Words by Carina Borralho
Originally appeared on Country Life.
Like many other things in the world, the idea of conservation seems to be somewhat of a trend – sometimes it’s in, sometimes it’s out. But some people still dedicate their entire lives to incredible causes, giving the rest of us hope.
I spoke to Francois Meyer, co-founder and MD of Wild Heart Conservation to get some clarity on the conservation status in South Africa and how we can help.
What are some of the animals/species your organisation is currently focusing on and why?
Currently our main focus animal would be the Rhino. For obvious reasons, the Rhinos need their story told and it is shocking to see how many people, especially South Africans, are completely unaware of the plight these animals are facing. Even worse… it’s amazing to see how many people just don’t seem to care that we are losing a piece of our country’s heritage.
Of course, Rhino are not the only animals that need their story told, but working with them is a good way to make people see that conservation is a responsibility we all share.
Are you busy with a particular conservation project?
In South Africa, the majority of habitat lies within the private sector. It is because of this that our focus is on establishing initiatives to involve these properties in conservation and research. We try and act as conservation consultants to these properties, showing them the benefits of conservation and research, without it costing them anything.
We also try show people that only by working together, can we achieve the necessary goals. Our flagship project is the Rhino monitoring project, but we will be starting a leopard research project soon.
Can you tell me a couple of things/trends happening in the conservation industry that the public is unaware of?
In my opinion, people have the misinterpretation of what conservation truly is. Conservation is not easy. Conservation is not working with animals and having fun. Conservation is working with people… many different people with many different opinions.
What people fail to understand is that we can be different and still share a common goal. We can work together and achieve great things. But with social media and fake news, people are more concerned with liking and sharing posts than actual reading and research.
There are too many “articles” that add to biased views of the status of conservation. People tend to read these instead of working together to combat the true enemies of conservation.
It seems the more sensational and charismatic you are, the more support you get… Unfortunately, people are more likely to support a cute lion project, than a pangolin research project.
Become a volunteer
There are many ways the public can help. One of which is donating time or money to a particular cause, but as Francois mentioned, conservation is more importantly about communicating with people. Sharing factual information (not just cuddly pictures of animals) and educating people on real environmental issues is the best way to help conservation, and protect South African heritage.
About Wild Heart Conservation
The founders of Wild Heart Conservation, Francois Meyer and Níall Beddy, met in 2011 while working on a Lion research programme based on one of the most remote reserves in the Limpopo province of South Africa.
In 2014, Francois and Níall established Wild Heart Conservation (Pty) Ltd and the flagship project: Mutogomeli – The Rhino Guardian project after being approached by a conservancy in the Limpopo Province.
Wild Heart Conservation arose from an obvious need to promote not only positive conservation partnerships on private reserves but also to educate a generation on the realities, hardships and beauty behind real-world conservation.