Rescuing and Rewilding Africa’s Wildlife and Landscapes

by | Autumn 2024, Featured Articles, Green Living, Print Articles

A unique, groundbreaking NGO has launched in Southern Africa, which promises to disrupt the conservation landscape by delivering results where many other NGOs merely talk. WeWild Africa, a dynamic force in wildlife conservation, officially launches its groundbreaking initiatives in Africa in January 2024 (the world’s largest vulture translocation and the Ndumo Game Reserve emergency elephant intervention are a few projects under way) but the organisation has been operational in the region since 2019. In a short space of time, the organisation has become one of the most active and successful NGOs in conservation in Africa, focusing on rewilding of captive-born animals and protecting large tracts of habitat for endangered species. 

WeWild Africa has perfected the art of emergency responses. Where other NGOs may take days or weeks to respond, WeWild Africa guarantees a response within 24 hours. WeWild Africa has become known as the go-to organisation when results need to be achieved, efficiently and effectively. The philosophy is simple, the animal always comes first and WeWild Africa does what it takes to secure the lives of individuals, often against impossible odds. 

Our hands-on approach in the field, coupled with strategic partnerships, has led to countless world firsts and historic achievements. These include the first ever rewilding of zoo-born cheetahs from the United Kingdom and Canada, to implementing historic elephant capture missions, to the rewilding smaller species across the continent for the first time. 

With a veteran team boasting over 100+ years of conservation expertise, Damian Aspinall, Tansy Aspinall, Amos Courage and Dereck Milburn have tackled some of the most challenging conservation scenarios in the world with a never-give-up mindset. Together, these founding members form a formidable force, motivated by a profound love for Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems.  

Damian Aspinall, chairman of WeWild Africa, affirms: “We go where very few other organisations are willing to go, to secure the future of endangered species and threatened landscapes. Always asking why not, rather than why? WeWild Africa is set to change the conservation landscape in Africa, through turnkey conservation solutions and a network of collaborations.” 

With conservation efforts often crippled by inadequate support, WeWild Africa emerges with tangible solutions, backed by funding solutions that allow them to take swift and decisive actions, key in high-stakes projects, where hours can mean life or death for our precious wildlife. 

WeWild Africa has secured the lives of more than 1 000 animals since 2019 by direct intervention and the organisation is merely getting warmed up. WeWild Africa is establishing ‘first of a kind’ government partnerships with an aim to becoming a catalyst for the protection of massive tracts of land and supporting government reserves, showing private organisations what can be achieved through collaboration and dynamic interventions. 

Select major projects and collaborations 

WeWild Africa’s approach is characterised by ego-free collaboration, a sense of urgency, a pioneering approach and deep expertise in holistic landscape management and wildlife translocation. The organisation has been involved in several landmark projects, including:

World’s Largest Vulture Translocation: WeWild Africa was instrumental in the pre-event logistics, loading, route planning, partnerships and funding and building of specialised custom crates for the entire operations of the world’s largest vulture translocation. This monumental project will secure the future of wild vulture populations in southern Africa with the triumphant completion of the 1042km 18-hour translocation of 163 Cape and African White-backed vultures into their new home at Shamwari Private Game Reserve. The success of this project was in collaboration with our partners Shamwari, Vulpro, DHL, Dr. Katja Koeppel and Dr. Johan Joubert.” 

Ndumo Game Reserve elephant intervention:  Early on Saturday morning, January 20 2024, WeWild Africa, gathered resources and funding, then organised and executed an emergency aerial rescue intervention of five elephants at Ndumo Game Reserve, in partnership with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, tracking and safely redirecting the elephants back to safety and saving their lives. These elephants had moved from the Kruger National Park, through southern Mozambique and into the communities around Ndumo Game Reserve in South Africa. At least 13 elephants were shot in the region in and WeWild Africa and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are now working together to mitigate the need to shoot elephants.

Addo Elephant National Park relocation: WeWild Africa helped orchestrate the historic first-ever relocation of family groups of elephants from Addo Elephant National Park to three different reserves. 

Loskop Dam rewilding: A first-of-its-kind partnership with the Mpumalanga Province government to restore and rewild the Big Five at Loskop Dam Nature Reserve, aiming to increase it to a whopping 100 000 hectares. No other organisation has partnered as extensively with provincial governments in South Africa as WeWild Africa has. WeWild Africa works with local and provincial governments, aiding in capacity building and resource management, not with an iron fist approach. The team will create a blueprint for successful provincial government habitat co-management for all of Africa. 

International cheetah translocations: Never before have cheetahs from zoos been rewilded back to Africa. WeWild Africa accomplished the world-first international rewilding translocations, moving cheetahs from the UK and Canada to South Africa and Zimbabwe to enhance genetic diversity. 

Tembe the African honey badger: Never before in the history of conservation was a badger brought back from any zoo to Africa. Tembe the badger was successfully transported and rewilded to the Loskop Dam Reserve, where she now thrives and enjoys life as a wild animal.  

Blaauwbosch rescue: A massive effort to rescue 63 animals from deteriorating and dire conditions in a private game reserve. The team experienced extreme challenges with legal threats from the private game reserve owner who refused to relinquish his animals. Yet, with a never-give-up attitude, the team rescued the wildlife.  

Elephant relocation to Zinave National Park: When elephants were part of extreme human-wildlife conflict, WeWild Africa stepped into the rescue. This operation was one of the most challenging our conservationists have seen in their lifetime of work. It required forging and creating new roads deep into the bush to capture the elephants, causing severe damage to the vehicles, but with grit and determination, it ended in success and the elephants were saved.

We do worry about the small things: What makes WeWild Africa unique, is that we are concerned about wellbeing of the smaller, less iconic species. All too often, NGOs are only concerned about iconic species such as rhino, lion, etc., whereas, WeWild Africa has rewilded and rescued species such as jackal, caracal, serval, crocodiles, wild dogs, etc. From big to small, we rescue them all.

Crocodile Rewilding: WeWild Africa stepped in to rewild 23 captive crocodiles into the wild, partnering with Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency to give these crocs a new lease on life.  

“Looking ahead to 2024, WeWild Africa has set ambitious goals to tackle hundreds of large animal projects while maintaining focus on individual rescues and every individual. We are collaborating with governments and corporations on profound initiatives, the first of their kind to be seen in the world, and we are beyond excited. Our team is expanding, ready to embrace the challenges ahead with the conviction that conservation is more than a mission – it’s our calling.”

 

For more information, please visit the WeWild Africa website on: www.wewildafrica.org