Word from the CEO

Yolan Friedmann, CEO

On behalf of the Endangered Wildlife Trust Board of Trustees I would like to thank those who took time out of their busy schedules to spend an evening of celebration with us as we look back on our achievements of the past 50 years of conservation in action.  Among our honoured guests were Barbara Creecy, Minister for Fisheries, Forests and the Environment,  David Freeman, First Secretary for Environment, Science, Technology, Health, and Minerals, at the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, the Chair of the EWT Board of Trustees, Muhammed Seedat, past Trustees, donors, associates, colleagues, friends and partners.  But, the guests of honour were two of the EWT founders, Clive Walker and James Clarke, and our previous CEOs Dr John Ledger and Prof Nick King.  

I used to think that 50 years was an inordinate amount of time until I too turned 50 just before the EWT did. I can now assure you that 50 is the new 21 and this was not a celebration of a coming of age, but of a youthful spirit, blended with wisdom, a touch of maturity, a dash of streetsmarts, a helping of hope and a LOT of energy still to be spent to realise dreams that are still big enough to scare us, in the words of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The EWT prides itself on instilling hope, and sharing a vision of what our future can be. We do not like to instil a sense of fear, loss or hopelessness when we talk about our natural world. Instead, we prefer to show, with evidence, the difference we can all make when we work together. You’ve seen firsthand how our work, and with your support, has turned South Africa into the only country in Africa with an increasing population of Cheetah. How Wild Dogs now flourish in Malawi and Mozambique where they had previously gone extinct. How lost species like the Amatola Toad and de Winton’s Golden Mole have been rediscovered and can now be protected. How rivers can flow when invasive plants are removed and how communities can use this water for their livelihoods, their crops and their general wellbeing.

How populations of Blue Cranes and Cape Vultures have been downlisted due to concerted and targeted conservation effort, and how the Brenton Blue Butterfly was the first species to trigger the declaration of a nature reserve to save just one species. How communities now run conservation-friendly enterprises on their land, and rangers, ecowarriors and businesswomen have been borne out of rural children and their mothers. How hundreds of thousands of hectares of critical habitat are now protected, spanning biomes from the Succulent Karoo to the Soutpansberg and covering the lifegiving rivers, grasslands, wetlands, forests and deserts in between.

In 1973, the world had a human population of 3.9 billion. Fast forward to 2024 and the WWF tells us that populations of globally monitored mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have declined by an average of 68%. In Africa alone, the percentage is 66. Our Freshwater systems show the worst, and most rapid decline in quality and species loss. 2023 was the hottest year on record, with extreme weather events causing devastation, globally.

And the world human population has reached 8.1 billion, and is still growing. That is a more than 200% increase in the number of humans and a more than 2 thirds decrease in the number of wild animals left on our planet today. The EWT has done well over the past 50 years. But we have to do more.  

Right now, in the safe havens of our national parks and in our remote wilderness areas and mountain ranges, snares are being set, poisons are being planted and rifles are being loaded. From the African savannahs and deep into our oceans, land is being ploughed up and plastic is being dumped. Rivers are being choked and skyways are stolen from the winged creatures that really do own them.

For 50 years, we have been pushing back the tide and finding solutions; this is the thread that binds us and which continues to blur the generational lines, to form one united EWT. We have literally saved species and changed lives.

As we look to #TheNextFifty, it is important to remember that the world will not be an easier place for much of the planet’s human and wildlife populations. The EWT needs to write a new chapter now, and this book will come with new challenges and opportunities. We owe it to the next generations of brilliant EWTers to continue in the footsteps of our giant founders and to stay connected to the dreams of what we know can be achieved tomorrow.

This we can all do by leaving our future teams a legacy through the establishment of a Fund for the Future that will secure the EWT, our people and our impact, for the wildlife and the communities that they will serve, for decades to still come and for generations not yet born.  

Our Fund for the Future ensures that the EWT never faces the risk of shutting its doors and ending our story, which in many ways, has just begun. We have begun developing our Future Fit Strategy; a powerful, impactful conservation strategy, underpinned by financial security and implemented by high performing teams of the best talent.  It will ensure that we channel our efforts into achieving targets that stretch us and will achieve high impact; that will galvanise cohesive, collective action towards achieving global, and national conservation priorities and which will benefit a maximum range of species, and humans, realistically.

Our Future Fit strategy will simplify our approaches, catalyse new science, engage new partners and embrace a new way of thinking. It will take the EWT into new regions where we will support new partners, and scale our impact. And building on our strengths, it will remain firmly rooted in the core principles of the EWT which are to save species, conserve habitats and benefit people.  We WILL halt the loss of biodiversity. 

Our planet may be ailing, but our spirits are not. We are powerful, passionate and energetic. We have solutions and knowledge and we CAN turn the tide. Together we CAN protect forever.

Thank you for making our birthday so special and for being part of our story.

Yolan Friedmann,

CEO, Endangered Wildlife Trust