A fond farewell from the Editor

Emily Taylor, Communications Manager

I have had the pleasure of compiling and editing the remarkable stories the EWT’s staff members have written over the last three years and reading and contributing to them for eight years before that. It’s a little late to introduce myself, but I am sadly leaving the EWT and wanted to say a few words about my EWT story and acknowledge those who have walked beside me.

I stumbled into conservation after being on a very different track, and the second I did, it was like the clouds were parting. The sun was shining on the vast and exciting paths I could take that would make my life meaningful and allow me to make a difference.

Despite growing up in Joburg with little first-hand experience of the bush, I have wanted to work with animals since I was old enough to want anything. Back then, it was to be a vet. Unfortunately, I was not (to put it mildly) very strong in the maths and sciences at school, and I felt like this was a hurdle too high to scale. And so, not knowing my true path, I ended up with many others in a lecture hall for Psychology 101 – where hundreds of other first-year students with the same difficulty often find themselves. While it was fascinating, and if I didn’t encounter the same obstacle I faced in school (Statistics), I might have followed that path to Post-grad, but I didn’t. However, I found myself at least somewhat taken with Media Studies and Sociology, which I ultimately completed my honours in. The one thing that must be said is that one writes their way through Sociology, with endless weekly essays and assignments for four years. You’d think I’d have grown tired of writing, but it’s the one thing I do that has always helped me make sense of the world and express myself much more articulately than when I speak. It has also led me to the career I have had, even if I took the back roads and arrived later than I ever imagined.

When I was almost halfway through my Sociology Honours, two parallel events changed – you could say corrected – my route and my destination. I was doing my Honours through coursework, and I chose and was enthralled by Environmental Sociology. The course was led by Jacklyn Cock, who authored “The war against ourselves” –worth a read! The course was intended to broaden our thinking of the natural world and how we relate to it – how it has been affected by the deep injustices of South Africa’s past – not only the social, political, and economic, but also environmental injustices that disproportionately affect the disadvantaged. It cracked my city-girl mind wide open and showed me the many paths leading back to nature – that didn’t require too many encounters with maths! I could still do something worthwhile that married my deep-seated yearning for nature and the skills and critical thinking I had developed in my study of social sciences. The other event was a trip to Limpopo a few months into that year. My sister was doing community service in Tintswalo Hospital, and my mother and I drove up to see her one weekend. While there, I visited Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. I saw the path not taken and was hooked after a tour, during which Stoffels the Honeybadger decided he would join while wrapped around my legs. There was no going back.

And after a few more pitstops, I found myself in my first year of varsity again in 2010 – this time, in the Nature Conservation Department at the Tshwane University of Technology. One of my first courses was called “Conservation Development” by Mr Andrew Lowry, who was one of the first students to work on Cheetahs in Etosha with the EWT in its early years. Most of the coursework was based on the EWT’s Vision Annual. I loved the course, and after learning about the work the EWT was doing, I decided it was my next destination!

As the pattern seems to follow, my career in the EWT has also been a bouncy and zigzagging (but exciting) road. After volunteering for the EWT for nine months, there was an opening for a Conservation Science Intern. I thought it would be a hard sell until the then Head of Conservation, Harriet Davies-Mostert, gave me a writing assignment as part of the application process. And that, as they say, was that. 11 Years later, I have played many roles in the EWT – volunteer Assistant Reserve Manager of the Modderfontein Reserve, Science Intern, Project Coordinator for the former Urban Conservation and the People in Conservation programmes, Head Writer, and last but not least, the Communications Manager.

I am honoured and grateful to have been a member of the EWT pack for more than a quarter of my life, and I am humbled every day by the passion and dedication of the EWT team. I am sad to leave the organisation I have grown to love and respect. However, due to health concerns, it is necessary for me to bow out and hope that this is not the last you see of me and my EWT journey. Thank you to all the past and present staff members who have become friends and colleagues. You are all truly inspiring, and I will follow your careers in anticipation of the remarkable achievements I know are still coming your way!