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I think we all know about the threat our wildlife and planet is facing at the moment, with the biggest mass extinction event since the dinosaurs. 2020 has been scary for us all and if we don't act soon, I fear that the destruction to habitats and wildlife will only increase. I have felt a shift in my values this year during lockdown and I can't just sit at home anymore crying over David Attenborough programs.
So I am heading out to live in the bush in Greater Kruger National Park for 8 weeks from January-March 2021.
I've done a lot of research to find an organisation who are ACTUALLY doing good and not just posting photos of animals with hashtags to make people care about them for 24hrs then forget again. I have included information below so you can understand why I'm so passionate about what they do and why I want to help them.
All the valuable, necessary work they need to do has been dramatically cut down. At the time of writing, Covid-19 has meant they have already lost out on six months of funding through not being able to have volunteers onsite. All funding from volunteers are used to keep the projects up and running. Any focus on long term initiatives based on a projected income during 2020 may have suddenly been stopped due to drastic cuts.
Transfrontier Africa, are a leading research-based volunteer project in South Africa, led by conservationist and ecologist Craig Spencer and based within The Greater Kruger National Park.They are a NPC (Non-Profit Company) who work closely with Elephants Alive (formerly known as Save The Elephants, founded by Iain Douglas-Hamilton) who support the research that is carried out.
Four pillars of Transfrontier-
Animal rescue - Eyes on the ground, getting helicopters up to dart animals & removing snares, rescue them if they walk into mines, treating bullet wounds. Preventing human-wildlife conflict.
Research component - research facility, collaboration with universities. Ecological carrying capacity surveys, predator-prey surveys etc. Due to the current poaching crisis in South Africa, the main focus is on rhino conservation but the team is involved in rhino & elephant collaring, relocation, snare detection and alien vegetation removal, fence repair, grass surveys and more. Their camera traps on the reserve must be checked and downloaded at least once a week. Sightings of rhinos for example are logged, recorded & produced in a map to assist with anti-poaching efforts.
Wildlife security - includes Black Mambas. First all Female Anti-Poaching Unit in South Africa.
Awarded UNEP 2015 (United Nations Environmental Program), Champions of The Earth award.
Not militarised, they do not want to create conflict and destabilise the community by creating orphans & widows. They want to disrupt the landscape & make Kruger National Park undesirable for poachers.
Education - It was a concept born by the Black Mambas. You don’t want to just take kids through the park for a few hours & expect them to care. How do you actually achieve a shift in values or behavioral change towards wildlife and create food security among other things.
30% of their funding for the Black Mambas comes from the government, the rest from private donors & volunteers.
My flights are booked & paid for. Each day there costs around £28, it's an open-fenced basic camp in the bush (basically all the wildlife in the area - lions, hyenas, elephants etc can, and do, frequently come through and usually mess with the plumbing).
Limited electricity so we can focus on using it for patrols & Ops, no A/C, no hot water, outdoor bathrooms etc. We use solar panels and cook on the campfire. Therefore the money I invest in my stay is barely used to cover my food, but the majority of it goes straight into the much needed research & projects.
Of course with Covid causing redundancy, I'm restricted on how much money I can raise before I go. If I can make more, I'll be out there longer helping.
Please if you do nothing else, check out The Black Mambas, Bush Babies & Transfrontier Africa and their work & if you don't want to donate through me, consider them for the future & donate directly as they do incredible things!
For those interested, there are fantastic short films that have been made about them. One is on youtube called The Rhino Game.
As a volunteer, I will be out in the field daily, having been assigned a research project on a rotational basis to ensure I gain exposure to all current projects. I will also head out with the Bush Babies weekly helping in the teaching in the local schools and I also need to provide a lesson about conservation efforts taking place here in the UK. Obviously every day living in the bush is different so I could be called upon to help relocate animals, remove snares or any number of exciting unique projects!
I, for one, am looking forward to the elephants disrupting us by pulling out all the plumbing - as they’re known to do!!
Credit for Transfrontier Africa Photos - Transfrontier Africa website & FB Page