programme, Threatened Grasslands Species Programme, Urban Conservation Programme, Vultures for Africa Programme, Wildlife and Energy Programme, Wildlife and Roads Project, and Wildlife in Trade Programme. These programmes are all supported by the Conservation Science Unit.
The EWT is currently active across South Africa, where it is based, as well as in Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia. It delivers conservation action on the ground, where it is needed most.
The EWT’s strategic focus is on saving species, saving habitats, and benefiting people, and it has achieved success in all of these areas. A few highlights include:
- An increasing population of cheetahs in South Africa (the only country where the species is not in decline), linked to the work of its Cheetah Metapopulation Project;
- Increased wild dog numbers (the second most endangered carnivore in Africa), linked to the work of its Wild Dog Metapopulation Project;
- More than 110 000 ha in the process of being proclaimed under Biodiversity Stewardship;
- Reversing the decline in species such as cranes, Cape mountain zebras, and Pickersgill’s reed frogs.
The EWT has been recognised with awards such as the Whitley Fund for Nature Award (known as the Green Oscar), a number of EcoLogic awards, the British High Commission Prosperity Fund Award, and numerous others.
The EWT is a long-standing member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organisation comprising 1 300 government and NGO members. During the past year, the EWT’s Head of Conservation, Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert, continued in her role as Chair of the IUCN South Africa National Committee, and also served on the Interim Regional Committee for the East and Southern African Region. In addition, the EWT’s expert staff play key roles among several of the IUCN’s Commissions. The EWT also has strategic partnerships with Eskom Holdings SOC Limited and the International Crane Foundation.
The biggest challenge facing the EWT, and indeed any NGO in the conservation sector, is escalating threats to biodiversity. Despite the ongoing best efforts of a wide range of conservation stakeholders, the primary threats to biodiversity continue to escalate at alarming rates. Habitat loss through agricultural and infrastructural development, and species declines due to unsustainable consumption and persecution, continue to erode ecosystems and cause local population declines and even species extinctions. Society’s need to provide food, power, raw materials and shelter to an increasing human population remains one of the greatest risks to the EWT’s long-term conservation impact.
Other challenges include filling the funding gap, as the environment competes with numerous other causes for funding and support, and the EWT is challenged to demonstrate how its work saves not just species and their habitats, but also supports ecosystem goods and services that are critical for human survival, and making the business case for conservation.
One of the most significant risks to its work is that biodiversity and the environment are not mainstreamed into the daily lives of people and decision-makers. To truly harness the opportunities provided by biodiversity, and avoid catastrophic risk to species and ecosystems, requires a paradigm shift by corporates, governments, and other stakeholders, whereby they understand how the environment underpins the economy. This shift will require compelling social and economic arguments.
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This is the thirty-second NGO profile of my 2018 #NGOs4Africa Campaign.