The Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) is literally immersed in one of the most famous natural parks in the world: more precisely, in the great Kruger National Park area. Its location and construction criteria already say a lot about the Wildlife College. Its goal is to train professionals including field rangers capable of dealing with environmental management and conservation, thereby helping to guarantee a future for an ecosystem that is seriously threatened by exploitation and poaching. But furthermore: among the aims of the college, is to work with local communities to create awareness of the value of wildlife and to provide them with the skills needed to develop the areas they manage. This will help ensure that the conserved wild, natural environment becomes a source of well-being. 

The Southern African Wildlife College is developing a partnership with the Global Conservation Corps Future Rangers program, actively supported by Garmont. This program supports educational and training centers aimed at the local population, supporting in particular "future rangers", i.e. those who will in the future have to deal concretely with conservation and natural protection activities once their course of studies has been completed. In the case of the Wildlife College it was decided to award two students who distinguished themselves in their course, and who worked hard to obtain maximum results and thus gained special recognition. This is a very coveted prize, so students compete fiercely during the year. The announcement of these and other awards took place during the graduation ceremony on November 27th.

This year, in addition to the scholastic prize, the two award winners were also given a pair of Garmont Rangers boots.

Carl-Zon-Zack Magielies and Brave Madise, the future of conservation

This year the winners were Carl-Zon-Zack Magielies for the Higher Certificate in Nature Conservation: Implementation and Leadership course and Brave Madise for the Advanced Certificate course in Nature Conservation-Trans-HRC Conservation Management. The two have clear ideas: they have chosen to devote themselves to this type of course because they want to work to conserve their Country and to help their community.

Both are already active in the field of environmental conservation: Brave is 38 and works as Assistant Parks and Wildlife Officer at Lengwe National Park in Malawi, while Carl is 24 and is Field Ranger Cadet in the Baviaanskloof Mega Nature Reserve. These courses at the Wildlife College (SAWC) give them the education and skills needed that will allow them to be more effective in their work and to build a career dedicated to environmental protection.

Let us try to get to know them better and to understand why they chose to commit themselves in the defense of nature.

1. What was the motivation for you behind the choice of this kind of study? What is your goal in such a choice?

Brave: The SAWC has a long working relationship with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Due to this, the department has been sending officers to study at the SAWC for many years and it is the dream of everyone to grab the opportunity at this accredited institution of higher learning.
The course is applied and is an eye opener given the relevance of the course content to my work as a wildlife manager. I believe the course will also provide other opportunities for me to enroll for a bachelor’s degree program and serve in a senior management position in the near future. 

Carl: I started to love nature and grew a passion for conservation that’s why I did a conservation guardianship course because I wanted to make a difference.

I chose the SAWC because I strongly believe that the SAWC gives learners the quality education and knowledge about conservation, and they develop future conservation managers.

This course will allow me to advance and boost my career positively. It has also changed my whole perspective on how I see nature conservation. In turn, it is has also given me a chance to grow in my career and to progress from a Field Ranger to being a Senior Field Ranger one day.

My goal is to be in a senior position in the next coming 2 years. Another future goal of mine is to start a family in the future, nurture my family, teach them about the importance of conservation, and share my skills and knowledge with them.

2. Which subjects are you studying and which one do you think it's most relevant for your goal? 

Brave:  The modules taught as part of the course include financial management, human resources, conservation research, biodiversity management etc. and are very relevant to our work thereby enriching our knowledge base and skills, which will also help me be more relevant to the department in which I work.

Carl: During the year we cover 16 modules. The ones most relevant to my work are: Philosophy and Ethics of Conservation, Vegetation Studies, Conservation Management Planning, Community Development and Conservation, Animal Studies and Conservation Law Enforcement. 

The applied learning approach (learning by doing) provided us with highly interactive quality training which developed in me a love for the course. The knowledge and skills I have gained will now assist me in conserving and protecting natural resources more effectively. It has also made it so much easier for me to share my knowledge with other people in my organization and with the future generations of tomorrow. 

3. What do you do in the conservation sector? 

Brave: I work as Assistant Parks and Wildlife Officer in the Lengwe National Park in Malawi. 
Key responsibilities of my position are: Organizing communities and implementing community conservation initiatives; carrying out environmental education and outreach programs; caring and maintenance of education facilities; liaising with various institutions on extension issues; supervising various income generating activities that the park and the communities work on, as well as the implementation of resource use programmes. In addition, my role includes supervising Parks and Wildlife Assistants and other support staff, as well as compiling monthly, quarterly, biannual and annual reports.

Carl: I’m Field Ranger Cadet in the Baviaanskloof Mega Nature Reserve. 

I usually conduct foot patrols within the reserve and practice Law Enforcement within the area that I work in. I also take care of infrastructure and domestic maintenance as well. 

4. How do you see the topic "conservation" in your own country? Is it something people are aware of? 

Brave: There are a lot of conservation challenges in Malawi like high charcoal production, animal poaching, encroachment, deforestation amongst others. After completing my course, I will ensure that there are awareness and sensitization meetings with the communities and the general public to help change their attitude towards wildlife.  It is important that they develop a sense of ownership. 

Carl: The challenges are that not everyone is aware of the importance of nature and conservation. I will go and share my knowledge and understanding of conservation with the youth in my community through environmental education programmes because they are the future and they need to know the importance of conserving our wildlife and natural habitat. 

Indeed, as odd as it may sound, it is not uncommon at all that people living around the wildlife areas have been excluded from them in many ways, hence posing a greater challenge in creating the kind of awareness toward the need for conservation of the natural habitat. A representative of the Wildlife College explains: “People have generally not benefited from the wildlife economy with parks in the past taking a fortress type approach. Conservation will however not survive without involvement from communities who also need to benefit from wildlife and their parks, hence the 3-p “mantra” people, parks, planet.  Without a sense of ownership, no real value is attached to wildlife, especially when for example elephants destroy precious crops in communal areas. It is thus vital that communities and parks work together to conserve and protect Africa’s natural resources.” 

Let’s go deeper in the topic with Brave, who is directly involved in teaching to younger generation the importance of wildlife and conservation: 

Brave: Communities are essentially the owners of the land. Historically people were dispersed to create parks. With the new era in conservation, the importance of communities is being realized.  If they don’t feel as if they are part of solutions and that they have ownership, or a sense thereof, relationships between parks and communities become problematic.  

In Malawi there are no buffer zones between parks and communities, so communities border directly onto parks. It is therefore important to educate people about the benefits and value of conserving wildlife but they also need to realize that not everybody can benefit immediately so people need to be aware that this is a long-term process. What we do now is therefore also being done for future generations, namely their children and children’s children.

Some sectors of the community do recognize this but many people live in abject poverty so it is difficult to value wildlife which you don’t necessarily benefit from, above crops which help feed your family.... so this is part of the education process. Communities need to understand that they too can benefit from the wildlife economy, which may be a better form of land use than growing crops or farming with livestock or goats.

It is really important to teach my children (aged 12, 9 and 14 months) about the importance of wildlife and wilderness areas. Fortunately, they have grown up in a national park as they live with me and my wife. They can thus see that this wildlife area allows me to work and support them, conservation is thus not only important for tourists etc., it directly benefits me and my family. It is also a good thing for children to grown up in nature or to learn about nature. Many communities live far away from parks or even if they live on the borders, they do not have access to the park, so they do not gain the knowledge that my children have. I am very proud to be in a field where I can teach my children about important matters that will impact them in their lives moving forward.

5. What is your favorite part in your job?

Brave: In my workplace and as part of the work that I do, I have been exposed to two critical aspects
1 – law enforcement (for most of my service in the department), and this has allowed for a sense of success when poachers are arrested and prosecuted. This also helps motivate one knowing that you have helped protect Africa’s important resources.

2. Community work (my current focus) – where I have really started appreciating the role they need to play. I get satisfaction when communities start understanding and persuading other members of the community not to poach. I have also now learnt so much more about community interventions and engagement at the College and I can now also put this into practice as we also need to understand what problems are being experienced by communities so we can find solutions and create a win-win for conservation and communities.”

Carl: Law Enforcement is my favorite part of the job, as it means that I am helping to protect and conserve Africa’s wildlife. It is part of my job which includes going out on daily patrols in the park (wildlife area) where I work. This also means that I experience different animals and their behaviors when walking out in the bush.

All that remains for us is to wish Carl and Brave to succeed in achieving their goals and to make a real difference in their Country: we also count on them to change things.