Past Advocacy & Awareness
Photographs by Dr Karen S Ross.
For five years, the Wilderness Foundation Africa, the Wilderness Foundation UK, and the WILD Foundation US were involved in efforts to assist the Government of Botswana and stakeholders in realizing a long-cherished dream: the long awaited listing of the Okavango Delta as a World Heritage Site.
After a year of networking with national and international NGOs to build a broad consensus for this vision, the Wilderness Foundation Africa began working with the government of Botswana to assist in meetings, workshops, stakeholder consultations and raising awareness.
By 2009, for the first time, the Okavango Delta was put on the Botswana's Tentative List for consideration for World Heritage listing, the first ever natural site to be proposed by the State Party.
Soon afterwards the government committed to pushing the Delta to the top of its list for consideration. Wilderness Foundation Africa representative, Dr. Karen Ross was appointed, together with a select group of 20 government and non-government specialists, to form the Okavango Delta Site Selection Committee. The committee worked over a three year period to contribute its technical expertise and assist in consultations. It also wrote the Nomination Dossier and determined the site boundaries that were agreed on by consensus.
The Nomination Dossier was submitted to World Heritage Centre on 01 February, 2013.
Consultations with key stakeholders were conducted including local communities living in and around the Okavango Delta in 36 villages, the National World Heritage Committee, OKACOM, BaTawana Tribal Authority, Dikgosi, NW District Councilors, Members of Parliament, HATAB, NGOs, Ntlo ya Dikgosi and the Okavango Basin Steering Committee.
We are proud to announce that the Okavango Delta was declared the 1000th World Heritage Site in 2014.
Together with a number of leading non-governmental organizations, the Wilderness Foundation Africa is fighting to stop the development of a mine which will compromise the natural integrity of the Mapungubwe National Park and the Mapungubwe World Heritage site. The site is situated on the international borders between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
An Australian company, Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL) has been given permission to begin construction of an opencast and underground coal mine within less than 6km from the borders of the Park, adjacent to the World Heritage Site.
The mine threatens to compromise the environmental integrity of the area in and around Mapungubwe for current and future generations. It will affect the natural habitat, ecosystems, cultural heritage and other related aspects of the environment.
The Wilderness Foundation, together with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA), the Mapungubwe Action Group (MAG), the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (the WWF) and BirdLife South Africa (BLSA), have lodged and appeal against CoAL to mine.
Walking the South African coastline, one step at a time.
In October 2013, Grant Christie started an epic expedition to walk the entire length of the South African coastline, solo and unassisted. Supported by the Wilderness Foundation Africa and other sponsors, Grant concluded his journey in October 2014. Here is his story:
250 days, 3,514 km, and just over five million steps is what it took South African adventurer, conservationist and traveler Grant Christie to complete his epic solo walk along the South African coastline from Alexander Bay on the West Coast to Kosi Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
One afternoon, near the end of a 23-day sojourn, I began contemplating my return to civilization. There was a profound reluctance to go back to life the way it was before. Why couldn’t I do this every day? Just carry all my possessions through the countryside? I thought about the Otter Trail and the tears that filled my eyes as I stood on the Nature’s Valley beach. And then in a flash it came; “I’m going to hike the South African coastline. One man; one pack; one coastline.”
Nearly two years later, on 17 October 2013, I finally stood with my feet in the Orange River, the Namibian border. A life-changing adventure lay before me. Exhilarated I leaned into the blistering wind and took my first steps into the unknown.
Supported by the Wilderness Foundation the purpose of the project was to highlight the fragility of our ocean wilderness. The conservation aspect hit home on a personal level on the West Coast. Here I encountered thousands of rotting seal carcasses, their deaths a symptom of a far greater problem. With most fish stocks heavily over-exploited there isn’t enough food to sustain the colonies. Weak and malnourished these seals are unable to keep swimming in the frigid Atlantic waters so they come ashore where they wait to die. One day I encountered a young pup, blind and alone, bleating like a lamb, searching for its mother. This sight and the cruel fate that awaited the youngster brought me to tears.
Throughout the journey I was faced with stark evidence of man’s effect on the environment. Illegal fishing is rife. Abalone and crayfish are poached without relent. Pollution litters the beaches and drifts across oceans. Mines have left stretches of coastline barren and lifeless.
However, I also encountered the best humanity has to offer. Complete strangers, from all walks of life, often took me in. I stayed in huts, family homes, backpackers, and luxury hotels. I met fascinating characters and heard stories ranging from talking rocks to space travel. And, contrary to the many warnings I received, I was never threatened in any way. I experienced the wonderful diversity of our Rainbow Nation.
The highlight of the journey was the Wild Coast. The ever-changing landscape, simple lifestyle and friendly locals made the Transkei an absolute pleasure.
Although beautiful, the Garden Route proved the most grueling section. After surviving a nasty fall and faced with dangerous cliff faces I was often driven inland, away from the rugged coast through near impenetrable forest and fynbos.
Through this hardship I learned that the only way to attain such a massive goal was to reduce it to manageable portions. The greatest challenge was mental and emotional. To stay motivated it was vital for me to focus on only that which I had control over, my very next step. So I adopted a mantra which kept me going, “Forwards Forever; Backwards Never!”
And so, after eight months of walking; enduring heat and cold, wind and rain, fatigue and pain; the end was finally in sight. On 22 June 2014, I stopped at the co-ordinates that signified the end of my expedition: the border of Mozambique. I knelt down and drew a line in the sand. I gazed at the end of the bay ahead of me. I felt frustrated that I wouldn’t see what was hiding behind the bend. After walking for so long it was time to turn around.
There was no elation. No celebration.
I was quiet. Pensive.
You see, the joy was not in reaching the destination.
The joy was in the journey.