Women con­ser­va­tion war­riors back home again

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO NEWS - Larry Bent­ley

AF­TER 50 days and trav­el­ling

11 235km through four coun­tries, South African hu­man­i­tar­ian and ecow­ar­rior, Carla Geyser, has re­turned from lead­ing a suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional all-women con­ser­va­tion mis­sion into south­ern Africa.

Geyser’s ‘Jour­neys with Pur­pose:

The Rise of the Ma­tri­arch’ ex­pe­di­tion linked South Africa, Zim­babwe, Botswana and Namibia to 12 women from around the world.

The jour­ney kicked off on 16 Septem­ber un­der the ban­ner of Geyser’s non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, Blue Sky So­ci­ety Trust.

The mis­sion had four goals - raise global aware­ness about the con­tentious hu­man-wildlife con­flict is­sue, to ed­u­cate the youth about con­ser­va­tion, to sup­port lo­cal em­pow­er­ment ef­forts tar­get­ing young women from lo­calised, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, and to raise funds for four wildlife con­ser­va­tion bod­ies.

These ben­e­fi­cia­ries were Ele­phants Alive (South Africa), Rare and En­dan­gered Species Trust (Namibia), Eco-Ex­ist Project (Botswana) and the Soft Foot Al­liance Trust (Zim­babwe).

Beau­ti­ful, bru­tal land­scape

Re­flect­ing on the jour­ney, Geyser says, ‘Mama Africa takes your breath away with her mag­nif­i­cent sun­sets and sun­rises, leaves you speech­less at her amaz­ing wildlife and her bound­less en­ergy, and reawak­ens emo­tions that you thought had long since dis­ap­peared.

‘Yet, amidst all this splen­dour, there is a sad, ugly re­al­ity – a fes­ter­ing wound of poach­ing, over-pop­u­la­tion, poverty and hu­man-wildlife con­flict.’

‘The fig­ures are alarm­ing, with poach­ers killing ap­prox­i­mately two rangers ev­ery week in Africa.

‘They also kill on av­er­age three rhi­nos, 98 ele­phants and count­less pan­golin ev­ery sin­gle day.

It is this harsh, cold re­al­ity that spurred Geyser into ac­tion.

Ed­u­ca­tional fo­cus

In the seven weeks that fol­lowed, Geyser and her crew dis­trib­uted 30 000 ed­u­ca­tional book­lets, vis­ited 13 on-the­ground con­ser­va­tion projects and met 16 phe­nom­e­nal women who are do­ing in­cred­i­ble con­ser­va­tion work at a grass­roots level.

‘So many life­long mem­o­ries were made on the jour­ney,’ said Geyser, ‘but a few stand out more than oth­ers.

‘Meet­ing the world fa­mous Black Mamba Anti-Poach­ing Unit here in SA was one of my favourites’, says Geyser.

‘Spend­ing time with the Eco-Ex­ist ed­u­ca­tors and com­mu­nity of­fi­cers in ru­ral schools in the eastern pan­han­dle of Botswana to learn about their daily chal­lenges with ele­phants that raid crops and sub­se­quent in­juries and deaths of lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers, was also mem­o­rable.’ An­i­mals up close KZN’s Celokuhle ‘Smax’ Biyela said, ‘I learnt so much on my trip, start­ing with our visit to Wild is Life and meet­ing Roxy Danck­w­erts and An­gela Loub­ser where I got to see my first ele­phant, gi­raffe, lion and pan­golin.’

The con­ser­va­tion mis­sion wrapped up on 28 Oc­to­ber.

For Geyser, be­ing back home means time to re­flect and then plan the next ‘Jour­ney with Pur­pose’.

One of the high­lights for the team was in­ter­act­ing with res­cued ele­phants at the Wild Is Life sanc­tu­ary in Harare, Zim­babwe

Ex­pe­di­tion mem­bers Emily Scott, Tommi Wolfe, Carla Geyser and Jen­nifer Palmer with Vera Praet, Ronny Makukule and Robin Cook from the Ele­phants Alive project in South Africa

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